Dappled Cities long awaited fifth record, released five years since predecessor Lake Air, marks a fifth of a century that the band of five has spent together.
Five – stylised as IIIII – represents not just those milestones, but the simplicity and contentment the band has found with the advent of age.
“The name was born from not over complicating the creative process. You can get very lost in naming a record, particularly between five band members. So there was some kind of elegance in its simplicity. The look and feel of the concept represents that creative mindset that we find ourselves in,” frontman Dave Rennick says.
More than just a name, that creative mindset manifests in the sound of the album, something Rennick attributes to taking time off.
The past five years is the longest the Sydney band has gone between releases, a period which saw the band part ways with their previous record label, manager and booking agent. But the lapsing time never indicated a potential split, rather it was a time for personal growth.
“It was an interesting transition, the first time we were really on our own since the beginning of our career, which lends itself to that feeling of self-satisfaction we have about the project.
“To be honest, when we decided to make the record, we were in the best headspace that we’ve been in for, I guess, our entire career. We were so happy and content and chilled, and it was good to wait for that moment before going back into the studio.”
Five was recorded in the now defunct 301 studio in Byron Bay, a venue chosen not just for its relaxed atmosphere, but the size of the studio itself. Their approach to the album was the most collaborative that it’s ever been, which saw them step entirely away from synth and drum tracks, and highly produced music, and into playing and recording live.
“It was so large to accommodate all of us playing at the same time. Everything is being played live. It added to that freedom we tried to get through to the set of songs, and allowed us to not put too much on there, just five sets of hands.”
For any band that has been together for as long as Dappled Cities – the five-piece began playing together before they were 18 – self-reflection is bound to happen, and the long wait between albums, and the changes in their situations led them to assess and establish what it is they wanted to create.
“We’ve learned to revel in musicianship, let the musicians play their instruments. Which I know sounds weird, but the rise of uber-produced, laptop music makes us question who we are. And the answer is we’re five musicians who play in a band, so let’s pick up our instruments and play.”
The pared back sound on the album is a departure from their hook heavy previous works. Rather than feeling pressure to fill the songs with texture and beats, Rennick says the songs came together in a relaxed manner.
“The songs have breathing space. They’re longer and have natural ebbs and flows. A lot of full-bodied sounds of single instruments, instead of a lot of relaxed sounds. ”
Part of the change in approach was the desire to create an album to be listened through entirely. Though proud of their more grown up approach, the flow is slightly broken up by frenetic and fast paced first single That Sound.
“We did go into this record wanting to make a complete piece of work out of the record, a journey from beginning to end, so when it comes to that end game, we didn’t really nail it with That Sound. That cowbell is really quite a thing
“When it came around to putting the album together, to doing the sequence, we almost left That Sound off, because we thought ‘Wow, it doesn’t fit in anywhere.’ And it’s kind of tucked at the back, a rude shock at the end of the album. But the reason it was picked as the first single was that it’s our favourite song, it’s one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written.”
Originally published in Beat Magazine.