Inspiration In Adversity

Tough times appear to bring out the best in Australia’s Infinity Broke.

Released during the challenges of 2021, Infinity Broke issued album #3 ‘Your Dream My Jail’. It’s likely the band would not have had it any other way, given their penchant for noise and experimentation and therefore producing a sound (unintentionally) appropriate for the turbulent times we are all experiencing.

Fitting most definitely, but there is also melody to be found amidst the abrasive edges of their third effort which, judging by the words of the band’s frontman Jamie Hutchings, a variety of sources and sounds were found in the likeliest and unlikeliest of places when searching for that trigger of inspiration to kickstart Infinity Broke’s latest work as he explained to Famous Last Words (FLW).

“It’s a bit of a stew of different things. I wrote a lot of the album in late 2016 when I was travelling through South America for three months. During that time, I was seeing as much local street music as I could. I’m a big fan of ensemble percussion, so I was writing [the album] with that in mind. I also love a lot of skronky free-form guitarists like Keiji Haino and Derek Bailey, so there is also that element too. Plus, Reuben (Wills) sometimes attacked these songs with an almost funk-like element on bass, and Scott (Hutchings) has a muscular Germanic style of playing drums, so it’s hard to pinpoint the overall sound in terms of our new record.”

To describe ‘Your Dream My Jail’ as a “stew of different things” is certainly accurate given the variety of references pinned to this latest album, giving the impression of a sprawling mess, but functioning as a cohesive whole and therefore credit to the band members involved.

Finding direction in all of the ongoing uncertainty at present can be attributed to a dogged determination by Infinity Broke to resume where they last left off, and that being the album ‘Before Before’ after debut ‘River Mirrors’ . Despite a considerable gap since the last two album releases, there are no signs of fatigue on the creative front as ‘Your Dream My Jail’ lands on the back of two creative projects from chief songwriter Jamie Hutchings; one a collaborative album under the guise The Tall Grass, and the other a solo album namely ‘Bedsit’. Therefore, how does it feel to be back making some “noise” with Infinity Broke and not continuing the solo route?

“It’s like chowing down when you’re really hungry,” replies Jamie Hutchings in response to teaming up with his bandmates once again. “I often do this stuff concurrently, it’s a way of scratching different itches. Also, collaborating with different people, each of them producing their own muscular noise in the same room is a real contrast to whispering away over an acoustic in your kitchen. Too much of one generally leads me to the other. I had been involved in the release of two albums (The Tall Grass – ‘Down the Unmarked Road’ in 2017, and Jamie Hutchings – ‘Bedsit’ in 2018) that had their base in what you could vaguely describe as the singer-songwriter genre. So, the hunger to work with thicker, wilder sounds accumulated.”

Examining the finer details of Infinity Broke’s current long player ‘Your Dream My Jail’, roughly, how long did the whole album process take to finalise, and did you encounter any difficulties along the way? Also, was the album recorded prior to the pandemic?

“It took around nine months,” begins Jamie Hutchings. “It was recorded in April last year at a studio in Marrickville called Golden Retriever by the owner/engineer Simon Berckelman. It was protracted, the entire process from the outset was protracted. The actual recording was done very quickly, in five days, and mostly live. But finding time to find someone to mix it and find the time to finish the mixes took months. Eventually, we got Tim Whitten to mix it. The songs were ready to go much earlier. Unfortunately, our original drummer Jared (Harrison) left in 2019, and we lost a lot of time trying to replace him, and eventually we gave up. Scott suggested he move from percussion to drums, and I instead play the percussion parts after I’d laid down my guitar and vocals. Reuben stayed on bass because he is incredibly good at that! So, it was a totally different process. It was conceptualized as a quartet but realized as a trio. We now have a new percussionist/drummer in Jonas Tay, so we are a proper quartet again. So, all of that was very frustrating. And yes, we were just about to record when lockdown hit. Initially, we were going to record in Victoria, so we had to change plans because we couldn’t leave the state. But we rehearsed and recorded the whole thing during the first hard lockdown in Sydney, so the atmosphere was very apocalyptic and barren. Reuben and I would drive together over the harbour bridge every day and it would look like a scene out of 28 Days Later.”

The atmosphere you speak of during that time may go some way to explaining some of the cold sounding hollow/metallic percussion noises, in addition to moments of claustrophobia where you can sense the perspiration dripping from the protagonist’s brow during album introduction ‘Death Of A Tourist’ with its echoes of (for this writer) early Hunters & Collectors.

“I think there’s a juxtaposition of cold, industrial kinds of sounds with more roomy and organic ones. The post punk/industrial elements began to emerge when we were working on the demos at home,” says Jamie regarding elements of the band’s new album. “Previously, I always worked on four track cassette, but every one of those I owned is now broken and I can’t find anyone to fix them. So, I started to use GarageBand on my laptop, which I really didn’t want to do, but when I did to create the percussion tracks I used whatever was lying around – bits of drums, saucepans, chairs, household junk, and then used GarageBand’s inbuilt distortion effects and that ended up informing the way we approached the final production in the studio.”

