Melbourne heavyweights The Delta Riggs are back after three years of radio silence with the fourth instalment in their collection of rock n roll treats, Modern Pressure. Definitely worth the wait, the album marks a step up for the band, braving more profound, upfront lyrics than usual while still staying true to the OG Riggs we know and love, making a stylistic return to the rock n roll music they love to make. As an album that packs a lot more than what originally meets the eye, I was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with guitarist Alex Markwell to see what Modern Pressure is all about.
“It’s not in any way a concept album or anything like that… but some of the songs have a bit more of a message of just life and the need to feel like you’re presenting the best version of yourself and how you put yourself under pressure to portray this perfect image,” he explains. In our social media age, “pretty much anyone can look into your life that usually wouldn’t be able to, and hear the songs you write so it’s about taking a step back and living in the moment. It’s looking at yourself from a different viewpoint and not getting too caught up with the pressures of modern life… you know, just get off the phone and look up and see what’s right in front of you.” Sage advice.
The super psychedelic album cover may initially seem just a colourful eyecatcher, but much like the album’s music, there’s more to it on closer inspection. So what’s the dealio here?
“Well for starters, instead of going with something drab and sort of down, go for something colourful and bright. But also, I don’t know if you noticed,” – I hadn’t – “but the eye on the front is a bit bloodshot, a bit sort of tired-looking. You’ve got all these nice, bright colours and it’s peachy and everything, but the actual eye looks like it’s been through some shit.”
So what first appears as a perfect bright image is actually revealed as a cover-up for the reality that lies beneath the glitter and glam. “[Online you can] get caught up on what your friends are doing, but you’re being shown what they choose to show you… That image of what they’re doing might look all positive and all rainbows and Skittles, yet if you take a chance to catch up with them you might realise they’re having a rough time, and if you just take what they’re portraying on social media as a snapshot of their actual lives, you can make the wrong sort of assumption.”
Social media pressures are pertinent in the album, but the pressures of the music-making business also affect and inspire the band and their message of modern pressures. “Being in a band you have to put on a brave face the whole time… it can look all peachy on the outside, like ‘oh yeah, you play for 45 minutes, maybe an hour’ but people don’t realise all the stress and the pressure you put on yourself just to get to that point. You’re putting out your heart and soul for everyone’s criticism when you write songs, and I know a lot of musicians and artists who are geared differently and end up with different sorts of mental health needs.
“You might make up all these graphic versions of yourself you think you need to portray, but it’s really you putting yourself under the pressure more than anyone else… and being in a band can be a stressful lifestyle. If you take all the potential for partying and everything out there, you’ve got to make sure you keep a lid on it. We’ve been a band for quite a while now and that sort of lifestyle that people might think happens, getting drunk all the time and partying, that’s just not sustainable at all… Although some people try to sustain it and that’s when they end up with problems.”
However, Alex makes it crystal clear that the album isn’t all doom and gloom. While they’re definitely shedding important light on the fact that not everything’s all rainbows and skittles, whether it be playing in a band or just browsing social media, and leading by example in putting their heart and soul out there for everyone to see in their lyrics, they’re also still out there having fun.
“Instead of trying to hide behind convoluted metaphors of what you’re singing about, it’s just singing about real stuff and putting ourselves out there. Modern Pressure is a departure from our previous stuff in some ways, but it’s also just getting back to the music we love doing and putting out a good rock n’ roll record.”
Modern Pressure is now available on Spotify and to see their fab new work live, The Riggs will be gracing us with their presence on the Friday night of Queenscliff Music Festival November 22-24.
If you povos can’t afford the whole weekend (like me) be sure to at least make it to the Friday! Be there or be square.
Written by Jess Sercombe