Album Walkthrough: Brisbane's Bugs break down their new album, Self Help
Their second album, Self Help, includes twelve tracks that encompass the many sides of the Brisbane favourites.
At the time they released their debut album, Brisbane-based trio Bugs were just finding their footings. Growing Up, which came out in 2016, served as an introduction to the band and their fine brand of happy-go-lucky indie-pop, welcoming ten tracks that encompass the band's early sound and the places it could go - heavier sounds, more rock-centric and guitar-based; or stripped-back and tender moments that almost take a ballad-like form included among those. They were favourites in Brisbane, but yet to really break-out elsewhere nationally, giving them a cult-like fanbase that now, three years later, resembles something more reminiscent of a small legion.
In the three years since, Bugs have grown to become something much bigger. Their 2018 Social Slump EP pushed them in new directions and captured new fans in the process, while a stream of singles bookmarked by the same year's Sweetener only deepened this further; their sound taking on new forms and new energies as they refine their songwriting craft and focus on what's next - something that shined time and time again with the singles they released through this year, and capped with the release of their second album Self Help, 12 tracks that really bring this all together in a tight, concise format.
With the lessons learned from their debut album behind them, Self Help is Bugs at their most authentic and clear-cut to-date, introducing themselves - again - as a band who should really be amongst your favourites. It's 12 tracks that encompass the many sides of the multi-faceted group, contrasting their light and happy sound with moments more darker and vulnerable, diving into themselves introspectively and exposing a new side of the group as they deliver their work with that charmful sway that's come to form their signature sound.
"We’ve poured a lot of our hearts into this labour of love and are quite proud of what we’ve achieved together," says frontman Connor Brooker on the album, which was entirely recorded, mixed and produced by the band themselves at Brisbane's Bedlam Records. "It explores a range of themes in a relatively introspective manner. The songs are intimately connected to personal experiences, but we wanted the core principal of the record to be relatable across a broad demographic of people."
"A recurring rhetoric of self-questioning chaos, the album serves as a track by track reminder that analysing the way your actions affect the world around you can lead to profound growth," he continues. "Feeling the spectrum of emotions associated with this process is necessary to truly benefit from it and adds to the highs & lows narrative style of our writing."
Throughout October into November, the group will support Australian heroes Grinspoon on their national tour run, before doing headline shows of their own this November and December - more information on all the dates HERE. In the meantime, however, dive into Bugs' new album Self Help below, with a track by track walkthrough featuring the band themselves walking us through the album's themes and creation, one song at a time.
We wanted to get an acoustic guitar on the record quite badly so when this song was recorded it made sense to have as an introduction to the journey we wanted to take people on. I love it when something eases you into a record and this song picks up the pace nicely to set the tone after a gentle hug to begin. It’s about leaning on your friends and the mental to-and-fro that can be so confusing when trying to help a pal with mental illness. I want people to reflect on all the good they have in their life when they listen to this song, I wanted it to feel uplifting and supportive. The crazy thing to me is that we nearly left it off, it was originally in the bin pile but was saved at the last minute by adding the acoustic part.
I love how the first track transitions into this fun one, it’s a pretty simple pop number about not sweating the small stuff even when you feel inadequate. It’s easy to mull over small issues but that only makes them grow into something bigger, pretty simple stuff but it’s just a lighthearted reminder to have a laugh at yourself every now and again. I am a chronic kook, I spill stuff, I trip over, I stumble with my words a lot - totally wasn’t gifted with much co-ordination. My theory is that it’s due to my lanky frame, takes longer for signals to get from my brain to limbs..? Either way, there is a really funny percussive rim-shot on the drums we used in the second verse and every time I hear the song I picture Brock in this hilarious squat position he had to lock in to in order to nail playing the part. Kinda looked like he was doing a poo. Love it.
Heart on Your Sleeve
This is both Brock and I’s favourite song on the whole record, it just flows really effortlessly and each part feels like it very much belongs to the song. These mellow verses explode into a huge, melodic rich chorus with a killer backing vocal (inspired by a Spice Girls song lololol). It’s really odd because in writing we actually jammed this song together from two parts that didn’t work in their respective songs - a bit of work to have it make sense again but once it did I am really glad we persisted. It’s a song about processing a break-up, pretty simple stuff that most people can relate to. The vocal part conveys a tonne of emotion so I didn’t want to oversaturate the lyrics with too much content. Simple is often better when trying to connect with people.
This song is meant to feel endearing and lighthearted - all about the modern trap of existing within an echo chamber. A lot of people find communicating with strangers challenging, scary and a waste of time as it only solidifies their belief they have very little in common. We have such a heightened complex surrounding self-importance in modern society, I feel like a lot of people would rather the comfort of their friendship circle where their opinion will only be challenged in regards to trivial conversational pieces like which cafe has better brunch or who is the most attractive contestant on The Bachelor as opposed to debate/confrontation. That mindset has it’s benefits but they are almost all based around entitlement. Insulating yourself from reality isn’t healthy, but we all do it in varying degrees. I’m not judging people for it as I am just as bad, it’s just interesting how we form little cliques w/ such specific guidelines of what is acceptable behaviour.
