MELBOURNE slow-core stalwarts Art Of Fighting may’ve disappeared for a little, but they never broke up.
In the 12 years since their Runaways LP, the band have led some pretty interesting lives. Frontman Ollie Browne designed award-winning video games, his brother-guitarist Miles concentrated on his law career, bassist Peggy Frew became a best-selling author, and drummer Marty Brown (no relation to Ollie and Miles) opened his own studio.
In 2012, they reconvened to record their fourth album Luna Low; a “fairly measured process” that unfolded slowly over several years, culminating with recording sessions at Brunswick’s Masonic Hall and Marty Brown’s Standalone Studios in Coburg.
While not necessarily autobiographical, Luna Low is a reflective album about “ageing and lifestyle colliding”. It’s self-reflective as well. In the band’s own words, this is “the first set of AOF songs that poke a little bit of fun at how serious the songs can seem”.
Here’s Ollie and Peggy’s track-by-track run through of the album’s 10 songs.
This is probably one of the first tunes written for the album. Right back when Marty and I were just jamming some ideas up as a duo, this one was one of them. But it’s a very voluble song, word/syllable wise, so it took me a really long time to write the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll come to the band with pretty fleshed out melodies and chord progressions, but those “locked in” melodies mean that it takes ages to write the lyrics, because they have to fit these already existing melodic passages and phrasing. It can be pretty torturous, but it’s also like a good word puzzle. I guess that’s why it took four years to write the words. Lyrically, it’s one one the few songs I’ve written about a specific someone else, even if they are fictional. I guess it’s about a friend on the periphery of self-destruction and the dangerous tendency we have to help and hurt others equally. – Ollie
This is essentially about a seasoned party animal reflecting back on some of their more regrettable behaviour. It’s about overindulging and saying and doing dumb things and regretting it, and how all of these little, harmless things that happen can build up, as you become more of a reasonable adult, into a ball of low-level anxiety that everyone thinks you’re a twat. Like all of our songs, this isn’t directly personal, but I guess it works as a kind of apology song to a partner who’s suffered for and worried for this person who went a little bit off the rails for a while. Musically, I feel like we always need to have a waltz on our albums. Having a lilting 3/4 or 6/8 number can really help things to mix things up, especially when most of your music is pretty slow and gentle. – Ollie
I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote this song – what kind of indie rock musician writes a song with chorus that swaps between 5/4 and 6/8 with each alternating bar during the chorus? It’s either idiocy, or an honest mistake. Maybe both. Needless to say it took us a long time to nail this one, and we relied heavily on a click track to achieve it. I remember Peggy cursing her way through bass takes. It’s probably fitting that it’s such a weird song compositionally, because it’s a tribute song to Miles and my dad Allan Browne, a jazz drummer, who passed away in 2014. Jazz music obviously loves tricky time signature experiments. It was a tough song to write, obviously, but I didn’t set out to write a lyric in tribute to my dad. I guess it was just a whole bunch of semi-conscious grieving and thinking that somehow wound itself into a set of lyrics that fit the song. I don’t think writing songs involves any magic or “divine intervention”. It’s mostly just hard work and banging your head against the wall, but sometimes things come out of nowhere and it feels like magic. Rest in peace, Dad, I love you. – Ollie
Right from when I started trying to write songs, I’ve always had this thing of writing about the act of writing itself. One of our first demos, ‘The Chorus Is Suffering’ – which wound up on the excellent Wonder From a Quarter Acre compilation alongside Sea Scouts, 2 Litre Dolby, The Avalanches and other awesome bands – was simply a song about how the song itself wasn’t working and was a bit shit. I guess ‘Stereo Lights’, which itself was a very difficult song to write, is one step further removed from the actual song, and more about the mood of trying to express something but just not being able to figure out how to achieve it correctly. And then, how that hopelessness is so similar to how you feel when a relationship sours. And how connected expression and relationships are. It’s also very simply about the solipsistic joy of putting on some headphones and listening to music with the lights off, probably with a bottle of wine nearby. – Ollie
Following on from the above theme, this is about a songwriter questioning whether they have anything more to write and sing about and why they ever did it in the first place. This one is probably the most autobiographical one on the album, which is pretty clear I guess. But then the person that “occupies my only memory” in the lyric is no one really and just made for a workable chorus lyric. I find it really weird when people assume that everything in a song that appears to be autobiographical is actually true and honest and the full story. For me, it’s so fucking hard to write lyrics, that what may start as being about me directly, ends up being a complete fiction just by the necessity of having to pick words that fit. And then reinventing the story of the song to make sense for the words that do work. I guess that’s why it takes me so long to write songs, and I guess, why I wrote this song complaining about it. – Ollie
