Frontman for Raised By Eagles, Luke Sinclair, releases a new song from the forthcoming album Heavy Dreams.
By Brian Wise.
Raised by Eagles’ singer/songwriter Luke Sinclair has been busy over the lockdown, recording his debut ‘solo’ album, Heavy Dreams, which will be released in early 2021. (The first song, ‘Boots To The Grave,’ was released last week). While it is being referred to as a solo album it goes under the moniker of The Luke Sinclair Set, a name suggested by Van Walker and one that signals a lot about Sinclair’s attitude.
Almost a reluctant front man, Sinclair is one of the finest songwriters in what has become a burgeoning Americana scene centred in Melbourne. After time in the Idle Hoes and three acclaimed albums with Raised By Eagles from 2013 to 2017 – as well as a showcase gig with the band at the Americana Festival in Nashville – Sinclair went through a couple of emotionally turbulent years that were then topped off by the past six months of lockdown. For Sinclair, the recording sessions for the new album have been a way to refocus on music.
Apart from Sinclair on guitar and vocals, the Set consists of Zane Lynd on bass, guitar, piano and harmony vocals; Matt Dixon on lead guitars and drummer Liam O’Leary. (The quartet did a few gigs prior to the lock down previewing the new songs). They are augmented by Kelly Day playing synth, doing some harmony vocals, as well as arranging a choir; and, Simon Burke from The Meltdown on piano and organ. Roger Bergodaz not only co-produced with Sinclair at Union Street Studios but also adds percussion and piano edits. The forthcoming album was mastered by Peter Lyman at Infrasonic Mastering in Nashville.
You can view the video for the first song here: Boots To The Grave
‘Boots to the Grave’, the first ‘single’ from the forthcoming album is a typical loping Sinclair song with a riff that once heard is difficult to get out of your head. Originally about “pursuing and maintaining a music career and the internal conversations and pep-talks that take place” the song apparently grew into being about “the conflicting ideals and future visions of two people at the crossroads.” Whatever interpretation you put on it, it does ask some important questions that might reflect what Sinclair has been going through. “When you gonna settle down?” he asks and later adds, “Life’s too short to stay in one place anyway.” He is certainly not staying in one place creatively and, if this one song is indicative, the new album should be well worth the wait.
I caught up with Sinclair over the phone last week to talk about the new single and preview what is on the forthcoming album.
Your new single is now released. I was going to say it’s a solo record, but it’s actually The Luke Sinclair Set. Sounds a very ’60s type of band, doesn’t it? But it’s not.
No. As you know, Brian, I have a problem with solo records. I mean, what record is ever solo? Unless you’re just playing a guitar and a harmonica or something there was a band involved. So, I don’t know. Maybe I just wasn’t brave enough yet, either, to just call it Luke Sinclair. I wasn’t sure what this was going to be called but with the help of a good friend of mine, and somebody that you know as well, Van Walker – he has a knack for these things. I said, “You know, I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, or what this is,” and he just told me what it was. So, I ran with that and, and I’ve got some really great players on this record. So, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t place the focus too squarely on myself.
We could also read something into this Luke, like not wanting to take responsibility, but we won’t get too psychoanalytical at the moment.
Well, there’s that too, Brian. You’re onto me. You’re onto me. I’m terrible at trying to figure out what to call any sort of musical project that I’m working on, although Raised by Eagles seemed to go all right. But I even thought that was ridiculous when I came up with that. But these things just tend to become something once the music’s out there, I guess. The name kind of follows, for better or for worse.
Well, Raised by Eagles is not so ridiculous now that there’s Eaten By Dogs, and now there’s a Netflix series called Raised by Wolves. So, you’re way ahead of the curve, there.
Yeah. There’s Eaten by Dogs. I think that’s a pretty graphic band name, but yeah. I mean, what are you going to do? You got to call yourself something.
Well, tell us who’s in the Luke Sinclair Set. There are some pretty fine musicians in there.
There really is. I couldn’t believe that they said yes, actually, when I decided I was going to do this. But I’ve got Zane Lynd, he’s on bass and he’s played bass for pretty much every band in this town, every good band in this town. I remember seeing Zane when I sort of first came to Melbourne and I’d go out and see bands. He was always in the bands that I loved and I’d always see that he was playing bass, and never thought I’d have the opportunity to work with him in a musical capacity, because I thought he was kind of next level. But as the years went by and things started to go okay with Raised By Eagles and I met a lot of people. Zane was one of them. So, it’s a real pleasure to have him on the record. He actually really helped me arrange these songs, and he’s got such an amazing musical sensibility. So, it was really handy to have him help me figure out how these songs should be arranged.
There’s Liam O’Leary, who I first saw playing with Oh Pep! In Nashville back in 2015. And I think you were there too, Brian, [I was!]. I saw Oh Pep! They played a lot of the shows for Sounds Australia, and they just blew my mind, and blew all of our minds. Liam was playing drums then. I promised myself that one day I was going to either pinch him or make sure that I did something that was worthy of his drumming. So, he’s on the record.
And Matt Dixon, who is from all kinds of bands as well. He’s played with the Teskey Brothers, he’s played with Broads. He’s played with everyone. He’s just a bit of a gun for hire. So, I’ve got him on electric guitar. Also, Simon Burke from The Meltdown was kind enough to put some piano on some tracks, which just sounds amazing.
Kelly Day, of course, put some beautiful synths, and all her vocal harmonies are all over the record, too. I’ve got a song that I’m really excited to release. And Kelly’s kind of written and arranged this amazing choir – like, country soul, blues – that just sounds absolutely massive. She did all of them. So, it sounds like I’ve got a choir of 50 people in there, but it’s all Kelly. Y
So yeah, a really great bunch of people and a really amazing bunch of musicians. So, it was just a really, really nice process.
