“The album is a gutting, a purging.” It’s nice when a band describes their album as perfectly as Ingrid and the Ministers.
A last bastion of old-fashioned blues rock, a rugged and ready four-piece that maintain the unrestrained spirit of the old guard, Ingrid and the Ministers are one of Wellington’s very best and most reliable bands.
They released their new album, the delightfully-titled Boofhead, last week, which contains excellent songs such as the barnstorming “Last Night I Dreamt That I Shot Myself, which Rolling Stone AU/NZ praised last month, and the jingling, jangling “Tits Out”, a quite unexpectedly endearing closer.
Full of guttural howls and purged emotions, it’s an album that is unafraid to tackle the big topics – systemic power imbalances, New Zealand’s current housing crisis and widening wealth inequality.
The formidable four of Ingrid Saker, James Morgan, Scott Maynard and Kim Andrews have produced nine vital rock numbers that sound rowdy on record but surely sound even better up close.
To celebrate the release of Boofhead, we asked Ingrid and co. to take us through each song in more detail, which you can read below.
Ingrid and the Ministers’ Boofhead is out now.
Boofhead Track by track:
“Broken Leaves” is about when you decide you can no longer take care of someone who refuses to help themselves. All their old excuses no longer seem to stack up and you realise that if you don’t move on it will slowly destroy you.
This blues groove came to me after I discovered Jessie Mae Hemphill’s album She Wolf (1981). It’s full of amazing blues rhythms that you can jam to for hours. I quickly realised, though, that I wanted it to be a lot rougher, and the lyrics to be modern and relatable – definitely not too polite.
During the recording of the vocals the producer got me to imagine that I was speaking directly to the person whom the lyrics are about. It was really cathartic to vent my anger at them. I even had them dangling upside down from the ceiling over hot coals in my mind’s eye haha.
We did a first session on the vocals which didn’t end up in the final mix. The sound was too smooth because we used a really nice condenser microphone – the one we used in the slower tracks of the album. I came back to Toby Lloyd, the producer, asking for another take and a different mic. He pulled out this really old Ball’n’Biscuit mic, the one that the White Stripes song refers to. And that was perfect.
This track is about insidious power dynamics. It’s about someone who avoids taking responsibility by turning themselves into the victim. They ask the other person to punish them for their mistakes, somehow hoping this will exonerate them – maybe a weird religious hangover?
The main feeling of the song is, “Hell no! I’m not gonna punish you so you can feel better about yourself and just keep acting like an asshole!” You gotta take responsibility for your own actions.
I was really struggling to find a name for this song (I do most of the time). I had the riff and most of the lyrics which the band and I were jamming on, but I wasn’t even sure it would turn into anything. When we ended, Seamus, the guitarist, exclaimed, “well that one’s for the Boofheads!” I loved that so much that it became the title of the song and also the album! It encapsulates the overall sentiment of the album while being a pretty hilarious insult.
“Albatross” is about trying to make ends meet when you can’t afford to live in the city you were born in. It’s about being aware of the issues but feeling powerless to do anything about it. It’s probably our most pop-punk song on the album, with a very ‘majory’ sound (major key).
This song came quite quickly and I didn’t really overthink it. I think a lot of it hangs on the guitar riffs, a couple of which Seamus came up with. When I was listening over it, though, I kept hearing these ghost notes where I wanted a bridge to be – the one that’s in between the two choruses. The notes are quite weird and not quite in the right key for the song but I really liked how they sounded so I kept them in.
“Last Night I Dreamt That I Shot Myself”
“Last Night I Dreamt That I Shot Myself” is about the triumphant moment you realise that you’re finally over someone. What could be construed as a nightmare turns into a revelation that something needed to give in order to make space for the new. It’s about the relief and lightness of making it to the other side.
I wrote this track while cycling across the top of the South Island of New Zealand. I’d had a dream exactly like the one I describe and the title line just kept spinning around in my head. I didn’t have an instrument to write with so I composed it mentally on the bike. That’s probably why the words feel more spoken than sung. I was really intrigued by this idea that a violent, seemingly self-destructive thought, could generate so much relief.
