The Electorate have shared a track by track breakdown of their formidable debut album You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost.
The Electorate have an incredible talent for writing truly irresistible songs, just look to their latest release for proof. You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost is an album that isn’t afraid to trace everything in sight, boasting a sonic sensitivity and reflection that most artists only dream of.
From politics, to society, to the landscapes we are surrounded by, the Sydney trio have carefully let their bent pop stylings and lyricism simmer through the years. What has emerged is a significantly richer, deeper collection than you would normally expect from a debut album. To The Electorate, however, this record doesn’t just speak to a few fleeting moments and recent experiences, it consolidates a lifetime of memories.
JOSH: We were in our early 20s when we first played Number 1, and we were in our late 40s when we finally recorded it. The time that evaporated between the genesis and the recording can be partially measured in the lives of our kids, the other bands we played in, and the people who love and live with us. That’s more than enough of a legitimate timestamp but sometimes, when we’re playing this, it feels like we’re still those younger versions of ourselves, giving in to this siren song. 99% of Number 1 is the same now as when we first played it but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fill the space of the once instrumental outro with some lyrical reflections on where we then, where we are now, and how quickly those two points met.
Enormous Glorious Girl
ELIOT: It was a slightly weird experience going in to record Enormous Glorious Girl for You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost, as it was written when I was almost a different person. I was only just scraping out of my teenage years when I grabbed a guitar to write it and I was listening to a lot of pop like The Lemonheads, XTC, and Sugar. And now here we are many years down the track, finally recording it for good as a very different, more developed, and (I’d like to think) more original band. But to be honest, we kept it pretty true to how we originally played it as The Templebears, though it never left the rehearsal room back then. “Keep it simple, stupid” was probably the unspoken motto when it came to putting it down during the album session. The band banged it out live as a three-piece and we only really added the guitar solo and vocals afterwards. I think the other guys had to hold me back from rewriting parts of it, or layering it with new hooks or rewriting the lyrics.
Peanut Butter Jars
JOSH: Peanut Butter Jars is a strange and unfolding narrative of shyness, awkwardness, delusion, and suburban hope, manifesting in a guy who probably lives next door to the hideaway couple in Number 1. This was the first new song we wrote when we started playing again in 2015 and the first song we recorded for You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost. We jammed around a lot to find the strange loop of the verse: I think there’s a real hypnotic value in locking into a minimalist groove and not fucking with it. Nick, being a big fan of Devo, was a great drumming cue and Eliot’s majestic bass-line makes the straight and simple guitar part the sonic background it should be. The simplicity of the verse guitar line gave me an excuse to double it with a birthday present fly-swatter banjo and cross the line between man and muppet. Throughout the album, Eliot’s backing vocals hit sweet and sinister notes and both sit in equal measure here.
NICK: Devo was the first band I ever saw live, at the tender age of 11, and they blew my tiny mind and remain an inspiration. So, it’s funny that even though I was trying to channel Throwing Muses, it unconsciously came out Alan Myers. But, whatever works!
If I Knew
NICK: When we were growing up and finding our musical feet, our influences were from a wonderful time in local and international underground, left-of-centre, or “college” scenes that had no real name and were before the word “alternative” came into vogue. We had all left school and the roost. We had the keys to our shared houses that, despite being young and under-employed, we could afford (plus change for a diet of two-minute noodles, beer, and cigarettes). Bands like SPDFGH would play within walking distance from home every other night of the week that we weren’t playing. Our record collections contained these local heroes alongside career peaks by Public Enemy, Camper Van Beethoven, plus the esoteric and dark twists of the ’80s 4AD (UK) and Flying Nun (NZ) label catalogues. Our new arrangement of If I Knew reflects all of this in its broth and celebrates our past and present. I swear that when we recorded this we tapped right back into all of that.
Decades In A Day
ELIOT: The first time we had a bash at this song as a band, we threw it down on someone’s phone to listen back to later. I played it in the car and my partner started singing along by the second chorus, so it felt like we’d hit on something pretty special. That was when she encouraged me to take the band’s reformation seriously, although, to be honest, I needed no encouragement. There’s a heart to this song that, as a parent, strikes pretty deep.
