In our evaluation of Porridge & Hotsauce — You Am I‘s tenth album — Michael Dwyer stopped short of calling it a comeback, instead wisely opting to mimic the band’s own attitude towards their current position within Australian music: “there’s nothing like a gleeful middle finger to signal an unrepentant return”.
Porridge & Hotsauce, released last Friday via Inertia, is structured as a showcase of a band with little to prove and nothing to lose. A patchwork of ideas, unified by a front-foot confidence that’s delivered independent of the format or style.
Keen to hear more about the tales behind the tracks, we recently sat down with frontman Tim Rogers — taking a break from the band’s current national tour — to discuss the album contents.
All words below by Tim Rogers.
“With all the songs I contributed, this started during the ‘golden hour’ of dusk, a rusty sounding electric guitar an amp made from a cigarette packet, and a cheap local brew. An enthusiastic, loving wink to Pere Ubu, White Denim and the Johnny Burnette Trio. I could here Russ combining the phrases with fills like sweet jam in rolled madeira cake. I suggested the ‘1’ in the rhythm track that the other guys didn’t enjoy, but in a rare moment of pique, I persisted after a bottle shop run, and emerged vindicated.”
“Some songs on this record are less stories, and more quixotic lil’ lessons i want to reiterate to myself as a code to living well. ‘Bon Vivants’ is about generosity and appreciating the treasures within meagre surroundings. To share amusement and absurdity.”
“No, A Minor Blue”
“Or: How To Stop Worrying And Love Swervedriver. An unholy thump that is like wrenching your spleen out to play live. Wayne, our impossibly handsome engineer at Daptone, referred to it as ‘A Minor Blues’. I may have shrunk physically from embarrassment at that point. Rogers? Writing a Blues? Please, look away.”
“Sometimes you have to let your hands go a-wandering when writing music. Don’t trust your logic and lessons always. Go wandering some. Thats how the music was written here. It is from a suite of songs I had for a project called ‘Tuesday Night Out On The Tiles With The Missus’ that was brushed aside when the bat phone rang to say we could do a YAI album. The session doing horns at Daptone was gloriously crowded, loose, smoky, boozy, and again, loose. Good times on a hot, muggy Monday night in Bushwick. The session with the glorious Wolfgramm sisters Talei and Eliza was similarly full of laughter and libation. This is sung from the heart and lungs and I still got her little hand in mine. Yeah.”
“One Drink At A Time”
“I wrote the music in 1998 while I was living in Los Angeles and came back to it every year since. Prompted by Daveys ever-continuing majesty, and his gentle encouragement, I pushed in some lyrics I had from the ‘Tuesday Night’ project and the scansion fit well. Strings adorned by Ross James Irwin who I met when I started with the Bamboos. We get into shorthand when talkin real quick. Another example of it don’t matter how you got somewhere, you just get on with gettin’ to the next place. An absurdly talented musician who is also a sweetheart.”
“Out To The Never, Now”
“Davey Lane’s torrid forest of imagination is a landscape of fecundity. Now thats one lofty, lysergic sentence of mess not worthy to describe Davids chordal sensibilities. (forgive me, it’s cocktail hour). I’d love to hear his take on the how’s and why’s of this song, but its sweet mystery intoxicates me every time. Play on, sweet David, play on.”
“I didn’t imagine any slower tunes, or spare vignettes on this record, but at the encouragement of Andy Kent, I proceeded to record this with John Castle and a small string ensemble. John’s contribution to our record cannot be underestimated. He has a wild enthusiasm and a wicked intelligence that is very attractive. He pushed me on the vocals on this one and I’m so glad he did. Was written initially for “An Actor Retires”, a stage show I was working on.”
“Wonderfully collaborative amongst the band, as they wrestled with a winsome little tune with a baffling bridge that opens out into a chorus like a newly popped bottle of Cotes Du Rhone in a field of dancing satyrs. Rustys drum parts mapped with Andys bass are highlights for me, and then cheeky Davey adds piano, all played and recorded live, on a sweaty arvo in Brooklyn. We were going to engineer Wayne Gordons bar straight after the chosen take, so our enthusiasm mixed with tender care is palpable to me… Gee we’re as excitable bunch of middle aged men as you’d be unlucky enough to meet. We do, however, welcome you to join us if you have an appreciation of the sillier things in lyfe [sic].”
“Buzz The Boss”
“Davey returns with what i believe is a paean to a former boss at a fast food chain. He and I bonded early over tales of less than honorable overlords at restaurant chains. We bear the scars, and the deep fryer burns, but emerge the victor with guitar riffs that get us all tight in the trousers.””
“She Said Goodbye”
“Again written for ‘Tuesday Night’ and one of the first times I’ve written a complete lyric in one sitting. The sitting being at my local, in golden hour, before it was invaded by obtrusive drinkers: My least favourite inbibers. There is a time to be alone, it doesn’t mean you are lonely. Rusty’s list of early 80’s gutter-punk records that he wanted John to reference in the mixing is in of my treasured pieces of literature. Up there with the magna carta, or Neil Young’s ‘Eat A Peach’ letter to Stephen Stills. The lyrics are fiction, the bands loose abandon is not.”
“My Auld Friend”
“Music by Hopkinson/Rogers. A superbly stanky shuffle set up by Russ, with his guitar riff reminding me of Dr John before he got shot in the hand early on. We were going to put some jug on this song as a loving shout out to our beloved 13th Floor Elevators, but left it so you can do it at home. A love letter to the perils and joys of illumination.”
“An East Doncaster Gurl”
“I had the chords, melody and riff from a few years back. One that i think Davey and I love more than Russ and AK, but our process for determining songs has evolved into ‘well, if my mate likes it then maybe I will too somewhere down the line’. A lotta trust and love goes into recording sessions that last only a few days. A few years ago I would have stamped my feet a bit and tried the thoroughly unattractive passive/aggressive route to get my way. But I’ve learnt my ideas aint necessarily gonna be the best in a band where I’m the least musical one in the room.”
“Porridge And Hotsauce”
“An undignified rave up driven by cheap beer, a sweaty studio, and loud, loud music. The song title is my staple, utilitarian breakfast recipe. Guaranteed to keep the wolves away and with no bloody adornments or friperies. I keep those for work. My best to you all and may you always put your shoes and socks on, in that order.”