“Porcelain God” is about the stomach-churning stress of having to keep a shameful secret to yourself. It’s about not being able to contain it any longer and just having to get it out by any means. I wrote this song when I was stuck deep in feelings of shame, guilt and regret, to the point where it made me sick. In some ways I was ‘praying to the porcelain god’ to make it go away.
The song is essentially a blues which starts with a minor chord but the IV and V chords are both major. I wanted the whole tune to sound swampy and feel like a snake which is sliding through the sludge. I love the drums that stay mostly on the toms to create that deep groove.
This is based on the nursery rhyme, The House That Jack Built. The structure is essentially the same, with one line being added at the start of each verse. Through that structure I could expose how our actions are intertwined, especially when it comes to systematic oppression.
The story starts with a mother whose baby has died in horrific housing conditions (in New Zealand tens of thousands of children get severely ill from poor housing conditions every year). The song traces the chain of power all the way back to its roots.
This was one of those songs where I’d had the basic groove bouncing around for ages but couldn’t figure out what the lyrics were going to be about. Then one day I was dozing off thinking about it and The House That Jack Built popped into my mind. So I just wrote all the lyrics then and there based on the nursery rhyme.
The recording was great fun because we wanted to make it sound a bit like a protest march. The guys did layers and layers of backing vocals on “this is the man!” to create the feeling of people descending into the streets. I think they did it in as many octaves as they could haha.
This song is about enjoying the last bittersweet moments of a relationship before it ends and you both go your separate ways. In this case the relationship has no future and both people agree it’s over. There’s an analogy between the bed and a grave that runs through the whole song. I liked using that to reinforce the fact that the relationship is done and being “put to rest.”
This is by far our most indie rock track. I wanted it to have a steady beat that just keeps moving ahead while the lyrics remain contemplative and attached to those last moments.
The writing of this song was reasonably smooth but playing it has always been really hard. I think we used the second or third take we did in the studio. We didn’t do many more than that because I had to go ball my eyes out in the bathroom. Luckily while I was doing that the band went on to record the next track, “Half-Life”, and came up with some beautiful parts.
“Half-Life” is about realising that you’ve moved on from someone. The heartbreak is slowly receding and you feel aware that you’ve changed. If the opportunity to get back together came up, you wouldn’t take it.
Half-Life” is that chemistry term used to describe the time it takes for a substance to reduce by half (someone please help me explain this!). I liked associating the concept to the decay of a relationship and the feeling that it’s slipping away. This is a soft, almost folky song. It’s the only one on which we recorded acoustic guitar.
I wrote this song at our old family batch near Lake Taupō. It was raining outside and heading into autumn. I think that atmosphere translated into the tone of the song.
It’s the only one the whole band didn’t record together. I did a guide track on my own – acoustic guitar and vocals – which the band then played along to. It allowed me to be more subtle and introspective in my delivery and not worry about playing in time with everyone else. After that I re-recorded the parts to get them a little neater, and again it was a solo, intimate experience.
Well this song got written as a joke with my flatmates in my first big flat. We hung out a lot together and made up all sorts of tunes – “the house is falling down around us” and “she’s using her nipples to paint” were a couple of favourites. “Tits Out” really caught on and I’ve had several people ask me if I’ll play it at their funeral. It’ll be ironic if I’m the first to go and they have to sing it for me.
This is more of a country stomper you might jam out to at a barbecue on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s a light-hearted approach to death which brings people together.
We wanted the process to reflect the relaxed, lighthearted nature of the song so we recorded it all together with just a few mics (mostly room ones). We had a mate of mine come in to do backing vocals and Toby, the producer, jumped in on tambourine (you can hear him accidentally dropping it right at the end). Then we did a bunch of overdubs, all off the cuff, and one more overdub of my flatmates singing along to the chorus. It was probably the funnest track to record! I love working fast and intuitively.