The Year 2001 saw Watching Angels Mend garner numerous accolades including Amazing hitting the No. 1 song on the Triple J Hottest 100 and selling loads of singles � Lloyd�s first platinum single!. The album also reached platinum status very quickly and is fast approaching Double Platinum in Australia. He played to his biggest Crowd yet (albeit with a broken arm) at Homebake to around 20,000 punters and hit the No. 1 single in New Zealand. The album was released in the UK and Italy in March and the US and Canada in July with the first single being �Amazing�. Watching Angels Mend was recorded over five months in London with producer Magnus Fiennes (yes, brother to actors Ralph and Joseph) and is every bit as drunk on melody and songcraft as Lloyd's solo debut, Black the Sun.
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The album was written in both Australia and the UK, in a variety of hotel rooms, a lifestyle to which the globetrotting Lloyd has spent the past few years adjusting ("My whole life lately has been hotel rooms," admits Lloyd). Through his eyes, the album is "a snapshot of the past 10 or 15 years of my life".
That shines through in such highlights as the single "Amazing", which turns two dramas in Lloyd's recent life - one personal, one professional - into something truly glorious and hopeful, and the lean guitar-and-voice closer, "Easy Exit Station". Then there's the album's wanna-take-you-higher opener, "Everybody's Laughin' ", a slowburner which features Powderfinger soulman Bernard Fanning (a long-time Lloyd friend and fan) on backing vocals. "Powderfinger were playing up the road at Shepherd's Bush Empire," Lloyd remembers. "It was cool. They used to stay with me a lot when they first came down to Sydney. They're really good guys."
Speaking of guys who are cool, enter producer Magnus Fiennes. Lloyd freely admits to having troubles with previous producers; at one point he was even tossing around the idea of self-producing Watching Angels Mend. But a single conversation with Fiennes changed that. "I had a very set idea what I wanted to make with this record," Lloyd says, looking back, "and when I first talked with Magnus Fiennes he was in total agreement. That's why it went ahead." And sure, there were disagreements. Lloyd confesses he needs "a little friction" to give his music life. But he always felt that the tugs-of-war he and Fiennes went through were honourable in their intention. "He's not precious at all; I never felt that I was arguing for some unknown reason rather than bettering the song. I felt a sense of trust. "One thing I really loved about him was that we did see eye to eye; our musical tastes were about the same. And he turned me onto Talk Talk, who I'd never heard before. They were like a '80s Radiohead." Fiennes and Lloyd also shared some laughs over toilet-mouthed rapper Lil' Kim, who became their in-car-favourite during the making of the album. And a well-connected producer like Fiennes - who's worked with Pulp and Morcheeba, amongst others - brings with him a procession of A-list players. He asked along such luminaries as Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt (best heard on "Green"), Portishead drummer Clive Deamer, pedal steel demon BJ Cole (who brought "My Friend" to vivid life), and loop-master Shawn Lee (who's all over "Everybody's Laughin' "), to flesh out Watching Angels Mend. Black Grape percussionist Ged Lynch helped out, too, on the track "Trigger". And for Lloyd, recording in London was a pop-lover's dream come true. "You can't but soak up the music history, really. You're in a place like Townhouse Studios and you have Elton John next door and the Cranberries in another room. "I remember one Friday night we were working on this song, 'My Friend', and we had Guy Pratt on bass and George Martin's son, who's also a producer, was there. Ronny Wood's daughter came in, too, and the studio had a woman who came in and gave massages; she was John Paul Jones's daughter. "London's like that; it's like living in an Absolutely Fabulous episode." And London seeps into Watching Angels Mend's tracks, even down to the message behind the title, which was inspired by Lloyd's take on the magic a little sunshine can weave on a nation raised on rain. He says that Watching Angels Mend is all about watching people come to life. "When the sun comes out in London people change dramatically," he believes. "And here in Australia it's the same when you go to something like the cinema in the park. I love watching people drinking wine and enjoying each other's company. It's as simple as that."
Track by track: EVERYBODY'S LAUGHING: "A guy called Shawn Lee did a lot of drums on the record. He has this loop CD called Shawn Lee's Planet Breaks. It's a very cool CD, he has great taste in rhythm. I got him and he came in for about three days. Bernard Fanning sang on that track. It's the same vibe as the song 'Everybody's Talkin' '; just a different title; I had the film Midnight Cowboy stuck in my head."
GREEN (3rd single): "It's two different perspectives, song-wise; the verse is an opposite feeling to the chorus. Guy Pratt played bass on this. He's a lovable ratbag. He was sitting in the studio with us - it was a vodka seabreeze kind of afternoon - and I was playing the bass. He was looking at me and I said 'you want to play it, don't you?' So I gave him the bass. He sent me a bill the next day. I was using his bass, though, which was beautiful."
TRIGGER: "That's one of the more programmed songs on the record. Ged Lynch, the drummer and percussionist from Black Grape, played on that. He had a truckload of percussion gear that he came in with; he was playing with us and Joe Strummer in the next studio. That's the funny thing with this album, everyone who played on it was awesome."
MY FRIEND: "Guy Pratt also played on this. Giles Martin (son of Beatles producer George Martin) was there. But it was BJ Cole, the pedal steel player, who brought that song to life. The drink for this song was champagne."
LOST IN THE RAIN: "That's Magnus' favourite song, he got me to do it, I wasn't too sure about it. I planned to do this massive Phil Spector/Beach Boys section in the middle; a bit of it's still in there. BJ Cole's on there as well. He's played with everyone, that guy: the Verve, REM, Beck."
SLEEP: "It's Clive Deamer on drums, from Portishead. It was a gruelling session, actually. I wanted him to play in the Ringo Starr style, he was using the Beatles' Sparkle kit. The sound we got was awesome, a big fat sound. These are some of the best lyrics I've ever written. It's a very sleepy song, it's very literal. Magnus used to crash out on the floor while I was doing a vocal, it was that sleepy."
AMAZING: "The verse is actually turning something really negative into something positive. The verse is about someone I didn't like, while the chorus isn't, it's about someone I love. I turned it into a real positive thing. It was really therapeutic. That was written in the studio in Balmain, I wrote it when I finished Black the Sun. There's a backwards string part on it that I wrote. I wanted to use an Indian string section but it was a bit out of the budget. We did get a 15-piece string section, though."
DOWNTOWN: "It's got a 'Mother's Little Helper' vibe about it; it's about letting go. Lyrically it's quite serious, melodically and rhythmically it's really happy. The video was directed by Ben Saunders; it was shot in one take. We got the puppet last night and my manager is in love with it. But it was sitting in the band room and it was freaking me out."
BUSRIDE: "Magnus didn't like it, actually. I went on tour for a month and he started a movie, so I did this with the Weatherman, one of my best mates in the whole world (aka Stuart Miller, former drummer from Sydney band Baby Sugar Loud). I had this very slow build kind of thing in my head all the time. I love it, it's a nice, chilled track."
BURN: "It's an odd one. I've been writing it for ages; it's really growing on me now. There's a girl from Denmark on it called Sissy; that Nordic girl's voice is beautiful, sweet. She also sings on 'Green', which is a real Cardigans-y thing, Scando-pop."
EASY EXIT STATION: "We started putting stuff on this but it just wasn't working. We tried accordion, harmonium, pedal steel - but every time we put something on it, it took something away from it. So we just left it. I did it really late at night by myself, I just banged it out."
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