The Lives of Others: You Am I’s New Album Confirms A Unique Bond.

By Steve Bell.

“We had our first shows back {post-COVID] in WA a few weeks ago, and it was such a thrill even just to fucking be together! We haven’t locked eyes together – Tim and I aside – because we haven’t been in the same room together since long before we recorded this new album, so it’s nice to play some of these new songs in the same room together for the first time.” 

You Am I guitarist Davey Lane is explaining the convoluted recording process behind the veteran Aussie rock band’s new album The Lives Of Others which – unlike their previous ten studio efforts – was recorded at a physical remove, with one half of the band in Melbourne and the other in Sydney. 

While such distance is usually surmountable, the pandemic travel restrictions which plagued 2020 forced the band to break out of their comfort zone, with Lane and frontman Tim Rogers building the foundations of songs in Melbourne and then sending them northward for their rhythm section (bassist Andy Kent and drummer Rusty Hopkinson) to add their magic away from prying eyes.

“We didn’t realise that it’s been nearly six years since the last album [2015’s Porridge & Hotsauce],” Lane continues. “Obviously last year happened with the lockdown stuff and I’d started building guitars and shit like that, and I’m pretty sure it was me who suggested, ‘Maybe we could start working on some songs remotely?’, and at some stage it turned from just sending some ideas around and maybe making some demos into, ‘Oh, we’re making a fucking record now!’

“No-one needs me to tell everybody what a weird and shitty year last year was, but I guess one of the fortuitous things was that I have my own recording space in my house which kept me from going insane. We made the You Am I record and I put out a record of my own last year so it was a productive time.”

Fortunately, the unique bond built by the four-piece due to decades of shared experience manifested in a form of intuition which ultimately saved the day.

“I think with what was ostensibly the demo process – Tim and I sitting around at my place and putting down initial guitars and vocals – more often than not when you do a demo you might just kind of pull out an arbitrary tempo,” Lane offers. “Then when you eventually get into a room together with the band you realise that maybe it might speed up or you might make a concerted effort to pull something back.

“Tim and I did were forced to put a bit of work into making sure that the tempos were right from the get-go, so we would try to imagine the best we could how Andy and Rusty would play to those songs and record accordingly to those tempos.

“And I think with us as a unit, obviously Tim and Andy and Rusty have been playing together for nearly 30 years and it’s been over 20 years for me, to the point that I think we’ve developed – for fear of sounding a bit cliched – this telepathy over the years of being able to read each other’s moves.

“Tim and I had some nerves on the days that Russ and Andy were in the studio up in Sydney – not nervousness that they wouldn’t play something great, but nervousness stemming from the usual process being us all in the one room, and this mode of recording being uncharted waters for us – but we’d get rough mixes back at the end of each day and Russ and Andy just knocked it out of the fucking park every time.” 

As did the whole band, The Lives Of Others sounding throughout like classic You Am I both sonically and lyrically and certainly in the conversation for their strongest release overall since the halcyon days of the ‘90s.

“Everyone says that the record they’re about to put out is the best one, but I reckon this could be the best You Am I album that I’ve played on,” Lane grins. “The record got mastered and I sat around with Tim and drank some beer – as is our wont on occasion – and listened back to it, and we both got a little misty-eyed listening to it.

“Obviously, there was the whole aspect of being distanced from our bandmates – and even distanced from each other for a few months here in Melbourne – but there was this overriding feeling that we’ve made something that was really good, and even though it was made under quite trying circumstances it actually ended up being quite a joyous experience”.

The Lives of Others is out now through Caroline Australia.