Featuring an exciting combination of all new material with that trademark Dragon sound, the album demonstrates the incredible versatility of one of the country’s most enduring rock bands.
The current line-up, which includes founding member Todd Hunter (bass), fellow Kiwi Mark Williams (lead vocals / acoustic guitar), Bruce Reid (electric guitar) and Pete Drummond (drums), have been solidly on the road for the past few years and yet have still managed to find time to not only pen 12 new tracks, but also spend many hours in the studio bringing the ROSES album to fruition.
ROSES features a wide range of songs, from the garage punk ofHey Hey Hey, to the hymn-style last track Nothing More Than Dust. There is a vein of 60s psychedelia buried deep in the heart of the record. Alice Pan is the perfect soundtrack for an acid-soaked Sunday afternoon in Kensington Gardens in 1969, whileGoing Down contrasts Appalachian banjo with 1960s sitar stylings. Whatever the new material Dragon releases, there is still that undercurrent of that traditional Dragon style.
Founding member Todd Hunter says that familiar sound just happens. “We can’t avoid it,” he says. “It has to do with the harmonies, the way the songs are written and the life we have lived for the past 40 years that seeps into the songs. Also, there is something in the fact that we were Kiwi outsiders looking in which give the songs a certain poignancy.”
Dragon have decades of hits already chalked up to their name. Songs like April Sun in Cuba, Are You Old Enough, Still In Love With You, Rain, Young Years and Dreams of Ordinary Men have become part of the national psyche. The band has been embraced as honorary Australians and their music is part of the landscape of the past four decades. Having celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2013 and regularly playing packed houses around the country, it’s evident that Dragon are still one of the most popular bands on the scene today.
It’s no surprise to find out that the ROSES album was indeed a collaborative effort, as is every Dragon project. A couple of the songs for ROSES were written at ‘band camp’ in January at Todd’s studio on the South Coast. The majority of the songs were penned by Pete and Bec [Drummond] at Pear Studios in the Blue Mountains. Bass parts were recorded at Axle Studios on the South Coast and the guitar parts were laid down at Bruce’s [Reid] place in the Blue Mountains. Pete recorded Mark’s [Williams] vocals in hotel rooms and backstage areas around the country. Pete also played drums and a multitude of other instruments, as well as pulling all the tracks together and mixing them at Pear Studios.
“This album was put together a little different from the last two EP’s we’ve put out, in that we actually did get into a room together on a number of occasions,” says Pete. “Usually the guys just email me their performances and I wrangle them into a final organism. But this time, we headed to Todd’s place, set up a small PA and played. We had some half written ideas that we finished and wrote some things from scratch. We also had some completed songs that we arranged together as a band. Once we had some good structures for the songs, we each did some homework.”
For Pete (and Bec) the songwriting process is different each time. He says he records ideas into his phone as they come, which can sometimes result in a lot of ‘random, nonsensical things’. “There’s often a lot of car rides, glasses of wine and long conversations where we talk about the direction songs should take,” he says. “Other times they just pour out without much chatter at all. Bec has a rawness and purity about her process that I find inspiring. She’s much less deliberately ‘crafty’ than I am and that gives us a great balance I think. I often think ofApril Sun, Rain and Still In Love when I’m writing melodies. Those songs are so inspiring and I aim to have strong hooks in our new material like that. I’m always proud to contribute to the band’s catalogue. I always pinch myself when we play Don’t Wait For Tomorrow and go straight into Rain. That’s an amazing moment for me.”
Find out more about the new album by visiting the band’s website.