Cameron Avery Review and Interview// Holocene 3/24
Written by Emma on April 3, 2017
Photo by Amanda Adam
RIYL: Tame Impala, Pond, Tom Waits, Alex Turner
Cameron Avery’s show at Holocene Friday night was an intimate introduction to his debut solo album, Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams. The record, released March 3rd on Anti Records, cites his personal journey, extensive experience in the music industry and the influence of old music on his entire life. Avery’s gig at Holocene was laced with chatty banter, easy charm and timeless songs made the show feel like a casual hangout, like catching up in a friend’s basement. The set featured singles “Dance With Me”, “Wasted On Fidelity” and “C’est Toi” as well as album opener “A Time and Place” and a track by The Growl, a previous version of the same band he is currently touring with.
A few days before, Cam was lovely enough to chat with me over the phone while dealing with the technical issues that go along with trying to maintain service while driving from L.A. to San Francisco.
Hey I first wanted to ask how SXSW was since I know you just came off that and you played in LA last night, right?
Yeah, yeah played in L.A. last night. SXSW was okay…it was crazy. I was exhausted by the end of it but it was fun, you know, it’s always good. It’s good practice playing that many shows in a day.
Was that your first time at SXSW?
No I did it with Pond about four years ago and I did it solo like two years later. I’ve been three times.
So you’re a pro now.
Yeah, yeah veteran SXSW.
So your album seems to have a sort of persona associated with it so I was just curious how much of that is actually you or if you have kind of a contrived persona you put together for the album or if it’s somewhere in between?
The album’s completely autobiographical. I wrote in like two and a half years and its all kind of like stuff that just happened to me. That was like sort of how I approached these songs and how sort of like approaching songwriting being as honest and telling as I can. Uncompromising sonically and lyrically, you know?
Was that difficult at all?
Sometimes at first. It’s weird listening to them back. Obviously some of them are a bit personal but you know I think the catharsis outweighed the difficulties, so you know what I mean?
Yeah it’s a different kind of release that many people don’t get to experience.
Yeah I just was brutally honest.
You’ve described this album as somewhat solitary and somewhat of a solitary project but you’ve described the Perth music scene as a whole as incestuous and I’m kind of wondering where it truly falls. Is it completely solitary or more of a group project?
I guess the Perth music scene is like broad strokes. Pond, Tame Impala, GUM, my band, The Growl, Allbrook/Avery, that’s all really essentially the same twelve people. I used to play drums for Pond but now I don’t. Now the keyboard player in my solo band plays drums for Pond. Once you build up that musical trust with someone you don’t really want to play with anyone else and that’s just kind of how it went in Perth. And because in Perth no one ever thinks you’re going to make it from Perth really so you can be like ‘Hey man, if you play in my band Tuesday I’ll play in your band Thursday.’
How did your previous experience touring and just being in the music industry influence the content of the album?
It gave me like, all the songs I wrote were pretty much on the road and that’s a reflection. That’s pretty much direct on the album. I guess there’s a bit like loneliness and things like that which come with the touring so much but like I said its all directly autobiographical. I guess that’s what being in the music industry and touring and this album is. I guess I live a different day-to-day than most other people and I really don’t get much time off.
Who had the greatest influence on the sound of the album besides you or was it mostly based off location and environment?
I guess there were a couple guys that helped me. A guitar player named Benji Lysaght. He played a bunch on the album. He played on the first song we did live together. We co-wrote that song. He played on ‘Dance With Me’. I guess I did one song with Jonathan Wilson. He was always around when I first moved to L.A. He was encouraging me. There was a drummer called Henry Kwapis, he played on a few but I played most of the instruments myself except for a few songs I had my friends play on. Like I said before it was looking very much inward, being really honest with myself musically. It was very like a personal endeavor, I guess. It wasn’t even going to be an album. It was gonna be like a Growl album and then it got so personal, you know?
Well, so since you’ve had so much experience with other projects, you’ve been nonstop for a couple years, how was this one unique? Was it because it got so personal?
