Album Review: We talk to Eliza and Delusionals about their new album ‘Now and Then’

Eliza and the Delusionals

The Breakdown

Eliza and the Delusionals emerge from the Covid pandemic with an album that draws on the best of the 90s and early 2000s and delivers a rocking punch that leaves you reeling with delight.

Eliza & The Delusionals have released their long-anticipated new album and announced a tour. They spoke exclusively with Backseat Mafia about these exciting developments.

Tell me a little about the band, who are the members and how and when did you guys decide to form a band?

I started the band around 2015-16 when I was fresh out of high school. I was trying to start a band with some friends here and there but I was struggling to find people who wanted to try to take it seriously, which is why I thought at the time it would be a good idea to name the band “Eliza and the something…” so that I could be in a band but I was the only one that the project relied on.

In 2016, Tex stepped in to play guitar for our first tour and the rest was history there. Kurt and I actually grew up together and when I was looking for someone to play bass Kurt was keen to start a new musical project, so it aligned perfectly for him to join. After seeing him play a few times around the music scene, I really admired his songwriting and once we started playing together the songwriting side of things came naturally for us.

After playing together as a four-piece for a few years, we decided we wanted to expand the lineup and look for someone to play bass so we could have three guitars. We conveniently met Ruby when they were playing for an opening band at one of our single launches, and after a few rehearsals we felt like Ruby was the perfect person to complete our lineup! 

What are your musical influences?

For me personally, my influences change all of the time. I’m really influenced by the artists that I’m listening to at the time. But some of my favourite bands of all time and consistent influences are Coldplay, Radiohead, Garbage and No Doubt to name a few! It really is such a big question and always hard to narrow it down to one or two artists.

How would you describe your music?

I think genre is a really broad way to describe music as everyone thinks of genres so differently, but I would describe it as alternative pop rock. I think it’s definitely 90’s influenced for sure, I think we’ve always aligned naturally with that era of music!

Can you describe how you go about composing your music? Is it done individually or is the whole band involved?

For a long time it was just me doing the songwriting, and I wasn’t really used to collaborating with other people. After we did ‘A State Of Living in an Objective Reality’ Kurt and I decided to start writing songs together for the next project which ended up being ‘Now And Then’. Admittedly, I found it pretty difficult to ease into co-writing and collaborating with songwriting. It was a really weird feeling to share your vulnerability so straight up with someone and it was a little bit challenging to adjust to. But once we got into a bit of a flow of writing together, it became the best thing ever and I’m really proud of the songs we created for the record.

The thing I love about creating and writing with Kurt is that he introduced me to playing and writing in different tunings, and he thinks about songwriting in such a different way to how I do so I feel like the songs come out really cool and interesting. Writing with Kurt was definitely the breath of fresh air we needed to take the sound of Eliza & the Delusionals to the next level.

What was it like to work with the range of international songwriters who have worked with so many famous artists? Did you feel intimidated at all? How does it affect your approach to songwriting to have to work remotely with ‘outsiders’ who are not in the band?

 We actually felt really comfortable. All of the songwriters we worked with for the album – Sarah Aarons, John Hill and Keith Harris – were so lovely and welcoming to us. It just set the tone for a really comfortable and chill environment for us to share ideas and try things and just see what would happen. It was actually really inspiring for Kurt and I to see how world class songwriters worked in their studios and songwriting sessions. I think the most important thing for going into sessions with artists who aren’t a part of the band is to keep an open mind and just let ideas happen. They don’t have to be perfect or the sound you’re imagining at the time, because you never know what’s going to come out of a session.

When ‘Just Exist’ received such wide ranging acclaim, was that a shock or did you have an inkling that it was going to be as successful as it turned out to be?

It was definitely overwhelming when the song first started to get attention. It’s something we’ve always dreamed of and we hope it happens to each song we release, but I don’t think we were really prepared for all of the amazing things that could come out of one song. I always trust my gut feeling with songs, I’ve definitely learnt that the hard way by leaning into other people’s decisions and it not working out, but I had such a strong gut feeling when I wrote ‘Just Exist’. I can’t even really describe it, but I remember writing it and just feeling a really warm and special feeling when I listened back to it. Ever since then I’ve always trusted my gut feeling when it comes to picking singles and album tracks!

How did you guys cope when the Covid pandemic interrupted the plans that you had put in place for 2020?

It was really difficult, I won’t lie. After we came home from the US due to the borders closing and tours getting postponed, we didn’t actually realise the severity of it until time went on and things were flat out being cancelled instead of just being postponed. It was really hard to mourn the loss of dream tour and festival opportunities and have so much uncertainty around whether or not those things would come back in a post-Covid world.

Writing the record and turning our flat into a home studio was definitely the best thing we could have done for ourselves to feel productive and like we had a purpose around that time. That’s kind of why we lent so naturally into the nostalgic-esque themes and sounds, because nostalgia was a form of escapism in a world that was always feeling depressing. It’s still something we feel sad about today, but I do feel proud of the record that we were able to create and that wouldn’t have been able to happen without us being at home. That’s kind of my positive way of thinking about it.

How do you see 2022 playing out? What are your plans for the rest of this year?

We’ve got plans to tour the record across Australia after it’s released (more coming on that soon!) and hopefully in the USA as well. We’re just so excited to have the record out and for everyone to hear it and for us to play it for everyone across the country!

Would be great if you could tell me a little about the individual songs on the album-how they came about and a little bit about what the themes behind each track.

