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.
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!”