We spoke to Fraser A. Gorman about his latest self-released album Easy Dazy.
When he first came to international attention back in 2015 through opening for longtime friend and label boss Courtney Barnett on her 2015 European tour Fraser A. Gorman cut a striking figure, a model of louche likeability that frequently looked like a living, breathing apparition from the 60s sent to walk among us.
Slow Gum, the debut that followed later that same year, offered a snapshot of a wry and skilled storyteller capable of condensing their life experiences in a way the belied his tender years. Stories about seeing the sad figure of an ex in a kebab shop watching her new beau demolish the remnants of her kebab sat side by side with tender laments about the early loss of his father on a masterful Antipodean coming of age record.
After an initial burst of touring, Gorman retreated from the public eye to work on recently-released follow-up Easy Dazy, the first release on his fledgling new start-up record label, Brown Truck Records. It’s a record that feels more reflective than its predecessor, the humoured storytelling that underpinned it being replaced with a contemplative air that mirrored Gorman’s journey through adulthood. Opening duo ‘My Own Sunshine’ and ‘Walking To Oman’s’ offer a pair of prime slices of sun drenched wistfulness, while the record’s closing pair, ‘Silence Turns To Gold’ and ‘St Joe’s Street’ demonstrate his ability to tackle plaintive minimalism and sonically-rich laments with equal gusto. As if to further prove the depth of his writing palette, Easy Dazy also contains two of Gorman’s more anthemic moments, with ‘The World Sure Looks Dark (Through These Sunglasses)’ and ‘Dressmaker’ being woven into the album’s fabric without ever feeling jarring or anomalous.
Here, Fraser talks about the album’s genesis, the extent to which his own life has shaped his latest batch of songs, and what to expect from his new label.
Looking back to Slow Gum, how did the reaction it received from critics and fans sit in with your own expectations and did that whole experience influence how you approached making Easy Dazy?
To be honest I didn’t really think about it too much leading into this record. Slow Gum was recorded so long ago it feels like a shoebox in under my bed covered in dust. The only expectations that I felt making Easy Dazy were my own – I’m probably my own worst critic, and for me, music is like a little competition with myself to see if I can outdo my last efforts. I try not to think about whether people will like it (or not like it) too much, I find those thoughts just kind of get in your way.
When you last toured the UK back in late 2015 you had the air of a songwriter with total confidence in his own abilities, something that seemed to filter down to [standalone track that featured on 2016 Milk! Records compilation Good For You] ‘Skyscraper Skyline Blues’. Was that something you felt and if so was it something that you feel carried into the making of this record?
For me confidence in music comes through touring, it’s sort of like the fuel to the creative. It was a fun time because we got to stack a few shows up and you get in a good rhythm after a while. When I got off the back of the Slow Gum tour I sort of felt like I’d been in a washing machine for a year and needed to get my head back in a way. I was keen to keep going, but I had to slow the pace down and finish writing my record. The mundane aspects of life quickly took over though and there was a bit of a wrestling match in my mind about a few things. I got there eventually though, hence why we are chatting…
There didn’t seem to be a single bit of coverage surrounding Slow Gum that didn’t make reference to the Dylan-esque musical cues that ran throughout it. Easy Dazy almost feels like someone finding their own identity as a songwriter – is that something you’d agree with and was there a conscious move to not wear your influences on your sleeve to the same degree this time around?
I feel like the Dylan comparison is a visual thing. People see me play, up there with a mop of curly hair and a harmonica – I even wear Ray-Ban Wayfarers and am a sucker for a polka dot shirt. There is no question that I dig the great man’s style, and music of course…
But when I listen to Slow Gum I don’t really hear that much Dylan, to me it sounds like a sort of buckled Lou Reed country record. It’s got touches of TVZ, Jonathan Richman and The Felice Brothers, the stuff I was listening to at the time. The energy and influence of Bobby will always be in my coat pocket, but there are many others hitching a ride too.
It’s nice that people feel like this record is more ‘my own sound’ or something. To me I feel like I’m still looking for exactly what I want, but what I want changes with my life too, and I understand that. I didn’t consciously go into this record with any overarching goal or plan. It was just wanted to make a record I was proud of, and to get me wherever I needed to go next. Like Slow Gum, Easy Dazy is just a snapshot of where I was at in 2015-2016. I have no idea what the next one will sound like.
“I also feel that when you are young you just gaze at the stars and nothing else around you really matters too much. Now I’m more grateful for the friendships I have and the life I get to live.”
