Music / Features
Track by Track:
Immigrant Union - Judas
Words by Francis Tait
Thursday 18th June, 2020
Judas, the new album from Melbourne long-timers Immigrant Union is a rollercoastering collection of folk infused psychedelia that certainly won’t betray your high expectations of the band.

Before its much anticipated release on Friday, we’ve been granted early access to Immigrant Union’s third album and songwriter/singer duo Bob Harrow and Brent DeBoer have dropped by to take you through each of the album’s eleven tracks while you’re here.
Built around the songwriting of Bob Harrow and Brent DeBoer, Immigrant Union have become a mainstay of Melbourne’s world-class psych underground for the previous decade and with tomorrow’s release of their newest effort Judas, don’t seem to have any intention of leaving as we enter the next one.

Kicking things off with the over-seven-minute, completely engulfing slowburner ‘The Ballad Of Bill Hicks’, Judas gets moving with the sort of urgency I’ve been approaching life with through iso (not heaps) and sets the scene beautifully for the next 40 or so minutes of risk-taking, twangy psychedelia.

Follow up ‘Ahmed’ slinks in quickly and picks you up out the wash of feedback that track one has left you swimming in with an entrancing rhythm section groove that Bob Harrow to story-tells over the top of. Early single ‘New Win’ then continues the trip with another hypnotic, simmering arrangement circling around one of the album's poppier, more whistleable choruses. While later tracks like ‘Asbury Park’ and ‘Jewels In The Sky’ ramp up the album’s folk and country inflections, singles ‘Watch My Mouth’ and ‘Soldier Field’, as well as late album highlight ‘Awake’ serve up the sort of 60’s influenced choruses and whistleable hooks that’d find themselves right at home among a Nuggets compilation.

While Judas continues to throw curveballs for it’s fifty-ish minutes of duration, it is glued together by the endearing charm and cunning songwriting that has been the centrepiece of the Immigrant Union back catalogue since the release of The Winter EP a few days over ten years ago now.

Now that Judas has been released into the world, we had Brent and Bob from Immigrant Union talk us through what went into making each track happen.
The Ballad of Bill Hicks

Brent: I had just finished up watching a Bill Hicks stand up special. I started strumming a song with him in mind. The opening lines don’t have much to do with Bill other than when he was taking about New Kids on the Block or something and imitates shooting himself. He’s famous for his “Just a Ride” speech he would do at the end of his shows so the first line is just an excuse to be able to sing “I’ll check out the other side knowing well it’s just a ride".


Bob: I wrote 'Ahmed' sitting on a friend’s porch down at Wye River, VIC, on the great ocean road. I had just read two BBC articles about refugees trying to make their way to England and the hardships and injustices they faced once they arrived there. I was equally blown away and disturbed by both stories. Lyrically, I fused both stories together to create the song 'Ahmed'. The verses tell the story. The chorus on the other hand refers to moron westerners that treat foreigners like shit. I wrote the song around Easter time and I remember at the time some people from my home town (I love my hometown but this was so idiotic) posting the dumbest stuff on social media regarding halal Easter options and how they should be boycotted at all costs, so dumb. I thought to myself “you pricks, you’ve got it so good and this is what you choose to bitch about?” So I wrote the chorus directed at them - “Turn off your stupid mind, you’ve got a ticket to be high and when it’s all over, at least you’re allowed to die.”

New Win

Brent: This is another one of my stream of consciousness songs that kinda goes all over the place mining my thoughts for past experiences with love and loss and pairing them up and relating them to my life in the present. Past losses and new wins.

Asbury Park

Brent: We toured the states a few years ago and were in the Jersey Shore. We walked down the boardwalk and popped into a second hand shop run by a father son duo. They were eccentric to the extreme. Very interesting for sure. He was eager to show us a bathrobe he swore belonged to Bruce Springsteen. It was just on the rack with other clothes. It had a worn out price tag reading $3000. He invited us to set up in the store to play. We moved the clothing racks to the side of the tiny shop and he got a cooler full of booze and we cranked up and played live in the store. It was just the man and his son, the five of us, and an older woman who sat on the cooler snapping her fingers. She got so hammered, we ended up carrying her all the way upstairs to her apartment. Then we went back down and played a new riff of mine about 2000 times in a row and ended up calling it Asbury Park.

Not To Smart

Bob: This song is about relationships. Relationships both of a romantic and also friendship nature. I think it leans more on the friendship side of things… just when you realise some people you know are dumb asses and sometimes you’re a dumb ass yourself. It is about no one in particular and it is also about myself as well.

Watch My Mouth

This is just a fictional tale of a common occurrence where a dude befriends a beautiful woman and after a while decides he really likes her and would like to be with her. Poor bastard keeps thinking he’ll get some action but never does and has to endure her dancing a flirting with other men every time they go out together.

Jewels In The Sky

Bob: I wrote this song about a super rad ex-girlfriend of mine. It’s about how driving around together and talking shit was awesome. We didn’t need anything extravagant, mincing around was swell enough. We’re still great friends.

Soldier Field

Brent: I was on a Dandy Warhols tour a few years ago and was standing outside a massive football stadium in The States called Soldier Field. I having one of those ‘what the hell am I doing here’ moments and I remember sorta humming some notes and lyrics as I searched for where I was actually supposed to be going. Those two words hit me a little. It sounded like the name of a classic film from the 70's or something and seemed like a cool name for a song. That’s really it. I just thought it would be cool to name a song 'Soldier Field' so in order to do that, I just made the first line “and now I stand at Soldier Field” just to see where it would take me.

You Don’t Need It

Bob: My dad one night whilst we were sitting on the veranda at my folks place was telling the story of Shakelton the explorer. I remember him saying that Shakelton had his fellow expeditioners offload non-essential items in order for them to be able to navigate the incredibly harsh conditions more efficiently. Shakelton would say to them “you don’t need it.” I thought that was such as rad and loaded thing to say…

English Paradise

Brent: Like Watch My Mouth, English Paradise was another attempt to write a song about a fictional character in my mind. Up until these two songs, I only wrote about myself and my problems basically and I really wanted to see if I could write a song about somebody else. My favorite band, The Beatles would do that. Think Penny Lane or Maxwells Silver Hammer. I wanted to get away from saying I Me My all the time. So this was just a song about a dude who assumes when his girl visits England, that the reason she doesn’t want to return to him is because it’s just soo lovely there. It must be paradise. It couldn’t possibly be that she met some other man or something right?


Bob: This song was written about my partner at the time. I wrote it on the Sunshine coast, originally the whole song was just the chorus… I’d still like to record it in its original format at some point. We were staying with friends that religiously follow the teachings of some Guru Baba dude (his name escapes me right now damn it). Super beautiful home in like a rain forest. Due to the surroundings I wanted to write a chanty sounding song, George Harrison style shit. So that’s where that chorus came from. I wrote the verse’s in the studio, part of the verse is about actually writing/recording the song. I always liked how Kurt Cobain kinda did that on “On a Plain” - ”we’ll start this off without any words…”

Immigrant Union's third album Judas is out everywhere through Cheersquad Records & Tapes tomorrow, Friday 19th June, 2020.