Roger Bergodaz has recorded it and it was mastered in Nashville.
Yes. All the other records I’ve ever put out, I’ve kept everything local. I’ve been kind of been passionate about that. But this time, Roger just had this connection with this amazing mastering team over in Nashville. I mean, I’m about to drop some names here, but this is what made me to say to Rog, “Yes, please. Can I have these guys master?” They did Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell’s stuff, and I’m a massive fan of their work, especially Sturgill’s last record. That was it. That was a new wave-country game changer when I heard that and the production, it’s just amazing.
So yeah, Rog sent them over, and they were keen to do it that or listen to him to the songs and were keen to do it. So, they did, and it was just something else. They turned it around in no time. I mean, mastering’s such a dark art to me anyway but they really did something to these tracks that I haven’t heard on any other recordings that I’ve made, anyway. So, yes, I was really happy and really excited to have the opportunity to work with Pete Lyman, from Infrasonic.
I assume that Raised by Eagles are on somewhat of a hiatus until after the release of this particular album.
Yeah, I guess so. I mean, we’re kind of in forced hiatus at the moment. Obviously, we can’t be in a room together to rehearse any new songs. I’ve sent some new tracks to the boys but everyone’s kind of really busy just finding ways to get by and get through this lockdown.
The need to be working towards something, for me, it became a mental health necessity more than anything else. I wasn’t going to release any music in lockdown and all the advice was that it’s not really the best time to be releasing music. So, I just felt like I really needed to be working on something that I wasn’t getting. That kind of catharsis and that connection that you get through playing gigs really is something I’ve realised I was taking for granted. Because when it’s taken away from you, and you don’t have that in your life, you really, really get a sense of how much you need it, as an artist or as someone that just needs to have that connection and that release.
So, just putting this out, even just working towards it really has saved me in lockdown. As far as Raised by Eagles go, I mean, we’ll be back. We just need things to get back to normal so we can all hang out and work on songs. We’ve always worked on stuff by just being in a room together. Sending songs to each other and doing things that way online, we’re not really that kind of band, which is what I love about Raised by Eagles, what’s really special about it, I think. Because just need to get in a room and someone starts playing a song. Then all of a sudden, it becomes this beautiful thing. So, we’ll be doing that. We’ll be doing more of that in the future. I’m sure of it. But I just wanted some time to release some of these songs that didn’t sound like Raised by Eagles songs.
They sound like Luke Sinclair songs and I wanted to say, it sounds like you’ve been doing some deep thinking, because the song is kind of philosophical, isn’t it? The opening line is, “Run your boots to the grave. When you going to settle down? You say life’s too short to stay in one place, anyway.” There’s a lot of thinking there. I’d be interested to see what the other songs are like, in terms of the subject matter.
The subject matter? It came out of some kind of terrible cataclysmic event in my life that happened a couple of years ago and getting through that. Then part of getting through that was, of course, spending a lot of time on my own and writing songs. Interestingly enough, this one… the lyrics kind of came absolutely secondary to the music and that never happens to me. I’m usually 100% focused on the lyrics and whatever happens on the guitar is driven by what I’m hoping to say, or what I’m hoping to convey emotionally through the music.
This song, ‘Boots to the Grave’, was just a riff that I had years ago, actually. It’s a riff that I just really loved playing because it’s all these anticipations and weird timing that drove Liam and Zane a bit batty actually, when we were trying to work the song out. But I’m really proud of it, musically. I don’t feel like it’s something that I’ve done before. Musically anyway, in this way, it’s got more of a pop sort of bent. I just really wanted to turn that riff into a song. It became a song, and those words just kind of fit really easily and comfortably. I actually didn’t like it lyrically at all. So, it’s nice to hear you say that the lyrics are kind of evocative in some sense, because I thought they were a little bit ridiculous.
But it’s amazing, as soon as you let go of that and you play it to people, I start to realise things in the lyrics that I didn’t realise. So yes, it’s been interesting. I’m just sort of relieved that I’ve played it to friends, and obviously a lot of people that are involved in my little orbit and they all thought that the lyrics were good. So, I released it as is. I was going to rewrite the whole thing, but it is what it is and it’s out there now.
It’s a beauty and I can hardly wait for the rest of the album if the other songs are anywhere near as good as this song. It precedes the album, Heavy Dreams, which I guess is coming out in the New Year?
Yes. I think we’ll release it then. I really want to start releasing singles. I’ve never really done that in the past. (I mean, we’ve released a single and then the album that we want to release). I’m really proud of three songs, especially, on this record and I really want to give them room.
So, I’m super excited about the next one, and I think you’re going to love it, Brian. It’s a much more sort of classic-country soul. I don’t know. To me, it just sounds more like what people might expect to hear from me these days. But it’s just a giant of a song and I’m really excited about it. So, I’m going to release three singles, I think and then the record in the summer.
It’s got a lot of rockers on it, this one. It’s not as emotional, musically, as Raised by Eagles, but Nick O’Mara’s lap steel has a lot to do with that.
But this one’s really interestingly and upbeat, considering the catalyst for why I wrote it and why I put it out. It’s definitely thematic. It’s, interestingly, not like anything I’ve done before. I think I’ve just contradicted myself there, but you’ll see what I mean when you get it.
It says in the lyrics also, “Find your place in the sun.” I hope you find your place in the sun pretty soon.
‘Boots To The Grave’ is available at https://thelukesinclairset.bandcamp.com