Hot on the heels of their acclaimed debut release, Tropical North Queensland five-piece AREA13 are back with a sophomore album – Classified – that showcases the band's songwriting nuance. With five established songwriters in the band, the creative process for AREA13 is never idle. In fact, the band started writing tracks for Classified as soon as they finished recording their 2018 debut Parachutes for Puppets. This creative outflow has been steady from the very beginning, the band had only been together for a little over two years when they released their first album, and they started writing material together from the outset. That kind of musical chemistry is impossible to force, and with each member bringing their own prolific music background it has made AREA13 a formidable force on their local live scene.
Classified gives music fans an insight into every member of the band – Rob Midgley (guitar), Julian Cliffe (drums), JP [John Paul] (acoustic guitar), Paul Southwell (bass) and Kev Boorman (guitar) – and the musical style that they bring to the band. With all the band members featuring on vocals throughout the album, it truly is an entire band effort – something that has been essential to AREA13 from the first song they wrote together and continues to hold true. "The creative process is really important to every member of the band," says bassist Paul Southwell. "We all have very diverse songwriting styles, and this helps with the distinct sound we are trying to achieve with AREA13. We experimented with a lot more sounds and recording techniques on this second album. This really added to the creativity. Some of the songs were actually written in the studio, which really stretched us creatively. The process was more organic than the first album."
AREA13 take listeners on a musical journey in Classified. The eclectic range of songs make the album a listening pleasure and is one of the reasons why the band's music has such a wide appeal. From driving guitar riffs and rock licks, to funk-driven styles and laid-back acoustic melodies, it is a release that draws on all the bands member's influences. The songs on the album delve into religion, politics, hate, love and everything in between. Listeners are uplifted and brought back down to earth – it is a heady journey and one that needs to be experienced, on repeat.
AREA13 spent months writing, re-writing, rehearsing before heading into the studios in March this year. They finished their final recording session in July, totaling up more than 100-hours in the studio to pull together the sound they envisioned for Classified. While they wrote the vast majority of the tracks before heading into the studio, some of the songs were penned during the recording process.
Guitarist Kev Boorman says the songs for the Classified album seemed to pick themselves in a way. "There were a lot of ideas floating around from all the band members and it seemed like people's ears pricked up when a good idea was thrown into the pot," he says. "If it got a good reaction, we tried to take it further and polish it a little. There were obviously some songs that didn't appear until later in the process, but we worked around our timing constraints and came out the other end with something we're very proud of. There was probably a little less collaboration as far as songwriting was actually concerned, and more emphasis was placed on the arrangement of the songs. For most of the songs, we recorded a number of different demos and then went down the path of making it work for the band." Once again, the band recorded with revered producer Nigel Pegrum at Pegasus Studios in Cairns. The rapport AREA13
had already built with Nigel made him an obvious choice, and one that they are not disappointed with. The album is first-class quality. "Nigel pushes us on every level to get the best out of us," says Paul. "While at the time this can be both a painful and a frustrating experience, the end product is well worth it. Add to this Nigel's state-of-the-art production, and you get a genuinely inspiring assortment of songs worth listening to over and over again."
AREA13's sophomore album Classified is independently released on Tuesday 1st October 2019.
For more information, please visit www.area13.org
Question: How would you describe your music?
Paul Southwell: A rich tapestry of styles that includes a pinch of country, a hint of rock, a spoonful of pop with some funky rhythms thrown in to make a cracking musical backdrop to which we add our unique 5 piece vocal harmonies.
Question: Can you tell us about Classified?
Paul Southwell: Classified was a journey for us. It includes songs from all 5 band members. It has melodies, rock, pop and funk mixed with classic rock n roll with some mellow tunes thrown in. The listener is taken on a journey to the magical place of AREA13.
Question: What motivates you most when writing music?
Paul Southwell: We write to satisfy our own creativity. We like to experiment and sometimes break the rules. We like to write about things that we have strong feelings about. We need to connect and relate to the songs truthfully and emotionally.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Paul Southwell: We love performing live as basically we are all showmen but we are also very proud of what we've achieved in the studio, too. Watching people enjoy something what you've created is a great buzz.
Question: Which is your favourite song to perform live and why?
Paul Southwell: We enjoy playing all our original songs. They are all special in their different ways. Current favourites are Grinding my Teeth, Stepping Stone and Indian Giver. They have got great little riffs with a catchy chorus with soaring five part vocal harmonies.
Question: If you could have anyone, in the world, attend a show, who would it be?
Paul Southwell: We welcome anyone to our shows and feel really honoured and grateful that people attend. However, it would be nice to see Elton, Keith Urban or the guys from Midnight Oil bopping away in the corner.
Question: What is the story behind the band name?
Paul Southwell: We were originally called 13th Floor but found there was another band with the same name so we decided to change before we put out our first album Parachutes for Puppets. The name was one of many put forward but garnered the most votes. We liked the continuity element with the 13 and thought it conjured up images of the unknown.
Question: How did the band come together?
Paul Southwell: Paul, Kev and Julian were already playing together as a three piece called Timeslider. Paul also played with a band called 13th Floor , they had lost their singer and drummer and had some gigs booked so Paul asked Kev and Julian to fill for a few gigs, they went really well and we've been together ever since!
Question: Which music/artists are you currently listening to?
Paul Southwell: Right now we are listening to a range of music including Allen Ginsberg from the Hottest 100 Volume 4, Porcupine Tree, Liquid Tension Experiment and Gavin Harrison.
Question: What or who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Paul Southwell: Ever since we were in primary school we have all wanted to be performers. We have been inspired by all the great musicians from the last few decades. Julian (drums) has been influenced by his older brother who is a very successful multi-instrumentalist session player and producer who has shared the stage and studio with many of the world's greats. Robs grandfather payed in an Irish band and he was an inspiration. Of course we all need to thank our parents who helped make it happen.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Paul Southwell: For Julian that has recently changed as the person he had most wanted to collaborate with is playing on Classified, his brother Marcus. We also got to play live together recently, the first time in many years, something I thought would never happen being as he lives in London and me in Cairns. So now that position has been taken it would have to be probably Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page their guitar work is awe inspiring.
Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
Paul Southwell: The hardest thing is to keep a band together long enough to the point where you are a tight cohesive unit, having five creative people with strong personalities in a band can be very difficult with all the opinions and idiosyncrasies, it's like having a marriage with five people involved. You have to bite your tongue sometimes and let thing go which can be really difficult to do.
Question: Can you share your socials?
Paul Southwell: www.area13.org
Interview by Brooke Hunter