“This is the most indulgent thing I’ve ever done”, Cameron Avery remarks on the topic of his debut solo album ‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’. This is perhaps an obvious observation when looking at a musician striding out on their own terms, however, the solitary approach is an especially new, strange and alien thing to Cameron.
The West Australian native has applied his multi-instrumental abilities to a whole bunch of musical outfits which have burst out of the Perth music scene over the past decade; including Tame Impala, Pond and his own band The Growl. He jokingly describes the scene as “incestuous,” with a revolving door of familiar faces popping up to help out their peers on varying musical ventures. This time, however, Cameron decided to blaze a new trail under his own name away from the family.
‘Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams’ first kicked into being when Cameron packed up and left for LA - via a quick spell in New York - by himself. This ‘solitary’ theme is a reoccurring topic in discussion and seems to have ground the gears for the process that has resulted in his debut solo record.
“I didn’t get a record deal until after recording the album,” he explains. “I self-funded it. It was basically me just wanting to record stuff.” The resulting material was born absent of any pressures from labels or desire for financial gains, according to Cameron. “There was no quest for world domination or anything,” he concurs, slightly at odds with the ambition and grandeur swelling in the album’s sonics.
This album is channelled right from the heart of Cameron Avery’s interests, which range from his love for Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Russian literature and 60s French cinema. These reference points have amalgamated into the ten songs which make up his debut LP. The result is miles away from his psychedelic and garage rock roots; his gruff vocal from The Growl recordings morphing into a gravitational croon, set to glamorous instrumentals and sweeping cinematic strings.
“This is the most indulgent thing I’ve ever done.”
— Cameron Avery
The songs were built from the lyrics up; testament to the album’s autobiographical and revealing heart. “I start with lyrics first, it’s all pretty personal stuff,” he starts. Cameron goes on to describe it as “a very expensive public journal,” - an accurate description. On ‘Wasted On Fidelity’ he sings “I gave myself to the sure things, the simple and the bored things,” assessing his reaction to losing happiness at the expense of an expired relationship. Elsewhere, he name-checks
his “waning drinking problem”. He even likens himself to a disposable camera on the strut of ‘Disposable’, a strange, self-deprecating frame of reference but one which weirdly works. So, all pretty revealing stuff then.
This personal subject matter is fittingly set to a looming backdrop, a sound which was fuelled by a conscious decision to strive for grandiosity in his new home. “LA is very much a town which some people like and some people don’t," Cameron reasons. "It really facilitates ambition for me. Australian and English culture is all about not taking anything or yourself too seriously which can be really self-deprecating, especially in a creative environment. Whereas here, they’re more receptive to the idea of exploring and seeing your idea through, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. It’s an incredible place to record music.”
“The sound we eventually produced really suited the songs that I was making," he continues. "Like the stuff I’ve done with Tame Impala, Pond and The Growl, the songs started as bedroom recordings, and I really wanted something which wasn’t that.” This sound arrived courtesy of the go-to stringsmith in the alternative rock world, Owen Pallet; famed for his work with The Last Shadow Puppets and Arcade Fire. “I love what he does," agrees Cameron "Al [that's the infamous Alex Turner to anyone outside the friendship bubble! - Ed] recommended that I go with him as well. He said ‘he’s a freak,’" Cameron adds, "which sounded perfect.”
"Alex Turner is always banging on to me about good lyricists.”
— Cameron Avery
The pair worked on arrangements in the old motion picture haunts of Hollywood, a mood and vibe that worms its way into the sonics of the LP. “The first time I got strings on the record, we recorded them in this room across the road from Paramount Studios which is where Bernard Hermann did the score for Psycho, it’s an amazing room,” he says. LA provided Avery not only with the inspiring gear and infrastructure (“the best recording studios are there”) but also good company.
“Through making the album, I had a lot of people showing great stuff to me. Al, who is one of my really good friends," he says, "is always banging on to me about good lyricists.” The pair became drinking buddies when Cameron arrived in a friendless LA having met Alex Turner backstage at festivals over the years. He was also taken on the US leg of The Last Shadow Puppets tour, a great spot to test out his newfound material cut from a similar cloth to the TLSP’s cinematic 60s sonics.
While being ambitious, raring to go and slightly wary to get his first batch of material out under his own name, he is also incredibly gracious and thankful to his old Perth pals. “Kevin [Parker, that is] has been the biggest influence on my life ever. When I became friends with him about 10 years ago, he gave me my first ever piece of recording equipment (an eight-track). He encouraged me to record my own music then showed me how to do it. Just watching his unrelenting quest for attention for detail and idiosyncrasy in music whilst paying homage to the stuff you love is the
biggest thing that rubbed off on me.”
Although Tame Impala was the vehicle which helped him unlock opportunities such as these, Cameron requires none of his big band credentials as a crutch to aid his unquestionable talent which speaks loudly for itself. At a secret gig in London at the beginning of March he stood armed with just his voice, his well-crafted tunes and a reverberated electric guitar combining with stunning effect. The same day, he also has the chance to set his hands on the physical version of his LP for the first time, quite the moment for a man who has poured every part of himself into his work. Contrary to his self assessment, this is all quite the opposite of disposable.
Cameron Avery's debut album 'Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams' is out on 10th March via Anti-