Sydney based alternative pop/rock quintet The Preatures caught everybody by surprise, possibly even themselves. The overwhelming success of their single Is This How You Feel? has seen the group embark on ventures some bands can only dream of; they travelled overseas and have played huge festivals such as the iconic Glastobury Festival in the UK, the massive Coachella in the US and a performance at South By South West.
On September 26th, The Preatures will unveil their highly anticipated debut album Blue Planet Eyes; the group’s drummer Luke Davison joined us for a Friday night chat about the excitement surrounding the release and the huge stepping stones the band have taken to get to where they are now.
Marcus Floyd: Hey, how are you Luke?
Luke Davison: I’m well Marcus, how are you?
MF: Yeah I’m good thanks! I’ll kick things off with your single Is This How You Feel?, it’s given The Preatures’ career the kick it needed to get the ball rolling; it’s earned you guys an ARIA award, it took out the Vanda & Young songwriting competition in 2013. Did you think the track would fare so well when you released it as a single?
LD: I have to think back, it was last year when we released that song! We hadn’t really gotten any momentum except from one song previously and Is This How You Feel? was the last song written on our last EP that we recorded; it was a new sound for us, we weren’t used to it as we didn’t write pop songs that we all have a guilty pleasure in. Writing pop songs and just the way that they’re structured was a new challenge for us, so it was a bit of a risk but we thought “f**k it we’ll just release this song and see how it goes”. I don’t think any of us were expecting the momentum we got from it because it just kind of kept getting new life in different countries, and then we ended up playing really great festivals because of it.
MF: It’s not often that an Aussie band can begin their career and within a couple of years be nominated for ARIA’s and winning huge competitions, then going overseas and killing it at all these huge festivals, it’s really awesome! I imagine you were surprised to start off on Triple J Unearthed with the single Take A Card and all of a sudden you wound up at #9 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 last year with Is This How You Feel?, it obviously would have felt surreal to you, yeah?
LD: Oh yeah! It was hugely surreal, that was an interesting day. Triple J were a bit of a tease in that process, they were saying “Hey, come into the studio, we wanna interview you!”. Usually they call you up later and say “Oh, actually can you come in a bit later, we kinda screwed up the count!”. They messed us around a little bit, but then we were in there waiting, they were cheeky because they made it sound like that we were much further down the list, which wouldn’t have been a problem at all!
MF: Just hitting that top 100 would have been enough of an honour, it’s something else that gets your name out!
LD: Oh absolutely!
MF: I had a little read of your bio on The Preatures’ website, and I found it really interesting that you are making international fans out of megastars like P!nk among others. Does it humble you guys to know that you are being admired by some of modern pop music’s greats?
LD: It’s pretty nice when that stuff happens! I know that Pink found out about us through her manager as he’s fan of the band, he therefore made her aware and we got to play some shows for her. I think the humbling moment was seeing how humble Pink is, she’s a really beautiful, rounded person and she’s got a really great work ethic. Watching her show every time was just…she’s an athlete! I couldn’t get over it, she may as well be an Olympic athlete because she puts a lot of work in all the time.
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MF: Yeah I was lucky enough to see her last year, she’s phenomenal!
LD: Which show did you go to?
MF: The Truth About Love Tour in Melbourne.
LD: Oh cool, we just did the Sydney and Brisbane shows. But yeah, when she did all that stuff around the stadium on whatever device she was on, it was crazy! We tried to get on one of those in soundcheck to test it out, but I think there were a few health and safety issues.
MF: It would’ve been a huge step for you guys to support somebody so huge.
LD: Yeah, absolutely! But on Twitter as well, that guy from One Direction, Harry liked the band. Seeing all the tweets from his tweeny fans saying ‘Can you direct message Harry Styles for me, or I will kill you’, it was pretty funny.
MF: Well that’s it, once you get involved with somebody huge you are wound up with all their followers and their craziness.
MF: Now, while you were overseas killing it overseas in America you got to play on Jimmy Kimmel Live; was this your first televised performance?
LD: We’ve had a televised performance on one of those morning shows on Channel 10 or something, but it was just an acoustic performance so it was a chilled out vibe. Jimmy Kimmel was our first performance on TV as a band, and it was terrifying.
MF: Well it’s such a huge show to play, all the big acts perform on the show and it would be nice to be considered as being on their level to play Kimmel.
