After a few storied years spent working hard to chisel out a place for themselves in the echelon of Australia's alt-rock greats, Dear Seattle are ready to launch their bear-soaked brand of mosh-ready rock into the mainstream with Don't Let Go. The debut LP from the Sydney foursome, Don't Let Go is 11 tight and turbulent nuggets of raw, from-the-heart passion wrung out into crunchy guitars drenched in overdrive and punchy, heavily accented vocals.
Don't Let Go is out now on Domestic La La – fans might remember that Dear Seattle were one of the first bands to be signed on the UNIFIED imprint led by James Tidswell (of Violent Soho fame) back in 2017. Before the album smashes chart records worldwide and catapults Dear Seattle to the top of the ranks, we caught up with frontman BraeFisher and guitarist Lachlan Simpson to vibe on how the record came together, what it all means, and why those guitars sound as goddamn juicy as they do.
First thing’s first: congratulations on putting together such a massive (and massively good) album! How
does it feel now that it’s finally out of your hands and ready to be be let loose into the wild?
Brae: Thank you very much! It feels like my first taste of parenthood, to be honest. You spend all of this time doing everything you possibly can to nurture your unborn baby – Don't Let Go, in our case – giving it love, care and nutrients as it grows and grows, and it can be horribly stressful at times. However, to eventually be able to hold it in your hands after that whole process and show the world with such pride for how it turned out is a pretty amazing feeling!
Lachlan: It’s a bizarre feeling to have the album out of our hands and ready to go. It honestly feels like raising a child for years and dropping them off to school on their first day – it’s a feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness.
What’s the concept behind this record, or what is it that you wanted to say with these songs?
Lachlan: I can’t delve too much into the conceptual ideas, as that's Brae's domain, however I really feel this album is our first step into mature songwriting, letting go of our simpler beer drinking themes and attitude. In layman's terms, the album is a reflection of where we're at in life, having taken up the band full-time and sacrificed things like university degrees and full-time jobs. The album name Don't Let Go is essentially our mantra – a reminder that through thick and thin, we're chasing our dreams. No matter how hard things can get.
Brae: I want people to realise that their experience in life is determined by their own frame of mind. Throughout the last two years, I’ve come to learn that every occurrence in life has both itss appearance and itss reality; the appearance being your initial emotional response to it and how you think it will impact you, and the reality being how you choose to let it impact you.
On the surface, shit things happen to people, as do amazing things. What I’ve realised – and what I would say is the main theme of Don't Let Go – is that no matter how an experience presents itself, there are always positives and negatives associated with it, and what dictates our experience in life is what we choose to focus on and dwell in. Thus, the title Don't Let Go – don’t forget about your past and don’t give up on your future. Even the most minuscule positive from a horribly negative situation, when given enough time and energy, can dramatically change your feeling towards the whole thing.
Was there much of a learning curve in going from making an EP to making a full-length debut album?
Lachlan: Suprisingly, I felt no pressure coming into the album. We constantly write songs and record demos, so we had a surplus of ideas coming into the album process. The problem was actually the lack of pressure, I think, as a few of us underestimated how stringent the recording process was. That was definitely a steep learning curve. We had previously recorded with our friend Fletcher Matthews – who recorded and produced our EP – which was a completely relaxed process, so the studio time was a bit of a shock, with deadlines and many late nights in the studio. We definitely learned a lot during our time at Home Surgery Studios.
Brae: Preparation is key. It was a huge wake-up call rocking into the studio in the same way we had in the past – very relaxed and easygoing – and realising how horribly underprepared we were for such a huge undertaking. I think it really woke us up to what the process of recording an album is like. It’s fun and it’s exciting, but it’s also gruelling and strenuous. I wouldn’t have it any other way now, though!
So of course, you’ve teamed up with the f***ing legends at Domestic La La to drop this record – how did you
find yourselves linking up with them, and what made DLL the perfect label for you?
Lachlan: You are absolutely right, DLL are f***ing legends! I remember one day, Brae received an email from James saying that he loved our EP, but none of us put two and two together until we saw that his email ended in VS, so we naturally freaked out. From there, we kept in contact and eventually got signed to the label. The reason we felt so strongly about DLL is because from day one, there was no industry bullshit promising the world to us, which we had experienced from other labels. The honesty and integrity shown from James sold us instantly, and we have no regrets.
Brae: Domestic La La is the perfect label for us because they are just the perfect label [laughs]. They take no creative control and all they want from us is to be as real and genuine as we possibly can, which perfectly aligns with what we want to do as Dear Seattle as well. I believe Tids stumbled across our EP somewhere along the way and got in contact with us via email to shed some love for it, and it all just went from there! He’s honestly just a true fan of Dear Seattle, and feels as though he has the experience to help guide us through what can be a very treacherous industry. I couldn’t ask for a better label manager.
What were some of your favourite memories from the making of Don’t Let Go?
Brae: As stressful as it got at times, the studio was such an incredible experience. It’s not every day that you get given the right to a whole month, uninterrupted, to sit in a room with your best mates creating and perfecting your art. It gets to the point where you can feel it coming together how you imagined and even better, and you just get overwhelmed with giddiness. I absolutely loved it.
