Interview: NARLA – TILL THE WEATHER CHANGES (COPPER FEAST RECORDS, 2020)

Words: Lakshmi Krishnan
Band image and cover art: Aislinn Young

Released via Copper Feast Records in late October, Gadigal/Sydney trio Narla have sealed the year with eight breezy bush-inspired singles that make up their newest album Till The Weather Changes. This road-trip-inspiring fever dream of an LP obliterates the borders connecting post-rock, heavy blues and prog-folk with the band’s no frills, genre-hopping approach to production and writing that one could say is undauntedly ‘goin’ where the wind blows’.

From inadvertently awakening the mythical, rockabilly anima of the Hawkesbury River to forging a deep friendship that you could liken to brotherhood, Jack Millar (Guitar/Vocals) Nick Savvas (Guitar) and Clayton Allen (Drums) of Narla have truly been living by the seat of their pants with their firmly exploratory debut album Till The Weather Changes. Following their blood, deep into the northwest ria of the Hawkesbury region – amongst other natural landscapes – this brawny post-folk release is delightfully funked-up and filled with many auditory adventures for our ear worms to lust over. 

The title track, which opens the LP, begins with a quiet storm of nu-jazz and psychedelic rock lead ins that inject Allen’s drums with punctuating fervour that is, in turn, backed by some stunningly gruff and groovy guitar licks from Millar and Savvas. Moving into the heart of the release, the boys unclench their jaws and fists with Millar’s slightly woeful and pining vocals hooking us on tracks like ‘Beside’ and ‘Before I Do’. We’re are eventually lulled into the physical and magical bushland surrounding Clintonville – where the three-piece recorded and re-recorded tracks like ‘Am I Sane’ around night fires and into the dewy early mornings, assembling a blues-y eruption of jaunty, prog/folk-y adrenaline to get our bones kicking. As a capper, ‘Mountain’ and ‘The Way’ sees Narla skid boldly into the layered, rough exteriors of heavy blues and nu-classical rock that eventually swells into a thunderstorm of trippy synergy.

Narla have graciously taken the time to answer some questions on their own adventures and the influences behind the release.

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WW: BIG CONGRATS on the monumental release and for kicking it a decade of playing together! We would love for you to bring us back to the origins of Narla and share a bit of how the band balances the “dichotomy” of elements that spans across prog/psych, rock and heavy blues etc.?

Narla: Cheers! We all happened to move to the same high school in year nine and became friends pretty quickly, then started hanging out and jamming on the weekends and a couple of years later we started writing music together and formed the band. We have a certain chemistry and three distinctly separate playing styles that confines us in a good way when we’re making music together, but also that pushes the elements of contrast and ‘genre’ from song to song. There’s not really a whole lot of premeditation to what overall sound we’re going for. The direction is just informed by what comes out when we improvise together and whatever sound is inspired by what we’re all into at the time. 

WW: This release definitely feels homebound from its swooning yet roughed-up guitar riffs that underscore each track; to the textual references to land, rivers, mountains and weather [‘Mountain’, ‘TillThe Weather’, ‘Detroit’]. Is there an overarching concept binding these tracks together?

Narla: We’ve never collectively or individually been interested in making things sound particularly “spacey” and we think the lack of having a bass player creates an urgency and this need to create driving, blatant rhythms as opposed to having the room to make things sound and feel more “floating” or ethereal. In terms of the  lyrics, Jack has always unintentionally written that way and it’s something that is always being pointed out to us, although we’re not aware of being that homebound or tied to natural landscapes. However, the resulting sound from the three of us, in this release does tend to sound very earthy and in retrospect the imagery crowding this album sonically and lyrically is very even “full-blown return to nature” in the sense of the songs being very long and expansive but still not that “spacey”.

WW: On that, ‘Am I Sane’ was originally written and recorded down by the Hawkesbury River. Is there a collective connection and musicality to that space for Narla? Could you tell us more about the folklore behind the track?

Narla: We have a collective connection to the Hawkesbury River just because we’ve spent so much time there together – most of it writing and playing music. Writing music for an extended amount of time in any place that is somewhat remote and safe from the complaints of nearby neighbours or the “busy” world, plus the surroundings of the bush, creates a sense of total and absolute freedom – that has unified that band a lot. And yes, there is an absolute musicality to that area that is either informed by the culture of slow-paced, beer drinking, rock-and-roll worshipping and land-loving characters that live out there, or the mysterious pull that the area and that river seem to have. Having some of the band grow up in the Hawkesbury area, the place will obviously have a favourable bias but we’ve definitely had people tell us that some of the songs sound like that area, which is interesting!  There’s also a bit of folklore to the lyrics of the track with a reference to the black panther myth, which is likely mass delusion that has generated in that area for as long as we can remember. It’s such a fun and ridiculous myth that at one point we were pretty into researching it and so in the song there’s an image of seeing or hallucinating a vision of something that could ruin you completely while being in the midst of seeking a new experience.

WW: I find it interesting that you left that recording “exactly how [you all] wrote it that night”. Speaks to an atmospheric authenticity that is super rare, production-wise. Was recording the rest of the LP just as “no frills”?

Narla: ‘Am I Sane’ definitely had the least re-working of all the eight tracks on the album. Looking back at the recording/production process the entire release pretty much spans the whole spectrum of degrees of re-working a track from, ‘Am I Sane’ being completely left as is to ‘Bedside’, which took on a bunch of different forms over the duration of about a year until we finally arrived at what you hear on the record (and funnily enough both those tracks mentioned were written in the same sessions)!

Till The Weather Changes is out now via Copper Feast Records. You can buy/stream the LP via Narla’s Bandcamp below.

BANDCAMP