Holed up in a cabin in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains for almost two months, Ernest Ellis wrote most of what is his debut album. The album is called ‘Hunting’, a title reflective of the process, themes and environment faced whilst making this record.
“It was a tough period in my life for a bunch of reasons and I wanted to go up there and write some songs. That was all I really felt like doing at the time. As it turned out it was the right time for writing a record anyway.” says Ernest.
A prolific writer, Ernest Ellis draws inspiration from characters that range from David Lynch to Larry David, as well as being an avid reader of both classic and modern literature. All of these elements seemingly shine through in his music, which covers truly expansive territory. Perhaps where Ellis is most expansive however is lyrically. Ellis’ lyrics are often challenging and at times confronting but they are voiced in such a way that you swallow them with pleasure and believe that maybe everything is all ok.
“ I always loved that about music, you know the way it can really be talking about how horrible depression is or something like that, but it can give it to you with such a pop sensibility that you could a lot of the time be singing something like, ‘how much is that little doggy in the window’. I wanted to make a record like that in some ways”.
After writing the bulk of the material in the rustic surrounds of the Blue Mountains, Ernest Ellis teamed up with co-producer Tim Carr to take the recording process out of the studio and into the open air. The pair along with Ernest’s drummer Mat Gardner and Bassist Ben Morgan headed out to the sprawling 500 acres of farm property owned by Tim’s Dad just outside of Orange and set up in the farmhouse and large warehouse.
“It was a really sparse landscape, the kind of landscape that I guess inspired the artwork for the album, reminiscent of films like ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’. We got some really great sounds where we were recording. I think that landscape, more than anything, contributed to the feel of the record – it just had a kind of sprawl and calm to it that I wasn’t used to and I really liked”.
This removal created a feeling of air and space amongst the recordings, allowing Ellis to experiment not only with the songs but also with the methods of recording them. Most of the vocals were recorded lying in a bathtub, “partly out of stubbornness because I was in a mood, and partly because I like the natural reverb of that bathroom”. The drums for ‘Heading For The Cold’ were partially recorded outdoors which provides that unique sense of space, usually so elusive in a studio environment.
“We really didn’t want to be limited with what we could do and how we could record, and that’s largely why we avoided studios when we could. You feel like you should be more adventurous in using different elements of the space and incorporate it more. That’s why we recorded in the tub and why we thought it could sound interesting to record some of the drums outside. Both of those ideas sounded great, needless to say though that some ideas work in that situation and others really don’t.”
That is not to say that Ellis abandoned the studio all together. Having laid down the basis of the record, they returned to Studio 301 to put the finishing touches on the album.
The album crosses various terrains from anthemic and dramatic guitar fueled tracks (Loveless, Want For Anything) to pastoral acoustic moments (Valley Song) to lilting and ear catching pop (Heading For The Cold, Bad Blood). It’s a bold and ambitious collection of songs that showcases a writer of great talent and at times a challenging vision.
The final result is a wide open, cohesive, and infectious album.
Ernest Ellis’ debut album ‘Hunting’ is out now.