|THE MESS HALL|
Story by Joe Matera
According to singer songwriter and guitar player Jed Kurzel of Sydney two piece outfit The Mess Hall, his only recollection of recording their latest album — Notes From A Ceiling — is that his partner in crime drummer Cec Condon nearly set fire to the Byron Bay studio whilst having a barbecue. "Yeah he did" recalls Kurzel. "What happened was he was cooking one night outside the studio, but then he went into the control booth to listen to some track playback and forgot about the food. Suddenly the BBQ caught fire and flames started to surround the gas bottle and so we all ran! Luckily our engineer ran out and grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out. Later we found out the gas bottle had also sprung a leak too so we were very, very lucky".
The album’s songwriting process was one of spontaneity, born from the many jam sessions Kurzel and Condon performed in various rehearsal studios. "The songs were written in the rehearsal room" reveals Kurzel. "So they literally come out from nothing really. We just pressed record on a small cassette player and jammed. It took a period of about a year to finally turn those jam ideas into actual songs that ended up on this album which took us a couple weeks to record and another week to mix."
The duo also set out initially to achieve a natural sound in the studio, one that was free from too much technological cutting, pasting and enhancing. "The idea we had was to use the natural tones of the amps as the basis" says Kurzel. "And then we wanted to capture a really roomy drum sound. All the takes on the album were pretty much first takes played together live. A lot of the time we were mixing two amps — a Fender Twin and an old bass amp - together, where they’re both giving off the same performance but also were giving off different tones. I didn’t use any effect pedals on the guitar either. It was all natural sounding which came from those two amps and the two guitars I used; a Strat copy and a ’79 Tele. I bought the Tele from a second hand guitar store and was warned not to buy it because it was a piece of shit. But I heard something in it that was really good. And the fact was, it gave me the Tele sound but also this big sound as well which Teles aren’t known for."
The band also find themselves, by way of definition thrown into the same box as The White Stripes but Kurzel expresses otherwise. "When we started to do our thing there was no White Stripes around" declares Kurzel. "A lot of people I’m influenced by are a lot of old poor guys from the Mississippi who just play really honest and a dirty sort of blues. That’s where the Mess Hall come from. And we really never set out to be a two piece. It was just something that worked out that way".