Monday, November 16, 2009


Monday, January 14, 2008 

While Baby Animals might be irrevocably associated in the minds of most of us as being all over the radio 15 years ago, their recent reformation and release of an Unplugged-style album Il Grande Silencio is making steps to change that. Singer Suze DeMarchi, now living in sunny L.A, is taking the new album as more a sign the band's vitality than trumpeting past triumphs in a new genre, indeed, she was against the idea from the outset; "[Baby Animals' record label] Liberation approached me about four years ago about doing an acoustic record and I kept saying: 'Nah I'm not interested', I couldn't think of anything worse to be honest - I was thinking 'I don't want to do an acoustic record, I want to do a rock record, if we get back together we're going to do a rock record' - then I started talking more about who we could do with and I had a chat with [producer and friend] Justin Stanley and he made a couple of really great suggestions and I started getting more excited about it and I said 'alright, we'll do it'."

This about-face has resulted in an album that has garnered strong reviews full of praise at the musicianship of the band and the richness of DeMarchi's voice, though this seems already to be seen as a stepping stone for a band that is seeing a creative rebirth, and DeMarchi is already enthusiastic about their next release. Nowadays though, any enthusiasm has to be tempered with other responsibilities. "Getting back in the studio for me was a big sigh of relief, it was like: 'Ah NOW I know what I'm supposed to be doing'. I was initially reluctant for many reasons, but the main reason, to be honest with you, was that I was fearful of committing to something that is so time-consuming. If I'm going to do it I really want to be able to do it at a million miles an hour. I've got two kids now and I didn't want to leave them while I went on tour and I didn't want to bring them with me because it's expensive and it's hard on them. My little girl is at school and my little boy has just started's hard. I spent a long time deliberating with myself: 'How do I do this?', 'What am I doing?', 'Am I crazy?'.

Since taking the plunge back into the world of rock, things have been moving fast for DeMarchi and the band who fell back into their roles with surprising ease. "It felt so great, it literally took us a week to record the album. A lot of the stuff we did all in one take, one song in the morning and another in the afternoon. Dave [Leslie, guitarist] played so well, he's been playing constantly, all over the place and it was really nice for him to slow down and play mandolin and some bluegrass. He's just a brilliant guitarist and I think we just need to make more records to ensure he gets the recognition he deserves."

That DeMarchi is not daunted by the idea of getting back on the road after this time away speaks volumes about her confidence and comfort in performing. "We got together a couple of months ago in Perth and had a week of playing together. It was really fun and that's when we decided to book some shows and get together again. I haven't played for years, literally, and I'm not nervous about playing at all, I'm just really excited and feel like it's a really good time for us to start playing together again because it's been a long time coming."
Those intervening years have seen her writing and singing constantly though in a far more domestic capacity, or, as she puts it: 'I sing around the house all the time, annoying everybody'. Her confidence as a performer and writer has remained undimmed despite more experience with shopping lists than setlists, but she isn't interested in trying to sound or write like she did when she first made her name; "I'm not trying to sound like anything, I'm just trying to hit the notes." she laughs. "I think it will take a few shows to get my voice back, hopefully not too many, but it's like riding a bike; you never forget. There are probably different things that motivate me to write now, you just have different experiences I guess, but it still comes from the same place, it still fills that need to put something down on paper if you see something that inspires you. I think the songs come from the same place they used to, but I don't know where that place is."
Wherever that place is it has supplied the band with songs that have become Australian jukebox standards. Just how good the songs the band wrote in their infancy are was a revelation to DeMarchi, the band and many who have heard Il Grande Silencio - surviving a genre shift is often deemed a hallmark of a well-written tune. "I was very surprised at how much we could do with them once we took them apart. I really wanted to reinvent them, so when Justin came up with the idea of doing One Word like a chain-gang song that's when I thought 'Wow, we can really do this'."

One of the lesser-known songs that stands out is Stitch, a song DeMarchi wrote long ago but never recorded, "Don't look for me now / I'm safe where I am / Happy and listed under another name." Boasting a nursery-rhyme melody that is built into a jangling country-ish ode to rebuilding your identity, you could hear it perfectly soundtracking a road movie. Satellite, a track from DeMarchi's solo album Telelove too shows a flair for arrangement and harmonies that indicates the attention to detail there beneath the accelerated rock that typifies much of her more famous output. DeMarchi puts this down to the influence of writing away from the band and with her husband, guitarist-extraordinaire Nuno Bettencourt. "He has a real harmonic sense and uses a lot of vocal harmonies in his music so that probably rubbed off on me. We've got a few songs we're working on now with the new record that we're really excited to do. It's just logistics that have been stopping and now we're all prepared to make it work because we want to do it so much and that's really coming through in the music. I can't wait."

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