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A genuine air of excitement and enthusiasm rushes through the loudspeaker of my phone as I speak to charismatic frontman of Wagons, Henry Wagons. It is clear that the newest Wagons release, Acid Rain and Sugar Cane, has been a most enjoyable experience for Henry and the band.
The LP is a heavily built country rock journey built around the ideas and tales of the dark hallways of bars and some of their more ill-composed drinking experiences, along with some lovely tributes to the less celebrated beverages. Co-produced and contributed to by Australian rock icon Mick Harvey, with an obvious Bad Seeds vibe creeping through the new Wagons LP is bound to excite dedicated fans and induct some new ones.
Henry spoke to me excitedly about the upcoming tour and life surrounding the creation of Acid Rain and Sugar Cane, the follow-up to his solo release, Expecting Company (2012). Working with such a man as Mick Harvey can only be a dream come true for any Australian artist, and Henry made it clear that he was no exception. “From what I can gather Mick is fairly selective about whom he likes to work with, because he really does like to have some input. He likes to be there at the inception of the songs and contribute to the creative output of the work. He doesn’t want to be some techy sitting behind a production desk. When I had some meetings with him to discuss working together he could see that we didn’t have our stuff in just the right way so that he could help out.
“Part of the incentive was the process. It was a very live and heavy recording process with a bunch of hairy guys in a room pushing a lot of air around. He basically joined the band; he played something on every track. All the experience that he’s had in his career gave him incredible insight for decisions that needed to be made. Being able to take from working with Nick Cave and PJ Harvey was a stunning experience.”
As a follow-up to the solo album Expecting Company, Acid Rain and Sugar Cane has been an opportunity for Wagons to scratch the ‘working with the band’ itch, working heavily on the collaborative side of the creative process as well as revamping their live show to coincide with the new release. “This is definitely the most fun I’ve ever had making a record. The solo record definitely put me in the mood to collaborate more heavily with the band on this one.
“‘Beer, Barrel, Bar’ is a song that the band came up with and jammed out themselves, while I wrote the lyrics. We played it together once and then recorded it the second time we played it and that’s the version that’s on the album. The whole recording process was about capturing moments like that, in which everyone had input.”
With much of the thematic side of Wagons’ new release based upon the observation of drink, as well as being drunk, along with the dirtier of live music venues, it’s not unwise to believe that some inspiration came from places such as Geelong’s late, great National Hotel, aka ‘The Nash’. Arguably Geelong’s best and most structurally unsafe music venue, Henry is a known fan of the venue. “I’m not surprised that place was condemned. There was something unique about that room when it was swinging, and I think part of it was because the structure was actually moving.”
When&Where: The BC, Geelong – June 6; The Hi-Fi, Melbourne – June 7; and The Karova, Ballarat – June 8
Written by Xavier Fennell