There’s always at least one “rock song’ on our albums, with the irony being that a rock song for us is a power ballad for any other band. But we get the overdrive pedals out and whack the guitars a bit harder and shake out some demons on this one. Miles does some great lead work I reckon. This song is really old and has existed in various forms over many years, even pre-dating the initial jams for this album. It was the kind of song that seemed to present itself as an opportunity for a ‘single’-like song, but then when taken in that direction it all just became too obvious. So we spent a lot of time on the compositional elements of this one, shifting bits around, and finally unshackling it from any guise of being a traditional song form, where it could finally find its place as a strange kind of slow building maelstrom. Lyrically, it’s about that strange space between fulfilling and not fulfilling aspirations, and filling the resulting gap with insalubrious behaviour. – Ollie
This song started with the chorus – “Wait” and “I know it’s late” – these drawn-out sung notes and the pulsing instruments underneath, that to me has an urgency, the sense of an appeal. Then I knew I had to start somewhere lower for the verse, set up a place to brood in for a while, and to be able to lift out of. With my own songs the basslines are always really minimal – as opposed to the often more assertive and melodic ones that I contribute to Ollie’s songs. I guess this explains the feel of The Digger being a spacious one. Plenty of room for moody touches such as the long staticky sizzles of noise that were inspired by a tram ride Miles took while listening to an unfinished version of the song. As for what this song is actually about – the usual stuff, love and death, desolation, pleading. – Peggy
This fucking song. This is easily the hardest lyric I’ve ever had to struggle to unravel and make something out of. I was obsessed with ‘King Kunta’ (and Kendrick in general) and while I’d never be the person to say, “Hey, this is my rap song,” – it’s not a rap song obviously – I can’t deny I intentionally wanted to write a song that featured a kind of fast flowing phrasing. I’m always singing such long notes and I wanted to try a more staccato type thing. But in the end it just made the lyrics really hard to write. I have huge respect for rappers and jazz singers who can write so many words per song and make them flow so well and be so memorable and quotable. I don’t really know what this song is about, aside from about being scared of love, so here’s what the press release says: “‘Your Love” – when what your fear the most in the world is the inability to contain and rationalise your love for someone.” – Ollie
This one is pretty personal. I was in San Francisco at a video games conference (until recently my day job was the director and designer/artist at a computer games company). I’d been at this Sony event and probably had one too many free drinks, and while my partners in the company were all there, they were much more in that scene than I was, so I just felt like a bit of an alien. Anyway, I left the event at some point and was semi-drunkenly running for a cab and tripped a curb and hit the pavement pretty hard. It was one of those moments where you come to – I didn’t pass out, but I was discombobulated – and you’re like, “What the fuck just happened?” I sat up on the sidewalk and thought, “You’re 41 years old, what are you doing? What have I ever been doing? I am a singer in a band? Am I a video game designer? Why did I drink a bit too much and trip over?” I guess it was as close as it comes to me as a wake up call that I should at least decide to be something and stick to it. – Ollie
Quite a few heavy things have happened to me over the last few years, my dad dying, and more recently Miles and my sister losing her battle with cancer at a really young age. It’s been a pretty harrowing ride. That said, my own family has grown and I have incredible twin two year olds and an awesome wife who is kicking arse. No one’s a stranger to life’s way of dishing you good and bad in no particular order, and with little sense to be made of it. ‘Luna Low’ is a song for late at night, reflecting on how you should feel lucky and fortunate, but that at the edges of everything there’s a disquiet, a dull and relentless rumble of grief. And about how you try and fill this emptiness with tangible things, but knowing that’s never going to fill it. This is one of the songs on the album that we didn’t set some kind vague target for the overall length. If it had gone for 18 minutes, we would have let it. Probably lucky it didn’t need to. In AOF we always try to end the album with a song that kind of encapsulates all of the combined emotions of all the other songs, and kind of bookend it. And from that perspective, ‘Luna Low’ was written for that purpose, and I hope it does the trick. – Ollie