I’ve picked a couple of my favourite tracks to tell you about!

Save Me has always been one of my favourite songs that was a contender for the record. It was one of the first we had recorded as well. We wrote it in LA in 2020 with Keith Harris. When we got home, we had some fresh ideas that kind of evolved the song to what it is today. I just love the lyrics and the overall vibe. It has something special to it

Halloween was such a stand out track for me when I first heard it. It was a song Kurt had written a few years back and had under his belt for a while, not really sure where to go with it. As soon as I heard it I wanted us to demo it and flesh it out. I feel like it’s so easy to connect and relate to it, and it’s probably my favourite album track.

Lonely is probably one of the more experimental tracks for us on the record. We knew it needed to have a “pop-ish” feel to it when we wrote it, and I think we changed our minds on whether or not we needed the vocal chop at the start about 20 times. We ended up feeling like the song wasn’t the same without it. I think it’s cool, the song just calls for it. It’s about being in a dying relationship that you don’t really have the courage to get out of because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.

What would you say is the overall theme for the new album?

 As I mentioned before, the writing process for the album definitely naturally fell into themes of nostalgia as life was overall so weird and depressing and falling back into our memories and past feelings was kind of the perfect way to feel inspired at that time. A lot of bands from the 90’s and early 2000’s were what we grew up on and the reasons why we fell in love with music and songwriting in the first place, so again it felt super natural for us to lean into that sound along with the lyrical themes.

What is the hardest part of being on tour and what is the best part?

 For me the hardest part is running on no sleep (especially after sleeping in for almost three years whilst staying at home) and travelling. I love travelling, but I deal with a lot of travel anxiety so it can be really difficult to overcome that at times. It’s something that’s always held me back, but I try my best to push through because honestly touring in general is one of the best things about being in a band. Firstly spending time with our fans at shows is amazing and having people sing our song lyrics back to us is just so cool. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. The second best part is experiencing so many parts of the world that I would have never thought to visit. We’ve been to so many incredible and wild places that I’d never plan a holiday to, but playing shows brought us through those places. It’s such a cool part of the whole experience, I feel really lucky to be able to do it.

Is rock music still relevant?

Of course it is. It always will be. Sometimes it has a different sound to it, but rock music makes people feel things and that’s the most important part of being a songwriter – to connect with people and to make people feel something. That’s what it is for me anyways!

Thank you!

‘Now & Then’ caps off a tumultuous few years for the Eliza & The Delusionals. After achieving widespread success with their single ‘Just Exist’, which broke the band in the U.S. for the first time and on the eve of preparing to relocate to North America, where they had a full year of touring, festivals and sessions lined up, Covid struck. The band members were forced to move back in with families, having sold and packed up everything they had in anticipation of the move to the US.

Undeterred, songwriters Eliza Klatt and Kurt Skuse built a studio at the home they found together and also started working with Kon Kersting (Tones And I, Mallrat) at Brisbane’s Airlock Studios. The band worked with award winning songwriters and producers including Sarah Aarons (Zedd, The Rubens, Childish Gambino), John Hill (Cage The Elephant, Charli XCX) and Keith Harris (Madonna, The Black Eyed Peas) across various sessions in Los Angeles

“I think this album was the best thing to come out of the pandemic for us. We had just dealt with a huge loss of all of our touring in America, and when we got back to Australia we both were feeling quite lost and sad. We took the opportunity to build a studio at home and bunker down and turn all of the feelings that we had been experiencing for the past two years into songs.It was a really nice way to cope with what we were going through, and also to deal with emotions and experiences that had happened in the past few years of our lives. I always feel lucky that I’m able to be in a band, and to be able to write music with my partner as well.”

Eliza Klatt
‘Now and Then’ album cover art

The first track on the album is ‘Give You Everything’, it features Klatt’s voice soaring over a bittersweet melody. The song references the music of 90s bands such as the Cardigans. It’s a great opener and hints of the delights to follow on the album. ‘Save Me’ has a more rocking beat but the chorus is pure pop bliss. By track two on this album it is clear that Eliza & the Delusionals have produced an album that is packed with hooks and irresistible melodies.

‘You’ is ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ with a bit of Sugar Ray thrown in for good measure. Eliza and the Delusionals have the uncanny ability to sound nostalgic and contemporary at the same time, ‘Nothing Yet’ features a great guitar introduction, Klatt sings about ‘[being] just 23’ but the lyrics and music show a maturity way beyond that age. ‘Lonely’ is a lush rocker with Klatt’s soaring vocals on full display. ‘Halloween’ has the band grooving with a beat and guitar work that is reminiscent of the War On Drugs at their rocking best. On ‘Bed Song’ Klatt’s cooly delivers an ultimatum to a lover. ‘Bed Now’ is a dreamy, acoustic interlude that appears seemingly out of nowhere but contrasts wonderfully with the music that has come before. With ‘Get A Hold Of You’ the brief respite of the previous song is forgotten as the band swing back into full rock mode, with Klatt’s vocals bringing them home. The title track closes off the album. ’Now & Then’ starts of as a quiet ballad but slowly builds to an anthemic finale, it conjures up visions of thousands of cigarette lighters raised in unison.

The Covid pandemic has had a devastating impact on lives and careers and interrupted Eliza and the Delusionals at a crucial point in their career. ‘Now & Then’ sees them emerging, stronger and more mature than before. The band has used the break to produce an album that draws on the best of the 90s and early 2000s and sees them moving confidently into the future.

Photo Credit: Luke Henery

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