Should the quintessential music quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcock's ever need a fill in team captain, Timothy Nelson would reign supreme. Not only is his love of UK music palpable, "I could talk about Britpop for ages, especially Pulp, I love Pulp," but his deft wit would stand him in good stead too. Frontman of Timothy Nelson & The Infidels, the band have just wrapped up their 'Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It' East Coast tour and are back in Perth for a gig this Saturday 6 December in Fremantle.
After a break over the festive season, the band will play two shows in WA, Friday 9 January in Margaret River, and Saturday 10 January in Albany. Nelson will then head back to Melbourne sans band and perform a solo tour from Friday 16 – Saturday 31 January in various locations. It's no excuse for Melburnians not to catch the talented musician, whose track 'Cocoa Jackson' was surprisingly named after a laneway off Lygon Street. "I was staying at a friends apartment, it was above a pub that backed onto a lane in Carlton, I got locked out of there one day and he was at work, so I had a lot of time on my hands!" Thus the song was born.
Interestingly Cocoa Jackson first incarnated in another musicians repertoire. Namely George Harrison, and there's no doubt music aficionados will recognize the familiar tune of 'My Sweet Lord.' 'We stole that whole middle section from that song, from the Hallelujah, and the 'higher, higher'. It is a song about falling in love with a nun and I just put that in there! Joel [Quartermain from Eskimo Joe] was like you gotta do that, keep that in, it makes sense, trying to get a nun away from a Convent. The rest of the song has that kind of T-Rex 'Get It On, 'Get Back' by The Beatles ... that is our biggest throwback tune on the record."
The song is a significant marker, as the track alone "is the biggest reference to where we were in between the two albums. There were other tunes that didn't make it onto the record, or got totally changed." Nelson explains it showcases his beatboxing and there's saxophone elements as well, "it kind of sounds like Spoon crossed with The Pixies, it used to sound more Supertramp and ELO. We went through a lot of tunes like that."
The change in styles from the first album has been acknowledged by the Perth music scene and rewarded with not one, but five WAMI's this year, taking out: Best Album, Best Pop Act, Best Male Vocalist (Timothy Nelson), Best Guitarist (Luke Dux) and Best Keys/Synth artist (Timothy Nelson). As he pragmatically details, the road was 'a lot of hard work. By the time we were finished, we were really proud of it.' In order to create the album, the band raised $10K from a Pozible campaign. He confirms it was a good feeling, 'we realised it wasn't just our parents! You are supposed to make music not caring what other people think, but when you know, it does feel better.'
He admits that while the WAMI's 'look good on paper, we weren't there for half of it anyway.' The awards were split into two sections, 'so that the vocalist, guitarist, keys ['craft'] were down the road, and [they] had that while we were sound checking. Later in the night, people were shaking our hands and congratulating us.' Nelson reveals, 'that is how we found out. Luke turned up for sound check late and said "oh yeah, I won best guitarist."' Laughing he adds, 'to them [WAMI's] we just didn't turn up!
Nelson describes that in the early days minus WAMI awards, 'it used to be that I would write, and then the band would play.' The band started as an extension of him playing solo. "Between the first record and this one we changed a lot, I wanted to be more collaborative. [I wanted] to be with the band and sound like a BAND, rather than a guy with a band." Pausing he offers, 'and y'know, it is about trust as well, you have to utilise their talent.' He believes it's about one thing, 'I just really enjoy working with other people who are awesome, and feeding off their awesomeness!' When asked how exactly the collaborative process works between six members, he shares 'ultimately, I have the final say, but I am pretty good – I can get on board. When ideas get shut down you just gotta suck it up.'
Working with Joel Quartermain to produce the record has proven to be a trump card, with both musicians acting as much needed sounding boards, 'you've gotta be able to let go of some things, and fight for some things as well.' Quartermain originally hails from Melbourne, and is now based in Perth. 'That would make sense. It would make sense why he roots for Melbourne!' laughingly admitting he doesn't share the passion, "I managed to get away with having a total disinterest in sport. It is pretty good, makes it a lot easier to get a drink on Grand Final." Coming back to the notion of compromise in songwriting, he reflects and adds, "I mean if you were working with someone that you always disagree on, you just wouldn't work with them. As much as it can be a nightmare, I keep saying it is a nightmare, but it's not. It can be awesome."
While the band released their first album 'I Know This Now' in 2011, they've all been kicking around much longer than this, 'yeah, we had to practice!' he explains. The band started towards 2007, "in our last year of high school. I went to Willetton High School, Brad [Forest], Peter [Forgus] and I went to high school together and Peter and I had a band called The Cartridges. We were playing pubs in Perth." Luke Dux, Joe (Jozef) Grech and Hayley-Jane Ayres followed down the track and, "the line up has evolved over time." All members of The Infidels are talented singers and multi-instrumentalists in the their own right, playing in a cohort of other bands and projects.
With this in mind, how do they keep on top of it all and still deliver high-quality albums like 'Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It'? Laughing he advises, "it's one great big nightmare, 'cause people's inability to use a Google calendar … It can be a bit nightmarish, the organisational side of things, but we are used to that." There's a simple philosophy on how they make this work, by drawing inspiration from each other. "You just get the itch. I mean, it takes a few members in the band to be busy enough to make you think, … "if you're doing it, I'll do it too."'