LD: Yeah that stuff’s great, but they didn’t make us feel any lesser and they’re so accommodating and professional; you go in there and everybody makes you feel right at home. Usually we play other gigs, so that’s why producers can sometimes be a bit angry, but everyone’s just chilled and professional to make sure the job gets done. They make sure you’ve got everything you need to make their show go smoothly.
MF: Even though it was a nerve racking kind of an experience, did you feel The Preatures got a lot out of it to prepare yourselves for the future?
LD: I would say yes you’d think so, but personally I’m gonna say no; you can’t really prepare yourself for those kinds of scenarios, there’s so much pressure.
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MF: Completely different.
LD: Yeah, if we did perform again on something like that again I’d be just as nervous, you just can’t stuff up. On Kimmel we’re allowed to make mistakes and do it again if we wanted, but I think on other shows you mightn’t be as lucky.
MF: So you just gotta prepare for a strict kind of scheduling.
LD: Yeah, and other shows have house bands which would make you feel equally as nervous.
MF: Yeah, true. So I’ll move along to your debut album Blue Planet Eyes, it went down the pop music road; was pop the sound you guys were originally going for when writing the album, or did you envision a different outcome?
LD: We kinda take things song by song, and like I was saying before with how random and eclectic the last two EP’s were, we were still trying to find our feet as a band. It had been a year or so and we hadn’t really written much together and everyone had a lot of separate influences, we end up going “Ok, let’s see what happens”. As soon as we wrote Is This How You Feel? it kind of felt like we had a bit of a sound happening or the start of one that was inspiring, so rather than copy that I think we just took the vibe of what it took to get that moment happening. I think it was just development over time with touring and playing together all the time, and just seeing what happens. When we play and write together, I feel that we just get a sound that sounds like, well, us.
MF: Which is exactly what you need when you’re writing, it’s ok to be compared to bands and artists in the same genre, but you don’t really wanna be a direct rip off. You need your own sound, and when you get it you feel this sense of comfort.
LD: Yeah, exactly. You also don’t wanna be an exact rip off of yourself. We’ve been playing enough shows and know each other well enough to just know that there’s gonna be consistency in the sound, because I know that we’ve never tried to just copy the direct formula of a song, the new single Somebody’s Talking has a lot of influences from Is This How You Feel? but I think it just happened because it was just the sound we just kinda made.
MF: It was the vibe you were going for, and that’s how you can tell albums apart because you go for a particular sound and if you feed off of that sound then you’ve got an album that flows 100%. That’s exactly how Blue Planet Eyes felt to me when I listened to it the other night, it just flowed so well.
LD: Oh cool!
MF: The bulk of Blue Planet Eyes was recorded with Jim Eno in Austin, Texas. Between recording sessions you guys were keeping yourselves busy playing going on the road and playing shows on weekends. Can you tell us about your experiences playing Coachella and South by South West?
LD: It’s hard to remember! Because when you get into it, you just do what you gotta do. I know I go into survival mode because I don’t want to get sick. I had never seen Austin before and I’d heard so much about it, and everything that I’d heard about it was just not enough to what I actually experienced from it, so I guess that’s a positive. The stars kind of alligned for it all to happen with Jim Eno because we didn’t know which producer we were gonna go with, he happened to be in Sydney and we actually met up with him. Jim happened to have three weeks free close to South by South West, which was perfect as his studio was right round the corner from where we were staying and Coachella was the week after our time with Jim. The experience at Coachella was just amazing, my eyes were wide open the whole time, just seeing the calibre of people walking around the place and seeing those musicians you admire walking around backstage; I remember looking next to me and Steven Tyler was standing there, that kind of stuff just weaks me out!
MF: It would’ve been surreal, you’ve gone from playing these smaller shows at home to going overseas to play something like Coachella and you’ve got Steven Tyler standing next to you!
LD: Yeah and I treated it like a fan would’ve, like when you think that stuff’s just never gonna happen, I just took it for what it was!
MF: As I said before, I listened to Blue Planet Eyes earlier and it’s kind of addictive! The way that the pop presents itself, the instrumentation is pretty stunning and the sound is all in your face but in a good way. What was it like having Jim Eno on board, did he bring elements out of The Preatures that you had never fully embraced as yet? Or did he just kind of help you go along that road you had already paved for yourselves?
