“I’m always trying to push the band deeper into making chemistry music.”
No, Jarrad Brown isn’t talking about making the next instalment of Hits From the Bong, but rather the collaborative process that makes Eagle and the Worm such a tantalising proposition both on stage and in the studio.
Since forming as a bedroom project in 2009, the Melbourne eight-piece (horns, guitar, bass, keys and drums) has developed the kind of intuitive understanding that allows Brown to follow his unwieldy muse wherever it may take him. And in the case of new EP, Strangelove (out on October 12), that means some pretty far-flung destinations – from southern-rock to lounge and spaced-out psych.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, though. Brown was halfway through a 40-song double album – the follow-up to last year’s acclaimed debut Good Times – when he decided to change course. He wrote five songs from scratch, before booking some time at Melbourne’s Soundpark Studios with Good Times producer Steven Schram. While Good Times was totally unrehearsed, this time Brown let the band in on his plans.
“We rehearsed it before for about a month,” he explains. “I tried to write songs for an eight-piece band. Mostly that concept was a success, but there’s some stuff on there that’s just me at home at the end of the day just dicking and fussing around – even though the majority of the album was recorded live.”
The EP opens with Angela’s Lonely Heart, a love letter to Los Angeles with big riffs, duelling guitars and Brown’s voice pushed to its limits. “I’m a singer in an eight-piece band, so I had to give it a crack,” he jokes. Darling Let Me In is another horn-drenched love song, but this one’s dedicated to music. The hip-hop inspired What You Looking For, which Brown fondly describes as a “cut and paste job”, harks back to the band’s early days as a bedroom project; first single Give Me Time is a propulsive synth-rock odyssey; while Doc. Strangelove rounds out the EP with a freewheeling space-rock jam. “I wanted it to just go off into the sunset,” Brown explains. “It sits on that loser slacker vibe, and just drones off.”
Whether the EP signposts a future direction is moot point, says Brown. Their modus operandi – to push pop music into unexpected places, to match big ideas with big sounds – remains unchanged. “I just want to hear ideas,” says Brown. “Any moments on the EP when it sounds like a band mucking around, or jamming, or some production ideas – I wanted to sneak that in there. I wanted to marry pop songs with pop music a little bit.”
After spending  the summer of 2011/2012 writing and collaborating with the likes of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (Chicago), Big Freedia (New Orleans) and Milwaukee MC Juiceboxxx, Eagle and the Worm returned to Europe for headline shows and performances at the End of The Road and Electric Picnic festivals. They’ve also played Meredith, Woodford, Peats Ridge, Port Fairy, Push Over and Blues & Roots.
Where they go next, however, is anyone’s guess – even Brown’s. “I’m in three minds about the album, but wherever it goes it’ll have the harmonic, melodic and theatrical world to it.”
And that in a nutshell is Eagle and the Worm.