Helena Pop have been a mainstay in the alt-pop / anti-folk / acoustic-led-folk-punk-adjective-core scene for a number of years. They've had a few lineup changes over the years, and now solidified, they've got some new music to share with you.
It all started in 2014, during the break up of local band Reptile Park. A young Jack Livingston started playing empty rooms at the Magpies Club about plastic bags and reasons not to join the public service. Enter local double bass player (and general music lord) Ben Drury, approaching Jack about starting something fresh. They wrote some songs together, and eventually recruited a band in Hayden on drums, Dan on keys, and Ella on guitar.
Fast forward a couple of years, a thousand songs, tours, house shows, and a bunch of new friendships, and Helena Pop remain one of Canberra's most important live bands. Their Single launch for "How to do a FOLEY break and repair yourself" was one of the best shows of the year so far, (read about it here) and the band are set to take on the rest of the country in April, (see below for dates) to showcase their new EP.
Recorded live at Infidel Studios by Louis Montgomery, across a cold winter weekend in 2017, "You Said You Loved Them" is four full tracks, separated by two interludes, for fifteen minutes solid musical goodness. I don't even want to guess how long Louis spent mixing this. There's so much going on. It's nothing, then everything at once, and yet everything has its place in the sound stage, loud,quiet, fast, slow. It's all just there in perfect harmony.
You Said you Loved Them opens with everything a Helena Pop fan hopes for. Anticipation. The first track, "Please Don't Die" has the theme set for the next 15 minutes. A quiet harmonic guitar pattern, a soft voice, backed by a quiet double bass line that goes all the way up your spine. The song swells, and builds. And builds! And, just like that, it dies, making way for all that is Jack Livingston's lyrical wizardry. There's touches of Ella's guitar in one ear, then the other, the keys are swelling. It's building again, and then BOOM, the band explodes with everything they've got, accompanied by what feels like a whole choir yelling "DONT YOU DIE ON ME"
We're thrown right into the EP.
Track two, and he first single "How to do a FOLEY break and repair yourself" is a short 1:37 long, and I've already listened to it 8 times. Jack's guitar bringing out the originals again, and 7 seconds in I'm doing my best not to clap along at my desk. The first verse speaks to me of moving house after a breakup. The second verse is moving forward, and if "wrap the stick in fabric, dip it in oil, and try not to burn your hands, coz it's really dark between the mountains, but I need to go and see The Lowlands" isn't your new favourite lyric ever, at least it's the most complex metaphor for getting your shit together and moving on that I've ever heard.
The keys sound like they're in jest, they mock the first verse, yet the entire song is positive and uplifting. and the lines "I think I’m okay alone, then I lock eyes with you. " and "more than anything, i pray the paint sticks" We've moved on to brighter days, and it feels nice.
The "N260 Bus to Prague" interlude is 8 seconds of ramblings in another language, and it's totally disconnected me with the last song, and ready for the next. It may be my ignorance, bu tI don't really care what is said, I like that I'm confused again.
"That's One Strange Love" was the first track I hear from this EP. It was a bit of a different direction at the time, but now it just fits so well in the middle of these tracks. Once again, the dynamics in this track go from 1% to 100% in a matter of seconds. It builds and swells, and then there's a fucking kazoo? Where am I? "and don't you ever forget *za za za za zaaaah zahhhh zahhh* you said you loved them" and then silence again!
Another interlude of "Timely Exit" then onto the last track.
"Rhyme of the Seasick Sailor" has been a crowd favourite in H-Pop's live shows for a while, and its 3 minutes of retrospect, resignation, and a fitting end to You Said You Loved Them. This time, Hayden's drumming stands out as a driving force, building with vocals, guitars, keys, bass and vocals until the last moments of the song.
Helena Pop are hitting the road throughout April. You can get the EP here, and check out their amazing live sets at any of their upcoming shows:
Saturday March 31 - Melbourne - The Yarra Hotel
Friday April 6 - Launceston - Club 54
Saturday April 7 - Hobart - The Brisbane Hotel
Friday April 12 - Sydney - Petersham Bowling Club
Saturday April 14 - Newcastle - Cambridge Hotel
Friday April 20 - Canberra - The Polish White Eagle Club
Photo credit: Dave McCarthy.
Here's some more stuff you should check out:
Helena Pop's Facebook.
Ella's band The Lowlands