I fall in and out of love with this song all the time, I honestly can’t put my finger on how I feel about it. It makes me so happy but was such a slog to record. I also feel like it’s a bit too easy a pop song for my writing, I like to keep things simple with melodies a lot of the time but I just can’t help but feel lazy listening back to this. It’s still a great song and conveys the meaning I was going for quite well, a lighthearted summer crush when you’re younger, and I love how it ascends to the huuuuge chorus/outro at the end. But yeah it’s just a weird one for me, we recorded it well before a lot of the rest of the album so it might stick out a little. Maybe that’s it? Either way people who come to our shows have made me feel strong affection for playing it live - people just get so giddy singing the la-da part hahaha.
Feel It, You’re Falling
Probably a close second in terms of my favourite songs on the album, this has a really nice balance of light and shade. It carries you on a bit of a journey as well throughout, resting you down before throwing you into tumultuous chaos. The little guitar hook at the start is such a nice way to keep bringing the song back together and we only added the last bridge with the yelling after feeling like it needed a slightly more interesting structure than just V C V C. Brock had a great idea to add a little guitar part coming into the chorus that sounds like a train rolling into a station creaking its breaks - I got many a hand cramp playing that part as physically fast as possible.
I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH. The little harmony that brings the woo together sets the mood really well. It’s about working retail, getting shitty customer service, feeling the need to complain about menial things - all really stupid stuff that I have to manage on a day to day basis (I work retail). It’s meant to be fun and refreshing, even liberating with the carefree sing a long parts in the chorus (a couple of naughty words too :S). I think we can all relate the feeling of having been treated like a machine/subhuman in regards to our employment hierarchy. A lot of people carry on that crap/project their displeasure by continuing the cycle eg. Someone gets cut in front of in line for a train so thinks ‘why shouldn’t I be able to cut in’ and starts to act without empathy. Again it ties back into what I was touching on earlier with people having such little respect for strangers - even fearing them. I get it but at the end of the day, it’s making society a far more emotionally isolating place.
Something’s Bound to Go Bad
If it hadn’t been a single this probably would have been my favourite on the record (hence why it was a single hahaha) - I have probably heard and played it too many times for it to feel super exciting but it’s such a grower of a song and I am probably most proud of this one. I feel like it’s the most honest representation of our music, the most unique sounding song that we’ve done. It’s just us. I wrote it after a shitty period after someone I was seeing broke it off with me - we both knew it was inevitably coming due to the circumstances but I guess it touches on all those little build-up effects you start to passively feel and can notice were always present in hindsight. I really love the guitar hook of this one too. My pal Ben from the Hard Aches sent me a demo of a song he wrote like four years ago with a very similar riff, it’s almost like I stole the hook of the song from him without ever having heard it hahaha.
I listened to a lot of Wavves in my teens, can you tell? The album Afraid of Heights had so many huge grunge chorus moments but the songs were still primarily major chord hooks and happy themes (even if some were just dressed as happy by the melodies). I love being able to hide some more intense meaning behind a light-hearted melody. We wrote this one well before the rest of the batch as well so we’ve been playing it live in the set for ages, I still struggle to hit the huge vocal at the end. Again I feel like the hook of this song is hiding in the background woo-ee-ooo-ee part. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to front our band so I could just sing all the backing vocals as those parts are usually WAY more fun and easier to sing. It’s been really fun like teaching/coaching Brock and Jordan how to do these parts so now the live set is sounding so much more dense than ever before - they both have great pitch control and awesome voices, we are lucky.
I think this song reminds me a bit of Powderfinger, maybe I was listening to a fair bit of the Bern when I was writing it, who knows. But yeah we do a huge three-part ahh-harmony to introduce this that feels amazing to play live. We have also slid this into the live set for a few months and it just comes together really seamlessly. It’s about feeling like you don’t know what direction to throw your energy in, feeling like you’re wasting away - then taking control of the situation and arresting your slump. A lot of the time someone really does need to help themselves (no pun intended lol) as I think it’s really important to be conscious of your own ability to regulate your moods.
Don’t Want Me Back
Probably the most furious and punk-y song on the album, this one is so much fun to play live (despite how fatiguing it is, poooooor Brock haha). It’s about the angst and pain you feel in the face of rejection, and how dark that feeling can get. It explores the emotions surrounding betrayal and suppression, in the context of a relationship. Brock and Jordan particularly love this one haha, I think some of the fills Brock whipped out while we were tracking it are incredible. Plus a nice bridge that Jordan added really helps to separate the parts of the song.
In a way, this made the least sense to keep on the album but none of us wanted to part with it so eventually, it worked its way on as the last track. It’s kind of intended as an outro as opposed to a stand-alone song, our friend Tyson who mastered the record loves this one the most. I think the way we do a slow transitional fade towards the end really helps the main hook shine through towards the end and really solidifies that nuance of our writing. Repetition is a huge part of what we do, trying to reinforce an idea is essential to it taking a foothold. The lyrics are about trying to find your place amongst the rat race and how your dynamic fits in with the progression of society and your peers. I’ve written songs about feeling stuck before, but this is more about feeling like life has thrown you into a blender. I think it’s a pretty accurate way to finish the record because it’s pretty close to how we feel after the process of going through so much over the life cycle of this album. We’re all exhausted but so damn proud of what we’ve achieved together.
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