Bloodhounds on My Trail are a Melbourne, Australia band that played their first show in 2014. They are part of a growing shoegaze scene in Melbourne that has produced some rather epic bands. Their newest EP, Haunted Isles, got best EP of 2016 here at Somewherecold last year. They produce a blend of shoegaze and post-punk that is addictive and brilliant. They answered questions about their writing process, the history of the band, their gear, and mention the possibility of a coming LP.
Hello Bloodhounds on My Trail! Thanks so much for participating in this interview. Please introduce yourselves to the readers and let us all know what you do in the band.
Johnny Green – guitars, vocals
Chris Donaldson – guitars
Chris Maclean– bass
Nik Donaldson – drums
How did each of you get involved in music?
All of us came from families where music was at least a passing, if not active, interest and Nik and Chris both grew up within a church environment so they have performed live from a young age.
As bands go, you are all relatively new. Can you tell us how the band formed?
Well the brothers and Johnny have been in a number of bands together through the years, having met during high school. After a few years apart with different members living overseas, Bloodhounds emerged as a result of Johnny playing some psychedelic tapes he had recorded to Nik and the idea of forming a band grew from there. Once we had commenced playing shows, we were lucky to find an extremely rich shoegaze scene in Melbourne and the quality of local bands certainly influenced the band in a number of positive ways.
Can you talk a bit about how the band writes music together? What’s your process in your writing and recording of music?
The basic chords and melody are developed by Johnny or Chris outside of the group. Chris has his own small studio which allows for some very thought-out contributions. Johnny or Chris will generally bring in a half- or mostly-complete song structure with an accompanying melody to a band rehearsal session. Occasionally Chris will have developed drum and bass parts also but most commonly these ideas are very stripped back. The band will then generally play over the ideas as they were presented to flesh the parts out. New songs will then often be jammed on repeat, concentrating on certain aspects or varying the speed etc. When working through ideas, input from every band member is sought and this can take tunes in directions quite radically different from how they were introduced. This allows for each band member to bring their full range of influences to the table and impact on the sound. We don’t have many rules as far as songwriting goes, however one we try to stick to is never discarding a song without running it through on a number of separate occasions. Basically, if someone has got an idea, we want to exhaust the options on it, before concluding we can’t get something we like from it.
You have these incredibly beautiful guitar tones in your music. What attracts you to particular tones and textures in deciding what sounds should go into a song?
In a way, a lot of the hard work has been done in terms of the base tones & sounds. Johnny has his hollow body modulated sound & usually only flicks between that base sound and adding fuzz or extra chorus. I have a few different pedals I use to make things sing out more when I need them too i.e. a couple of fuzz pedals (one brighter, one duller) or a pitch box. It’s kind of hard to explain what influences you draw on in those moments when writing a new song or adding to something. I suppose it’s probably more of a subconscious action or idea drawing from influences over the years as opposed to trying something this way or that way cause you got inspired by it specifically. Speaking for myself I do like to play the guitar like it is a synth a lot of the time. In terms of how it is strummed and how you react to the resonance. You won’t often hear any quick wristy strumming with me, usually it’s all drawn out like someone holding a root note on a synth with perhaps some accented notes mixed in. In terms of tone attraction, I definitely am drawn to beautiful crisp sounds on one hand (think Robin Guthrie) and overblown heavy fuzz on the other (think Billy Corgan). In between isn’t where I like to be. I really enjoy the contrast.
In the two years between EP’s, have you changed the way you approached writing and recording? How has your live show progressed over the life of the band?
Nothing drastic as far as writing is concerned. We still write in the same method as when we started the band. Our approach to recording has certainly changed since the first EP. For a start, on Haunted Isles only the drums were recorded in a commercial studio. Everything else was recorded at Chris’ home studio. Basically since Chris was able to capture a better sound, and most importantly, spend more time tinkering with the sounds, than our experiences with commercial studios, we opted to record only the drums outside of Chris’ studio. Neil Thomason, from Head Gap Studio in Melbourne, gets by far the best drum sound we have come across so there was no question he would again do the drums for this EP. Since we were not on the usual time budget, we were able to invest a lot more time in recording and forever adjusting the sound of the vocals and guitars.
