“I hope that having this record out for people gives them that little bit of energy to power on through and to remain hopeful and to remain angry and to remain active.”
Cable Ties is a band with a mission, a message and the power to break through the walls of cynicism. Their songs generate the type of energy that makes you want to build a better world and turn your rage and frustration into something positive and productive. For singer-guitarist Jenny McKechnie, bassist Nick Brown and drummer Shauna Boyle, the personal and political often feel like two sides of the same coin. Whether it’s fighting for the rights of the Indigenous people of Australia or staving off despair in a world that seems to welcome it, the band rejects dead-end apathy in favor of activism. “If I lose hope/ I bring on that ending,” McKechnie screams at the start of their second and latest album, and that conviction never lets up throughout Far Enough.
I spoke to Boyle ahead of the album’s release about the band’s evolution since releasing their debut, playing live, signing to Merge Records and bringing forth positivity during these uncertain, daunting times.
How are you and the rest of band doing given everything that’s happening in the world with coronavirus?
We’re doing as good as anyone can, you know? Obviously, it’s changed a lot in the last week or two. The initial response with the cancellation of SXSW and our tour getting cancelled and everything like that was pretty difficult and devastating. You have a lot of emotions around that and the disappointment in the knowledge that you worked really hard in the lead-up to that.
With the changing scenarios in the last week or so, we understand that it’s something that everyone has to do and we have to do it together. Everyone has to play their part by staying inside and hoping that this will go away as quick as it can. The quicker it goes away, the quicker we can get back on tour.
How did the songwriting and recording process for Far Enough go and how did it differ from your debut?
When we recorded the first record, we were still unsure about how it all works. We were pretty inexperienced musicians and just a group of friends with no real intention behind what we wanted to do, with no huge goals or processes or anything. We were just a group of people within our music community who enjoyed playing together and had a lot of amazing opportunities come by and decided it was worth recording a record. The response to it was really good, so much so that we decided to invest time and a bit more of our energy and a bit more development into producing the second record. With that time and dedication comes a bit more belief in what you’re doing and a bit more confidence to show what you want to do and not be limited by uncertainty.
For the recording process [of Far Enough], we went back with the same engineer in the same studio. It was fantastic. We had a bit more of an idea of what we were able to do. With Paul Maybury, who’s our engineer/producer, we had already developed that fantastic working relationship. We really got into the studio with an open mind and knowing what to expect.
Is there anything specific that you felt you did on this album that you wanted to do on the first one?
I listen back to the first record and think I could’ve done things way differently. But I think it’s important to listen back, to understand and to recognize that it’s capturing a band at that time – what we were doing then, what we were thinking, what we were feeling. I try not to have too many regrets!
Cable Ties thrives in the live arena but you bring that immensely powerful sound to your recordings. How do you bring that same intensity to the studio?
We record live. We go into the studio and set up really close together. The consequence of that is there’s a lot of bleeding into the other microphones that we try to use to our advantage. We’ve always really been a live band and that’s the thing we enjoy doing the most – that energy and feeling of what we sound like and how we play as musicians live is what we wanted to capture. It was pretty much just us in a room.
There’s this through-line of resilience on the album in the face of arrogance or cynicism. Could you speak a bit about the themes and concepts behind this record? The two tracks that stood out the most to me are “Hope” and “Sandcastles.”
[Jenny and I] both grew up in rural Victoria. There’s a lot of difficulties when it comes to people’s opinions and the way you have to navigate through those as a young person. When it comes to tackling bigger issues, there’s a lot of recurring themes of climate and colonialism, and different political stances.
“Hope” is talking in particular about approaching those issues when it feels so overwhelming, that a way to approach that instead of feeling hopeless is to look at it with a face of positivity and a face of change instead of inaction. Reflecting on the rest of the album, “Hope” is a good representation about how we look at the world at this point in time.
“Sandcastles” is talking more about different social groups that tend to judge other people by the way that they speak and the language that they use – particularly people who don’t stand up to someone’s personal idea of what is right and what is wrong. It’s about people dismissing other people’s ways of thinking because they feel it doesn’t fit into their idea of what’s right.
Cable Ties is newly signed to Merge Records for this release. How has that experience been so far?
The experience has been fantastic. We’re on the other side of the world. We’ve only been in contact [with Merge] via the Internet. The fact that we’ve got this amazing label supporting us and are working hard to have as many people be able to listen to our music as possible, it’s so exciting. Obviously, all of us are big fans of Merge Records. They were one of the labels at the top of our list when it came to exploring different avenues for releasing our music. We respect them so much because they are born out of the same thing that we are here in Melbourne. There’s a DIY sense to everything that they do. I feel like it’s a fantastic fit for us.
It all came about last-minute and it’s very unexpected. It’s been a real dream-come-true to be honest! It’s a shame we can’t get over there to meet everyone from the Merge team this time around, but we’re definitely looking forward to meeting everyone next time.
Do you a favorite song on Far Enough that you can’t wait for your audience to hear?
Yeah, it’s called “Anger’s Not Enough.” Musically, it’s a bit more of a challenge for us to play. It’s less of a straightforward punk song. It’s got a real intensity and real energy to it. The message behind it is very direct. Jenny’s speaking about the issues the Indigenous people in Australia have been subjected to, border rights and no access to clean drinking water. They have to pay $50 a week to have access to clean drinking water. It’s a song that has a real power and real message. I think all of us when we’re playing it try to embody that anger and that energy. I’m excited that people will finally get to hear it. It’s not one we often play live either. It’ll hopefully be that little Easter Egg on the record that people have never heard before.
What do you hope people get out of the album?
Given the particular scenario of the world that we’re in at the moment, having my favorite bands to listen to is something that’s keeping me positive. I hope that having this record out for people gives them that little bit of energy to power on through and to remain hopeful and to remain angry and to remain active. There can be change if we want to make it happen.