I don’t know I guess I’ve grown up a little bit. I wouldn’t have made an album like this when I was eighteen. This just took a little more growing up and being more honest with myself. I guess that’s why it’s a solo album. Brutally so self indulgent. Music that I’ve grown up listening to, music that I resonate with the most, some of the themes on the album. It was definitely me looking in cause you know you just go with it when you’re younger, with whatever’s there, whatever you want to do. It took a little longer for my ambition to amalgamate into this thing, I guess, what I want to do.
That’s actually one of my other questions. If you had made an album at eighteen, how would it sound different than this one?
I mean The Growl was kind of my solo project anyway. It would have sounded a lot more like, I reckon, like The Birthday Party. Would have been a lot dirtier and trashier. I think that’s just like what I was into. I think this album is explaining myself lyrically whereas the albums when I was younger I was maybe kind of angry at the time and I just needed the noise to get the emotive content over, you know, across.
How do the artwork and the visuals you put together for the album reflect it?
They’re photos that have a very strong significance to some of the songs on the album. They’re just photos that I took. There’s one that I took about four years ago on this film camera and the other one I took a couple years ago. A few years ago. Obviously there are a lot of female characters on the album. They’re like the two female characters on the album that I was writing songs about at the time
I know it’s kind of early in your tour but what have you taken away from it so far?
It’s been fun being back. The band that I had like four years ago, we just found some pictures of us when we toured opening for Tame Impala before I was playing in the band. It’s been fun being back on the road with my old friends from Perth, probably the best thing. I got to play in L.A. last night which, even though I don’t live there anymore, is kinda like a hometown show. I had a lot of friends come out and people who worked on the album as well.
Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet or anyone that you’ve already worked with that you want to keep working with?
Well I saw Jonathan [Wilson] last night and he played on the album. He played guitar with us. I guess I’d love to do something with Wilson. It’s really not like a musical thing, well it is a musical thing but it also has to be really personal thing with me when I’m in the studio cause I produced this album myself and wrote it myself. Really the only people who helped me on the album were guests and engineers. But I think the next album, I mean I’d love to work with Wilson again. I think I’m gonna do the next album with, when I get some time, do you know James Ford? And Alex Turner’s a really good friend of mine. He said he’d love to work on an album. I mean that’s so far away but I guess if I had to pick I’d probably pick Ford and Turner just cause they’re just such good friends of mine. When you have that kind of rapport in the studio you can be blunt and honest and uncompromising in decisions. When you’re with someone you don’t know you have to kind of like tiptoe around socially and it can make things a bit hard to get it sounding how you want it.
And they’ve been making some real good stuff lately. Alexandra Savior.
Yeah, yeah she’s a good friend of mine
Yeah she’s from Portland. What are you most looking forward to in the future, either with this album or through other projects?
I think it’s fun just playing songs that I wrote. I don’t know, I get a kick out of like just doing it, you know? I guess it’s just fun playing music that I wrote. These songs have meant a lot to me for a while, for like two and a half years I’ve been writing this album so I’m just looking forward to playing shows with my friends, really. I get to do that anyway when I’m playing with like Tame Impala or whatever else I’m doing, but I’ve been really looking forward to, I don’t know, cause you grow everyday when you’re writing your own music and you’re playing it everyday. So you just get better. I’m just looking forward to like getting better and maybe going into something else. I don’t know, I guess that’s it. Like learning! I just want to learn.You learn about yourself. You learn about what turns you on and what doesn’t.
Okay so my last question is what have you been listening to lately? What do you recommend?
Yesterday I was listening to Bone Machine which is one of my favorite albums of all time by Tom Waits. I like the new Katy Perry song. What else? I listened to Timber Timbre yesterday a little bit. We’ve been driving so I’ve just been plugging in. Lots of Crowded House as well. I don’t really have a set. I haven’t been listening to anything new. My finger is about as far away from the pulse as it could be. But yeah I guess it’s sorta like Tom Waits, Katy Perry. That Leon Bridges album is really good too.