AFTER six years, two “official” EPs (and a few “unofficial” ones), rock trio Red Eagle have finally gotten around to making their debut album.
Like most first albums, the self-titled record is an overview of everything that has come before for the band.
As singer/guitarist Joe Gardner explains, opening track Devil’s Hand points to the band’s pre-history when it was just Joe and his brother (and drummer) Jorge “playing the blues at home”, while track two (On My Mind) is one of the first songs the band wrote together when bassist Brady Jones joined the line-up six years ago.
Elsewhere on the album, the growth and evolution of their sound over time is evident — Heaven’s disco chorus or the epic central refrain of Flame show increasing pop smarts compared to the “old blues hymns” that inspired Devil’s Hand or live favourite Down To The River.
But throughout the 11 tracks is a consistent blend of a raw live vibe (thanks to tracks being recorded live in the studio) and clever production flourishes (courtesy of Gardner, who produced and mixed the band in his home studio).
“I’ve always been a big believer in just going with what happens naturally — I love happy mistakes,” he said of the recording approach.
“When you get stuff that’s over-recorded, and there’s too much perfection, it sounds fake. We might do five takes at the most and pick the one that feels right.”
For a song like Down To The River, that was take #1, but other songs proved more difficult.
“I think it was Dreamer’s Lane, a song we get right (live) all the time, and we couldn’t get it right that day so we gave up,” Gardner explained.
“We came back the next day and got it first go.”
The recording process stretched out over a year, with the band releasing a taster of three songs early in the piece, but Gardner said those early songs illustrated what was working and what wasn’t.
“Because it took a year ... we learnt a whole lot about mixing and recording (over that time). We remixed things, stripped things down ... one song got re-recorded.
“When we first recorded, every song had a big group (singing) chorus and when we came back to it, we thought, let’s get rid of that and strip them all back. It felt a bit corny and cheap.”
Perhaps the hardest part in the process was the lyrics, Gardner conceded.
“Most of the songs didn’t have lyrics, they were just a melody,” he said of the band’s songwriting approach.
“If there’s a decent hook it carries it on and then I (try to write) the lyrics to fit over them ... but I wouldn’t look into them too deep if I was you.”
Gardner jokes that most of the words are “clichéd ... rock’n’roll love blues stories” that go “something something baby darling”.
One track that doesn’t follow his flippant description is Running, which came about when Gardner found his policy of writing the lyrics last had created a backlog, requiring bass player Brady Jones to step up and help out.
“I had to write four lots of song lyrics because it had been a big day of recording and I had no lyrics for anything,” Gardner explained.
“I couldn’t write any more. So I said to Brady, ‘here, write some words’.
“He gave me two pages of some story and I picked and chose which bits fit with the melody. It worked really well.
“I don’t think he’d written lyrics before and was a bit put out by it, but it was good.”
Continuing the multi-talented theme are the contributions of Gardner’s brother Jorge, who stepped out from behind the kit to add harmonica, some killer guitar solos (notably in the outro to Flame), some slide guitar, plenty of backing vocals, and even some feedback sections.
Red Eagle will launch their self-titled debut in July at Cherry Bar with Blackwood Jack, Kashmere Club, Cotangent and The Fire Alive, but in the meantime you can head to redeagleband.com to stream the album or purchase a digital or physical copy.