| A JOINT RELEASE BY HALF A COW RECORDS AND CHINA PIG RECORDS!
SLOW FIX (hac155) released May 2015
The fourth album from Sydney singer Bernie Hayes, out now through Half A Cow on CD, as a digital download via Bandcamp and iTunes and through China Pig Records on vinyl LP
Bernie Hayes has been involved with Half A Cow since he released his debut solo album Every Tuesday, Sometimes Sunday in 1999 and, as the brother of the late Stevie Plunder, been playing music head HAC owner Nic Dalton since the early 80s. So when it's time to put out a new record it's Half A Cow that Bernie turns to.
Slow Fix (hac155) released May 2015
"I'm a guitarist and a singer and
I guess I've always known
that it's a hard row to hoe
Yes, it's a hard row to hoe and all I've got to show
Is my songs and a liver that you couldn't give away"
To Sydney audiences, Bernie Hayes is a local hero, cause celebre, a trusted translator of human experience. He is the master of the domestic miniature that says everything that need to be said about who we are, why and how we succeed and fail, who we love and why. With an acoustic guitar and a seductive voice that can whisper confidentially or soar to emotional precipices, and the judicious use of a supple rhythm section, Bernie Hayes is here to break your heart.
"But when I woke up this morning, I did my best to shine
You think I'm a hard man to know
I'm not a hard man to know, my feelings are on show
With my songs and my records
that you couldn't give away"
If he's a local hero, a name shared between inner-westies with a knowing nod or sigh, his fourth album (his first in eight years!) Slow Fix reaffirms his stature as a treasure of Australian songwriting, in the same league as Paul Kelly or his mate Perry Keyes. His songs provide an irresistible combination of contemporary perspectives with Brill building classicism (Carole King, Laura Nyro) and the height of 70s singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and John Martyn. It's doubtful you will think of any of these artists when you hear this record though - Brendan Gallagher's production is immediate and transparent, allowing the illusion of an old friend sharing stories over a few brews.
"Let's just pool whatever we've got
Treat it like it's our last day on earth . . ."
Bernie keeps busy, playing solo shows and occasionally with a trio or quartet doing his own stuff, but also with Dead Marines alongside Gallagher and Front End Loader's Bow Campbell, and as bassist for Dog Trumpet with the brothers O'Doherty/Mombassa. Meanwhile he writes these top shelf songs and every now and then makes a record of them - Every Tuesday Sometimes Sunday (1999), Domestic Departures (2003), Homebody (2007) and now Slow Fix. He doesn't seem to have an ambitious bone in his body, beyond the need to get these songs out to people who might get something from them. So it's up to us, and you, whoever you are reading this, to spread the word.
Available here: compact disc vinyl LP Bandcamp download
Homebody (hac127) released May 2007
Bernie Hayes has been playing, singing, writing and recording for thirty-odd years now. And for thirty-odd years, well intentioned people have been telling him that he could really go somewhere.
Well, now, in his third solo album Homebody, the taciturn Bernie finally responds:
I'm forty five for fuck's sake
Do you think I want to go there?
from You're The Best Thing
No. Bernie's happy working in the relative peace and quiet of obscurity, teaming up with the likes of Brendan Gallagher, Peter O'Doherty, Bow Campbell and the Bernie Hayes Quartet of Bill Gibson, John Encarnacao and Jess Ciampa to forge an album that is rich in experience.
This isn't girl-meets-boy stuff. This is about love surrendered, mistakes made, patience gained, time wasted, persistence rewarded, lives lost and courage found. It's about watching and waiting and worrying. It is, though he’d never tell you himself, as personal and revealing a bunch of songs as he’s ever written. And perhaps that’s why Bernie is prepared to say that Homebody is his most satisfying album to date.
As a producer, Brendan Gallagher, found the experience pretty rewarding, too.
"Bernie Hayes is a diamond in the music business, gold and silver too," he says. "His songwriting alone guarantees him a seat at the table of great popular music writers, his incredible voice into the bargain elevates him to the status of national treasure. His is a majestic touch informed by raw talent and the dear school of experience. In a word he is an artist... long may he reign."
