Last week AU writer Meredith McLean got the chance to interview the ever-smiling, vivacious and warm Lance Ferguson of The Bamboos. Coming up to a solid 20 year run as a band in 2020, an achievement for any group of musicians, Ferguson was excited to share his vision of the album and the exciting tours coming up.
What inspired you to do a re-release of this style and complexity?
We’re coming up to our 20th Anniversary as a band in 2020. Rather than commemorating that with some kind of ‘Best Of’ compilation or playlist type-thing we thought we would pre-emptively celebrate by flipping that idea with all-new versions of some of our favourite songs. We’re going to officially celebrate next years anniversary with a tour and an album of all-new material.
On the album, we can hear that these tracks aren’t merely orchestral covers but completely recomposed pieces of old favourites. What was your process to essentially reengineer these songs?
It was important for us that none of the new versions sounded too ‘safe’. It is potentially easy for any ‘Strings’-based album to enter this territory if not handled in the right manner. We also wanted to give our fans something worthwhile, and to do justice to some of these pieces of music we’ve lived with for a good part of our lives. Ross Irwin and John Castle (Recording Engineer) came out to my house a few times and we talked and listened to a bunch of records, jammed ideas on guitar and piano and got some of the broad strokes in place – Then Ross took it all away and worked his magic.
How did you go about the task of selecting songs from a catalogue of so many albums?
There were definitely songs that stood out as contenders from the beginning. ‘I Don’t Wanna Stop’, ‘I Got Burned’, ‘Eliza’ and ‘Lit Up’ for instance. A lot of our songs are built on minor chord progressions but with with upbeat rhythmic stuff going on that makes them feel ‘brighter’. Ross was able to build a lot of emotion in the string arrangements by stripping the Rhythm Section elements back and teasing out the darker textures even more.
Were there any songs that were produced but didn’t make the final cut?
The process of arranging, orchestrating and recording this type of music is pretty exhaustive – so we made good use of everything that was done. No bonus material unfortunately!
There were two cover songs chosen as well. Stop by Sam Brown and Strong by London Grammar. Not quite chalk and cheese but certainly different. Can you explain the selection process behind these two songs?
The Bamboos have been known for our cover versions over the years so we thought we’d include a couple on the new record. I’ve always loved that whole culture that went on in the 50’s and 60’s where ‘The Hits Of The Day’ were often covered by multiple artists. It was more about the song. ‘Strong’ is a dangerous one as the original is so iconic and emotionally intense. Luckily Ross’s arrangement and Kylie Auldist’s performance take it into a different place where I think it stands on it’s own.
‘Stop’ was a song we originally covered for a live session for Myf Warhurst on ABC radio. It got such a got response that we included it here with a more fleshed-out arrangement.
How do you feel about today’s music culture of sampling and covers?
The cross-pollination of new and old sounds will always throw something adventurous into the world. In 2019 musicians have almost every sound ever made available at their fingertips – but no matter how wide your palette is, the challenge is still always about coming up with something inventive and something that sounds like ‘you’.
Are there any artists out there on your wishlist, living or dead, you would’ve loved to partner with for this orchestral album?
Josh Teskey of The Teskey Brothers would have been amazing!
You praise Ross Irwin a lot in the notes on this album. Tell me about your relationship with him and how he came to be a vital part of The Bamboos?
Ross joined The Bamboos back in 2003, so he has been a part of the band for almost its whole lifetime now. He started arranging/orchestrating strings and horns for the early albums and it has been amazing to watch him grow, develop and flourish as a musician overall this time. We have toured the world, recorded endlessly, laughed, cried and been through the whole crazy mill of stuff that happens in a band that’s been together for nearly 20 years – I think of Ross as a beloved part of my family.
Can you give us any more sneaky details on the event launch happening at the Melbourne Recital Centre?
We’re going to have 21 musicians on stage including 10 string players plus very special guests Tim Rogers, Urthboy, Megan Washington and Sitar maestro Kumar Shome, It’s going to be BIG!
Any upcoming tour dates fans might like to hear?
Look out in 2020 for our Official 20th Anniversary Tour and a brand-new album!.
Feature image by Bruce Baker