Di­vine duet

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - CAMERON ADAMS MAK­ING MIR­RORS out now ( Eleven)

GO­TYE and Kim­bra’s Some­body That I Used To Know is the year’s most en­joy­ably un­likely No. 1 sin­gle. At the Splen­dour in the Grass fes­ti­val in Wood­ford, north of Bris­bane, the re­ac­tion when the pair com­bined to play the song was near-deaf­en­ing. ‘‘ My sound guy clocked the au­di­ence at 115 deci­bels just be­fore we played the duet,’’ says Wally De Backer, aka Go­tye ( left).

‘‘ That’s 10 deci­bels shy of a jumbo jet fly­ing over­head.’’

Yet the song al­most ended up in the too-hard bas­ket.

‘‘ That song sin­gle­hand­edly held up the record for five months,’’ De Backer says of the third Go­tye al­bum Mak­ing Mir­rors.

He’d writ­ten the song by merg­ing re­la­tion­ship breakups with a sprin­kling of fic­tion. But it didn’t fly.

‘‘ For the first time I thought, ‘ There’s no in­ter­est­ing way to add to this guy’s story’,’’ he says. ‘‘ It felt weak.’’ He de­cided to add some­one else telling an­other story, mor­ph­ing it into a duet. Then came the ‘‘ heart­break­ing’’ process of find­ing the right singer. A few were tried, in­clud­ing a ‘‘ high-pro­file’’ act who be­came ‘‘ too busy’’.

‘‘ There were a lot of shift­ing goal posts,’’ De Backer says. ‘‘ I was so close to putting it in the too-hard bas­ket.’’

Pro­ducer Fran­cois Te­taz, who had worked on Go­tye’s pre­vi­ous al­bum Like Draw­ing Blood, saved it. ‘‘ He told me I should find that thing, that it de­serves it.’’

Te­taz sug­gested Kim­bra after work­ing on her al­bum Vows. She was in.

‘‘ Like Draw­ing Blood was such a big al­bum for me,’’ Kim­bra ( in­set) says. ‘‘ When I got that call, it was very ex­cit­ing.’’

Kim­bra was in the throes of sign­ing a global deal with Warner in LA. Te­taz was busy work­ing with Ber­tie Black­man.

‘‘ Peo­ple’s timeta­bles con­trib­uted to it be­ing a long-winded af­fair,’’ De Backer says.

He left his mi­cro­phones with Kim­bra to record her parts in her own time.

‘‘ It’s such a frag­ile song. You have to nail the emo­tion,’’ Kim­bra says. ‘‘ It can’t feel forced. We did a few dif­fer­ent ver­sions.’’

De Backer made a ver­sion with Kim­bra’s vo­cals dis­torted by tech­ni­cal ef­fects. Kim­bra didn’t like it. She wasn’t alone.

‘‘ Most other peo­ple were on Kim­bra’s side,’’ De Backer says.

‘‘ They wanted her to be more nat­u­ral sound­ing. I agree now it makes more sense our vo­cals are on the same plane. I liked it be­cause it was like she was mu­si­cally be­hind me look­ing over my shoul­der.’’ Weeks later came the ver­sion we now know. ‘‘ The one we chose we both agreed had a mo­ment of con­nec­tion in it,’’ Kim­bra says. ‘‘ Ob­vi­ously it worked.’’

The next step was the video. Di­rec­tor Natasha Pin­cus had a vi­sion which in­cluded near-nu­dity, stop­mo­tion an­i­ma­tion and body-paint­ing.

De Backer says: ‘‘ It was the right song to step out and be more di­rect and per­form in one of my own videos. Kim­bra was a good sport. She’s done a lot to be part of this song.’’ Kim­bra re­mem­bers a ‘‘ full-on’’, all-night shoot. ‘‘ A few times your body just re­jected ev­ery­thing. As soon as you move, you’re out of sync with the back­ground. It was a good test of en­durance,’’ she says.

De Backer mor­phed the back­ground from a paint­ing by his fa­ther Frank.

‘‘ There are times it looks like I have Kiss make-up on!’’ he says.

The video has sold more than 20,000 copies on iTunes, the song has sold more than 100,000. ‘‘ See­ing it up with Adele and Bey­once is quite odd. I’m happy I’ve made some­thing dif­fer­ent, a heart­bro­ken duet. It’s genre-less,’’ De Backer says.

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