Grunge-pop trailblazers Tired Lion are taking their stunning debut album, Dumb Days, out for a spin on the regional touring circuit. Matt Doria dives a little deeper into the album with frontwoman Sophie Hopes. Photo by Kane Hibberd.
Not only is Dumb Days a fantastic slab of rock tunes in its own right, but the debut album from Perth quartet Tired Lion is also one of those paradoxical gems that feel delightfully familiar – it’s slathered in the kind of ‘90s grunge vibes we’d spend our childhoods foaming at the mouth over – whilst remaining stupendously fresh and exciting.
It’s the huge, chantable choruses that find themselves stuck in your head for weeks on end; the ripping guitar lines and that tiiiiiny bit of Violent Soho-ish edge that comes courtesy of the album being produced by their frontman, Luke Boerdam.
The band are currently gearing up to take Dumb Days on its second full run across the country: a regional stint taking them from Bunbury to Launceston and everywhere in-between. Before they pack up the bus, we caught up for a quick chat with frontwoman Sophie Hopes.
Now that Dumb Days has been out for a while, how do you look back at it? Is there anything on the LP that makes you go, “F*** yeah, I’m so glad we did that!”
Singing into a mug and recording it – that made for my favourite moment on the record.
We’re really digging the grungy, ‘90s-esque feel that a lot of the album revels in. What do you think it is about nostalgia that today’s audiences are so enraptured by?
I suppose certain elements of nostalgia bring us back to music that is a hell of a lot more raw and unpolished. These days, I find that so many of us have developed an obsession with perfection, which can strip a song of its true essence or the reason you wrote it in the first place. Your connection to something can feel a lot stronger when it’s more real.
How did you find the process of making an album different to that of an EP?
There are certain pressures that you put on yourself: everyone’s telling you, “The debut album is just the beginning!” I think it’s funny when they say that, because when you’ve been working on music tirelessly for five years before then, it’s like, “What are you talking about!?” But the process of making this album was very different than it was for our EPs.
Matt [Tanner, guitar] and I used to do a lot of our songwriting together, but we started to stray away from that as we progressed towards the album. We also had a producer and a record label onboard, which was a pretty big deal. We had more people to bring our vision up to speed, and there was limited stress over whether we’d be able to fund the album. The EPs were all made independently, so it was a brand new atmosphere for us.
How did you use this album to build on what you’d established creatively with two EPs?
I think when you’re dealing with an album, you have a lot more room for experimentation and you have an opportunity to explore some unfamiliar terrain. You finally get to add all the “weird shit” that you love, or some of the stuff you might do in the live shows. It’s so refreshing when you’re not restricted to just recording a bunch of singles.
How did [Boerdam] push you as a band to make Dumb Days as great as it could be?
He was strict with some things. Vocally, he told me a bunch of rules that I’d never heard before, and I had to follow them. But he was really easy to work with – I think he’s definitely a musical genius of the sort. I found that he pushed us beyond our norm, and he opened the album up to new heights. He definitely knew how to get the best out of everyone without taking it too far.
How do you think making the album changed you as a musician and a songwriter?
I learnt so many things – mostly hot tips on songwriting Boerdo-do’s and don’t’s in the studio, and that you have to have a really strong concept behind the name of your album and the artwork. Don’t leave all of that stuff to the last minute like we did! [Laughs].
Let’s get technical: what kind of guitars were you rocking in the studio for this album?
My main piece is a 1965 American Vintage Jazzmaster reissue, which I’ve had for a few years now. I also used Matt’s Mexican Tele, which was modified with a Seymour Duncan Little ’59. The star of the show, guitar-wise, was our engineer’s vintage Epiphone Casino. I love that thing to death – it’s such an amazing guitar to play.
Is the gear itself important when it comes to songwriting, or do you think it matters more what you do with that gear creatively?
I definitely think it contributes a heckload. Every song needs its own pocket of character, and to achieve that, there’s a perfect match of equipment just waiting to be discovered. It’s the love story of recording: guitar meets pedal. [Sigh].
Have you already started writing for the next release, or are you enjoying a bit of a break while the album is still fresh?
I never really stop writing, so I wouldn’t know what a break feels like.
Where do you want to take Tired Lion in the future?
It’s still very early days, of course, but I can definitely see us making a departure in the overall vibe of the music.