Torched recently caught up with Brent DeBoer who is best known as the frontman for Melbournes Immigrant Union and drummer for The Dandy Warhols. Immigrant Union recently released its third studio album Judas which has taken a more leisurely turn into the psych rock realm than previous alt. country releases (eponymous Immigrant Union and Anyway). Their latest efforts features newcomers Ben Street and Paddy McGrath-Lester who join founding members Brent DeBoer, Bob Harrow and Peter Lubulwa for the first time following the Courtney Barnett-trio departure of ‘13, Judas arguably presents the band’s most explorative sound yet.
In addition to the release of Judas, Immigrant Union will also be putting out a short film, ‘The Battle of Bella’, shot in Joshua Tree, CA and written and directed by acclaimed indie filmmaker, Mike Bruce. An LP visual accompaniment of sorts, the film will star Immigrant Union bandmates Bob and Brent with music from Judas as the soundtrack, so keep an ear to the ground for what is sure to be one for the history books.
In their decade or so of existence, Immigrant Union have toured extensively both domestically and internationally, playing festivals and club shows across the globe throughout their various member rotations, including an original lineup with Courtney Barnett and co. Having toured with such bands as BRMC, The Lemonheads, Noel Gallagher, Sebadoh and Wolfmother to name a few, the band have built a dedicated fanbase following the success of their acclaimed sophomore album Anyway in 2015.
We’re honored to have a moment to talk with Brent about Immigrant Union’s new album release Judas, the upcoming short film ‘The Battle of Bella’ as well as a few other topics of interest.. Many thanks Brent for taking the time for Torched!
Judas is the band’s third album release, which has taken a turn into the psych rock realm whereas the first two releases hinged more on a country/alt rock flair. Has this been an intentional journey as a band or more spontaneous? How would you describe your approach to your creative process?
I don’t think it was entirely intentional. The last album had a different line up and not long after that we got Paddy and Ben on drums and bass and we played a ton of gigs as this new five piece. Our concerts just naturally got louder and more spacey so when it came time to track these new songs, it just carried over. Also, this was our first record made entirely with our own recording equipment. Most of it was done at my home and we had almost zero time constraints. This allowed us to layer over more percussion and textural sounds and have the time to sit around and listen to the rough mixes. That’s when the ideas would come up for ways to layer more sounds into the mix. We never had the luxury to do that before. Then we went to Portland, Oregon to mix it at The Odditorium with Brandon Eggelston and put a few more touches on it. We’re really happy with the way it came out.
Who created the art for Judas’ album cover? What was your and / or their inspiration behind what appears to be an angry crowd?
Andrea Galvagno did the album cover. @galoartist on Instagram. I’ve known Galo for 20 years now ever since we met he and Chaz from The London Police street art troop. I’ve always thought his style would look amazing on an album cover and I asked him if he could do it for us. We love it. It’s funny you said it looks like an angry crowd because the album title, Judas, comes from the fact that we went electric on this album. When Dylan went electric, his fan base got a little upset. One of his fans screamed out ”Judas” during one of the first full electric gigs. That’s so funny you said that. Now it looks like an angry crowd to me too.
Judas’ opening track ‘The Ballad of Bill Hicks’ seems to have a good story behind it. What was your inspiration lyrically here?
I was watching some Bill Hicks one night on the computer and then started strumming and singing. I had recently been to an Alex Hamilton gig and had his style in my head too. Between Alex’s style and the Hicks comedy, those words and melodies just kinda fell out. I don’t know where the first line came from but I guess it just sorta gave me an excuse to use the famous Hicks ‘just a ride’ line. Bill Hicks is one of my personal heros. They always kill off the good ones.
The video for ‘Soldier Field’ was shot at Pink Lake, halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide. What was the inspiration for choosing this location and your DIY approach for shooting the footage?
We had to DIY because there is no way we could really afford a big fancy video. I think most bands are in the same boat. As for pink lake, we had driven by it many times on our way to play Adalaide and always thought it would be a great place to shoot a video. Sry cinematic. This time we left a day early and stayed at a caravan park near the salt lake. We planned out the shoot by the fire that night and then woke up early before the hangovers kicked in, and got it done. Peter (keys) is a great photographer. He started out with the camera walking towards me then handed it off and we passed it back and forth a few times until the song ended. Ben had the song blasting out of a Bluetooth speaker from his purse. It was the ultimate DIY because we shot it ourselves and managed to get everyone in the video. I absolutely love the way it came out.
Do you have any hobbies or pastimes outside of music that help rejuvenate your creativity?
Hmm…..I love biking and auto racing and just hanging out with my family but as far as rejuvenating my creativity I’d say….a lack of sleep? A bit of booze? Thinking of my past and painful moments from my past seems to get things going as well.
How has the band been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Has anything positive come from this for you?
The only positive would be the time spent at home with my wife and kids. By now I would have gone on four or five trips overseas this year with my other band The Dandy Warhols. Because they were all canceled, I’ve got to spend a ton of time with the family. Other than that it’s been horrible. I’m so scared that I’ll never get to play a concert again. We’ve lost a lot of income. It’s so creepy all these draconian rules and threats. People are getting arrested for things they post online! Insane. Really scary. I’m feeling the walls closing in on our freedom. I think these politicians are getting greedy and I’m worried there will be no way to get our freedoms back especially when it was so easy for them to take them away. We’ve just rolled over. I’d highly recommend people re-reading George Orwell’s 1984. Apparently these politicians read it and thought it was a manual. Horrific.
The band will also be releasing a short film (directed by Mike Bruce, filmed in Joshua Tree, California) to go alongside the new album, titled ‘The Battle of Bella’. Can you give me a sneak peek into what we all can expect from this new film? What was your inspiration for the accompanying film?
Mike and I were talking about making a long form music video using multiple songs from one album. He then started telling me how he had never filmed a proper violent bloody fight to the death scene in any of his previous work so….we did that. Bob and I basically kill each other for the whole second half of the film. It’s disgusting. We shot it in Joshua Tree, California over the course of three or four days and about 9 bottles of tequila. We had so much fun. Our new video for Ahmed (directed by Alex Francis) is coming soon and shortly after that we’ll be announcing the premiere of Battle. It’s really something. Also look for Mike’s new film Neolovismo out soon. He gave me a sneak peek and it’s stunning.
Feature photo by Miri Stebivka/PDXmag.com
Keep up with Immigrant Union
Keep up with The Dandy Warhols