Well and truly cemented in the New Zealand music scene and industry, the multi-talented Dianne Swann & Brett Adams have likely popped up on your musical radar more regularly than you may be aware. Touring and performing with the likes of Tim Finn and Flip Grater, their on-going project, The Bads (who are anything but), are finally back with their long-awaited fourth record, Losing Heroes, which is set for release tomorrow (July 7).
Four years on from the release of Travel Light, and the time I forced my parents to drive me to the album release party in Leigh Sawmill, Dianne and I sat down to chat about what the pair have been up to and what we can expect from their new record.
“I can’t believe it has been that long either!” Dianne laughed, as we reminisced over the past four years and how fast they’ve gone. “We really have done a lot in between though, from recording and mixing this new record to touring and playing at the Ryman Theatre in Nashville, it has been a very special time,” she admit.
“Brett, Dave Khan and I played this amazing concert with the most incredible rhythm section and line up,” Swann spoke of their Nashville experience. “It felt very special because so many musicians who have lived there for years have never got to play the Ryman so we were truly really lucky,” (and thoroughly deserving in our eyes).
Whilst admitting their trip South didn’t significantly impact the sound of the new record as such, Swann did reveal, “The song Crash & Burn is about that trip, but I think more than anything, it just made us realise that we have to do this more.”
With only one more day until the record is released, Swann admits she’s feeling, “pretty good. I hadn’t let myself listen to the album for ages, but now that it’s getting closer and I have listened to it and I think it’s good, I feel pretty confident!” she laughed. “I’ve learnt to exist in the middle between the expectations to try and shield myself from disappointment, but it was great getting to work with Ben down in Lyttelton and I feel like we made some good decisions, it’s pretty exciting!”
Reflecting on the album title and cover art, there’s clearly a deeper, poignant message that highlights the countless heroes the world has lost over the past year and if you listen closely enough you may even pick up on a few extra clues, Swann announced.
“Brett and I co-wrote Losing Heroes [track] and if you listen closely to the lyrics in the verses you will hear that we reference Bowie and Prince and there’s also a lot of Dave McCartney and Graham Brazier’s song titles woven into the story. It’s quite special because the last time I saw Dave [McCartney] was at our last album launch and he sent us the most beautiful email about the show, how great it was and how proud of us he was. Then the last time I saw Graham, very unlike him, he quoted some lyrics from one of our songs, which is the type of thing he wouldn’t do very often,” Swann exclaimed.
“So while we reference a number of other heroes in the track, it’s pretty much dedicated to Dave McCartney and Graham Brazier and the cool thing about the Tuning Fork show (on July 7) is that Harry Lyon is going to do a set first, which is a nice way to tie the whole thing together.”
“A friend of ours, John Pain who actually did the video for Shelter Love told us that the album had a very ‘lost astronaut’ feel to it and I kind of know what he means,” Swann chuckled. “So when we were trying to think of what would make a good album cover, we thought it could be cool to have an astronaut standing on a beach and looking lost. We tried to hire an astronaut outfit, but it was just going to look crap,” she continued with a chuckle. “Then our friend who had all of these artworks asked if we wanted to choose one and the solar system image was just so amazing, so it all ties in!”
“Shelter Love was another co-write where we just started jamming and I came out with the lyric almost straight away,” Swann confessed. “I had kind of been thinking about the world and how self-obsessed everyone has become, yet a lot of people on the planet don’t have that luxury. They’re just busy trying to get a roof over their heads or enough water and food to feed their families and in some cases are just trying to stay in the country they were born in. It just felt to me like there was such a huge divide over those two things and I was trying to express that in a creative, lyrical way rather than a preachy way.”
In terms of the music video for the single, Swann explained, “We just wanted to do something different from the usual performance and it’s really cool to have somebody else interpret a song visually. We worked closely with John Pain who first came up with the idea and the artist John Radford with his models of the houses.”
“The cool thing about The Bads is that’s there’s two writers, so there’s all those different combinations that we can come up with,” Swann responded when asked about the duo’s songwriting process. “So as I said, the lyrics and melody for Shelter Love just came out when we were jamming together, whereas other times Brett might come up with the chords and I’ll finish off the chorus. I really enjoy being able to step out of the singer/songwriter way of doing things,”Swann confessed. “There’s definitely songs on the record that were written on our own, but it’s really nice to be able to come together and do the co-writing thing too,” she concluded.
With a nationwide album release tour just around the corner, Swann admits they’re definitely considering touring the album overseas at some point. “We haven’t really done that with our previous albums, but obviously with our history with The Julie Dolphin, we did some pretty great things in the UK and with this recent trip to Nashville, I feel that it would be great to play some shows internationally. I’m really looking forward to doing the five piece thing on this upcoming tour, but we’ll also probably do some more duo shows as well, because that seems to work really well too.”
As well as being a singer/songwriter, musical and vocal extraordinaire Swann regularly reviews music on the Jesse Mulligan Show on Radio New Zealand, so we got her to give us the low down on what she’s been listening to lately..
“There’s a lot of stuff going on that I’m really enjoying,” she acknowledged. “From New Zealand I would say Nadia Reid, that record is great and was also recorded down in Lyttelton with Ben. Then in the rockier vein I’ve also been listening to Steve Earl’s new record and Jason Isbell, both of which are very cool.”
Losing Heroes is out tomorrow – Friday 7th July + Tickets for The Bads Losing Heroes Album Release Tour are on sale now: http://bit.ly/2tOoRgF