Lachlan: We had a rituals everyday during recording – things like having afternoon barbeques, watching funny videos every morning, playing basketball in the laneway outside the studio, winding down after a long session with people taking turns playing new music to each other, or even going to this Italian grocer and buying amazing sandwiches for lunch every day. Those moments kept us all sane, but the best moments were always sitting back with a cold beer and listening to the finalised songs, allowing ourselves to feel proud of what we had created.
What was the creative dynamic like between the four of you? Was it a very collaborative process?
Brae: In terms of the songwriting for this album, we wrote a total of about 24 songs before we went into the studio and culled it to the final 11 you hear on the album. Of that 24, 12 were written by myself throughout the 18 months before we went into the studio, and another 12 were written as a group at the same farmstay house we went to when we wrote the EP. So yeah, I’d say there was a good deal of collaboration involved. We really want to make that the case even moreso in the future.
How have the new songs been working in the live set so far? Do you have any favourites to whip out or any
cuts that get the crowd especially frothy?
Brae: We’ve played about four or five of the album songs live before, but only two or three have been staples in the set thus far. I’m especially keen to play the last two songs on the record live – "A Modest Mind" because it's just such a driving heaver of a song that will bring so much energy, and "I Keep Dreaming" because it's by far the most raw and emotional track on the record.
Lachlan: They've popped in nicely, I think! My favorite song to play off the new record has got to be "Homegrown". It starts off fast and just doesn’t stop.
Did you have the live show in mind when you were writing this record, or did the way it would translate to the
stage have any influence on how you approached it in the studio?
Lachlan: We did think about how this record would be perceived live during the recording process, with lots of emphasis on building tension and trying to pull off those ‘f*** yeah’ moments when the crowd hopefully plays air guitar.
Brae: I was a lot more conscious of it this time around when writing. I would listen back to a section and try to imagine both playing it live, and watching it, to see how it would translate and if it would hit people the way it should. I really enjoyed that frame of mind while writing. However, I don’t think we limited ourselves in the studio to what was possible onstage with the four of us. We just wanted the songs to end up sounding as good as they could.
What are your touring plans for the album? Is there a proper run of shows lined up?
Brae: 100 percent, but I can't tell you when. All I can say is that we hate when bands call it a 'national tour' and just do the east coast, so we’ve made sure we can actually, safely call it an Australian tour.
How did you want to build on or evolve your techniques as a guitarist with this record?
Brae: To be honest, I think I tried to devolve my techniques! As the singer as well, I've come to learn that less is more, because it frees me up to focus more on my vocals. It was really interesting writing parts for the tracks and thinking, “How can I make this as effective as possible in the simplest way?” I used to do a lot of fingerpicking before this record, but now I've taught myself to use a pick [laughs].
Lachlan: I've never been much of a technical guitarist as I grew up playing in hardcore bands, so this album was a good chance to build up my left-hand skills – I'm a righty, naturally.
Do you have a favourite riff on the record?
Brae: Either the last riff in "A Modest Mind", or the one with the big "YEAH" scream over it in "Broke & Hungry".
Lachlan: The riff at the end of "A Modest Mind" is hands down the gnarliest thing this band has ever written.
Let’s vibe gear: what guitars, amps and pedals were you jamming out on in the studio for this record?
Brae: So despite always playing live with my Vox AC30, we actually used an Orange AD30 for my base clean tone. We then used the MI Audio TubeZone Overdrive for sections with a bit of crunch, which I use now in my live setup, and the Death By Audio Echo Dream pedal for the fuzz. It's actually a delay pedal, as the name suggests, but it also has a fuzz circuit which sounds mean, so we just used zero delay and basically used it as a fuzz. I’ve now got the DBA Apocalypse fuzz for my live setup, which is just as amazing. For overdubs and textural guitars, we used a variety of Redwitch Pedals, a Hall Of Fame reverb and a heap of other whack stuff.
Lachlan: Much to my surprise, I ended up tracking the majority of my guitar parts on a Nash '63 Telecaster. It just sounded perfect in the mix. I was running that through a 100-watt Wizard Vintage Modern amp, which sounded disgustingly huge and really filled in the sound. We used countless pedals for lead tones, so I can’t really remember what specific ones I used.
Do you have a favourite guitar to bust out onstage?
Lachlan: My favourite guitar was a 1991 Orville Les Paul, which was rock solid and heavy, but unfortunately I had that guitar break on tour. Gotta love the iconic Gibson neck snap. At the moment I'm using a lovely Fender HH Jaguar, which has definitely helped my back when on tour. This thing just packs a punch, and it's super reliable.
Brae: At the moment I only use the one guitar, but I absolutely adore it. It’s the J Mascis signature Jazzmaster that Squire put out. I read everywhere that it was $800, but it sounds almost on par with the Fender Jazzmasters that reach up to $3,000. I’d seen so many of my favourite acts using it, and I figured, "Why not give it a crack?" I fell in love because it’s just perfect for alternative rock – really gutsy but very versatile, with great mids that mingle well with overdrive and fuzz pedals. It’s light and easy to manoeuvre as well. I truly love it!