There are slightly more accessible moments to be found during ‘Your Dream My Jail’ and two such examples are down to a collaborative effort with Jamie Hutching’s brother Scott as he explains: “Two of the catchiest songs (‘Dragon’s Breath’ and ‘The Slide’) were co-writes with my brother Scott. He gave me a couple of guitar sketches to finish, and both of those had a more stripped back approach compared to what I’d been working on, so they immediately turned out more accessible. Scott’s often pushing for me to be less tangential, so there’s a nice tug of war there, it was good to have those two on there for a refresher.”

Since there really is no escape from it now, what has the experience been like for Infinity Broke in terms of your new album and promoting it, and performing live in Australia?

“It’s been very difficult from a musical standpoint,” Jamie replies. “Live music has repeatedly come to a standstill; our album tour has had to be delayed by four months. But it has been the same for everyone. Particularly difficult for ‘professional’ musicians. Things are slowly opening again now, and we are touring in February. Originally, we were planning to be in France this year, so it’s disappointing to not have been able to do that. Having said that, I’ve enjoyed the slower pace of life. I have not worked as much. I have done a lot more surfing, walking, and exploring. I’ve also been able to do quite a few solo shows at more restricted, seated venues which I’ve enjoyed. But I consider myself lucky compared to so many that have been horribly affected by Covid. Still, I’ve really missed being in a room with Scott, Reuben, and Jonas. We were just starting to click with this new line-up.”

Back to the new record, can you provide any insights regarding the following songs ‘Death Of A Tourist’, ‘Dragon’s Breath’ and ‘Quit Whispering At Me’?

“I wrote ‘Death Of A Tourist’ somewhere in Columbia. I was reading a book of Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s short stories. One of them is about a middle-aged tourist who is having an inner war between the need for company and the need to explore and see new things alone. It’s a bit of a dark comedy and I related to it as a solo traveller. It’s in an open tuning that to my ears sounded a little Middle Eastern. It ended up packing a bit of a wallop.

“Scott mostly wrote ‘Dragon’s Breath’s’ guitar parts. He brought the riff and the instrumental change in, and I wrote the middle part and the lyrics. I think initially he’d thought of it as sounding almost shoegaze, but I heard a rhythm that was more of an early Duran Duran thing. So we went that way and it worked.

“‘Quit Whispering At Me’ was the last song I wrote for the album. Strangely, I came up with the guitar part in Vietnam on my honeymoon. I don’t know how it ended up sounding so ominous when we were having such a great time! We had visited one of the war museums and reading about the Vietnam War from the northern and southern Vietnamese viewpoints, which sparked the lyrics. It was just that horror, plus other bits and pieces from dreams and what not. The progression at the end seemed to demand relentlessness, so we went there. The original version was longer and pretty brutal, but with this song and ‘Moonmouth’ we ended up editing some of the improvised sections. I suppose that’s another CAN (See From The Tapes) thing to do.”

Who was responsible for the cover artwork and what were the ideas here?

“Scott took the cover photo as he has for all of our records. He is a big believer in continuity, so we’ve gone with that direction as well as having the story/prose piece inside each album. He took the photo in India. The other photos are by myself from my South American travels. We didn’t really discuss any meanings attached to the photos other than they seemed to match the music.”

What is next for Infinity Broke?

“Our album tour here in Australia is happening now in February. The dates are up at www.jamiehutchings.com or on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/InfinityBrokeMusic. After that, we really don’t know. I’m hoping we can at least play live more often, and it would be interesting to compose some more music with the newly configured line-up.”

Any final words of the day?

“Thanks for taking the time out FLW. I hope people keep exploring and supporting independent music. For anyone wanting to listen to or buy our recordings they can do so at www.infinitybroke.bandcamp.com. For an overview of my projects in general there’s more information at www.jamiehutchings.com.”

(Photography courtesy of Infinity Broke)

‘Your Dream My Jail’ is available now on Vinyl/CD/Digital on Come To The Darkside Luke

FLW - From the Tapes

One of the inspirations for Infinity Broke and their new album ‘Your Dream My Jail’ was from the line-up CAN; a band often cited by many artists and bands as being something of an inspiration, and one especially to fellow Australians and alternative-rock band, Hunters & Collectors during their early years.

“CAN are a constant inspiration to me, especially the first five albums; but the way they work as a singular trance-inducing beast is very mesmeric. It’s very natural for me to pick up an acoustic guitar and write a song, so I’m intrigued by groups that avoid that completely and work via improvisation, and through this process create ‘songs’ or pieces. I love the production of those early albums as well, they’re very analogue sounding but alien as well. Their rhythmic sensibility and use of repetition influenced hundreds of bands and early Hunters and Collectors were one of those.”

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