FT'D: Scurvylicious - More Or Less (Single Premiere)
Written by Tom Thomas
Scurvylicious will launch their brand new single “More Or Less” on Saturday night at The Cactus Room in Thornbury. Their first release in the last two years, and their first ever single launched with a live event, the song blends alt-country, 90s American indie and a contemporary Australian rock sound to create a beautiful piece of thoughtful pop.
Starting out six years ago as a country project, Scurvylicious have since swapped the cowboy boots and acoustic guitars for glitter and fenders. However, despite the more fleshed out rock ‘n’ roll design, the twang is still evident - in this single and throughout their set. Describing the song as a product of their many and varied collective influences, it best demonstrates how the band straddles Australiana and Americana in a way that seems much more nuanced and complex than simply mashing two ideas together. And whilst they say they’ve drawn equally as much from Paul Kelly as from Townes Van Zandt, it’s the music of their friends and heroes here in Melbourne that acts as the main motivator - “our peers and contemporaries leave their imprint on us as much as anyone and we're exposed to so much quality here at home.”
As for the new song, it almost didn’t even happen at all, with the lead riff laying dormant in guitarist Paddy McGrath-Lester’s brain/bedroom for years. A few different chord progressions spent time underneath it before it eventually landed at rehearsal, and vocalist George Rowland explains that the energy was immediately evident - “It has hardly changed at all since we first locked into the groove as a band, which is unusual for our songs.”
“More Or Less” is perhaps the best example of the stylistic blend that defines Scurvylicious. It’s bright, energetic, catchy as hell, but the angst of American alternative rock is present in the meandering melody and the raw guitar tone. At the same time it captures a lot of local musical history and influence through the jangly lead riff and vocal sound. The song would not sound out of place on a Modest Mouse album any more than it would a Go Betweens one. These are just two influences of many - but they offer an example of how two completely different ideas or concepts can collide to make a Scurvylicious track.
While the energy of the song is upbeat and positive, the lyrics originated with a much more fraught interpretation of the title phrase. On the question of whether the closing hook “more or less, we’ll be unmoved” is referring to a specific object or just about indiscriminate stoicism, George offers this - “it originally started as a helpless cry of frustration for me about some personal things in my life when I wrote the lyrics. Trying different things in an attempt to change habits and things about myself that I didn't like or felt were holding me back, and not seeing any changes or progression, just being stagnant and the prospect of perpetually holding that feeling.” This certainly comes across in the vocal delivery, which is weary and nomadic despite its strong presence in the mix. Once the song was performed live though, a more positive interpretation began to evolve, even in the vocalist’s mind - “that particular lyric and the whole chorus really felt much more optimistic... it felt almost defiant in that I don't need more or less of anything to be the person I wanted to be. In that sense, overcoming obstacles is a pretty apt interpretation. But I also intended for it to be open to interpretation and hoped people would listen to it and find whatever they could in there. I feel like I've done that myself with this song, interpreted parts of it in new ways that weren't part of any original intention.”
The vocal sound on the new track is a real standout, something that the band wanted to focus on when they hit the Marthouse Records studio with Dougal Shaw late last year. “Vocals have probably taken the backseat on a lot of other older material, long instrumental songs with pockets of vocals was our go-to in the early days. But for this track we wanted to get them a little more in the forefront and for the vocal melody to really hold its place in the song alongside the lead guitar.” To achieve this they double tracked the lead and had the whole band involved in backing vocals. The result is an equally sweet and painful Elliott Smith-esque sound that captivates immediately. As for why the band chose it as the lead single from a swag of new songs, many of them fellow ear worms, it simply emerged as the song they most enjoyed playing. “When we finally got in the studio there wasn't much debate over where to start. We just like it and want others to hear it.”
And hear it they will, this Saturday night at The Cactus Room. On board in support are folk singer-songwriter Georgia Knight, alt-country groovers Foggy Notion, and Long Lunch, coming fresh off the release of their cracking EP “Tangle.” With a deep back catalogue to choose from, Scurvylicious are promising a setlist featuring the new, the old and the ancient.
And whilst more music is perpetually “around the corner,” expect another Scurvylicious single or two soon. “We're gearing up for an EP at the very least with a goal set on a full length LP in the future. You've waited this long, you might need to wait a little longer!”
In the meantime, the launch promises to be a big night of catharsis - “as a band we often look inwards and play for each other, Saturday is a rare chance to open that up and let everyone in.