James Redman, vocalist and guitar player with Perth outfit The Limbs is a thoughtful, considered human being. Talking to him, it’s evident that he thinks carefully about what he’s saying and then thinks again, winding around things, getting himself caught between his words and their meaning. Maybe he even overthinks?
Redman is on the line to talk about The Limbs latest single, Caught Me At A Bad Time. We start by bonding over a phone carrier fuck up, a disconnection and then reconnection before getting down to business. In my mind, I would have opened the interview with, “Have I caught you at a bad time (tee hee)?” Thankfully I never disclosed such a gauche thought. Have to keep your cool and street cred when talking to rock stars.
Anyway, the song, the single, the latest release. “I wrote it ages ago,” Redman says of the song. “Years ago. I guess it was just about … I was in this relationship and it didn’t work out. It’s really about hindsight, looking back on something and having a different perspective, and realising that you weren’t of a sound mind to be making a commitment.”
Built around an insistent riff that is delicate and in your face all at the same time, the song emulates the loud quiet pastiche that reflects that band that started it all for Redman, quite some years ago now.
“Smashing Pumpkins were the reason I started playing music in the first place. That was my ‘Big Bang’ moment. It was the most exciting thing that I’d ever heard. There’s just so many different sounds and feelings. They had that loud quiet thing going on, like Nirvana had, but they just took it so much further. It just exploded my brain. I was obsessed, I just listened to Siamese Dream every day, learned all the songs on guitar. That was the big one.”
And the words? Well, Redman’s take it that the song is all about hindsight and not being worthy of the relationship, but the refrain gives away something else. Maybe repeating ‘I don’t need you any more,’ is a wistful expression of the self-possession that eventually grew out of the sort of regret that can only come from a youthful first love. But maybe it’s also a big ‘fuck you’ to the first girl that broke his heart. Who knows? That’s the beauty of art, it can be about anything you want it to be and what it’s about changes as you change and grow (up).
But make no mistake, The Limbs make art and Caught Me At A Bad Time is a beautiful song. Knowing this, it’s strange to hear how Redman talks about it.
“It’s (the song) like that thing that’s just hanging around our necks. It’s been around so long, and we just want to put it out into the world finally. We still play it and we still really like it, but we were sick of just holding it in. We want people to hear it. We haven’t really done anything since 2015 or 2016. We’re just so excited to get this out and then start working on new stuff. We’ve got a lot of stuff in the works now. It’s definitely going to be a cleansing, a purification.”
Whoah! What? Does he actually like this song, or not? That’s the neat thing about Redman, he’s dialectical, he can be (at least) two different things at the same time and all of them equally true. We needed to clear the song before we could move on. We really like the song. We’ve got a lot of new stuff coming up. We’re excited about this one. What does one draw from all of that?
Turns out he really does like the song, though. “It was very strong from the minute it came out with that riff. I still feel like every time I sing it, it’s one of the songs that’s lasted. The band’s been playing it for years now and we’ve thrown out so many songs around it, but we just never threw this one out.”
Redman is an interesting song writer who has stuff in him that just has to come out. About that, he really has no choice.
“I would never choose to do this (write songs, play in a band). It freaks your parents out. You never make any money.”
Asked his obsession and the compulsion to write music, Redman pauses for a good while. “Well, I did get obsessed. I know people who are much more nonchalant about the whole idea of creating music, like it’s something they’ve just picked up.” At this point, Redman pauses again, and takes a different, maybe more considered tack, “I think everyone approaches music in a different way,” then switches back, “But, for me, I just became obsessed. I would wake up and play guitar for eight hours a day and I’d be writing songs every day. I’d force myself to write songs and I’d just be banging my head against the window going, ‘I can’t do this!’”
Turns out that he can do it, and The Limbs’ latest single is sonic proof of that. And one more, thing. Redman talks quite a bit about his influences, Smashing Pumpkins, Blur … well you can read about them on the band’s Facebook page, but he distils it down to this singularity: “Longevity is really rare in this industry. There are so few acts that can keep producing good music over decades and are still really interesting to listen to. That’s something that I’ve always aspired to.”
The Limbs have been knocking around for a good while now, first as a three piece, now as a four piece. They already have a bit of longevity in them and, if the new stuff is anywhere near as good as the current old stuff, they’ve got plenty more longevity left in them.
Nothing wrong with having aspirations when you’ve got the goods to back them up.
The Limbs will launch Caught Me At A Bad Time at the Sewing Room on Friday 3 August with support from Moth, Joys and Big Orange. More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/2124319337849233/
The Limbs also will release their sophomore EP towards the end of 2018, a 6-track recorded at Debaser Studios with Andy Lawson.