Interview: Tracer

Features, Music, Q+A August 10, 2014

Originally published and still available on Renowned For Sound (18/06/13).

Australia have a knack for producing great rock bands and next in line to up the ante is Tracer! This is a band that you want to know of – it’s that simple. Birthed out of the ashes of a blues band circa 2004, fast forward nine years later and the Aussie trio have just released their second full length album, El Pistolero.

The band rose to recognition after supporting Swedish garage rockers Royal Republic on their UK and European tour, garnering a reputation as a live band that deserved your attention (as you’ll read below, they have sure put in the practice)! Possessing a sledgehammer force of sound that you can still manage to groove to, the band – made up of Mike, Dre and new bassist Jett – are set to convert the uninitiated with the new album.

Relatively small introduction aside, Tracer appear to be pretty, er, trace-less (pun, unfortunately, intended), however we at Renowned For Sound managed to pin down vocalist and guitarist Mike Brown for an insight into El Pistolero, life on the road, and what the band have in store next.

Kayleigh Watson: Hi guys, how are you?

Mike Brown: Splendid!

KW: Recently, you released your latest album, El Pistolero; for readers of this interview who are currently of the uninitiated, how would you describe the trademark ‘Tracer’ sound?

MB: It’s three guys making as much noise as possible! We like it hard and heavy and we like to riff out. I guess what we’ve become known for is our thick and full live sound. There’s only guitar, bass and drums but we’ve worked really hard to make it sound very full and get that wall of sound effect happening. To be honest I hate trying to describe our music in words, that’s why we play the music! It’s our form of communication.

KW: Was the creation of El Pistolero an effortless labour of love or did you encounter any difficulty along the way? Have you done anything differently this time around?

MB: Yeah a lot of things were different for this album as far as song writing goes. We basically had 4-5 months to write an album. That was in between finding and training up a new bass player and a 2 month tour! I wouldn’t say the writing was effortless at all but Dre and I found out that we can work well under pressure and songs eventually came pouring out. Luckily we have a lot of recorded jams, song ideas and riffs around the place and we drew on those for inspiration. The hardest thing about this album was not having a bassist. We’d been used to writing songs with the three of us in the rehearsal room and now we couldn’t jam out ideas and see what worked in a band situation. We kind of had to trust our instincts and go for it.

KW: Was there anything that you found inspired you when creating the new record? How did the title of the album come about?

MB: When we were writing I was playing around with flamenco guitar and was watching a lot of Mexican movies like Desperado and Machete Robert Rodriguez films). The character in Desperado is a guitar playing vigilante and I think my inner superhero got excited by that and I started to write songs influenced by the movie that had a tex/mex sort of vibe. I think we’ve always had a dry desert/stoner sound and I thought that it would be the perfect marriage of movie and music. When we were thinking of a title I thought El Pistolero (The Gunman) would be a great title. Since we were already going down the Mexican path and telling the story of a gunman it seemed perfect. Plus, the movie Desperado on which the songs are based, was originally going to be called El Pistolero (following on from the previous movie El Mariachi).

KW: Also, what are your influences generally?

MB: That’s a long list! I started listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix and older blues guys when I was growing up. That eventually led to Led Zepplin, Deep Purple and other bands that I though were taking the blues music and turning it up to 11! When I was in school I got introduced to Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Queens Of The Stone Age, Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Kyuss and I was immediately hooked on what I call rock music. I think the common denominator with any bands that we get into is that they don’t rely on computers or gimmicks to get them by. It’s old school, from the heart, loud, emotional and f***in’ awesome music!

KW: My favourite song from your last album, Spaces In Between, was Devil Ride. What is your highlight from El Pistolero and why?

MB: That’s like trying to pick your favourite child! It’s hard man. We’ve known these songs since they were little riffs. Then we nurtured them through the writing process, the recording process, the mixing process and finally through mastering. They all have their little nuances or parts that are special for us so it’s way too hard to pick favourites. I will say that I’m very proud of songs like Hangman, Santa Cecilia and Until The War Is Won just because we really went out on a limb and tried something different. That was one thing we tried to do with this album; push the boundaries. We wanted to see how far we could push Tracer’s sound and also make sure we weren’t painting ourselves into a corner.

KW: I see that a tour is in the works, where will you be headed?

