Husky

Three albums into their unique career, Husky are about to unveil a thrilling reinvention of themselves with Punchbuzz. The Melbourne band’s long-awaited return swaps their signature folk sound for streamlined indie rock that lopes ahead with widescreen atmosphere, dark lyrics, and newly muscled melodies.

The product of both an influential year based in Berlin and a welcome return to Australia, Punchbuzz announces a bold stylistic turn while bolstering the robust song craft that won singer/guitarist Husky Gawenda the top prize in 2014’s Vanda and Young Songwriting Competition. These 10 new songs came together fast and hit hard, and Gawenda and keyboardist/collaborator Gideon Preiss jumped right on them to preserve that urgency. That approach yielded a set of tight-knit, experiential songs that were shaped by their nocturnal origins.

“I tend to do a lot of my writing at night,” admits Gawenda. “That’s my rhythm. I’m up until 3 or 4 in the morning; I need those hours after midnight.” While he and Preiss spent a year in Berlin – using it as a base for much international touring – they took full advantage of their view from a 13th floor apartment overlooking the city, with its bewitching sunsets and teeming nightlife. “I would sit there into the nights and write,” Gawenda recalls. “There’s something about the night time, something happens when the sun goes down. Reason and logic depart, magic and mystery arrive.”

You can hear that after-hours ripeness in the title track, while lead single ‘Late Night Store’ includes the telling line “I’m looking for something risky.” It’s there too in the Springsteen meets War On Drugs horizon-chasing of album opener ‘Ghost’, on which Gawenda ominously intones, “The vampires here among us, it’s their thirst I fear the most.” These are the most immediate, yet most evocative, songs he’s ever written.

Set for overseas release through Embassy of Music (Bjork, Robyn, Asgeir) in the UK and Europe, and through fellow indie Nevado Music in the US, Punchbuzz follows last year’s sold-out national tour for ‘Late Night Store’. The first single from the album has already clocked up over two million streams on Spotify.

Upon the band’s return to Melbourne, Gawenda set up shop with a couple of friends at an artist’s collective he calls The Hotel, a “a rambling old mansion with high ceilings and overgrown gardens. The doors are always open, people always coming and going, it’s an oasis, an escape from the madness or into the madness, I’m not sure which.” He began rifling through the poetry and song ideas he’d written in Berlin and on the road, feeling the influence of both his year away and his new surrounds. Then came the return of his teenaged passion for surfing, heading down to the Mornington Peninsula between intense bouts of songwriting.

After their time away, it was important for the duo to make their third album locally. The whole thing was done in Melbourne, with local producer/mixer Matt Redlich (Holy Holy, Ball Park Music) opening the band up to new possibilities at every turn. “His philosophy was: ‘If something sounds good, follow it. Take it all the way.’ That really freed us up. In the past we would have held back, played it safe instead of taking the leap, the risk. Matt gave us the confidence to be free, to follow the songs wherever they chose to lead us,” says Gawenda.

So they embraced a turn towards the layered yet driving rock that inspired them in their youth as well as today, from Fleetwood Mac to The National. There’s still a loving folk edge to the low-lit, soul-searching ballad ‘Cut the Air’, but Husky happily contrast that with the gripping propulsion of ‘Shark Fin’ and the lush mood shifts of ‘Walking in Your Sleep’. Cut with the returning rhythm section of bassist Jules Pascoe and drummer Arron Light, these new songs relish the common thread of a rubbery, full-band pulse.

“In the past, when songs were coming out a bit faster and punchier, we shied away from that,” says Gawenda. “We were a folk band. There was always this feeling that we had to stay true to the folk thing, to our heroes, to this set of principles we devised on our first record, which made sense then. Whereas this time, we didn’t want to limit ourselves.”

And they certainly didn’t. Punchbuzz may be the work of the same band that became overnight sensations thanks to their 2011 debut Forever So and continued that hot streak with 2014’s Ruckers Hill, but they’re now tapping into something that hadn’t previously come to the fore. Sharp, lean, and driving, the album more than lives up to the dynamic imperative of its title.

“It came to me in the darkness, late one night whilst lying in bed, trying to sleep,” says Gawenda, who likens the dreamy term to “that point between power and tranquillity” that he felt when surfing again. “It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a real word – the same way dreams don’t have to make sense. It captured something about the record. It just felt right.”