In the second teaser from KYD issue 23, Adam Curley treads the delicate line between a life and a story.
Jarrod Quarrell folds his thin arms, lifting himself into a state of amused arousal in the recording studio’s control room. His tattooed fingers turn over a cigarette rolled some time ago between trips to the microphone in the live room from the desk of producer John Lee, a composed, almost bookish man with thick-rimmed Wayfarer glasses and a pressed shirt.
‘I want it to sound like the guys in the movies who get shot on the train. You know: Ahhhhh. Or a guy falling off a building,’ Quarrell describes, mostly to me but also to Lee, who has been recording and sorting through assorted Ahhhhhs on a flatscreen. Some Ahhhhhs have been more like prehistoric birdcalls, some like retellings of waking cries. As in: you woke up making the strangest sounds last night…
It isn’t apparent why Lee keeps the Ahhhhhs he keeps and discards others, working quickly with Quarrell’s takes. Nor is there any distinguishable pattern to the cries. At the microphone, Quarrell listens through headphones to the song he’s working on, haphazardly punctuating electronic beats and the existing vocal track with his falling-man calls like a tic, curling his hands in front of himself.
Am I equipped to handle my future? / Ahhhhh / It’s hard to know / Living in fair weather never messes with your flow.
The vocal recording is just a guide, I’ve been told. The lyrics will probably change. The vocal track in one part of the song – what I’m guessing is the chorus – has been layered over numerous takes. ‘I’m seeing what it would sound like with a choir singing it,’ Quarrell says, trying to keep me in the loop. ‘We’ll get four or five girls and guys in later to do that.’ The beats might change, too.
I’m in the dust between hired guns and a ‘Goon #5’ credit.
I want crimes solved, mysteries uncovered. To gain access to Quarrell’s recording of his second album under the name Lost Animal, I’ve reasoned and coerced and sent messages that have at times seemed, even when writing them, passively indignant. I’ve proposed dropping into the studio a number of times over the planned weeks of recording, to which Quarrell has replied: ‘We’re writing as we go and that’s a new way of doing things for me, letting others contribute ideas etc. Let me think about it. I really need to focus. Yeah, let me think it over.’ Me: ‘That’s fine, think it over. I don’t want you to feel like my presence is a distraction. For me it’s important to have a fair bit of access – I’m interested in telling real stories…’
Real stories. Like the time Quarrell’s first band, New Season, became the subject of a documentary that resulted in a lawsuit to make it disappear? Or Quarrell’s drug (heroin?) use? Or his disappearance from another band, St Helens, to get clean? Or his privileged childhood in… Papua New Guinea or Geelong? These are half-stories that have been told to me in passing, sometimes as defences of Quarrell’s artistic sensibilities (more shadowy figures) and sometimes as dismissals. The heights of these tales may have attracted me to Quarrell, but that’s the thing about tall tales: there’s no measuring stick to gauge exactly how high they go.
All I really know is that Lost Animal’s first album, Ex Tropical, has become something of a uniting force in the Fitzroy bar I manage part-time. It can be played to rock-and-roll crowds and backpackers and the last of the Arts students hanging around Brunswick Street; either everyone knows and likes it well enough or no one bats an eyelid because the beats are mostly swallowed by keyboards and the rhythms aren’t too jarring; Quarrell’s malnourished-poet drawl is keen and intriguing but masculine enough to get a pass from those who have masculinity on their radars, and in that bar there are many who do, and the radars are topnotch. It makes a long shift easier. It’s a certain kind of artist who can enter and exit freely the various spheres of prejudice people inhabit, who can go virtually unseen yet be permitted to stand amongst us in all their absurdity.
Want to read the rest? Issue 23 will be available online Monday 12th October! Be the first to read it by purchasing a print or online subscription to KYD.