22 June 2011
Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Neil Finn has recently put the finishing touches on a new album with Sharon, his wife of 29 years, acclaimed New Zealand singer/songwriter Sean Donnelly and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.
The album’s 11 tracks were culled from countless hours of late-night, red-wine- fueled experimentation in Finn’s Roundhead Studios.
“We did a few nights here and there and then we had all these jams and grooves to listen to, and that inspired us to go and do it again in a few months time. Then we started making songs out of them, so it was quite a long, convoluted process,” Finn explains. “It was about a year ago when we actually thought, well this is really sounding pretty damn good and we should finish it and make an album, and we started to get buoyed by the whole thing.”
Initially dubbed Pajama Party the band has been renamed Pajama Club to avoid potential legal trouble from a defunct Latin hip-hop group from Brooklyn with the same name. Though the live band is augmented by ex-Grates drummer Alana Skyring, Finn handled the studio drumming duties himself, despite his relative inexperience behind the kit.
“I had a crack at it a couple of times over the years. But it was only really one night at Largo in Los Angeles when I was allowed to play drums with Jon Brion, Grant Lee Phillips and Robyn Hitchcock, and we did a bunch of covers for most of the night. I actually found I could keep up quite well until we got to All You Need Is Love, which has a bar of five every now and then and it completely screwed me! They were very tolerant, but it was the first time I thought, ‘if I really concentrate I can hold a feel down, and although I don’t have the chops, I can actually swing.’”
With his wife equally unschooled on bass, Finn has found that marital chemistry outweighs any lack of virtuosity. “We’re a natural fit together, we really are, and I think we both have a similar thing where we can’t afford to get too flash or we’ll fall apart....Our limitations mean that there’s an architecture to what we come up with that’s really fun to decorate.”
Teaser single, From a Friend to a Friend has been made available as a free download on the band’s website to showcase a slightly different and darker aspect to the album. “It’s a tiny bit ‘spooky’, as Dame Edna would say”. The song features a lyrical nod to that beloved Australian icon, the Holden Commodore. “Well, people in America won’t know what I’m talking about of course, but we used to tour in Commodores, back in the day in Australia, and when you’d been driving for eight hours on the way from Sydney to Adelaide or something in the back of a Commodore van, you’d really have some quite freaky moments. It’s a driving song, that one. No doubt about it, it’s got that feel.”
Embarking on Australian and North American tours in support of the album, the Finns are mindful of the potential pitfalls involved with mixing business and pleasure. “We’re very conscious of the fact that there’s a litany of disastrous relationships in bands that have featured husbands and wives, but I think we’ve come through enough now that we can soldier through that. We’re spending all of our days together, but we’re not sick of each other, and we still quite like each other’s company which is a pretty good sign after all this time.”
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