Music / Premieres
Trouble Juice Exclusive:
Terrible Signal - Terrible Signal
Words and interview by James Lynch
Tuesday 7th November, 2017
Terrible Signal is the brand new project from Fremantle musician Vincent Buchanan-Simpson, and his debut solo album is a collection of jangly sunshine-pop gems that plays like a lost classic from 1980’s Australia. The self titled album comes out this Friday via Dusky Tracks and Trouble Juice has been lucky enough to get an exclusive listen before the album officially releases.
Most notable as the frontman of Hideous Sun Demon, Terrible Signal finds Vincent Buchanan-Simpson pulling a sharp U-turn. Gone are the fuzzed-out guitars and brutal riffs, and in their place are some instantly catchy melodies, bright guitar and organ combos and warm lo-fi production. Despite the severe change of direction, Terrible Signal feels as honest and authentic as ever. From the intro of opener 'Bleach Stains', as Buchanan-Simpson sings over loosely strummed chords, it’s clear we’re hearing the same guy often found yelping and screaming onstage in dark bars around Australia - yet, Terrible Signal’s sound rings with an earnestness that feels impossible to fake.

Buchanan-Simpson really hits his stride on ‘Sunny Side Of Town’, the album’s highlight and first single - it’s all sunny melodies, jangling guitars and loose slacker charm. Along with tracks like ‘Warmer Reality’ and ‘People’, Terrible Signal proves himself to be a master of the jangle-pop hit, clearly influenced by the Dunedin Sound from New Zealand in the 80s. More tender moments come across with tracks like ‘Runaway’ and album closer ‘The Things You Know’, where Buchanan-Simpson shows another side to him previously unseen, with exposed vocals and sparse yet lush instrumental sections.

Despite the generally upbeat and warm atmosphere of the album, a closer look finds Terrible Signal riddled with anxious lyrics and weary themes. Tucked beneath the facade of unassuming pop, this additional layer highlights Terrible Signal’s unique ability to make things sound both simple and clean as well as intricate and dense. To help break down the album a little more for us, we caught up with Vincent Buchanan-Simpson to talk all things Terrible Signal.
Compared to your work in Hideous Sun Demon and Kitchen People, Terrible Signal is a pretty big change of direction. Can you tell us a bit about where the project came from?

I basically wanted to try do something that was more subtle and melodic driven. Hideous is where I learned to write songs, but our process is more of a collaborative melting pot of ideas that gradually become songs over time. Terrible Signal is kind of more straightforward approach that I hadn't really done before.

It also sounds a lot more ramshackle compared to the other bands - what was the recording process like? 

Jordan Shakespeare and I recorded it, mostly in his bedroom over the course of like 5 months. It was very casual which I enjoyed. At the same time, I was trying to get a lush vibe. Most of the rhythm guitar parts were doubled on both acoustic and electric guitar. Same for most of the melodic lines, which would be played on electric, acoustic and piano, and often doubled an octave down. The songs are designed to be pretty simple, so this gave more depth in tone and frequency without it becoming obtrusive. 

The Flying Nun sound from New Zealand seems like it was a solid influence across the album, but a pretty specific one. Did you have a 'Terrible Signal sound' in mind when it came to recording the album, or did it come across naturally?

There's definitely an 80's NZ vibe throughout the whole thing. I was conscious in letting my influences be more obvious when I was writing. 'Now You've Left' is a tribute to the whole Modern Lovers/Velvet Underground proto-punk thing. 'Runaway' was me trying to write a Died Pretty song. 'The Things You Know' was meant to be kind of like an early Beach Boys song, like a melancholy, innocent vibe. There are two (brief) guitar solos on the album which were trying to invoke a Glen Campbell thing. 

You're not afraid to speak your mind in Hideous Sun Demon, and the lyrics on this album also feel as if there's some kind of message, although they're strikingly different. What's your process when it came to putting words to these tracks?

I was trying to go for something that was emotionally honest without being saccharine. There's a vulnerability to the whole thing which I think complemented that idea well.

What's next for Terrible Signal?

I'm getting close to finishing the second album, so I'll start recording that in the next couple of months. It's going to be a bit more diverse, there's definitely some more power-pop inspired stuff as I've been smashing stuff like the dB's, Game Theory, Shoes and The Records all year. 

And any plans to bring a Terrible Signal band over to this side of Australia?

We're a relatively new band so no current plans, but we'll likely be over within the next 6 months.

Have an exclusive listen to Terrible Signal above, and head to duskytracks.bandcamp.com to preorder a limited cassette before the album drops on Friday.

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