Vulture Street

Vulture Street

“We would all look at each other and be like, ‘Does it rock? How can we make it feel more like a party?’” Powderfinger guitarist Ian Haug tells Apple Music. It’s the one very specific criteria each song had to meet for the group’s fifth album. That Vulture Street’s purpose was to rock as hard as it could was the result of converging events. For starters, it was a reaction to the lush, spacious, and cinematic sound of its predecessor, 2000’s Odyssey Number Five. That record had elevated Powderfinger into some of the biggest rooms of their career, so they were determined to write a follow-up that could fill those spaces. Then there was the fact that the three-year gap between records was at that point the longest in their history, during which vocalist Bernard Fanning lost his older brother to melanoma. When the five-piece finally reconvened, they did so with a fire in their belly. The only problem was, each member had different ideas about how a rock album should sound, which took around six months of trial and error to figure out. “For me it was The Stooges and MC5, for Bernard it was Kiss, to JC [bassist John Collins] it was Sunnyboys or whatever it was. Everyone had a different version of what rock actually is,” explains Haug. The guitarist came up with the album’s title while stopped at a set of lights on the corner of the titular Brisbane street. Here, he walks us through Vulture Street, track by track. “Rockin’ Rocks” “It’s definitely a party song. We used to start the set with that through different periods. It’s a double-guitar assault.” “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind” “It came from a bassline of JC’s. I remember playing this groove so much to try and get it to where we were happy with it. Our band room was above a tattoo store in Stanley Street in Brisbane, and the guy ended up coming up and asking us to play something different, because we played it so much! He’s like, ‘Dudes, you’ve been doing this for six days!’ It’s not as simple as it seems, that song. It’s got a bit of intricacy—it’s a bit Stonesy, a bit Bowie, a bit Zeppelin. It refers to all those classic rock things. The intro is directly an homage to [Bowie’s] ‘Suffragette City.’” “Since You've Been Gone” “It was inspired by Bernard’s brother [passing away]. It’s not a somber-sounding song, it’s got no darkness to it. I think we were all just trying to have Bernard’s back, really, because he was obviously really sad. The whole intro is meant to be an homage to some kind of old soul band review, almost like an Elvis band or Sam Cooke, where it has all those accents. It’s meant to be a bit showy.” “Love Your Way” “This one used to be called ‘City Hum.’ I think it was actually the marrying of two songs. Bernard had the front bit, and then the rest of the progression might have been Darren’s [Middleton, guitar], and we sort of worked them together. I think it’s one of Darren’s best guitar solos. On the record [the song is] almost subdued compared to where it was live. It really was quite heavy live.” “Sunsets” “When we mixed this record—we recorded it in Australia, but we went to Atlanta to mix it—we went around to Nick’s [DiDia, producer] house for a barbecue after the whole thing had been mixed and we were listening to this song. This is the one that he would always play first to people. So he put that kind of gravitas to it. When it came out of someone’s home stereo really loud for the first time, that’s when it was like, ‘Ah, I get it. That’s what this song is.’ It’s like it’s always been there or something. Like it wouldn’t have been out of place in the ’70s. There’s something about this song that’s very refreshing to me now. It’s quite uplifting.” “Don’t Panic” “I had that chord progression for ages. It’s sort of an Iggy Poppy, sort of Bowie reference, I guess. It’s probably the most lighthearted song on the record lyrically, and a bit playful musically. There’s all that sort of alliteration, I guess you would call it, in the lyrics: ‘Big fat payback, bleeding like a smokestack...We got a dud pump speed bump.’ They were just good sounding words, it’s just pretty lighthearted.” “Stumblin’” “I was going for [a Stooges vibe] in a way, but then Coggsy [drummer Jon Coghill] did this kind of Van Halen drum beat to it. At first we were like, ‘That’s awful.’ But then it became this thing that we really loved. It became a staple live favorite. I love the simplicity of the riff. It’s a big dumb riff. It just feels like a rock ’n’ roll band.” “Roll Right By You” “We’d been discussing how horrible the idea of compassion fatigue is—when people just get sick of being compassionate. Apparently, that’s actually a thing. You get tired of feeling compassion for things. And Bernard sings, ‘The final turd in the dungheap/Of every postmodern disease.’ It’s pretty scathing, really. But I like the way he somehow manages to say these things as an observation. Somehow he can get turd and dungheap into a song.” “How Far Have We Really Come” “That’s the quiet moment on the whole record. It’s just [about] the same problems, repeating through history. We’ve always loved the light and shade between stuff, like in a Led Zeppelin sort of way. There was always more acoustic moments. And we’re huge fans of Rodriguez, that sort of sparseness of his songs. It’s probably inspired by someone like Rodriguez.” “Pockets” “It sort of teases you through the intro and then Bernard starts singing about ‘little pockets of air,’ little farts. [Laughs] We always joked he was singing about farts. It has a full psychedelic trip-out before it kicks in. We had songs [like this] on each record—there was ‘Thrilloilogy’ on Odyssey Number Five, and there was ‘Oipic’ on Double Allergic. And then Internationalist had ‘Capoicity.’ So it’s a song that’s in three stages. It’s not a pop song with verse-chorus. It’s actually just got different sections. This was the epic song on the album.” “A Song Called Everything” “It’s one of my favorite songs. It’s a classic sort of ’70s-sounding rock song, it’s got a strut. I think we threw everything and the kitchen sink at the end of it, so it’s called ‘Everything’—just put everything in! Bernard does say ‘everything’ in the lyrics as well: ‘You promise you’ll do everything, everything you can.’”

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