The main change to our live show has been the addition of more upbeat tunes than when we first started. In the beginning, we were very interested in developing slow, droning numbers with quite repetitive rhythms. We really sought to draw people into the sound by creating these big hazey soundscapes. While this is certainly still part of our arsenal, we have introduced a brighter, faster sound which I think is quite evident when comparing the two EPs.
So, it’s no secret that I absolutely love Haunted Isles. It’s an amazing set of tracks. Can you talk about why you picked this selection of tracks to release, what has been the response to them live, and if there were any tracks that didn’t make it onto the disc?
Why thank you. That is incredibly kind. We took a few factors into account when deciding what tracks we would use such as which tunes we liked the best, which tracks complimented each other and also which tracks had been receiving favorable feedback from our live shows. From memory, this was all decided before we started recording. Once we had completed the recording process we were obviously intimately familiar with each tune so we went back over our initial thoughts to ensure that the tracks post-recorded still presented how we thought they did at the start. There were a couple of songs that were part of a general list we considered at the start of the process but for different reasons, they did not end up making the final cut. We actually ended up recording most of these separately as part of another separate project, so one or two might surface as b-sides or the like in good time.
I usually like to ask bands to talk about a few tracks from their most recent release. Can you talk a bit about the writing and recording behind “Over the Wall” and “Words Like Weapons”?
Words Like Weapons came after a move to new house & a new home studio set up that produced a demo unlike tracks before where ideas had been brought forward as generally unfinished to the group. It was nice to take advantage of finally being able to record a demo that did a good job in sounding like how you want it to and that inspired me to take some time being able to craft it over a few days rather than write it out in one hit. Of course, once everyone brings their ideas in it changed a bit and for the better, but it was nice to have a solid skeleton in place to work off. The song itself was Chris experimenting with Capo placements & trying to get a really unique open chord structure. The bottom line of the lyric content is getting into a fight, saying things you regret & hoping to improve as a person.
Over The Wall was another experimental approach to writing. Rather than throwing a few chords together and writing the melody and what usually ends up being the bulk of the lyrics simultaneously, OTW originated from a storyline I had in my head. Unlike any previous song I’d written the story came first, then the lyrics which were worked into a chord progression. The song structure and melody was basically complete when we first jammed on it as a band however the drums changed the dynamic of the song dramatically giving the verses an 80’s post-punk feel before sinking into a heavy ‘shoegazey’ chorus drenched in guitars.
For the gearheads who read Somewherecold, what gear do each of you use both live and in the studio?
It could be a little strange but we basically use the same set up for live & recording. We worked hard and made it a priority to create a good live sound first and foremost rather than try and replicate the crazy things that can be done in studio. Even when we record, as much as possible, we try and record in one take & almost never double track anything besides the odd over dub here and there. In terms of gear, essentially the same stuff is used live vs studio. Johnny’s sound primarily sparkles from his use of a Fender Coronado II and TC Electronic T2 where he utilizes the tone print – his variation of Harry McVeigh’s reverb. Coupled with a Carbon Copy & Rat clone, Johnny has a great philosophy of keeping it simple and having “punk rock” approach to his gazey tones. Chris on the other hand makes up for that with a customized Jazzmaster influenced by “Rick-O-Sound” using two output jacks and sending each signal via a different pedal board and into a different amp. This is so he can generate 2 sounds at once, taking advantage of his valve amp which has a fuzzy reverb drenched output and his solid state providing a glistening 80s chorus based tone. Go to pedals include DD7, Big Muff PI, Big Mudd (Tym Guitars – EHX Rams clone) as well as TC Hall of Fame and his love for Mooer pedals including; Reecho, Pitchbox & Shimverb.
What artists have inspired you in your music? This can be visual artists, authors, or musicians/bands.
We have the all classic regular shoegaze influences that you can no doubt hear in our sound but as far as individual influences go – which while they may not influence us sonically, they certainly influence our approach in others regards – Chris likes punk, Johnny hip-hop, and Nik rockabilly/country.
So, now that we have two incredible EP’s from you, do you have an LP in the works?
Yes, we definitely have plans for an LP, so do keep an ear out for it!
Thanks for doing this! Do you have any other comments for our readers?
We would like to thank you and your readers for all of the support! Please check out our band at our Facebook page and our label’s Bandcamp (Moonsounds Records) page where copies of the Haunted Isles can be purchased. Otherwise, if any readers attend our shows, please do come down and say hello.