ELIOT: A song about alcoholism: not a learned experience but an observed one. This is the only song on You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost where Josh plays bass and I play guitar, and it helped us arrive at somewhere strange. I like how it starts kind of dishevelled and ends in quite a glorious harmonic reprise. I get nervous every time we play this song, still. I think it’s pretty common for songwriters to sometimes have an ideal version of a song in their head, so it can feel like you need to take a deep breath and give it everything you’ve got, each time you step off the springboard. I was trying to come up with a guitar solo of sorts for this song just before we went into the studio to put it down, and I ended up sort of humming it into my phone’s voice recorder before later picking up a guitar to find the notes. We’re the sort of band that tends to shy away from any sort of guitar solos but this album somehow has a few of them. I think they’ve snuck through because they’re more melodic than histrionic, so they get a pass from the rest of us.
The Wrong Way Round Up
JOSH: Recording this was a blast. The space at the beginning of the track was something I loved but Eliot was keen on another element in there, so I took my cue from Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and added static from an old AM radio Tim had lying around in the studio. Eliot plays a killer melodic guitar line over the chorus that I’m still trying to master. The day we tracked this, there were people working in an adjacent office space that would occasionally walk through the hall Eliot and I were set up in. By the third time this had happened, I’d stopped laughing at how incongruous this was and channelled my burgeoning frustration into an angry beehive guitar solo.
JOSH: This song took its first steps in the ’90s, when frustration at an evolving ecological disaster, rooted firmly in arrogance, greed, and ignorance, was not necessarily the prominent and pressing issue it now is. When it came to recording, I spent a lot of time walking the dog and examining what lyrics worked and what didn’t. That process is a little like sharpening a dull pencil to a razor-sharp point and fixing to a page all our personal frustration and rage at the deliberate and ongoing greed of a few. I believe in humankind, but the choice and frustration at mankind in this song, and others, is deliberate. Eliot’s “I don’t know what to do” mantra at the end of the song resonates more now than ever. Sonically, this was a joy to make happen. The evolving sense of chaos takes an initial cue from John Cale and his minimalist repetition in The Velvet Underground, as well as his Stooges production work. The skinny twang guitar intro line dropped in from another universe, as sometimes happens, and all the space echo repeats and guitar wails are added to the throw everything to the wall. Nick tops this off with his sticks finding their way to a nearby stairwell, grate, and a broken bottle that nods our collective heads at Rob Hirst and the collective teenage 10-1 listenership.
NICK: I love how the anxiety and tension conveyed in the words of this song were used as a template to colour Mr Cale’s spirit firmly in the room, busting our arses. More is more sometimes.
A Good Man
JOSH: Sonically, this is the closest recording in You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost to how the three of us sound on stage. It’s another example of something that we kept and something that we changed. We kept the music intact and we changed the lyrics. Sometimes there’s a great gap between the person you are and the person you think you are. This is a lyric, hammered out at a table over an eight-hour day, that explores that gap and how best to acknowledge and start closing that divide. It was inspired by a personal sexist gaffe, a Clementine Ford post, and by too many true stories of too many men inflicting violence upon too many women and still being reported in the press as being “a good man.”
Lost At Sea
ELIOT: Lost at Sea was borne out of an impromptu rehearsal jam… a few jams, in fact. We had cooked up various bits and decided to piece them all together in a song that went on a bit of a musical journey. We then thought of a tale to match: the idea of someone being lost at sea, floating in the water, wondering if what they’re seeing is real or hallucination, and then sinking into the deep blue and having a rapturous feeling of floating into the sky to return home. There’s another voice in the song of someone who’s searching for them, looking out across the turbulent water from the bow of a ship in desperation. Usually, when we write songs, we work on the melodies and lyrics in isolation and bring them into the band, but this song was also unique for the way we wrote the words and melody in the rehearsal room as we tried to adhere the different musical parts together. If any of our songs are a team effort, this one is surely the most collaborative.
NICK: Our earliest song and, after all this time, I could finally engage with it by making the part my own. Sometimes, my respect for songwriters crosses over into not wishing to “piss on the Picasso,” so I strictly adhere to what I think is what the writer intended. Yet another case of that approach being unnecessary is this band: the “Picasso” was duly pissed on, Billy Ficca as my inspiration. Not that I’ve ever heard him or Janet Weiss approach a ballad, but thinking of their ideas often helps me out of ruts.
You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost is now available on all streaming platforms. Have a listen below: