Deserts are Benjamin (Suicide Swans) and Jacob Lancaster (Old New York), a pair of brothers with a fiercely DIY ethic and apparently, a secret love for killer pop tunes.
Today we unveil their new EP Skeleton, which has been a curiously long time in the making. It was initially finished in late 2016, but a chaotic hard drive failure led to a total loss of the recordings. Piece by piece the release was reconstructed, and today we witness the fruits of that labour.
The culmination of literal years work, Skeleton showcases what the Deserts sound has grown into; a fusion of pop sensibilities with a righteous rock ‘n’ roll attitude.
Like the majority of Deserts songs, we had no idea how this one was going to turn out, but we knew that it was a keeper as soon as we got the first keys part in place. The song uses thick, distorted bass and tight drums to create energy for the verses, taking a dark turn as the chorus kicks in.
The lyrics deal with at the two sides of taking revenge and how it can affect the parties involved once it’s all over.
Charlie’s family is written from the point of view of Charles Manson around the late ’60s. We mixed elements of soft keys, phasing synths and nylon string guitars with heavy drums and jarring vocal changes to try to show the juxtaposition of the apparent charisma and kindness that Manson showed his “family”, and the disturbed and violent nature of his own mind.
Worn Out Romance
This song was supposed to be the archetype for what Deserts was going to be; loungey, big band music with layers and layers of strings and horns. But we got so completely sidetracked with synths and other ways of making electronic pop sounds that Deserts ended up something different entirely.
You can hear the early direction on this track with the bombastic piano and string parts, but we had to throw a couple of synths on it. Maybe the odd one out on the EP; however, for us it was important to keep it in as the quasi beginning point on the Deserts map.
All The Way
This is probably the softest song that we’ve written so far. We tried to stick to a more classic production, with a dryer drum sound, strong keys and a smooth, simple bass line and also has one of our my (Jacob) favourite solos of the whole album.
The lyrics deal with the idea of having to give up something you don’t want to lose and the pain of realising that it’s already gone.
An Ordinary Man
This is definitely one of the stranger songs we’ve written. It originally came from a little piano line Jacob came up with when he was about 15. After tinkering with it for years it didn’t seem to naturally fit in to any songs we came up with, so we decided to come up with a whole new song based around it.
A few hours later we had a song, we couldn’t decide what genre it fit into, but it was definitely a Deserts song.
At first you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a straight rock track, it’s definitely one of the more guitar driven songs and draws more influence from post-punk than a standard synth/keys track. However, after around a minute the song starts to change.
Mixing complex lead guitars and repeating chant-like vocals, the song really starts to open up and become something completely different. It tells the story of a young girl trying to escape from her abusive family and the desperate chase that follows. The ambiguous nature of the lyrics allows the listener to choose how they want the story to end.
This song was originally part of another side project I (Ben) had in 2015 called Night Porter. I only ever made two songs; and this was one of them. It had a duet part with Lauren Perkins from Melbourne punk outfit Face Face, which was raw and full of screaming.
After the great data incident of 2016 (4TB drive died spectacularly, nothing recovered), it was all gone. I had an Mp3 version of the song, so I didn’t lose the lyrics or the melody; which was lucky because nothing was written down. This new version has been completely re-arranged and has undergone the Deserts treatment. The vocoder gets a big run on this song as well as some looped and live drums.
Skeletons is out now.