John Moyle speaks to Sydney duo Fabels as they release their brilliant third album – the shimmering, cinematic Minds.
Sydney duo Fabels’ most singular aim for their new album Minds was to make music unlike anything else around.
In that, Ben Aylward and Hiske Weijers have succeeded beyond their own expectations.
With its aural soundscapes and colours oscillating from gentle shimmers to grandiose layers of sounds as the album weaves its way through a cinematic scope of emotions and concepts, Minds sounds like God fine tuning the universe moments after the Big Bang.
Across Minds’ eight tracks, Fabels and producer Geir Brillian never lose sight of producing a complete album, never allowing it to get bogged down in overwrought production or concepts.
“Me and Hiske wanted to do something different musically and while it is not new music, it is different music,” Ben Aylward (guitar, vocals, loops) said.
“I wanted to slow it down and make it more like an old fashioned record when people used to make albums where the whole album was an entity and not just 10 individual tracks.
“We set out to achieve continuity and atmosphere where it is cresting a mood and it has a similar feel all the way through.”
Minds is Fabel’s third album, all previous albums being recorded with Brillian, and marks a maturity and refinement from the nascent ideas that Aylward and Weijers were working with back around their formation in 2010.
“The first album to me, especially getting towards the end, was superbly heavy and I thought that this was the direction Fabels were going, but making the second album we thought that the songs had grown and were more progressive and not as heavy – and with this third album there is heaps more competence in the delivery and they know what they want,” Brillian said.
“The earlier records were more confronting and pushing the dynamics a bit more, but this third album is more settled and I wanted to make it more fluid,” Aylward said.
Minds is a masterpiece of sonic layering and dynamics that owes something to Aylward’s old shoe gaze band Swirl and with more than a nod to Pink Floyd’s ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ and Led Zeppelin, but gone is any attempt to follow the conventional verse-chorus-verse structure of traditional pop music.
Instead, the songs of Minds often have their gestation in beats shaped on Weijers’ ancient Roland 505 drum machine and developed from there, sometimes as dance beats and other times not.
“Usually the drum beat is what we work out first, and when we start playing sometimes it goes in a different direction,” Weijers (bass, vocals, loops, keyboards) said.
“Then, as you play more, the song evolves, and then the singing and lyrics are thrown on top and they slowly develop and move and shape into their base,” Aylward said.
“It is a mixture of songwriting and improvisation and there are no rules as to how we do it, it’s exploring, which I really like.”
Brillian says that working with Fabels has “really built our own language and the process has always been to serve the song and map the structure to see what we can do with it”.
From the beginning Aylward, Weijers and Brillian sat down and discussed what they were trying to achieve and set out a template on how to do this.
“It is pretty much punk ethics, we create our own sounds and we are self reliant in our own creation,” Brillian said.
‘What that means is that there are not many sounds in there that you will find on other people’s records like plug-ins or software – and that helps deliver the unique voice that is Fabels.”
In the world of Fabels, the vocals get the same treatment as the instruments.
Mostly delivered by Weijers, there is little resemblance to the delivery of traditional pop vocalisation, taking in influences from French yé yé and German schlager styles, with lyrics that may be in English, Dutch, German or nonsensical sound improvisations that skip and slide and weave through the instrumentations.
“It comes from me doing a lot of improvisation when we started writing, and the first time I sang with a made up language it was to help me work out the keyboard parts and we thought that these lyrics are much more original so we stuck with this made up language,” Weijers said.
“There is one song on the album called ‘Takko’ where there are references to the times when I went to church when I was young and I loved singing the Gregorian masses.”
Weijers also contributes another important element to Fabels through her artwork, which has illustrated every release throughout their career and has become a band identifier.
An accomplished painter with many shows under her belt, for the cover image of Minds she drew on inspiration close to home.
“It’s quite organic, like this new one, and I really like the simplicity,” Weijers said.
“I have this palm tree in front of my house and I did a painting of it, it is simple and it sticks to the same idea as other Fabels art.”
Minds was recorded over a three-year period, about the same length of time as the previous two albums.
“That was the only way we could do it financially and there was no time constraint on us as we don’t have a big record company waiting for the next Fabels album,” Aylward said.
“The music that we make isn’t really that kind of pop music, so we just take our time and as long as we make something that we are really proud of then I don’t mind doing that.”
Minds is out now, available on vinyl, CD and digital through the independent label Qusp.
The official album launch (delayed due to Covid-19) featuring Fabels live in concert, supported by Dream Good, will be held at 8pm Friday, 21 January, 2022 at the Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville. For tickets ($22.50) and further info, visit bit.ly/FLR21_Fabels.
To order CD and download links, visit https://fabels.bandcamp.com
To order limited edition vinyl and for streaming links, visit https://ffm.to/fabelsminds
John Moyle is the associate editor and special writer for the Sydney Sentinel.