In the 60s den glow of Bar OneSixOne in Prahran, the boys of Melbourne’s Dancing Heals gather pre-gig in a booth to talk about the painstakingly slow production and long-awaited completion of their debut album Into the Night (released late last month).
Singer/songwriter Jon-Lee Farrell starts the story like a fairytale, describing the fateful events that led to him coming together with his long-term friend, now co-singer/songwriter, Dan Trakell. He admits that it was mostly due to a simultaneous collapse of all other projects.
“Dan and I have been in Melbourne playing in bands for eight or nine years and we used to play a lot of the same gigs. Along with another band from Newcastle called Dirty Pink Jeans, that’s where our drummer Jarrad Long comes from. Then one day all our bands broke up at once. I called Dan, then I called Jarrad, and we got people who we worked with and just started a band.”
“Two of those founding members have already left now though,” says Trakell, adding “we met our new bassist James Lovie from a bunch of different gigs we played at together too. So we’re the product of the uncool, fragmented Melbourne music scene from mid-2000.”
The name for this band on the rebound was coined by occasional member and stand-in for Long, introduced as ‘Our Chill-Guy Sam.’ He explains “You could do worse to age your soul than to dance your blues away.”
Farrell points out “it’s kind of funny because we’re not a very dancey band;” but Lovie opines, “well we are a dancey band, but we’re not a samba band, or a latin band. Because that’s what people think! They’re like ‘you don’t have that heavy dance percussion line at all!’”
Described as cross-genre – including a chunk of indie, a dash of pop and a sprinkling of rock – Dancing Heals have been compared to extraordinary composers Arcade Fire. When asked if they have any ambitions to add more unusual instruments to their standard rock line-up, Farrell affirms “in recordings we would. We’ve sort of done so on [Into the Night] – there are a few extra keys parts, trumpet sounds, timpanis and bells.”
“They’re all synthetic though…” Lovie adds, “…the drugs are synthetic too.” They all have a chuckle and Trakell goes on to mention that they did have a permanent keys player to begin with, present in the music video for their single, ‘Diamonds’.
“She’s still a lifelong friend, but she left the band to pursue other aspirations.” Farrell understands her choice, saying “being in a band costs a lot of money, takes a lot of time…” Then Trakell sheepishly admits “plus it was weird because I slept with her too.”
Laughter all around again, whilst the four go on to discuss the merits of intra-band relationships, mentioning one of their main influences Fleetwood Mac.
Once the topic of discussion comes back to their own group, Trakell laments how long it took to produce their debut. “You have these songs for two years, and the album still isn’t out after all that time.”
Lovie sees the silver-lining in the delay however, “still, you play these shows live and it helps, because you realise things when you’re playing live that you’d never notice when you’re in the studio. You can make them more nuanced and bring that to the studio for a better product.”
“It is good for evolving songs,” Farrell agrees, “but it’s just kind of depressing when we’re going to try and record our second album by the end of this year. We’re working hard on new songs and we want to play them, but as soon as you release an album you have to play all the songs that are on that album and they’re old to us!”
The twelve months it took to record their debut had an effect on the way it ended up. “Three songs we did later on at the end of the whole process,” explains Farrell, “and we had a bit more money so we recorded them differently to tape, the way we wanted to do it. To me, half of the album is quite noticeably different, which is kind of a bummer, but part of a learning curve.”
Speaking of new experiences, they talk about their time in LA late last year with great enthusiasm. “Americans are more positive than Australians when it comes to music,” says Trakell, accompanied by a nod from Farrell, “We got airplay and a lot more interest,” he says of their success on a number of US radio shows with their single ‘Live & Learn’ being put on the promotion campaign for the TV series Covert Affair.
“They’re just more enthusiastic,” Farrell contests. “We had only been a band for about a year and a half, so it was fun to go away and spend all that time together, not have day jobs, not have to do anything except rehearse and go and play gigs, and eat pizza and party.”
The creative partnership between Farrell and Trakell has previously been compared to that between Noel and Liam Gallagher. When asked what their opinion of this comparison is, they all laugh, Farrell looks at his pseudo-brother and says “I’d rather be Noel, but I think they mean you’re Noel.”
“Yeah, I’m Noel. If I’m Noel, I’m fine with that,” Trakell asserts. Farrell teases him “Only because you’re not as cool,” drawling the last word, “but you’re a pretty good songwriter,” before decalring “I don’t like comparing ourselves to Oasis, they’re like royalty.”
“You just don’t want to be Liam,”Trakell says with a smile and Our Chill-Guy points out that this is all very Noel and Liam. “You can’t even agree on this! Yeah we are… No we’re fucking not!” Laughing, Lovie say their relationship is probably more like that of another pair of influential musicians: Tegan & Sara.
As for the future, aside from promoting their first album and recording demos for their second, Lovie says we can expect a more refined Dancing Heals sound in future. “In terms of songwriting the new stuff is getting really exciting from a construction point of view; and production-wise, again, it’ll be really good to get a studio when we can do the one cohesive session that isn’t stretched out – the inverse of what the first album was.”
Confident with their current line-up, Trakell and Farrell both see the potential for the Dancing Heals fan base to grow a little closer to home. In return they promise, whilst maybe not healing broken hearts and wounded souls, at least consoling them with some good heartfelt music.