After a mysterious two-year sojourn, Wurld Series burst back onto the student radio airwaves with their charismatic second full-album release. Songwriter and vocalist Luke Towart, and drummer Brian Feary, joined Violet French in the Garden City to figure out ‘What’s Growing?’
With lashings of overdriven guitar, some semblance of a long-forgotten folk song, and chunky bass-lines, it would seem on the surface that Wurld Series have remained true to songwriter Luke Towart’s charismatic jangly, indie-rock style. However (and despite the 15-track length), ‘What’s Growing’ proves to be a more concise and conscious offering from the Otautahi four-piece.
Towart says the album already had a foundation of old songs that included outtakes from 2018’s ‘Stately and Befrothed’ “… our jam band album”, to bulk out the four or five that had been more recently written and recorded.
“It was a process of cutting the fat of the jammier songs – and using weird songs that I’ve had for ages,” he explains.
Multi-layered metaphor and word play and is not something new for Towart, or his Wurld Series fans. One notable difference here is that it’s the first time they’ve provided a lyric sheet with the record, making analysis easier, despite the near parity of vocal volume to that of the whirling over-driven guitar sound. ‘The songs… are submerged within reeling guitar, hypnotic mellotron and meditative drones,’ accurately notes the album publicity.
“Yeah, they’re better lyrics,” he wryly comments.
In a 7.1 review on Pitchfork.com, Shaad D’Souza neatly described Towart’s writing as gleeful, visual and distinct.
‘As a lyricist, many of his songs seem to focus on the ambient terrors of the platform economy, social media, and the spectre of endless work – topics that could be dull but are instead painted as compelling oddball vistas.’
“These are the things I think about. The workplace as a fantasy environment. Modern living – whether it be living! Something kind’a sinister and kind’a funny… In Nap Gate, the bog lord is just managerial types. Pricks. The guy in Pitchfork nailed that, well done to him. It’s about me trying to make the workplace more interesting through medieval metaphor and stereotype.”
The content and context of Grey Men leads, by contrast, to images of extraterrestrial visitations.
“It just came out, it doesn’t have to be aliens, it’s just grey men,” he says with strong emphasis on those last two words. “They could be grey-coloured men trying to get in your house, but that’s the name of aliens so I’ll just ride on that. It’s not the first time I’ve written about aliens and it won’t be the last! Indiana Buzzing, it’s from First Encounters of the Third Kind, it’s a headline – Indiana Buzzing.”
With Wurld Series also getting back on our stages conversation turns to the varying line ups over the years. The group is a rotating roster of who’s available at the time as Towart confirms.
“Line ups come in and out and kind’a change, and we’re more comfortable with it that way. I’m comfortable with it being everyone.”
The current ‘everyone’ includes bassist Ben Dodd, guitar-wielding Ben Woods, both of whom have other gigs as well. Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Towart wryly says that he only plays in Wurld Series.
“And I play guitar in Violet French and The Horrible. What have you got on, Brian? Fuck all, eh?”
Responding with hearty laughter, drummer Brian Feary casually mentions that he is producing. Feary’s production work currently covers the recording, mixing and mastering of several other Christchurch groups; Nervous Jerk, PGX and Best Bets – as well as being the central force behind Melted Ice Cream, which he himself describes as a means to an end.
Towart offers up the rationale that Melted Ice Cream is not only a label, but is a collective.
“If you’re doing a record you’re gonna be pretty involved in helping it out – a floating staff of who’s involved with a release. It’s a co-op… [to Feary] You’re like the warden!”
“I’m the kind of guy who needs a project, but I can bite off more than I can chew and I’m constantly battling. Mostly because I’m not a professional music producer, and the amount of time I can spend is dictated by how much time I have. I guess that means I wish I had more spare time… Plus my standards are getting ever higher, which is not amazing for productivity.”
Feary briefly recounts the history of Melted Ice Cream.
“We started as a bootleg label, and I don’t know why it says 2011 on the logo, but the first release was certainly 2012.
“… I recorded Nervous Jerk on a Tascam four-track, it’s still dear to my heart. I like to run things through old desks. The big limitation of four-track is having to rewind, and you lose quality, so to combat that I used an old mixing desk, to get a bit of the analogue sound.”
Towart prompts that he has begun playing around with productions techniques, specifically using fidelity as a production tool.
“That’s the beautiful thing about modern recording techniques, the history of recorded music, you can pick and choose what you want to do. Moaning Future Times [for instance] is pretty unadulterated. I left it raw because I thought it was contrast.”
Perhaps that explains the album title. The juxtaposition between high and low fidelity is what sets ‘What’s Growing’ apart from its predecessors, but also what cements it as a part of the Melted Ice Cream back catalogue – as Feary footnotes.
“I think I’ve come to realise what made my recordings sound (amateur)… I think I know what makes an amateur-sounding recording. I’m not completely sure how to not make it amateur; I’m constantly improving. But I still like the sound of an amateur recording and still hope to be considered amateur.”
‘What’s Growing’ has not only been released digitally but is also available in either green or black vinyl, with a cassette option too. Luke enthuses about the joys of co-releasing the album overseas.
“Co-releasing is awesome, and bandcamp helps heaps. There’s different territories, it’s all geo-located and you get really good distribution if you have a few labels – they do USA and Europe.”
The band has found a comfortable agreement with Meritorio Records in Spain, as well as the closer-to-home Obsorne Again, based in Melbourne. Both praise Nick Kearton of Osborne Again, for facilitating their arrangement with Meritorio which has itself led to much online praise, Brian noting that many Spanish and Italian blogs have written about Wurld Series.
“I think Spain and Italy love jangly music,” Towart offers, adding that having the vinyl copies available also contributed.
It likely also led to that glowing Pitchfork review which they are clearly still on a high from, and clearly hadn’t anticipated. Brian admitting that
“They just fucking found it!” Feary admits. “But if there was no US distribution, there would’ve been no chance of us getting the review.”
Both mention that the positive international reviews and features gained for this release have led to a more welcoming response in NZ, noting that they’ve been congratulated on this album and its successes, unlike with previous releases.
‘What’s Growing’ features the band’s most accomplished output so far and represents a frontwards leap into studio-fidelity, as the bandcamp bio describes. And about the album’s 15-track length. Well all but two are sub-three minute in duration, several around the one-minute flat mark, meaning that overall listening pleasure is just under 30 minutes.