Track by Track:
Mailman - Rooms of the Red Castle
Words by James Lynch
Friday 10th June, 2022
Following the release of his striking debut album Rooms of the Red Castle last month, we got in touch with Mailman to delve into each track that makes up this stunning collection of arty and shapeshifting alternative-folk.
Mailman, the solo endeavour from Melbourne multi-instrumentalist Lachlan Reynolds, seems to defy most assumptions. With zero context, the project’s name seems befitting for a DIY post-punk band, but on his 2020 debut EP, Lachlan quickly revealed this wouldn’t be the case, serving up a mishmash of everything from garage-rock to melancholic ballads to spoken word. On his debut album though, he zooms in even closer on this brand gloomy, down-tempo freak-folk (a style he’s now dubbed as post-rain) to make for an enthralling deep dive into his murky sonic world.

As Lachlan notes in the following track by track, there’s an ever looming influence of Nick Cave over the collection of songs on Rooms of the Red Castle, but never so much that his idiosyncratic songwriting smarts and low-key charisma can’t shine through. On tracks like ‘Leave, Love’, ‘Love Affairs with Strangers’ and ‘Waiting on You’, he plays with push and pull effortlessly, conjuring a sparse soundscape that places his husky and to-the-point vocals front and centre, his delivery often switching between sounding menacing and romantic between lines, sometimes doing so at the same time.

When he does allow the instrumentation to blossom open, he’s equally enigmatic; ‘Half-Crowned Ghost Town’ unravels into a cinematic moment of incisive art-rock and ‘Avaunce’ is similarly enchanting with its constantly swirling layers of sound. Closing track ‘A Critic’ cleverly blends both sides of Mailman’s sound together, opening as a stripped-back folk track before venturing into something else entirely, its touchstone being Lachlan’s darkly compelling storytelling ability. Perhaps this is what makes Rooms of the Red Castle so convincing - how his songs expand open like fleeting vignettes that leave us hanging on every word.

To help us dig deeper into the album, Lachlan has walked us through Rooms of the Red Castle track by track.
Intro (Red Castle)

This spoken-word track stemmed from a poem I had written when the album process began. I was unsure on its meaning or application but once the majority of this album was written it seemed to reveal its own purpose, which is setting the tone as well as outlining an image of this ‘Red Castle’ where all the songs seem to exist in their own rooms and memories. A castle on a cliff, slowly sinking into the mud, the water breaking further into and higher around the walls and windows, and a tavern where the last watch sit and drink to its rise and fall. This poem also birthed the name of the album.

Leave, Leave

The first song I ever wrote on piano. Written during the winter of 2020, I had been constantly listening to Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree album and wanted to create a track with the same space and free-flowing narrative. Whilst it obviously falls short of this, it took on its own sound. The entire track was improvised as the recording process began. I had just recorded some piano chords before adding each instrument after, having a practice run each time before laying down one take then moving on to the next instrument. The result is random and structureless and even pointless or nonsensical but the song and these lyrics will always be a reminder of a massive step I took in my songwriting.


My “I’ve just discovered Leonard Cohen'' song. This was the first track I recorded on my 8-track reel-to-reel. I spent an afternoon writing and recording this track with a shitty ¾ nylon string I got from a warehouse in Geelong. It originally was flatter and softer than the released version, so the full credit is to Michael Vince-Moin who helped mix this song and the whole album. He saw this song in a way I couldn't, and all the processing he did, the added stereo imaging and compression and grit, made it what it is.

Love Affairs with Strangers

I wrote this after reading The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan, a short fiction novella about a couple holidaying in Europe, who became tangled in a violent and dangerous relationship with a local couple. McEwan seems to be the master of dropping the most shocking details at the end of the book, and I was so moved and stunned by it that I couldn't get the tragedy out of my head for weeks. So obviously, I had to write a song about it, about the brief tranquil moments in between the suffering, a moment of silence and peace. Therefore, wanting to make it more personal and more attuned to its influence, I called up Peggy Hills (Meraki Minds) to sing this as a sort of duet with me, to help create this really tragic and calm moment of our ‘characters’ sharing a last moment together. How romantic.

Half-Crowned Ghost Town

The lyrics in this song are some of my most personal. Whilst the verses stem from dreams about a seeping orange sky over the ocean and a banquet on the footpath outside a bug-infested bandroom, this song is sort of my critique on relationships, especially my own. Those love-hate moments you share with someone, the small details in relationships that are the foundation of your unconditional love, and those that spark an irritated, childish hate. This song is a love-hate letter to someone I hated to love and loved to hate. It was also the second single from the album but the first release of post-rain, a sort of genre/descriptive term of how my music sounds and feels, as a genre has always eluded me.

Sad Waters

The only cover on the album, this song is originally by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds off the album Your Funeral… My Trial. I decided to cover this as a sort of statement on the first album, that whole “wearing your influences on your sleeve”. The lyrics to this song speak a lot about nature and the Australian environment that was around in the regional town where Cave grew up. Being from Ballarat/regional Victoria myself, this song has always resonated with me in that way. The way he describes it is so visual, I can picture the whole event as I listen to the song and feel myself by that river.

Waiting on You

Another song that stemmed from the same time as ‘Leave, Leave’, this song is probably the most personal on the album. It’s my pathetic attempt to let go of someone I was involved with before moving to Melbourne. The whole thought process of not wanting to see other people in hopes that if you wait, you will be rewarded with another chance, thinking that if you invested yourself in anything other than this person you’d only be settling for something inferior. Writing this was a sort of desperate attempt to help myself move on, and of course to squeeze a love song out of my own misery. Lol

A Critic

This song has been difficult since I first conceived the chorus back in 2020. It’s been re-written and recorded countless times, all to my own dissatisfaction. I was recording the majority of the album at my friends house in Ballarat, and needed help writing a chorus melody for the song. I had Peggy in that day, singing another song, so I gave her the words and music, and asked her to sing it how she felt was natural. Being a brilliant singer/songwriter, she sang it in a way I hadn't conceived, and hit record instantly. The melody she came up with ended up being the take you hear her sing on the album. Without her I couldn’t have finished the song. With added help from Brendan Siebring (Snake Valley), who added drums and electric guitar, the collaboration with these two masters helped me to create the most dramatic and climactic song on the album.

Rooms of the Red Castle is out now in all the usual places.