Amid Melbourne’s rise from a COVID-induced slumber, local synth-wave trio Jacuzzi have unleashed their new single Soft Dream to help revitalise everyone. A second take from their upcoming debut LP, Animator, we spoke over the phone with keyboardist/ vocalist Anthony Morse about its inception, his symbiotic relationship with synths and recording with James Cecil at Super Melody World.
A pulsating blend of driving bass and rhythm Soft Dream throws up cascading synths that wash over the new wave arrangement. After devising the arrangement within his personal creative sanctuary, Morse puts its infectious vitality down to its roots in rock; “The energy comes from playing rock and roll. The song came about on a day at work. I did a bit of a voice memo, started the verse, had the melody and took it home. I finished it in the shower. Not a bad place for it. I wish I had a whiteboard in there sometimes”. After brother Christopher (drums) and bassist Ash Briody added their parts, its recording was just as seamless; “The track was all one take, the vocal we did the next day and the bits of yelping and random words were all improvised”.
Based on a period of time where Morse was “chasing to feel something, anything”, he opts to base his song writing in allegories when conveying confronting tales; “It’s all metaphor for me, most of my writing is like that”. Whilst darker spaces are entered into when writing, the spontaneity of live shows fuels Morse’s ability to move beyond them personally; “When you play live, you go through the motions. There’s no way of trying to get back into a particular headspace. Sometimes when I’m in the studio and I’ve got a song it can nearly put you to tears. Playing it can be quite hard but playing a live show, because of the energy, the more times you play it you can go there and handle it”.
In need of a fresh creative outlet in 2016, brothers Anthony and Christopher arrived upon Jacuzzi with the intention of applying themselves to new instruments. Christopher chose drums whilst Anthony resided with synths which immediately proved a natural fit; “Playing the synth feels very human. It flows, its simple. Once I started playing the synth it fitted next to my voice. I found it hard to write with guitar. I started getting stagnant and singing along to an acoustic never really fit and then when I found a Juno, it all made sense to me”. Where some would be overcome with the stress of having to accomplish themselves to a new instrument for a new band, Morse took a more pragmatic perspective; “I never felt pressured. When I first started, I just needed to put my foot on the floor to get me started. You can’t let that pressure take over, its more about doing what you can and having a good time”.
As evidenced in Animator, Morse feels confident and excited by the prospect of experimentation after mastering synth-based song structure; “It’s taken me a long time to get to that point of diving deep in synths because every time I’m in the studio, I want to write new tracks and then move onto the lyrics because that means a lot to me. I had that old-school classic style of chorus, verse, bridge but now I want to get experimenting more with stuff like arpeggiators and sequencers once my knowledge had grown from that foundational stuff with the synth”.
In a world that expects exactness, Morse underlines how an initial inability to replicate recorded material on the stage offered both a source of strength and frustration; “Electronic music is so precise. For the first few years we would play the songs over and over and we could never play them the same. Using the synths, there would be a slight difference in sustain or frequency. But that’s what can give it its life too”. As a way of gaining more control over their live set-up, the duo recruited long-time friend and mixer of their debut EP, Ash Briody to play bass; “We had a gig lined up at Kenny’s Creek and I was starting to freak out about the two piece. I wasn’t feeling it because the sound didn’t feel full and so we asked him and he was totally up for it. He’s a very creative man and done his own thing for many years and he had no problem voicing himself in the right manner”.
Working with esteemed producer James Cecil at his idyllic Super Melody World recording studios, Jacuzzi appreciated having another pair of ears offering objective critiques; “He brought diplomacy. I think it’s always good having someone producing as an outside influence because it brings new ideas from someone who hasn’t heard it and has been in the business. As much as I love recording at home, I love working with people for unbiased new ideas and bringing it all together.
Whilst in isolation, the trio have also launched their own recording label, Zucchini Records. Inspired by the artwork of Luke Ebert that dons Soft Dream, Morse explains it’s intention is to help support a network of friends and creatives; “We’ve just got a good little team at the moment. I would love to spend a bit more time working with friends, getting albums out. We’ve listened to a lot of music over the years and it would be great to help out if artists need some sort of hand in the future”.
With an exhaustive live synth set-up, Morse articulates a gripe that goes beyond having to lug it all around; “Its fine setting up, so long as it all works. We need to soundcheck. All the big shows we play when you’re rushed and you get that fleeting 10 mins in between acts to set up, it’s just not enough”. With time often outside of their control, the trio have had to rework their plans for when they next hit the stage; “In the future we’ll have to have 2 different sets where we just go and run once if we don’t have a soundcheck slot. If we do, we’ll be bringing a lot more gear”. With plans to launch their record in the not too distant future, Jacuzzi look longingly toward the day they can lock it all in; “When gigs start getting booked again, that’ll be a beautiful day”.