Ollie Browne seemed to sense that I was having difficulty calculating the time difference between us as I hazarded a rough guess at the time he was on in Copenhagen as compared to my own watch in Melbourne. Through a shaky, digital phone line that had already disconnected on us twice, Ollie corrected my mangled estimates and accurately picked Melbourne time with only a few seconds’ thought. Although international travel and crossing time zones may be second nature now to Ollie, who, with his band, Art Of Fighting, have toured extensively all around the world, he will soon be returning to Australia to meet with the rest of the band for a local tour.
After a string of international dates, including sharing the bill with the likes of The Dirty Three and Nick Cave at 2007’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England, I wondered how a return to the smaller, pub stage would feel.
‘It’s hard to say…’ Ollie ponders the thought for a moment. ‘A show’s a show. It doesn’t really matter who’s there or where you are. As soon as you get on stage, you’ve got to put on a show and play your songs as well as you can. Going to All Tomorrow’s Parties was insanely exciting, but to me, it’s exciting playing anywhere in Australia. Especially some of the regional places we’ll be playing.’
This will be the band’s first set of Australian dates in some time, and the first tour to stop at regional venues since March 2005. As Ollie noted, the band have always enjoyed playing regional shows, even though they may not have as much opportunity to perform outside the city as they would like.
‘We very rarely get the chance to play there. You play to people who don’t want to go to Melbourne, or can’t get to Sydney to see shows, but they want to see live music. In some ways, it’s really rewarding, because they just love it – they love the fact that you’ve come there, as opposed to them going to you. It’s really good.’
The Mysteries Tour will also mark Art Of Fighting’s first visit to Tasmania. When I mention the date, an almost child-like excitement hits Ollie’s voice for a moment. ‘We’re going to play Hobart for the first time ever! The first time ever! We can’t wait. Personally, I can’t wait. I can not wait. I’m looking forward to all of [the shows], but I think that one will be great.’
Ollie says that the band are going to ‘mix things up’ a lot with this tour. The band is looking forward to bringing out some of its older songs, and debuting new songs for the home crowd, as well as promising fans some surprises along the way. ‘A lot of our last record, Second Storey, was quite hard to play live. It was mixed in a fashion that… when we came back to start playing live it was kind of difficult. And that’s definitely a lot of the reason why we wrote this album the way we did – to make sure that all these songs are songs that we can perform live.’
For Runaways, Art Of Fighting’s third album, the band re-thought the entire recording process. As well as the less textured, less layered and more live sound than Second Storey, the band aimed for what Ollie described as a more ‘impulsive’ recording. The band’s goal, he says, ‘was to have more time to be a bit more relaxed about our approach to the songs. To let the songs have the character they deserve, as opposed to knowing the songs, going into an expensive studio and then playing a version of it.’
‘The biggest difference with this record is that, in the past, with our first album and our second album, when we have gone into the studio, we went in really prepared, because we had a limited amount of time to record the songs. This time around, we knew the songs. We’d played them a lot. But we also wanted to be relaxed in our approach to them. We really wanted to be able to keep going over those takes while we were actually in the studio and try to have more of an organic feeling in the studio, and more of a feeling of us playing together, as opposed to just us watching the clock and trying to go for that perfect take in a hurried fashion.’
The results are a series of haunting ballads, textured – but not too textured – with the freedom to break without falter into guitar fuzz. And Ollie promises that it will translate perfectly to the stage as Art Of Fighting travel Australia into October.
From Buzz Magazine, October 2007.