On his fourth record, ‘Drinking With My Smoking Friends’, Australian artist Allday is capturing evocative snippets of life from the “extended youth” he found himself in when he moved to Melbourne last year after returning from Los Angeles. The record marks a significant shift for Allday as he integrates more guitar-driven pop sounds into his sonic universe.
“I came back to Australia from LA and I was working out what comes next. My music has always been somewhat varied: there’s different types of rap, really pop songs, house-y stuff,” he says. Allday – born Tom Gaynor – leaned most heavily into more open, sentimental melodies with In Motion, a collaboration with producer Japanese Wallpaper, that appeared on his 2017 record ‘Speeding’, and felt compelled to further explore that space. “There was an element, with songs like that, where the tough guy facade came down. So then I thought, ‘Why am I still holding on to that?’”
To pursue his shift in direction, Gaynor needed to get brave with his references. Having grown up on a steady diet of rap music, along with guitar bands from the ’80s and ’90s – from Echo and the Bunnymen and The Cure to the stalwarts of Britpop: Stone Roses, Oasis and The Verve – Allday’s tastes were always varied, even if underground hip hop was the most accessible to him as a teenager in Adelaide. Having always wanted to pluck all of these influences that were floating around him and mix them together, Allday was realistic that in order to establish himself, he had to do the rap thing first, and do it very well. Now as the world has morphed to become less genre oriented, it seemed like the perfect time to explore these other elements of his musical upbringing.
After writing mostly autobiographically in the past, his new influences also provided implicit permission to zoom out and keep the details hazy. “Sometimes that meant writing something broad and vague – doing the Oasis thing – and seeing how that feels.”
Across the record, Gaynor charts the story of two lovers, a kind of disillusioned Bonnie and Clyde, hellbent on fleeing a dead-end town with stars in their eyes. Stolen Cars serves as a kind of bridge from past Allday to the present; the story of stealing away on the night of his girl’s birthday is visceral and suburban, but also beautiful and nuanced. ‘Drinking With My Smoking Friends’, Gaynor says, is about escaping something and finding something new, whether that’s a place, a relationship or something else. The record tells stories of suburban drudgery and inner city decay, crafting sculptures of Australian life and the hopefulness of not only youth, but of youthful thinking as well.
On Door, Gaynor opened up to indulging in all the sonic possibilities that come with making a guitar-pop record – including the addition of a tenor sax. The track’s sparse percussion – over which Gaynor raps in the verses – calls back to his previous work, but its production couldn’t have been more different. “When it comes to rap, I always preferred a Drake-type approach: piano and some snare, trap drums. I’ve been deliberately restrained in rap music, but I really enjoyed not being as restrained here.”
In the studio in the past, ‘restraint’ looked like collaborating with minimal people and a laptop screen, while loosening the leash saw Gaynor surrounding himself with musicians, each of whom brought fresh perspective and a trove of skills and experience.
Gab Strum (aka Japanese Wallpaper) co-wrote on several songs, and contributed production and mixing; Johnny Took and Matt Mason from DMA’s joined on guitar; Simon Lam of electro outfit KLLO joined Gaynor and Strum to write on the record, as did singer-songwriter Hayley Mary, Delta Riggs’ Michael Tramonte and Elliott Hammond; and Joji Malani, formerly of Gang of Youths, came along for the ride too. If I’m going to step into the band scene, Gaynor figured, I might as well get some of the best people out.
The first preview of the record came in late 2020 with After All This Time, a euphoric moment that wears its ’80s influences lightly and primed the Allday audience to embrace the new direction. It embodies Gaynor’s thematic direction for the record, with hopeful lyrics – of freedom, escape and looking out at the familiar – that betray a sadness and skepticism buried deeper. “There was a part of me that thought, ‘I want to stop being so relentlessly dark in my music. Why don’t I just try to be a bit optimistic?’,” he says.
“All the songs on the record are deliberately optimistic but they contain shadows, and those are the optimistic songs I like, because they feel more human.” For Gaynor, the shadow belying his happiness was the death of a close friend a couple of years ago. He’s been focusing squarely on this record in that time, determined to create lightness, fun, and a sense of hope for the future. “In doing that, I hope my audience feels a sense of hope, even with their own shadows in life.”
As testament to that, he leaves them with a totem in the form of Void, one of the standout songs on the record. “You will avoid the void,” he sings over and over, as a resonant incantation to turn to when doing the opposite becomes tempting.For tour dates and more visit: www.alldaytunes.com/