Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
few bands can claim they put as much heart and soul into the album-making process as The Teskey Brothers. With LP2, the Melbourne blues-rockers have crafted a masterpiece of authenticity and stunning guitar tones.
Words by Sarah Comey.
With their 2017 debut, Half Mile Harvest, the blues-rock ravagers in The Teskey Brothers soared from local scene luminaries to international superstars, thanks in no short part to their sharp, searing hot take on the Stax Records-esque soul that immortalised legends like Albert King and Otis Redding in the ‘60s.
Now holding present-day lovers of the genre firmly in their palms, The Teskey Brothers are going above and beyond with Run Home Slow: a follow-up worthy of its guaranteed success, with writing so poignant and playing so impassioned that, had it released when blues-rock ruled the airwaves, there’d be no question about it – The Teskey Brothers would be up there with the greats, packing stadiums full each night and having lighters raised to the skies by the million.
“I knew that we couldn’t just do a Half Mile Harvest 2.0,” says bassist Brendon Love, “For the sake of our audience and for our own creative development as a band. The production techniques are the same – we recorded Run Home Slow in the same studio with the same desk and tape machine – and having that as a starting point allowed us to really focus and go deep with the songwriting and arrangements. Half Mile Harvest was about capturing the sound of a band playing together in a room, with a focus on dynamics, simplicity and space; Run Home Slow is more about capturing a feeling. The songs reflect each of our respective emotions, and where we’re all at in our lives at the moment.”
Having learned the ropes by self-producing LP1, the foursome were determined to up the ante when it came to the spate of sounds an styles they’d work with on Run Home Slow. “I really wanted to explore different instrumentation and timbres to create an atmosphere that differs from Half Mile Harvest,” Love continues. “The dynamics, simplicity and space were all still important during the writing and recording of Run Home Slow, but we really pushed ourselves to find different ways to achieve those characteristics.”
Like its predecessor, Run Home Slow was hashed out at the band’s home studio in Warrandyte – an idyllic riverside haven, 24 kilometres north-east of Melbourne – where they worked at their own pace to sculpt a masterpiece of rough and rugged, heart-on-sleeve soul. The Teskey Brothers have a strong personal connection with Warrandyte, too: it’s where they all grew up, went to school and bonded over a mutual love for music.
“Warrandyte is a beautiful little town,” Love rhapsodises. “To be able to wake up and walk to the studio in the morning, hang out amongst the trees and not feel any pressure about studio time… That was a real luxury. We recorded in the middle of summer, too, so we would often take breaks to go for a swim in the river. It doesn’t really get any better as far as creating music in a space with your friends.”
To gift Run Home Slow its brash, incandescent authenticity, the quartet recorded live, straight onto two-inch tape. Their entire setup was analogue, too, plugging guitars straight into their amps (generally a Fender Deluxe Reverb, Fender Champ, Peavey Classic 50 or Ampeg B15) and running through a prized Studer A-800 console that once belonged to Jimmy Barnes. As Love illustrates, such was crucial for laying down the passion and rawness that The Teskey Brothers revel in.
“Recording to tape just has a certain sound that we all love,” he gushes. “The same goes with mixing through an analogue console; there are so many variables that lead to the overall character of an album, but the one constant we’ve found is that all of our favourite recordings were made on analogue equipment. As well as having a distinct warm sound, an all-analogue production influences performance and limits certain decisions – I think that’s the biggest benefit to using tape, more than the sound itself.
“It forces you to work in an entirely different way. You don’t get infinite takes, you can’t quantise anything, you can’t over polish anything, and you’re limited to 24 tracks. All of that is what helps to give the recording a raw, human feel. The fact that you don’t have the option to ‘fix’ anything in the computer. means you’re forced to really prioritise the feel of the performances. If it doesn’t sound good in the tracking room, it’s never going to sound good on an album.”
For the clamorous, thundering roar of their guitars, The Teskey Brothers held back from f***ing around with too many effects. In addition to going straight through their amps, the band experimented with plugging directly into the recording console – “something we haven’t done before, but took inspiration from some Beatles recordings,” Love explains – the end goal to keep their riffs as tight, and ultimately human, as possible.
They played mostly Fender kit (the classic one-two punch of old-school Strats and Teles), with a handful of randomised Gibsons – an ES-335, an L6-S, a trusty Les Paul and the venerable Songwriter – amongst them. But as Love is quick to note, the gear they used on Run Home Slow is largely irrelevant. At the end of the day, it’s what they did with that gear that really matters.
“The guitarist’s eternal hunt for tone is a neverending journey,” he muses. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that certain gear is the only way to achieve the tones you’re looking for; you can waste a lot of time and money trying to get the exact kind of rig that Hendrix used, or the exact Strat that Clapton played, but the only reason your heroes achieved the tone that you so covet is because they went through years of playing, exploration and dedication.
“Tone is all in your hands. Hendrix could never sound like B.B. King, and B.B. King could never sound like Hendrix, regardless of what guitar they were playing. The type of guitar you play has such a small part compared to the way you play it. Even just exploring with different strumming positions and fretting techniques can change your tone more dramatically than whether you’re playing an original ’60s Strat or last year’s Squire. Having good gear is important, sure, but there is definitely a point of diminishing returns. We love vintage gear as much as anyone, but the reality is, if your guitar feels good and plays in tune, then the only limitation to achieving your dream tone is your own curiosity and dedication.”
The Teskey Brothers
Wednesday October 30th - Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
Friday November 1st - Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
Saturday November 2nd - Uni Bar, Wollongong NSW
Sunday November 3rd - Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
Friday November 8th - The Gov, Adelaide SA
Saturday November 9th - Hand Picked Festival, Langhorne Creek SA
Sunday November 10th - The Gov, Adelaide SA
Tuesday November 12th - Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Wednesday November 13th - Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Friday November 15th - Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Saturday November 16th - Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Wednesday November 20th - The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
Thursday November 21st - The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
Friday November 22nd - The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
Thursday November 28th - Astor Theatre, Perth WA
Friday November 29th - Rock Rover, Fremantle WA
Saturday November 30th - The River Hotel, Margaret River WA
Saturday December 7th - Powerstation, Auckland NZ