MB: Yes finally a tour in Australia! This is where we’ll be:

12 July – Adelaide,SA – The Gov supporting THE ANGELS

13 July – Adelaide, SA – The Govenor Hinmarsh supporting THE ANGELS

19 July – Kingsford, NSW – The Juniors – Kingsford supporting THE ANGELS

20 July – Wentworthville, NSW – Wenty Leagues supporting THE ANGELS

25 July – Sydney, NSW – Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice

26 July – Hurlstone Park, NSW – Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club supporting THE ANGELS

27 July – Mt Pritchard, NSW – Mounties supporting THE ANGELS

02 August – Fitzroy, VIC – The Evelyn supporting King Of The North

03 August – St Kilda, VIC – The Espy – Gershwin Room supporting THE ANGELS

22 August – Brisbane, QLD – Rics Bar

23 August – Victoria Point, QLD – Victoria Point Sharks Sporting Club supporting THE ANGELS

24 August – Ipswich, QLD – Racecourse Hotel supporting THE ANGELS

KW: Is there anywhere that you would love to tour that you’ve not had the opportunity to explore yet?

MB: Sure! Everywhere! Our next endeavour though is to conquer the states. We’ve been trying to get over there for a long time but the stars haven’t quite aligned for us. I think our music and the current musical climate will make the states a really good place for us to tour and it would seem that if the US digs you it has a residual effect everywhere else on the planet. Also for purely selfish reasons, if I could get a tour in the Maldives, I’d do it in a heartbeat!

KW: What do you get up to on the road? What are the highs and lows?

MB: I could write a book on that! We’ve done 6 tours of Europe now, starting from sleeping in our tour van to sleeping in decent hotels or on nightliners now. In between that there has been all sorts of heartache. Our van broke down a couple of times in the middle of nowhere and we had no money. We had to cancel shows and I don’t think we’ve ever been lower than that second breakdown. However we have had so many great experiences too. We can’t believe how many people genuinely want to help us out and how many close friends we have made along the way. If you want band antics, there’s only half that are PG rated haha. We like to party and do all the rock n roll stuff but to be honest, when we are on the road and people have paid their hard earned money to see us play, we don’t want to let them down with a hungover performance or have the flu because we’ve been out all night. We keep really healthy on the road and I have to look after my voice to get through the rigorous schedules. We keep a good balance I think.

KW: What was the best gig you ever played and why?

MB: There’s been so many good ones now it’s kind of hard to pick! One that stands out in my mind is our first headlining gig in London. We had been rehearsing our arses off before the tour and we knew ticket sales were going really well so it was bound to be a decent show. It was also the first time we had done the “professional” thing and walked on to a backing tape. When that intro tape started the 800 near capacity crowd roared and they didn’t stop for the whole concert. These people all the way over the other side of the world, knew every word of every song and they loved the show. It was a complete trip! And a sign that we were building in the UK.

KW: And alternatively – the worst?

MB: There have been a few dives that we’ve played at with just the bartender as the audience haha! They are fairly soul destroying but I’m always more disappointed if the band doesn’t play well at a big show. Thankfully there have been no extreme disasters but as this is live music and there’s only the three of us up there, sometimes things don’t go to plan and that’s really the worst thing.

KW: If you could tour alongside any bands – past and present – who would you choose, and where would you come on the bill?

MB: I would love to play before any of the bands I mentioned as our influences. Those are bands that shaped us as a band and to see them perform or share a stage with them would be the ultimate thing for us.

KW: Talking of live shows, a little birdy tells me that you at times you somehow manage to perform playing your instruments backwards – that’s an impressive feat!

MB: Haha, yeah we haven’t done that for a while but yes we all play our instruments behind our heads or behind our backs. It’s a bit corny but I’ve never seen a drummer do it and Dre somehow manages it.

KW: And finally, what bands are you loving at the moment, and who deserves more love?

MB: All bands deserve more love. People are still making music for music’s sake and that should be celebrated. I’m sick of “bands” placing more effort into their appearance and off stage antics than into the music. The world should be too small for posers. Bring back real music from the heart I say! Now that my rant is over, band’s I have been digging lately are Band Of Skulls, Red Fang, Abbe May. King Of The North, My Left Boot, Redcoats, Tame Impala and a whole bunch of others whose name escapes me. I’m always looking for new music!

See more of my Renowned For Sound articles here.

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