There was an air of wry storytelling that ran through Slow Gum that seemed to have been replaced on Easy Dazy with a greater sincerity and earnestness. Is that something you feel has changed in your songwriting and if so was there a catalyst that led to you writing in that style?
I think my life got slightly more serious, and my songwriting adjusted accordingly. I’m still a larrikin and love a yarn but I feel like, as I’m in my late 20’s now, I’m a more considered version of my younger self. I also feel that when you are young you just gaze at the stars and nothing else around you really matters too much. Now I’m more grateful for the friendships I have and the life I get to live. I even get a kick out of little things like a beer in the sun after work or Vegemite on toast or sitting in front of an open fire chatting to your friends. What I’m saying is I’m old now. I’m 27 but I’ve got a fair few grey hairs on my head now and I dig it.
Similarly, there seems to be a more reflective air on the majority of the record compared to Slow Gum – was that something you consciously tried to capture during the writing process and to what extent does the record track your own mental state during its creation?
It might be evident or it might not, but during the making of this record and leading up to it I was doing a lot of questioning, both within my own head and outside of it. Some might think of it as a Saturn return or some might think of it as being lost at the bottom of the world (love you Tom Waits..) but either way I had to take a bit of time out to sort of figure out what I really wanted out of my music and what it meant to me.
The record does it have its more anthemic moments – the double punch ‘The World Sure Looks Dark (Through These Sunglasses)’ and ‘Dressmaker’ especially. How important was it for you to have that mix of light and shade on the album and was it difficult to reconcile those two sides of the record ?
I like to try and make an album a little bit of a journey, or more a novel than a magazine if you will…
I look at records like Hi Fi Way by You Am I, or any mid era Wilco album. They are such well presented collections of songs, with something for everyone. Light, shade, loud, quiet, cheery and charming, fucking weird and wonderfully strange, you know?
I’m not so daft as to compare my record to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or anything but those types of records are the benchmark and something to aspire to.
I remember when we spoke during the first album cycle you were really pleased that you made a record that people had described as a perfect Sunday morning album, and it’s something you seem to have captured again on this latest record. Is there something with the unique feel of that time of the week – part contemplativeness, part contentment – that you actively try to infuse into your music, or has it just been a perpetual happy accident?
Ha, I think it’s just something that I look for when I’m listening to music. I always err on the chill side of things, and when music is too loud and intricate or aggressive I feel like I lose my connection to it, I get lost in the noise. It’s often a thing that we focus on at rehearsals too. It’s easy to kind of ‘add more’ or ‘play louder’ you know? But for my music, I’ve always been more comfortable with the space between the notes and winding back the groove. Easy Dazy is by no means is a particularly sparse record, but I feel like my music will slide further that way. Plus I’ve never been too much of a singer either, so I need space for my voice to sit in the music.
Slow Gum seemed to simultaneously capture a particular time in your life while at the same time transcending it and connecting with a wider audience. To what extent does Easy Dazy follow your own life and is that mix of the personal and the transcendent something you’ve tried to keep in your songwriting from record to record?
I feel like Easy Dazy is still very much a record written through my eyes, like Slow Gum, but it’s just as much about things going on around me as it is about me personally. It’s hard for me not to draw from my own experiences in my writing, it would be hard to come across as being authentic if your audience thought you were bullshitting. I don’t aspire to write in a completely literal way either, because I sometimes feel like that can be a bit like trudging through the mundane. I try to add some kind of poetic or story telling element but all the while keeping the story real.
The record marks the first release on your own new label – did that add a certain gravity or pressure to making the record, knowing it would mark the start of a new venture, and what else can we expect from your new enterprise?
I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in music around a few awesome DIY Labels from Melbourne like Milk! (Courtney Barnett) and Flightless (King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard), it’s a very inspiring and new world in music right now and it’s ever changing. I feel like the ‘artist run’ model will continue to grow and become more commonplace. It’s more of a community vibe, and I’ve watched these labels grow from being very tiny to now being very successful. I figured it was time to step out and make my own, so I started Brown Truck Records with my partner, Moorea Allen. It’s based between our respective hometowns, Melbourne and L.A. At this stage it’s just a Bandcamp where we can mail out records to those who order them. Start small, build it from the ground up. Anything is possible.
It’s been three years since you were last over here, are you likely to be gracing these shores any time soon in support of the album and what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m hoping to be back in the UK & Europe in early 2019. I’ll keep you posted!