North Arm is the project of Novocastrian, Rod Smith, a founding member of Aussie indie band Firekites who released the exceptional album, The Bowery, in 2008. Now performing under the North Arm name, Smith has stepped up the pop chops and revisited his childhood memories for his new single, Hollow Days, which Lost At E Minor is showing the video for exclusively for the first time above. [Read an exclusive interview with Rod Smith below]
The engaging video was directed by Newcastle-based filmmaker and musician, Thomas Hudson. Of the thematic inspiration for making the video, Thomas noted: ‘Hollow Days sounded to me both huge and ambitious but also lo-fi at the same time.
‘Rod spoke to me about the lyrical content focusing on making the most of our time and ourselves, so I thought the triptych idea would be great to show that small, daily details are linked to our engagement with something huge and important.
‘We had one really relaxed meeting over a beer in Rod’s backyard and he was instantly onboard with the look and feel, encouraging me not to over-think it and just have fun playing around with the concept. It was a really enjoyable and fulfilling project for me’.
We interviewed Rod Smith about the song and about recording with Aussie music legend, J Walker.
Where did the musical impetus for Hollow Days come from: do you remember the writing process well still?
Yeah, the writing process is still really clear because it was one of a couple of the most recent tracks that fell out of the LP writing process. The musical impetus for me was simply the compulsion to keep writing. I had this riff and just smashed it into ProTools with an acoustic guitar and stewed on it for a few days.
Then when I came back to it, layered it up with electronic drums, synth drones and lead guitar lines. It was all there for me to arrange.
Then the vocal melody arrived and the lyrics came to me really quickly after that. Without sounding too dramatic it was a really cathartic track for me. A real book end to this personal journey I had taken right back to my childhood with nostalgic tracks like “Quietly Lightly”.
The emphasis of “Hollow Days” is more about the learning process from the innocent to the innocence lost and the apparent time wasted in adolescence.
With this track I’m really reflecting on those times where I could have been more productive, I could have taken chances, I could have saved that money…but didn’t, I could have gone to bed earlier…but didn’t.
But it’s all part of the learning process and as hollow as those party years may sometimes feel in adulthood, they all go into the process of forming the person that you become.
It’s a much fuller sound than your Firekites material: what have you been listening to lately that goes those production juices flowing?
Wow, this is a tough one! I’m not sure that there is any one influence that can be identified off hand. I think it’s about the sounds and the feeling that started to come on in a bit of a rush after I set up my home studio and started playing around with things.
At the time I started the project, I was really taken by the Captured Tracks roster, like Wild Nothing, Memory Tapes and Diiv. I was also loving the War on Drugs and other ethereal styles of songs that had a heavily textured feeling about them. Stuff where you never know what is creating sound sources…everything blending into this cathedral of harmonic resonance.
A healthy respect for Boards of Canada informed much of the ambient elements of the North Arm material. I was also listening again to Nirvana and other artists I cherished during my teenage years, like: The Lemonheads, The Pixies. Aussie stuff like Clouds, Falling Joys and discovering new Australiana sounds (featured on that North Arm track “Careless”) all the way through to DJ Shadow “….entroducing” and “Exit Planet Dust” era Chemical Brothers.
Overall, I began to appreciate the brevity of the 90s material and wanted my songs to say what they had to say and then get the fuck out of there. So maybe the listener would just repeat that spin to feel the song again.
Paradoxically, I was also listening to “drukqs” era Aphex Twin. So make of that what you will. Ha!
In short, I was munching on a fruit salad during the making of the North Arm LP. Forging my own sound through the prism of past influences, rather than simply becoming preoccupied with one beloved genre and replicating it.
What did (Aussie songwriter and producer) J Walker bring to the equation?
Encouragement, feel, instrumentation (like strings and cool live drums) and a seemingly similar approach to song writing and production process. I discovered that we both seemed to share an approach to song writing that was more akin to discovery and improvisation, rather than technical calculation.
That’s what I love about Machine Translations. There’s something subconscious and spiritual about it. Like the songs find J. Walker and channel through him.
J. Walker also brought a keen sense of refrain and boldness to the project in equal measure that helped me really get the material over the line and fully realise the North Arm sound. He simply has the deft touch that brought the best elements out in the songs.
How much fun is it playing the new songs live?
A blast! Having Sean Roche (lead guitar), Ianto Ware (bass) and Evan Clulow (drums) in the live line up has been a real spoil.
They’re all really experienced players and have a great sensibility for the songs and how to bring the best out of them in a live context.
As a band, we all have really complimentary personalities, which is really rare and cool. Therefore, it all started coming together really quickly in the rehearsal room.
Even when we were thinking we might be gig ready, we kept working solid for weeks more before we started putting the feelers out for shows.
Sean put it best after our first show at The Brighton Up Bar with Jimmy Tait and Devotional. He described a certain ease as we stepped the stage. Like we’d really laid the ground work to put our best foot forward.
Both of the shows we’ve played recently (the Brighton Up) and also at The Heritage Hotel with Shining Bird were great fun. I have to put a solid mention in for the sound guys at those venues. They were really on the money. Therefore, we wanna play as many shows as we can in the coming months and see what comes of them.
I’ve fallen back in love being up on stage and serving a set up to a crowd. And, thankfully, thus far the reception has been really warm and that makes all the difference. So big ups to those reading this that may have seen us and dug it.