WALK­ING THE LINES

UNTIDY LINES IS THE RAW, EMO­TIVE AND POW­ER­FUL DE­BUT FROM IN­DIE-POP TRAIL­BLAZER RACHEL MARIA COX. AUS­TRALIAN GUI­TAR WADES THROUGH ITS CHAOTIC BACK­STORY.

Australian Guitar - - Feature - WORDS: MATT DO­RIA PHOTO: DAVE MCCARTHY

It be­gins in the harsh win­ter of 2016, when the Novo­cas­trian singer-song­writer dropped their se­cond EP, I Just Have A Lot Of Feel­ings. The four-track beast came at a dark time in Cox’s life: they were wrestling with the grip of a de­struc­tive eat­ing disor­der, travers­ing the cracks of bro­ken re­la­tion­ships and bat­tling dire men­tal health is­sues. But the re­lease not only served as an out­let of cathar­sis for Cox – it marked a turn­ing point that would in­form the evo­lu­tion both of their per­sonal life and their artistry.

“In re­leas­ing [ Feel­ings], I had made my­self su­per vul­ner­a­ble – those songs were like open wounds in a lot of ways,” they ad­mit. “So hav­ing put that out there and hav­ing it be so well re­ceived made me want to write some­thing that drew from and built on those ex­pe­ri­ences. I wanted to write some­thing that, in one way or an­other, dis­cussed how you can find strength in vul­ner­a­bil­ity.”

The con­fi­dence to open up didn’t come easy for Cox, and for a while, per­form­ing to a crowd was a vi­cious strug­gle strewn in in­se­cu­rity and ter­ror. Forc­ing them­self to stare those in­se­cu­ri­ties down (of­ten in the frame of an ob­serv­ing stranger) acted as a ther­apy for Cox, and al­lowed them to grow more com­fort­ably in their own head. And on the flip­side, their use of painfully re­lat­able lyri­cal quips meant their au­di­ence had some­thing to con­nect with and find their own sense of heal­ing in.

“When Feel­ings came out – espe­cially with songs like ‘Net­flix’ and ‘Weighty’ – a lot of peo­ple came to me and were like, ‘This re­ally speaks to me be­cause I’ve lived through X and Y as well ,’ and that made me re­alise that there’s this sort of power in say­ing out loud the things that peo­ple are told to be ashamed of,” Cox says. “Be­cause they’re topics that make you want to hide and keep quiet, and the more that you face up to that and the more that you see other peo­ple fac­ing up to that, the eas­ier it is to gain a sense of strength and sol­i­dar­ity.”

Thus led to Un­tidyLines be­ing markedly more up­beat than any of Cox’s for­mer out­put. In ad­di­tion to their per­sonal growth, the past year has seen them hit a lot of strides as an artist: no­tably, the leap from calm acous­tic back­drops to a rol­lick­ing full-band setup, and a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign that drew in close to $7,000 (an ex­pe­ri­ence they de­scribe as “60 days of con­stant ter­ror”). Cox says that both mile­stones in­flu­enced the pop-heavy lean­ings of their de­but full-length.

“I wanted to make [ Un­tidyLines] a high-en­ergy al­bum mainly be­cause it’s been great to per­form with a full band, and I wanted to do some­thing that I knew would be fun to play with them,” they say. “And also, y’know, when you’re record­ing with other peo­ple’s money, you re­ally want to write as many

hits as you can. When we reached that crowd­fund­ing goal, I was like, ‘Man, peo­ple have given me a heap of cash with­out know­ing what they’re gonna get – I have to put out wall-to-wall bangers here!’”

It only takes one playthrough of the record to see that Cox pulled their mis­sion off with­out a hitch:

Un­tidyLines is loud, lively and sounds ab­so­lutely huge with Cox’s sear­ing vo­cal har­monies wash­ing over the jam-heavy in­ter­play of ax­e­men Josh Gib­son and Jack Lundie. But as tight as ev­ery­thing sounds on wax, Cox is quick to point out that things were a lit­tle less than or­gan­ised be­hind the scenes. “All of my band mem­bers are in re­ally great side projects, so they all bring some­thing unique to the ta­ble,” they say, “But it also means they’re re­ally

f***in­gdif­fi­cult to get in the same room at the same time. All up, we had maybe six hours of re­hearsal time to­gether be­fore we went into the stu­dio. And none of us were in the same room for the record­ing, ei­ther – Edgy [James Edge] tracked his drum parts first, and I couldn’t be there be­cause the only day that worked for him was the day I was at work.”

De­spite sched­ul­ing dis­as­ters, per­sonal un­rest and, just af­ter the stu­dio ses­sions wrapped, Lundie’s exit (which forced the now-four­some to com­pletely re-haul their parts for the stage), Cox is op­ti­mistic of the al­bum’s out­come.

“I didn’t re­ally do a good job of plan­ning any­thing,” they chuckle, “but y’know, it all came to­gether in the end! Joe [An­der­sons, pro­ducer] was also just su­per chill and easy to work with, espe­cially when it came to the fact that I was ba­si­cally try­ing to hold a sink­ing bat­tle­ship to­gether with Blu-Tack™ and duct tape.

“There’s a tri­umph in the record,” they close with a deep sigh. “We’ve made it this far. The whole record is me kind of go­ing, ‘ Damn! Af­ter all this drama, I’m still alive and ev­ery­thing is

still hap­pen­ing!’ The record­ing process was the cherry on top of that – it was an ex­am­ple of life im­i­tat­ing art, I sup­pose, be­cause the al­bum is a bit of a hot mess. It’s imperfect and it deals with a lot of tu­mul­tuous feel­ings, but it’s about con­stantly im­prov­ing, and that’s ex­actly what record­ing it was like… It also ap­pears to be how I live my life, but that’s okay!”

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