Available here: compact disc
Lucky Dip (the B~side compilation) (hac122d) released November 2008
Like Bernie's heroes, he fills up the cd singles with songs that could have easily been on the albums. Lucky Dip collects them all here.
Available here: Bandcamp download
Domestic Departures (hac106) released May 2003
Domestic Departures is the long-awaited follow-up to Bernie's debut album. Every Tuesday, Sometimes Sunday came out in October 1999 to across-the-board acclaim and strong record sales. On this new album Bernie will be 'sharing the stage' with his Quartet; every track of the album features the band - John Encarnacao, Bill Gibson and Jess Ciampa - who have been playing live with Bernie since the release of Every Tuesday, Sometimes Sunday.
Bernie: "The first solo album was a chance to record songs that I'd coveted for a long time, as well as recording my own stuff. Initially I was quite open to the idea of using a similar format this time around, but when I thought about the songs I'd written since the first album it seemed to me that they all belonged together."
Unlike its predecessor, which was acoustic-based and had songs spanning twenty year's worth of songwriting, Domestic Departures is given the full band treatment and features twelve songs, the bulk of which have been written over the last three years.
Bernie: "I guess a whole lot of things had to fall into place. Having the right songs was definitely an important factor, but I guess it took that long to gel in my mind that I wanted to make a band record and for it not to be the same approach as the last album."
Domestic Departures was co-produced and recorded by Genevieve Maynard with help from Peter O'Doherty and includes the previously released single Your Green Light (hac98) which was co-produced by Nic Dalton and mixed by Paul McKercher.
Bernie: "The last album started as a solo project and sorta metamorphosed into a multi-guest extravaganza. This one is the result of playing with the same group of people for three years now and really having an easy understanding of what we can do together. John, Jess and Bill have been so brilliant live I really couldn't contemplate leaving out their contributions to the music. I've found a group of people who really are able to get the best out of each song, who are creative in their own right, who aren't just doing the paint-by-numbers thing."
Bernie: "Heading off to the airport to do some shows in Melbourne we drove under the Domestic Departures sign and I thought: yes, that's what the album's all about. It's about romantic departures and life travels and deaths and goodbyes...A friend told me the second album is always an on-the-road record. Well, hopefully there's more than that here but certainly that's an element."
Available here: compact disc
Your Green Light EP (hac98) This five track EP was re-released in March 2003 and the title track is from the album Domestic Departures. Your Green Light is a pop song of the highest order, featuring backing by the phenomenally talented Bernie Hayes Quartet - Bill Gibson (bass, backing vocals), Jess Ciampa (drums, percussion, vibes, backing vocals) and John Encarnacao (guitar, vibes and drums). The EP includes four previously unreleased recordings - Intermission (different from the album version) and Round Trip plus live recordings of Mission In Life and Slumber from Triple J's Live At The Wireless. (All these b~sides are collected on the Lucky Dip compilation).
Every Tuesday, Sometimes Sunday (hac84) released October 1999
So who is Bernie Hayes?
Even if you haven't heard Bernie Hayes sing, you may have heard about his voice: the pop soaked, soul smoked vocals that sweep to rainbow heights and sink to deep sea depths. The notes drop from beer sticky speaker boxes like a gift from the angels, but this is, in fact, a voice carved out by a thousand long nights of singing, in pubs and clubs and bars up and down the east coast.
Bernie began earning a living by singing, playing and writing songs even before he left school. It was all he did and it was everything he did. What was captivating natural talent back then has more to offer now. The sweet voice has been made tender and terrible by experience, a life drawn into song by effortless melodies.
For the best part of a lifetime, Bernie has belonged to the crowds that came to see him play, huddling into tiny city venues on winter evenings, falling out onto the footpaths on summer nights. On his first album he was whispering in your ear, on Domestic Departures you'll be singing along and tapping your toe.
Three singles were released from
Every Tuesday, Sometimes Sunday - Mission In Life (hac78), Matchbox Cars And Marbles (hac83) and Your Boyfriend's Back In Town (hac90) which included five non-LP tracks Trip Away, Wrong Side Of The Road, Follow The Rules, Dealt A Hand and Last To Leave. (All these b~sides are collected on the Lucky Dip compilation).
Available here: Bandcamp download