In the digital age finding a romantic connection with someone new might be easier, but still carries pitfalls. Throughout You Beauty’s ILLYWHACKA, the inner workings of an online predator forms the basis of a story, one that takes listeners from the depths of his dark ideas to his possible redemption in the face of finding true love. I spoke to Will Farrier about the album and the notion of bad people changing their ways.
It’s a cutthroat world out there. If life in general isn’t getting you down there will always be some person willing to stick the boot in down the line. If life is giving you the old what for, there will still be that same person to make it worse, even when you think you’ve already hit rock bottom. The predatory bottom-feeders of society that prey on the weak do so for a few reasons – to build their own low esteem, to take those that they deem to be unfairly superior down a peg and also maybe because they do it for sport. It doesn’t matter who you are inside, if you’ve got something to give then the ruthless have something to take. This is, in part, what ILLYWHACKA from You Beauty is all about.
The four-piece is releasing their second full-length album today (as of publication) through 2015’s Best and Fairest label, Rice Is Nice. Digging deep into the world of online dating, ILLYWHACKA follows the escapades of one of the aforementioned derelicts of society, one who has a predilection for preying on lonely souls looking for love on the World Wide Web. The album is a smooth, contemporary-sounding album that blends skewed pop sensibilities with a rocking groove and some brutally cutting (albeit fictional) lyricism. As the album takes listeners further into the vile mess that is the brain of Mr. Predator, one is blindsided by the fact that the album listens almost like a redemption tale, turning the story on its head until you are almost forced to root for the villain to come good at the end.
Like its predecessor, 2014’s Jersey Flegg, ILLYWHACKA challenges preconceived notions of those living in societies outer, framing the idea of redemption and finding a true love against the seedy backdrop of dating websites. A month or so before the album’s release, I spoke to front man Will Farrier about the record and what Will discovered about the world and himself when penning this formidable ode to love in the digital age.
“It’s fucked up,” admits Will. “Once I started doing the album I looked into it a lot more. There are so many people losing millions of dollars. People have lost $80 million in the first half of this year to online scams.”
The album took shape initially not long after Jersey Flegg was put to rest. As Will was a latecomer to the band, much of the writing of the music on Flegg was complete, meaning that the band had already been putting together the demos for ILLYWHACKA. Will’s desire to write fictional, story like albums meant that he had to put prose to sound in a hurry. Though the effort to write a thematically continuous record with a linear storyline to pre-written music was formidable, it allowed Will to hone in on subject matter that couldn’t apply to him, but was a compelling goldmine of material to crack open.
“I can’t imagine how anyone writes songs about themselves – maybe they have interesting lives to go on,” admits Will. “I’m done with that, I’m just making it up. It’s not obvious to me what I should be writing about if I’m writing about myself.”
“With this I’ve got an excuse to say things that I might not be able to get away with saying. I really enjoy it now because I can do that. Now I can talk shit and have some of your own ideas which get to put out into the world but you don’t have to own up to it. It’s just the character talking.”
The stigma associated with online dating is slowly fading, with the advent of dating websites such as Tinder, eHarmony and Match.com. More people than ever are taking to the web to find love or a bit of fun. The days where only the down-and-out resorted to the web have passed, but because of its accessibility more and more individuals can participate, meaning more chances of running into sex pests or other deviants. Having the anonymity of the internet as a buffer will continue to entice trolls and predators and although social media is making it harder to remain anonymous there will always be safe harbour for those looking to get their kicks on the low (read: Ashley Madison).
The ability to coerce and cajole with promises of undying love is a notion that attracted Will to the subject, as his relative ignorance of the online dating industry shielded him from many tales. The idea of ILLYWHACKA was born out of second-hand stories of abuse and trickery.
“It’s not from personal experience but just a couple of stories I heard about people nearly getting done over by romance scammers online,” says Will. “I just I was searching for someone to fill the shoes of a seedy but kind of heroic person. It also helps with the whole Australian obsession with bad guys – everyone loves a good, friendly crook and I was drawn to that.”
