It’s been six years since Sydney songwriter Dave Favours released his solo album Wet Suburban Sunday, but he’s spent those years building up the roster on his label Stanley Records, releasing the Australian alt-country compilation Take Me To Town and honing the sound of his band The Roadside Ashes. Having a solid group of great players has paid dividends on his new album Not Your Average Country Band, with Favours’ rock ’n’ roll and punk flavoured country songs about the trials and tribulations of modern living sounding a lot more evocative and worn-in – like a good pair of Cuban heels on city sidewalks.
In this Q&A, Favours takes us inside the album’s writing and recording process, his musical influences and the challenges and rewards of running an independent record label.
Given that this album has been ready for release for a year now, how are you feeling about it finally seeing the light of day on April 3rd?
I guess I’m relieved that people will be able to hear it and hopefully enjoy it, or at the very least be surprised by it. Looking back on when I wrote and recorded that album, things have changed so much in my life in such a short period of time since then. An album really is like a photo album from a certain period and it’s great to share it around, so we’re really looking forward to taking it on the road.
After Wet Suburban Sunday, were there different things you wanted to try on this album?
There was no conscious decision to do anything differently. When I made that first solo album, I was trying to work out who I was, as I had just left a band where I was a songwriter but not the singer. I guess you could say, it wasn’t a comfortable experience for me and I was trying too hard. These days, I just let whatever comes out, come out and I’m quite comfortable with it. Having a full-time band to share the load naturally allows you to try different things.
This is the first album you’ve recorded with your band The Roadside Ashes. What did they bring to the songs – from your original composition through to the final recordings?
The first thing they brought was beer (so was the second, third and fourth). The guys are very like-minded. When I bring in a song, it’s kind of like, “this is how it goes. Also, we’re playing it this weekend.” We tend to work things out on stage. By the time we get to recording, we normally have half a clue as to what they should sound like and it sounds like us. I mostly let them do what they want to do. This is not a solo project, it’s a band.
Michael Carpenter produced engineered and mastered the album. What were some of the key things he brought to the recording process?
Carpo is such an important part of this album. He allowed us to enjoy the process because we knew he had our backs. We are a lot looser (both musically and personally) than a lot of the classier acts that he tends to work with, but he gets where we’re coming from and helps us improve what we do, without trying to change it. We trust Michael and that’s most of the battle won. He’s a top fella as well.
The album title Not Your Average Country Band, why did you decide to call it that?
We don’t sound like any of the acts we play with. We can be a little too raucous for the country purists and a little too country for some of the more rockin’ bands, so we thought the title was perfect. It was a comment made by Michael Carpenter during recording. Our bass player had this full-blown punk rock sound happening and I sarcastically said, “that’s a nice country tone you’ve got going there, mate”. Carpo chimed in, “hey, you guys are not your average country band”.
Running a label (Stanley Records), what’s your perspective on the current state of grassroots alt-country and Australian Americana music?
It’s definitely healthy but we’re restricted by population here in Australia. There’s only a certain amount of people in each city who are into it but they’re really into it. Within those people, there are only a certain amount who will buy a physical product or even stream it. You have to tour a lot to connect with them, but I do see it growing slowly. We have world-class acts who can match it with the best of them. Look at Tracy McNeil, Andy Golledge, Georgia State Line, Ben Leece, Sean McMahon. Hell, wait until you hear Katie Brianna’s new album (shameless self-promotion for the label there). They can only help the genre grow.
There’s a strong connection with punk rock and country music and many artists who played hard and fast in their younger years are drawn to country music as they get older – was that the case for you or have you always had an affinity with country music?
I never had an affinity with country music growing up, but it was often in the background. Dad loved John Denver and Linda Ronstadt. Mum used to put the Charlie Pride Christmas album on every year and my Uncle Doug had a real thing for It’s Hard to Be Humble by Mac Davis for some reason. I think my journey towards loving country music really began when I heard bands like the Beasts of Bourbon and the Gun Club. There’s an honesty to both punk and country music that connects with me. Punk rock got me through the anger and confusion of my youth whilst country helps me get through the heartache and pain that can come with adulthood.
What are your top three punk rock records and your top three country records?
Oh wow! I’d struggle to give you a Top 50 in each category, so I’ll be crafty with my answer.
Three “punk rock” records that got me through high school are:
- Hard-Ons – Dickcheese
- Descendents – I Don’t Want to Grow Up
- X – Los Angeles
Three “country” records that continue to get me through adulthood are:
- Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
- Steve Earle – I Feel Alright
- Jason Isbell – Southeastern