Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #127. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Press Club aren’t the DIY delinquents we deserve right now, but they’re the ones we need. Matt Doria dives headfirst into their head-spinning debut with guitarist Greg Rietwyk.
It wasn’t even 18 months ago that Press Club played their first ever gig. Since then, they’ve taken to club, theatre and festival stages all across the country, including a 32-date run with genre stalwarts The Smith Street Band. And then there’s the little matter of their debut album: the raw ’n’ ravenous Late Teens.
Written in the family home of bassist Iain MacRae and thrown together over a sweaty six days (during which frontwoman Nat Foster downright shredded her voice, leading to some beautifully grungy vocal takes), the record is an ambitious feat for the Melbourne quartet. But, thankfully, it’s one they pulled off without a hitch. We caught up with guitarist, producer, engineer and all-time legend Greg Rietwyk to ruminate on what’ll surely end up as one of the year’s biggest breakout hits.
It’s a little mind-blowing that we have a full‑length album this soon, given how fresh Press Club still are to the scene. What made you want to pump this record out so quickly?
I think we just had a good plan for it. We actually recorded it in January of last year, so we’ve been sitting on it for a while. We just wanted to build a solid fanbase in that interim – we didn’t want to just drop an album to no-one. It made sense to do a full album as well; we’ve always wanted to give people a proper body of work.
Have the four of you written much new music in the past year?
We’re constantly writing! We’re just workaholics in that sense. I think the songwriting process is where the four of us enjoy spending most of our time, so to get straight back into that once the album was done was super important for us. Obviously, it’s been a bit difficult because we’ve been busy on the gig front, and it’s going to get even harder as we come into the next few months of touring, but we’re trying to write anyway. We’re not exactly sure of the figure that we’ve got right now, but there’s about 20 or 30 “structures” of songs that are being worked on at the moment.
What was your creative vision behind the DIY recording process of Late Teens?
The whole kind of ethos behind it was to capture how we sound playing in a room together, and obviously, the best way to do that was to actually play in a room together, record it live and just let it all pour out naturally. We’ve had some experience in making music like that before, but this was totally us going, “Let’s just see what happens!” We wanted to see if we could capture that raw energy without click tracks or anything like that – just feel it and play it ’til the song sounds right. There were very minimal overdubs; for some of the guitar parts, I personally just like the way it sounds when it’s a little more full, so some of the stuff is just doubled.
When I had my first listen to the album, my immediate reaction was, “Holy shit, I’m back at BIGSOUND watching Press Club tear The Foundry up with sweat dripping down the walls!” Do you think recording live was essential in capturing that character?
Totally. In my opinion as an engineer, there isn’t a way to do that later on – there’s just some kind of magic that happens when you’re actually playing together. Even the tiny things, like a visual cue from your drummer: those are what sort of dictates the energy. I think a really important part of it is the fluctuations in tempo, which were intentional on our part – we could be sectional about things and be like, “This part needs to be pushed a little more.” That kind of thing happens naturally with a lot of bands when they’re playing live, but they’ll fail to capture that on a record because once you’re in the studio, everything is suddenly quite clinical; you’re recording to a click track, and you might not even be playing at the same time as the drummer. I just wanted to avoid those kinds of pitfalls. We did record to a digital format, which was Pro Tools, but when we started recording, we said, “Let’s just treat this like it’s a tape recorder, in that you can’t go and edit everything.” We weren’t going, “Let’s be purists and record to tape, and everything we use has to be stuff they used in the ‘70s,” but some of the ways we thought about recording an album were very old school.
Let’s talk guitars! What are you shredding on at the moment?
This stuff always changes, as it probably does for any person that plays the guitar [laughs]. My setup at the moment is an ’89 Rickenbacker Mapleglo 330, which was actually gifted to me last year – or the money for it was, anyway; all of my friends and family chipped in and raised the capital for it on my 30th birthday because my girlfriend knew that I was pining for a Ricky. It was just a lucky eBay find, really. And I recently got a ’79 Princeton Reverb – it’s only a small one-by-ten combo, but it rips, man!
So that wouldn’t have been what you played on the album, would it?
I didn’t have the Ricky then, so that would’ve been my ’52 Telecaster reissue. That was like a mid-2000s guitar with a Bigsby on it. I do kind of miss the Bigsby – that’s the only feature that the Ricky doesn’t have! And then the amp I played on predominantly was my mate’s Matchless Phoenix 35. Any time we needed a little overdubbed guitar on the record, I found that just plugging into that and cranking the shit out of it gave us a really cool sound.