It would be hard to follow a story where there is no one to root for, but as a thematic device Mr. Predator begins as a horrific individual that offers empty promises for material items, and it’s not through questioning what led him to this juncture that the real topic of what love is becomes apparent and whether or not it has the healing properties many songs say it has.
“He’s seedy for sure,” Will clarifies. “It’s just kind of like my darker thoughts you have about romance and whether or not you are meant to be in love with one person for your whole life – stuff I definitely subscribe to personally, but you never know if it is in-built in people. Just where our ideas about love come from – like sometimes I think they come from a fucked up place.”
“People who are desperate to be in love – that’s kind of a sick place to be in because you are going to dress up anybody as your knight in shining armour or princess. You are going to build them up as this ideal person when all you are trying to do is fill a void – it can be nasty, you know? It can be a beautiful thing but it can be a real fucked up, nasty thing, bringing out the worst in people.”
The fucked up nature of love and how it can be abused is a core building block for ILLYWHACKA and one that is cleverly masked by the witticisms and insightful inner-dialogue written by Will as Mr. Predator. ILLYWHACKA doesn’t sound like a warning against online dating, rather the whole album is a tragic examination of why people fuck each other over and asking when the cycle of abuse ends. Asking the big questions must be draining, but as Will informed me ILLYWHACKA isn’t all doom and gloom although it threatened to be.
“I don’t want to give too much away to people but I started out writing this dude as not a good guy but not a bad guy either,” admits Will. “I found it hard going making him the centrepiece of the album and have him come out on top. It’s not far off Jersey Flegg; it’s a simple up and down kind of story. Jersey Flegg doesn’t end on a huge high note but you feel good about the ending – no one wants to end a movie on a bummer.”
“You watch a lot of movies that do but they aren’t movies you want to watch with a heap of friends on a Saturday night. We are definitely going for the Disney option, but the funny thing is with Flegg and ILLYWHACKA, the other band members have already written the songs and they almost dictate how it’s going to go as well. They let me do whatever, but the mood of the songs and how many downer songs there are – I’d have a hard time doing a Disney story is they were all bummer songs. They are shaping it as well, they are giving me the mood and I order it to fit the story line but if I need a pumpy bit and there is no pumpy song there then I’m in trouble.”
ILLYWHACKA taps into our addiction to hearing stories born from outside our own comfort zone. People on the outer, people hitting rock bottom, people discovering and revelling in the rotten parts of themselves and gradually piecing themselves back together and becoming decent – it’s all there. The story is modern and current in the sense that it touches on a facet of technology that is becoming more socially acceptable, adding to the relatability of the work. From his research and experience writing the album, I asked what Will thought about online dating and what it does to intimacy and the chances of discovering a romance that is substantial.
“I don’t know, I’ve never had a go at it to be honest,” admits Will. “I never got on the Tinder – maybe I should have done that for research purposes. I think it’s good, if you’ve got more options then you ever dreamed of before to meet someone that you actually share common interests with rather than the fact that they live in the same suburb as you and are available, I think it’s a cool thing. It’s cool that you can break out of the normal, everyday limitations and meet someone. I just moved back to my home town and some people are just hooking up with whoever is around, you know what I mean?”
“The whole thing blows my mind, I guess. I’m kind of happy that I haven’t had to get in there because I don’t think I’d be able to cope with all the endless possibilities.”
If you are into online dating or not, ILLYWHACKA is a great example of a mature, composed, thought out and entertaining record. From the sound, the artwork and even the clever viral marketing of the subject matter, You Beauty have crafted a unique record, one that rewards listeners with a modern tale of a wayward soul come (somewhat) good. Beneath the shit we all collect in our hearts and minds there is something worth digging out, ILLYWHACKA is a sublime example of this notion explored to a fitting conclusion. If you do find your significant other online or by other means, I hope you both bond over how good this record is.
ILLYWHACKA is available now through Rice Is Nice Records.