For many, a debut album is a statement of introduction into the musical world - but for Cameron Avery, it’s more of a re-introduction.
Known for his musical pursuits in Tame Impala, Pond, The Growl, and his duo with Nick Allbrook (Allbrook/Avery), his debut release ‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’ sees Avery more inspired by his own musical loves of Tom Waits and Nick Cave, crooning about love and heartbreak, and the struggles of forming relationships while constantly touring, with a cynical yet insightful mind.
Last year saw Avery embark on tour with The Last Shadow Puppets - he’s also previously opened for Haim - managing to completely enthrall audiences as both a solo performer, as well as with a backing-band.
We spoke to Cameron Avery recently while he was in New Zealand with Tame Impala to headline Laneway Festival 2017…
"...I think it is more about companionship rather than love. Love I think can be mistaken for other things, like lust. Whereas companionship is spending time with one another..."
COUP DE MAIN: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today amidst Laneway busy-ness! I’ve been listening to your album ‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’ for the last few days - it’s so good.
CAMERON AVERY: Thanks!
CDM: I think my favourite song is ‘Do You Know Me By Heart’ - the strings sound very ‘James Bond’ soundtrack-esque. In it, you sing, "But your trust isn’t all that it seems." Do you think that trust is the #1 most important thing in a relationship?
CAMERON: I think it’s important in any kind of relationship - trust definitely is. I have a big strong belief in loyalty and trust.
CDM: The song also mentions unrequited love - the ending of a relationship, where perhaps one person has moved on before the other has. Do you think it’s more important to move forward or move on?
CAMERON: I don’t know, it’s hard. It’s always different in every situation. In experience, I know some of the best times is just to get on with whatever it is you are doing.
MY FAVOURITE TIME/PLACE...
CDM: In ‘Wasted On Fidelity’, you contemplate how to ensure happiness for oneself - you "gave yourself to the sure things" in life. Do you think you can buy happiness?
CAMERON: Well that is what the song is about. If I buy a beer, I can have a beer, if I pay for it. It’s a pretty sad concept. I don’t think I can, but I think it can be amusing to attempt to.
CDM: What, for you, is true happiness?
CAMERON: I just want to be proud of everything I do… I don’t know... True happiness. It’s hard to tell. I guess, being appreciated by your peers and your friends, and knowing that what you’re doing has meaning to you.
CDM: Whose female vocals feature in ‘Dance With Me’? They sound a little bit like Alexandra Savior’s…
CAMERON: No, they weren’t! It’s this girl Odessa Jorgensen, she’s from LA.
CDM: In an interview Alexandra Savior did with Noisey last year, she spoke about your friendship, and said her coffee table is still at your house? Is it still there?
CAMERON: Yeah it’s in my storage unit now. I moved and I called her, she was out of town, so it’s sitting in my storage unit now.
CDM: Do you have a favourite song of Alexandra’s?
CAMERON: I like 'Girlie’. That’s my favourite <sings chorus of ‘Girlie’>.
CDM: I’ve seen on your social media that you often go on some pretty long road-trips - is there any particular music that soundtracks these road-trips?
CAMERON: That was me and guy called Mike Bennett [Joy Collective]. When I moved to New York City, we drove the whole way to LA. You can do it in three days, I’ve done it in three days, but this time we did it in seven. We had everything from The Choirboys… actually we listened to a shit ton of Crowded House on that road-trip! I’m not just sucking up.
CDM: In a statement about the overall album, you said: “But the pipe dream, the underlying theme of the album, if you really listen, is that all I really want is to have someone in my life and to be in love.”
CAMERON: That’s just the pipe dream of that. I think my words got shifted around a little bit there, but I think the pipe dream is just wanting that to figure itself out, and the ripe dream is the liveable stuff, landscape and just the little stuff.
MY CURRENT PIPE DREAM...
CDM: Do you believe in true love? What does true love mean to you?
CAMERON: It changes. You can become very disenchanted after certain situations. I don’t know... I think it is more about companionship rather than love. Love I think can be mistaken for other things, like lust. Whereas companionship is spending time with one another.
CDM: The lifestyle you lead (of a musician) is renowned for being a lonely one - always on the road, touring in so many different places, and never being at home for a long period of time. Do you find this has impacted on your relationships, be they platonic or romantic?
