Track By Track: Civil Civic
European-based expats Aaron Cupples and BEN GREEN collide in the genre-bending instrumental duo Civil Civic. Their debut LP ‘Rules’ includes the pair’s equivalent to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and a song that makes drunk people cry.
This little number soaked up an obscene amount of time in the mixing stage, because we just couldn’t get it to sound as giddy and exciting as the original demo version. This is a pretty common problem, actually, for us at least. Demos often have a rude charisma that can be prove very slippery and elusive when it comes to recreating them for release. But we teased it and pounded it and eventually our fancified version started sounding not only better than the demo, but good enough to be the opening track on our debut album. Phew.
This is one of our “crowd recognition” tracks. The opening riff is pretty memorable, and when Azza launches it at shows there is inevitably two to five heads down the front who say “Woooo!” The synth in the chorus is actually about six different synth sounds jammed on top of each other (which is standard practice for us), accompanied by stereo bass guitars playing huge power chords through a Sovtec Big Muff distortion pedal. Somehow the result isn’t a ball of unlistenable sludge. Go figure.
This was not one of the problem numbers on the record. It’s a fast, uncomplicated riff explosion that pretty much wrote itself and has become a real asset to the live set. It pushes the punk-rock element in our shtick just that bit harder than any of the other tunes, and for that reason it is perfect for whipping some sort of enthusiasm out of a yet-to-be-convinced crowd. When used on an audience that is already on board, the effects can be quasi-violent.
We knew that this track could end up sounding like a bit of a genre piece if we didn’t make it weird and nasty enough, so we did our best to put some crooked teeth on it. It also showcases Aarons’ compositional “tardedness.” A friend of ours pointed out that the song changes key three times in the first 20 seconds. He hadn’t noticed. As part of our live set this song gives me the opportunity to take a blazing organ solo, which ends in disaster only 15% of the time.
This track has been kicking around and evolving since the birth of the band, and has been in our live set from gig one. It’s been a slow burner and there have been times when it looked like it was going to get binned, but it’s really come up a treat in this recording. The motion-sick, reverb-soaked middle section came out exactly right and the final verse has just the kind of bawling, alcoholic grandeur we were going for.
‘Lights on a Leash’
This track was originally written and recorded for the Too Pure Singles Club, who paid to have it mastered to vinyl at Abbey Road studios. That in itself is a salty tale, which you can read in full here. The track bamboozled quite a few people when it was released, which is unsurprising. It’s a very different animal to anything of ours that preceded it, and even now it stands a little apart from the rest of our shizz. But at the same time all the Civil Civic trademarks are there (guitar noodles, bass distortion, War of the Worlds synths) and it definitely gives the album a bit more shape.
This track was another mixing nightmare that drove us to the brink of sanity, but it made it in the end. Because of its poppy vibe and dense interplay between the guitar and bass, we started out trying to produce a very clean, tight mix. We thought it could end up sounding like early Elvis Costello or The B-52’s. But that treatment just sounded weird, in context, so we turned the nasty back up and then spent hours and hours trying to tame the dynamics of whole thing.
This is the song that founded the band. Aaron emailed it in demo form to me and said, “Do you want to be in a band that sounds like this?” I said “Yep!” Sometime later it went to number one on the HypeMachine chart. It has one of the nerdiest, catchiest, weirdest extended guitar riffs in the history of weird guitar nerdiness and can be described as our ‘Stairway to Heaven’, but without the elves and Satanism.
This detour into pastoral romanticism is another song which has been kicking around since we first started playing together. We used to play it live occasionally, but not so much these days. It makes drunk people cry, and we prefer to keep our party hats on. But it was always going to be on the record, if only to provide some relief from those fucking 909 snares whacking you in the head 90 times a minute.
A great big shot of greasy smack amongst a bunch of speed/E numbers. The idea was to make the listener feel sick and disoriented every time he/she heard it. In its demo form it sounded pretty dull and plodding, but we both knew exactly what sort of mix was required to give it the kind of woozy scope it needed to make the cut. In the end it shaped up fine and is a great, spew-y way to end the record. We’ve played it live a few times, but it’s difficult to recreate some of the grandeur, particularly in the guitar solo, so it’s back in the workshop until we can sort that out.
‘Rules’ is out now through Remote Control. Tour dates below.
Thurs, Feb 7 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Fri, Feb 8 – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney, NSW
Sat, Feb 16 – ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror @ Westgate Entertainment Centre, Altona, VIC
Tues, Feb 19 – The Tote, Melbourne, VIC
Thurs, Feb 21 – The Crown And Anchor, Adelaide, SA