The album is a thirteen track collection of tunes that simultaneously breaks tradition, and nods to musical eras of the past. So fresh off the record’s release, we caught up with the band for a complete run-down of each track.
Fresh off the release of their new album Above Is A Roar, we caught up with Sydney-based outfit Shelley’s Murder Boys for a complete track-by-track run-down.
JOE: We wanted to start the album off with one of our favourite old-time traditional songs. Virginia Girls is a fun upbeat tune warning against dating people from West Virginia. We love it because it’s got some great lines in it and some outrageous claims against West Virginians. We met a West- Virginian guy at one of our gigs and he seemed perfectly nice, so we aren’t sure how accurate the song is.
Float Me Out
SHELLEY: I wrote this while we were having a band holiday in Byron Bay. I was having a bit of a hard time around then and that was contrasted with being in this beautiful place. We went out snorkelling one day and were floating there above a patch of rocks on the seabed and suddenly some big sea turtles, covered in barnacles, came out from the rocks and swam up next to us, took a breath and swam back down again. They kept coming up for air every couple of minutes and we stayed there completely focused on them. I remember feeling like I was breathing as slowly as they were and how good that felt, being nothing but part of the environment. The song came out of that.
Say Darlin’ Say/Fall on my Knees
JOE: Say Darlin’ Say and Fall on my Knees are two awesome traditional songs that we love playing together as one song. They have a great feel to them. We first heard Sheila Kay Adams, the queen of Appalachian old-time music playing both songs live at National Folk Festival and we were mesmerised by them and have been playing them ever since. They’re such simple songs but the melody and sweet little verses can’t help but make you smile. Say Darlin’ Say is a nice love song and Fall on My Knees is a break-up song so we like mashing them together into one complete relationship story.
SHELLEY: This one’s about my day job. I work in mental health with children and a lot of the kids I work with face huge and seemingly impossible difficulties at a young age. I wrote this after a hard
day and it’s an acknowledgement that life isn’t easy for a lot of people and being born without the privilege many of us have means starting off on the back foot and facing so many more obstacles in life. There’s a bit of an expectation that problems of social disadvantage are easy to overcome, and this song is an acknowledgement that they actually aren’t and that these kids are tough and resilient and deserve a lot of cred for how much they achieve. It ended up being an upbeat track which I think speaks to hope and power.
In the Road
JIMMY: This song is set in a dystopian wasteland inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. A climate ravaged landscape sees a boy and his father scavenging to survive the dangers that lurk on the road. The idea behind this song was to take the perspective of the boy and ask the father, or older generations – How did this happen? This is a protest song about governments around the world blocking and disrupting progress on climate change.
JIMMY: An instrumental tune that takes its inspiration from a little desert mouse called a Grasshopper Mouse. This cute little rodent from the Sonora desert is a carnivore that has developed such skills as extreme speed and even is able to convert scorpion venom into a painkiller. An incredible nocturnal hunter this mouse proclaims its territory with a high-pitched howl under the full moon – earning it the nickname – ‘The Werewolf Mouse’. Shelley’;s soaring high violin note is our tribute to the howl of the Werewolf Mouse.
Swim Through the River of My Veins
SHELLEY: This song came from thinking about blood transfusions and donations and the weird kind of intimacy in that. I thought probably the closest you could be to someone is if you pumped their blood through your veins, and that maybe this could be desirable. The heart is the organ associated with love so by extension the entire cardiovascular system could be filled with passion for somebody. I had the line ‘if only your blood ran through my veins, I would feel you all the time’ and from there it naturally became a love song.
JOE: Simply one of the best old-time songs out there. Cuckoo is a classic up-tempo banger with a catchy riff that is so much fun to play. The lyrics are non-sensical, with verses being snatched and mashed together from other songs over the past few centuries but you can’t help but love it!
Don’t Care About Your Band, Man
SHELLEY: This is about the mansplaining you get as a female musician, often from dudes in bands. In the verses I used real examples, mostly of one guy I knew who would constantly give me advice and talk down to me, even though he’d never really done much musically. At one point he started making up these wild stories about his rockstar life and how his band used to be famous, which were all very easy to fact-check and completely false, so I wrote this song as a bit of a laugh and to entertain Joe and Jimmy. We ended up liking it and putting it on the album.
JOE: We brought in Rob Hirst on drums and Jake Pember on double bass to really amp up this great traditional song and bring a hypnotic dance vibe to the tune. There is some ambiguity as to the
meaning of the song, with some people believing a ‘greasy coat’ to be a condom – we are unsure! I love the rowdiness of our version of the tune, just a ramshackle band in the corner of bar playing it nice a loose and having a good time.
JOE: Another cracking old-time tune about a badass moonshine-making lady who gets into trouble with the revenue officers during prohibition. Unfortunately for Darling Corey she doesn’t make it out alive, despite having a forty-four shotgun and a banjo strapped around her. We had to get Rob and Jake in on this one too so we could have pounding drums and bass keeping the song.
High on a Mountain
JOE: We wanted to pay tribute to the absolute powerhouse of Appalachian old-time music, Ola Belle Reed by including a version of her song High on a Mountain. Her songs are always filled with such grief and sorrow but there is also this unrelenting determination and presence in her music. The song is from the perspective of Ola Belle, looking out over the mountains and thinking about all that she has lost. This was one of the first songs we ever learnt as a band and we are so happy we could include it on the album.
Digging in the Dirt
JIMMY: A sad country ballad written in the vain of the Rolling Stones and Gram Parsons. This story is of a depressed archaeologist who is stuck down a hole literally digging in the dirt, considering their life’s choices.
Above Is A Roar is available now. Listen above.