CAMERON: Yeah totally, that’s pretty much what that record is about. It’s hard, not just with the travel schedule, but also with emotional availability. If you’re working on something, it’s hard to give yourself to another person. It most definitely has.
CDM: On 'A Time And Place', you sing, “You and I have but to realise, our love will get us by.” Do you think that love is all a person needs, as The Beatles would say?
CAMERON: I think I meant it in that song, like, just don’t worry about all the other stuff. If it’s you and me, it’ll be fine.
CDM: I love all the string/orchestral arrangements on the album. Did you do all this yourself too, or did you work with someone?
CAMERON: I worked with Owen Pallett. He plays in Arcade Fire and he does all the stuff for The Last Shadow Puppets as well. I met him like two or three years ago, he gave me a ride to the airport. He did some of the early recordings, it was him and another guy called Paul Cartwright.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE RELEASE OF MY ALBUM...
CDM: You self-produced the whole album, which is pretty impressive. How did you find that process?
CAMERON: Totally, the whole thing is that if you do something just by yourself, then you learn. By self-producing, I learnt a lot about what I like and what I’m capable of doing. Emotionally, I think it’s a good cathartic thing to do because the buck starts or stops with me if I do it, I take full responsibility.
CDM: I saw you perform live twice last year - supporting The Last Shadow Puppets in New York City, and in Santa Ana - and you performed one of the shows with a band, and the other just solo. Do you have a preference for performing live?
CAMERON: It depends. I love live performances, but I think it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes I love watching a smaller show with five people-- you can have five people or 50 people in the room, whereas I do love spectacles with humongous bands. So for me at the moment, I like having the bigger band. But then again, I played a show a while ago for I think it was 30 people, it was just me and a piano - it just depends.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
CAMERON: It’s usually lyrics first. I usually start writing lyrics and then sort of figure out some kind of sonic power. It usually starts with just a bass-line and lyrics, and then I’ll start to add chords and things to it. Usually I’ll try and establish some kind of general sound before I do anything else. Whether it’s like, ‘Maybe I should try and do this with two or three instruments, or maybe I should try and do this with back-up singers, or maybe I should play some stuff that hasn’t come out yet, or just me and these gospel girls that I met from Jersey.’ Usually it is just lyrics first and then I’ll build it up from there.
CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
CAMERON: Everything is subjective! I don’t know, I’m a big believer in why you do things. Sometimes the intention behind the song can make a great song. What I think is a great song and what you think is a great song is completely different. Even some of the guys in Tame [Impala], we don’t see eye to eye on what’s good or what’s great or what isn’t.
CDM: When are you going to come back to New Zealand to play your very own show?
CAMERON: We’re hoping around May! I’m trying to figure that out. I’m going on an American tour starting in March and then Europe in April, and then maybe Australia in May.
CDM: And then you can just come over to New Zealand too!
CAMERON: Well, it’s closer, ‘cuz I have to come from America.
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND...
CDM: Some of the songs you wrote two-and-a-half years ago, when you initially started working on the record. Do all the songs still ring true to you? Or do you look back on them as a journey?
CAMERON: They’re all still pretty relevant to me. Every time you play them, it reminds you of the things. But it’s kind of a narrative that starts in the middle of the album and finishes - if you start from 'The Cry Of Captain Hollywood’ and go forward and then to the beginning again. It’s like a loop, if you want the chronological recording.
CDM: In an interview, you revealed that there were heaps of songs that didn’t make it into the 10 tracks on the final album. Do you think you’ll ever release a B-Sides album to ‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’?
CAMERON: I’m working on something which has a couple of those on there, there will only be about three or four. I’m working on something now, it’s called ‘Et Cetera’, it’s pretty much the same vibe but just didn’t work with the record.
CDM: Back in 2013, you recorded an album as Allbrook/Avery with 4 members of The Horrors. Do you think this album will ever see the light of day?
CAMERON: Yep, this year! Me and Nick spoke about it yesterday - it’s just sitting on a hard-drive. We’re going to try and get that out this year, there’s two of them. There is one that we did with me, him and my ex-girlfriend Ash in our house. Then there is one that we did live with The Horrors, in like three days. Hopefully we can try and get that out this year.
Cameron Avery’s debut album ‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’ is out now - click here to purchase.
Watch the ‘Dance With Me’ music video below…