Interview: Nick Carver and The Mean Street Butchers Chat About Their New Offering, ‘Smoke Alone’
Nick Carver & The Mean Street Butchers, the acclaimed regional Victorian rock and psychedelic blues ensemble celebrated for their unapologetic sonic attitude, return triumphantly with their latest single, ‘Smoke Alone’. Building upon the triumph of their gritty rock anthem ‘I Need To Feel’, this fresh release adeptly encapsulates the spirit of live, unadulterated, and authentic rock music. We had a chat with the band to delve deeper into the details of their new single and gain insights into their creative process.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and what you aimed to produce with this live recording?
It’s a late night/early morning ode to someone who you want to stay and kick on with you. We brought some romance into the track with the final draft of the lyrics. We aimed to produce a really honest representation of what we sound like as a band, and capture the energy of four musicians vibing off one another.
Recording ‘Smoke Alone’ entirely live at the Aviary Studios in Melbourne seems like a bold choice. What led you to opt for this approach, and how did it contribute to the overall energy and feel of the track?
In some ways, yes bold. But honestly, it’s just the way this particular track was going to sound its best. One night after we played it in rehearsal, I instantly said, we need to do this live in the studio, all at once, no click, no overdubs. Other tracks may not work best like that, I really wish they all did, but they often don’t and you can make something special out of separating the instruments and recording techniques.
The accompanying video provides an intimate view of the band’s live performance. Could you share some insights into the experience of capturing this raw intensity on film? What were some memorable moments from the recording session?
This was a little more intense. I was terrified of stuffing up the lyrics. I didn’t want a music stand or ipad there with the words on it in the video! Or be staring at a giant cheat sheet on the floor. I’d only just finished the final draft a week prior so I literally practised the song ten times a night to get it ingrained in my head. There were moments when we were filming when seconds away from a line I’m all like “what is my next lyrics?!?!?!”, but they just came to me. We did a few different takes of the song and I don’t think I messed up once.
The song’s lyrics delve into the introspective theme of seeking solace in the early morning hours. Can you share more about the personal experiences and emotions that inspired the lyrics for ‘Smoke Alone’?
I really reflect on those times when I’ve found myself in a Brunswick backyard by a for fire drum in the early hours of the morning thinking, “how the f**k did I end up here?”. Or, find myself in my own backyard or living room and be like “who the f&#k are all these people?” Then as the morning progresses they start to leave, you have to work the next day and face the comedown later in the week. There’s always that last person you don’t want to leave, because you want to avoid the reality of what’s coming.
Nick, you mentioned that the song reflects a period in your life when you used substances to mask feelings and avoid reality. How does it feel to revisit those moments through music, and what message do you hope listeners take away from this candid reflection?
While the song does sound quite dark, it’s a little bit of a funny one and it reflects on those moments jovially. But yeah, this year I stopped drinking and smoking and have been sober for about 9 months. The party hard days are looooong gone believe me, but even as a “grown up”, I thought a bottle of wine or 10 beers on a Friday/Saturday plus 4 joints on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday is fine yeah. I realised that I was avoiding dealing with a lot of stuff, even from my early childhood. Even by just drinking on the weekend. I was putting off dealing with stuff and holding out till Friday. But even less than a year off booze, and I’m dealing with stuff that even happened when I was 9/12/16 that I’d long forgot about. Early adolescent stuff that had shaped who I am today. I guess I encourage people not to be so hard on themselves, and be careful how you avoid dealing with your shit.
‘Smoke Alone’ is has a cool, composed demeanor while still carrying an edgy feel. Could you tell us about the creative process behind balancing these contrasting elements in the song’s composition?
There’s was a lot of guitar/amp experimentation. Like…… a lot. It had to be perfect. Juzzy and I agreed we didn’t want any effect changes and to play through with the same tone each. So we really worked the dynamics. That edgy feel is all down to the live nature of the track. Like I said, I wish all songs could work like that. I listened to a lot of NIRVANA and DEAD MEADOW in the lead up to the recording. Kurt was a master of “……composed demeanour while still carrying an edgy feel” especially on their most mellow tracks. Justin Salmon, the songs co-writer and guest lead guitar on the track, never rehearsed with us either. Just rocked up on the day and played.
The band has been known for its regional Victorian rock and psychedelic blues sound. How do you feel ‘Smoke Alone’ fits into the evolution of your musical style, and what new elements do you think it introduces?
I think it represents the rocky stuff we’re doing lately, while harking back to some of the country blues tinged stuff from last years album. We want to be an active band, release wise. Obviously, it also introduces the bands new rhythm section John Reid (bass) and Phil Tucker (drums). Overall, I described our sound as psychedelic rock, and all of my favourite rock bands are quite bluesy. But I want there to be an “anything can happen/what will they do next” vibe to this band.
Lastly, you have a launch event planned for October 6 at the Lulie Tavern in Abbotsford. What can fans expect from this upcoming release and the live performance?
This time last year we were a 6 piece band, and I’ve stripped it back to 3! This has been a 100% creative decision. The rest of the gang will come back at some stage. But you can expect us to play this new track, plus a selection of favourite from our other two albums, and some even newer tracks! Some of the new stuff is quite heavy, which I’m really excited about. We’ve been jamming the old stuff out a lot as well, and have a PJ Harvey song in the set!
‘Smoke Alone’ Single Launch
October 6 – Lulie Tavern, Abbotsford (Melbourne)