LD: Jim was just the perfect mediator, he really knew how to work our personalities. He would tell if there was gonna be any tension or trouble or if we weren’t really inspired; he had all these positives and was great to have on board to keep things flowing. At times you would get annoyed and all of a sudden there goes the idea, but Jim was just constantly positive and such an enabler, he just let things happen and helped to make things happen. He always had an answer for something and nothing was ever too hard, so I think that’s that’s the most important thing; especially since we do most of the work ourselves, Jack does most of our producing so it was a bit of a difficult environment for someone to come in and tell us what to do, but Jim had the psychology down and he was just perfect. We’ve really formed a great friendship with him, me being a drummer and him being a drummer we really got along.
MF: It just makes the process a lot more bearable and less tedious.
LD: Exactly, I get a lot of stories about people working with producers and how they were getting quite angry, but Jim was just a sweetheart.
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MF: Yeah you gotta get the right people for your sound as well. So when your time in Austin was up, how much was there left to do exactly in terms of producing and recording the remainder of Blue Planet Eyes before it was ready for the world?
LD: Aww, heaps! We got back from Austin and we were still kind of finishing off writing some of the songs and asking ‘Where do we go from here?’. We actually had to re-record one of the songs because we just weren’t happy with it, it was just a bit of a lesson in how we track; sometimes we have a simple idea and try to make it complicated for the sake of making it complicated before we realise that we should have just stuck with that simple idea, so we just re-did it.
MF: Well sometimes that’s what the songwriting process is like, you start writing a track and you’re like ‘Aw yeah, but it sounds so typical, let’s just add layer, upon layer, upon layer’ and sometimes it just doesn’t work.
LD: Yeah and you lose the sincerity of the vibe you were going for, we always like to catch things in the moment rather than force them. The most important thing is capturing that song in the moment.
MF: I’ve noticed that you guys have a huge tour of the US lined up, are you guys pumped?
LD: Yeah! I actually am really excited at this point, we’ve taken some time off between this one and the last one. If you asked me about this around a month ago, I would have a different answer!
MF: I’m sure sometimes you feel like “Aww, on the road again?!”.
LD: Yeah, exactly. Once you’ve had some time off you can get yourself mentally prepared to go back into it again. Have you read that Danny Brown article on Facebook that he wrote about touring?
MF: No I haven’t!
LD: If you come across it, it’s just spot on!
MF: Oh perfect, I’ll make sure I look out for it! It’s not very often that a local act from Sydney, Australia can come out and say “We’re touring all over the US, we don’t know what you guys are up to this month!”. Basically on a touring perspective, if you’re gonna go somewhere and play some gigs you gotta be prepared to go back and wow those people again.
LD: Yeah true, you have to kinda start from zero again. Well, obviously we wouldn’t really start from zero again, though I was completely prepared for that. We have been very pleasantly surprised with a lot of the reception from going over there.
MF: Yeah, it’s incredible! A lot of Australian musicians work their butts off to make waves and get noticed in the US, but you guys seem like you’ll do alright!
LD: Yeah, fingers crossed!!
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MF: I have one last question for you. If there were a handful of things that The Preatures would love for fans or new listeners to get out of the experience of seeing you or listening to you, what would they be?
LD: Um, oh man!
MF: Hard question.
LD: Yeah, it’s a very hard question!
MF: I’m pretty good at those.
LD: When I go to a show I wanna see something genuine, I don’t wanna see something forced and I just wanna be nourished by who the band is. If I listen to a band’s record and see them live, I wanna see them being interested in what they’re doing and being genuine about it and the intention of the show being just right; so I guess all of that!
MF: Well that’s definitely something that sounds like The Preatures would provide for their fans, just this all out experience and it was an experience alone listening to Blue Planet Eyes, it would be great to actually see it live!
LD: Yeah, well you should come to a show!
MF: Well I probably should you know! I’ll have to look out for you guys next time you’re back in Melbourne.
LD: Awesome! We’ll definitely do it for the album tour.
MF: Well it was nice talking to you Luke. Thanks so much for your time! Enjoy the tour, and enjoy what the album brings you!
LD: You too Marcus, see you man!
Blue Planet Eyes will be released on September 26th! Visit www.thepreatures.com for tour dates.