The songwriting process itself operates as one-on-one with both Quartermain and Dale Shearsmith (who Nelson wrote All the People with). 'It just flows, and it is a lot easier when it is just two people in a room, and easier when it's myself.' He explains with six people in a room, it helps to know 'what the end result is going to be, and knowing you've got talented people.' He says the trick is, 'you just listen to everyone's ideas. It takes a bit longer, but you give everyone a go. If someone mentions "What if we try this riff?" You try the riff, you roll with it.'
The process for the track Marylou happened more organically. "I had this idea for a song, we jammed it, and we had this sort of half-assed idea of a song, a riff and a chorus.' Nelson explains he brought it in on his phone. 'We were going to do 'Out of my Mind' which was on the record. Then I played the demo, which was on my phone and he [Quartermain], was like "yeah, you should do that song." I was like, "it is not finished yet" and he was like, "finish it."
The band spent three days working on the tune with Quartermain. He remembers it being amusing, 'it was a new experience for us, everyone was a bit panicked and fighting for the intercom, "Try this! Try this!"'. It was a 'race to get a great song done by the end of the session.' The advantage for the band was not having to write it in a 'noisy rehearsal, but in a studio where you could kind of sit back and see how it all comes together.' The end result speaks for itself. 'When we did that, we had this tune that didn't sound like anything in our repertoire, but it sounded like we needed to make that record.' From there they decided to emulate that experience for every song, and 'explore ideas, not just record.'
Taking time to invest into the song creation is a big part of Nelson's DNA, and indicative of his rich musical influences and desire to experiment. Much like one of his favourite bands Oasis, whose exploration of ideas also proved to be nothing less than a ground-breaking formula for the British legends. "Oasis managed to stay away from Britpop people successfully, and that is how they kind of came out on top at the end." UK music is a staple for Nelson, whose mum and family are English. 'I grew up listening to 60's stuff, [I was] brought up with it. It went beyond music ... watching Morecambe and Wise, and English variety shows. Mum had old tapes that she brought over and we used to watch that.' On the topic of classic 90's sound, he animatedly recalls a recent find, 'you should check out a band called The Creases. They sound like a cross between The Libertines and Jesus & Mary Chain. They are awesome. A friend told me to check them out, they sound like Oasis. Y'know it is a rare moment, when you check out new music!'
It's not often that Nelson delves into emerging music, and there's a poignant philosophy behind why. 'I think ultimately human beings are wired to just not want to listen to new music. I am a creature of comfort, when I put on music to drive, I am not looking for the next exciting thing, I just want to listen to Oasis or Teenage Fanclub.' He nods in agreement at those who play Stone Roses first album on repeat, 'I totally get that.'
Being an independent artist, he understands 'it is a lot of work to get people to hear your band. Friends of mine are always telling me about new bands they've discovered on forums or Spotify and occasionally I do that.' After a minute he confesses, 'I actually don't do that, [it] takes me ages to give a band a chance! I think you put on music because you want to feel a certain way and you don't want to risk putting something on that doesn't do it. I know how it is going to feel putting on Cigarettes and Alcohol off 'Definitely Maybe'.'
To portray the point, he mockingly exclaims, 'If it was like ohhh, you gotta check out this new band from Venezuela, a cross between Vampire Weekend and Pavarotti. I would be like NO! And then they'll have three hits in two years and, eventually I'll be into them and I'll be like why didn't I get into them sooner? It is just natural.'
Timothy Nelson & The Infidels, Revolver
For punters in Melbourne keen to see Timothy Nelson live, buy him a beer and talk music, 'I'm there for about three weeks. The aim was to do a show every night for a month and then we had shows in WA to do for the first part of Jan.' He's keen to grow the Eastern audience and sees it as a good opportunity 'to go over there and spend time, as generally you spend 24 hours in a town [when touring]. Is this now what bands need to do in order to build more of a profile? Thinking for a moment, he advises, 'you are sort of in control of how you market yourself, [we] make it more about the tunes. I don't think a band like Wilco has an image, they just have a reputation. And that is kind of what we would like to do.'
TIMOTHY NELSON & THE INFIDELS TOUR DATES
SAT 6 DEC | TIMOTHY NELSON & THE INFIDELS (SUPPORTS TBC) | ODD FELLOW, FREMANTLE WA |18
FRI 9 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON & THE INFIDELS | SETTLERS TAVERN MARGARET RIVER WA | 18
SAT 10 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON & THE INFIDELS | ALBANY FESTIVAL WA | AA
FRI 16 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | WESLEY ANN VIC | 18
SAT 17 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | THE BUTTERFLY CLUB VIC | 18
SUN 18 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | THE RETREAT VIC | 18
THURS 22 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | THE DRUKEN POET VIC | 18
FRI 23 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | EXIT STRATEGY VIC | AA
SAT 24 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | THE BUTTERFLY CLUB VIC | 18
THURS 29 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | FAROUK'S OLIVE VIC |18
SAT 31 JAN | TIMOTHY NELSON SOLO | THE BUTTERFLY CLUB VIC | 18
Purchase the single: All The People Purchase the album: Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It