Tim Wheatley is an Australian expatriate living in London who has just released a fantastic new single – ‘Lying Low’ – with incredibly prescient themes of isolation. Like many Australian songwriters, Wheatley’s ‘Lying Low’ somehow captures the widescreen horizons of Australia best from afar, as if it is wired in his genetic code: razor-sharp, observational and filled with a sense of nostalgia and isolation.
Wheatley has forged a dreamy melancholic tale of alienation that seems filled with cinematic sweeping vistas and endless plains. Very prescient indeed – Wheatley notes this song was written before the current events of this cataclysmic year:
In more ‘normal’ release circumstances, this song – that is now a year old – would be a memory, or about a circumstance that has since passed. But this time, ‘Lying Low’ is somehow becoming more relevant by the day. Either that or I’m stuck on a carousel.
Wheatley has a distinctive gravelly, whiskey-soaked voice that evinces the feelings and emotions in the lyrics. The sparse simple instrumentation creates the spaces and atmosphere with the song’s sky high choruses and sparkling guitars.
It was the first song I wrote after moving from Los Angeles to London. The adjustment from sunny California to the cobblestone streets of East London was near impossible for me. I wrote this song feeling more isolated than ever, in a new city, away from family and friends, and without the ability to perform live.
I stopped talking about how hard I was finding it, because I was drowning in other people’s well-intended but cookie cutter advice. I was going stir crazy in my own company all day and night. It was a true test for my mental health, I was suffering and switching up a few different sides of my personality trying to find the one that could best get me through each situation. It was exhausting ‘getting out there’ and making new friends, for some reason during this period I felt I needed to keep to myself to get to the other side.
This sense of isolation is captured in the accompanying video filmed in Sydney in the midst of the bush fires raging across the country. According to Wheatley, the video’s intent was to demonstrate the solitude and strain the move had him:
We wanted it to be frantic and dark, but ultimately strong enough to stand on its own. Ben (Ben Cook (Bombay Bicycle Club, Bring Me The Horizon) and I deliberately went in to the filming of the video wanting to capture something completely unrehearsed and candid with nothing but a light and his new Super8 camera, and possibly a bottle of scotch.
The result is a grainy, scratchy but enigmatic video with a great performance by Wheatley:
You can get the single now through all the usual download/streaming sites here.
The single was produced and engineered by Michael Badger (King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, You Am I, Amyl & The Sniffers) at Jaya Jaya Music in
Melbourne, and mixed by Steven Schram (Paul Kelly, San Cisco).
In his splendid isolation, Wheatley took the time to go through his top ten Australian singles with Backseat Mafia. He explains:
Since living abroad for the better part of a decade, my take on Australian music has become less ‘in touch’ and far more nostalgic. I suppose the tyranny of distance has me drawing on memories of home, and there is no better way to strum the minor chords of sentimentality, like hearing the song that takes you to THAT time and place.
See the Spotify link below for a listen.
Written Or Spoken – Steve Smyth
The first time I heard this song was in Melbourne at the ‘Grace Darling’, where Steve Smyth and I were both playing solo on the upper level of the old hotel. The small room was packed around a bar thats occasionally known for being bit noisy and somewhat of a buzzkill, with people ordering drinks and bottles clinking through your set. To make matters worse, on this occasion during Steves set, the power went out. Needless to say that everyone was quite startled and confused, and after a few minutes it became apparent the electricity may not be coming back on. And just when people were about to leave, Steve started singing a cappella. With only the silhouette of Steve cast on the curtain from a handful of lighters he finished his set. Not a single person moved or made a sound. This song takes me back to those fifteen minutes in the dark.
California – Little Georgia
I’m fortunate enough to call Justin and Ashleigh (little georgia) two of my best friends. Hearing these guys singing reminds me of happy years on the road up and down the east coast of Australia. Justin and I both moved to Los Angeles at the same time. We were both trying to kick start music careers and playing every trap that would have us. I saw him play this for the first time in a bar in Venice, CA, so needless to say this song and its story has special place amongst my favourites.
Heavy Heart – You Am I
I’ve always set ‘You Am I’ as the benchmark for rock bands in Australia, and it was when they released ‘Heavy Heart’ that I really put Tim Rogers on a pedestal as a songwriter.
Im not going to try and tell you that this song will cheer you up, but it will make you feel better about being down. Because listening to Heavy Heart is like having a straight up, self deprecating, honest conversation with yourself.
You’re The Voice – John Farnham
I can’t think of another song that comes as close to physically shaking the earth, then when Australian crowds hear John Farnham belt out ‘You’re the Voice’. It has the might to move the masses for no other reason than it is a part of ‘being Australian’.
No Aphrodisiac – The Whitlams
To me Tim Freedman is one of Australias most intelligent and witty songwriters. He is also one of my personal favourites and this song embodies the reason why. Its dark and sarcastic at times, but all the while soul-stirring. It was unlike anything else out at the time and I think it was refreshing to hear something so well crafted cut through the noise.
Because I Love You – The Masters Apprentices
I may be somewhat bias but none the less proud to put a song my old man recorded into the mix. Luckily, it also happens be a classic song brought to you by Australia’s biggest band in the 60’s/70’s. The Masters Apprentices were the first Australian band to record at Abbey Road in 1970, where they notched up this little ballad about what you have to leave behind, just to chase ‘the dream’. It almost writes itself.
Prisoner of Society – The Living End
This song single handedly ruined the floorboards at every house party I went to in high school. Between Chris Cheney’s guitar, Scott Owen standing on the double-bass and Trav Dempsey pounding away on the drums, it was like The Stray Cats were born again in an Aussie pub. Prisoner of Society churns up every single ounce of teenage angst and spits it out in one bloody chorus, creating utter chaos.
All I Want – Sarah Blasko
Sarah Blasko’s ambient and percussive production always make me feel like such a part of the song. Its almost cinematic in that sense and combined with her vocals sets it aside from the rest. The love affair with this song started when it was the only CD left in my car after my whole ‘CD wallet’ was stolen from my old Jeep. I happily spun this record for about a year.
Streets of Your Town – The Go-Betweens
I found the album ’16 Lovers Lane’ in a bargain bin at the Camberwell market about fifteen years ago. I get such a bout of nostalgia when I hear this Brisbane band nowadays. And funnily enough, I hear them more since moving overseas. The band never really had a huge amount of commercial success, but remains revered amongst there peers.
One Crowded Hour – Augie March
Glenn Richards’ lyrics remain unrivalled to me. And this song is no exception. I write lyrics to fit the melody I have in my head, where as I see Richards has somewhat mastered the art of writing music to accompany his lyrics. Not just music, but a sonic tapestry that gives his words colour and drama. This song has long been what I deem the zenith of songwriting, spilled from the heart of a ‘purest’ in every sense of the word