Fletcher Babb – aka Cold Ghost – has released a haunting three track concept EP titled ‘Love on the Beach’, funded by HOTA’s Rage Against The V(irus) program.
There seems to be no end to the creative crops being yielded by HOTA’s fast-response Rage Against The V(irus) program. The latest offering is by the Gold Coast’s own Cold Ghost, Fletcher Babb, and is a triptych of songs inspired by the scenario set out in Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel, ‘On The Beach’.
Unfortunately still topical in its themes, Shute’s novel sees the superpowers in the northern hemisphere in a nuclear war that has resulted in total destruction. In it, the radioactive cloud is slowly drifting south and Australians are the last on the planet waiting for the inevitable end. However, the EP itself is less doom and gloom and more simply about love in all of its myriad incarnations and adventures.
Written, recorded and produced by Fletch while in isolation, and in just the one week that was stipulated as the time frame for HOTA’s Rage projects, ‘Love on the Beach’ serves as the appetiser for a broader project that will gradually be served to hungry listeners throughout 2020. After blissing out to Fletch’s dulcet tones and alt-folksy stylings, we shot him a few questions about the work.
A week is not a long time to pull together an EP! Did you have the concept or bare bones already floating around, or did you literally go from concept to delivery in one week?
Well, I had the general concept already floating around. My grand idea is to use alternative histories to explore ideas in song. I call it my 20/20 project, using creative hindsight as a way of thinking about our future. So the fictional scenario of Nevil Shute’s novel ‘On the Beach’ had been one idea that I thought was interesting.
Once I caught word of HOTA’s Rage Against the V(irus) arts fund, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to see if I could do something quickly and purposefully whilst still in a state of social lockdown. My week started with me playing around with different guitar tunings and trying to get songs ideas quickly. The week ended with me trying to make last minute micro decisions in the mix and wondering if trusted my ears any more. I was balancing some of gardening work at the time, so technically it was completed over about 10 days, but yes the songs themselves were concept to delivery in that week.
What makes the novel ‘On The Beach’, relevant today?
During the bush fire season last year and this, I had been thinking of this novel and its play on our collective anxieties of living in this modern society. In the current Covid-19 world it seems to me relevant again. I had read it years ago, along with many other great apocalyptic narratives. The fact that the novel explores an Australian perspective created an immediate connection with me at the time. Shute wrote a book that was playing on societies fears about nuclear war in the 1950’s and although there is not the same level of anxieties about nuclear weapons right now, we are not too far down the track from the cold war.
The book explores a couple of love stories and I sort of ran with the idea of writing about love and what love would be like in a pre-apocalyptic setting. I am definitely not known for writing love songs, so this to me was an extra challenge. I did manage to write my partner a love song called ‘Oh Bernadette’ which explores the idea of continuing to tend and grow a garden knowing that the end is near. I am especially proud of this song. It only took me 15 years to finally write it.
Do you have a favourite lyric from the EP, and if so, what is it and why?
Once I started songwriting and reading and researching, I came across Walt Whitman’s poem ‘On the Beach at Night’ which tells of a Father and Daughter standing on the beach watching the night sky. As black clouds come and obscure the stars the young child worries that the stars will disappear forever. The father assures his daughter that they will reappear and says that there is
something more immortal than the stars themselves. Their love.
I took this poem, borrowed some words, reimagined it and wrote a song called ‘Love on the Beach’. It sort of fell together on the first day I started writing and it framed the concept of the three songs together. I am pretty proud of the lyrics and it is the one track in which I recorded guitar and vocals live together.
But my favourite lyric is from ‘Oh Bernadette’
‘Our garden has a cruel repose
it will still be tranquil
when nobody’s home’
I like the word repose.
What would you like listeners to take away from this latest offering?
I hope listeners will simply enjoy the music for what it is. And for those who want to delve into the concept further they should listen to the lyrics and read Walt Whitman’s poem, or read ‘On the Beach’ itself. Nevil Shute wrote the book in the height of the Cold War and imagined a horrible scenario, but there is some tenderness in the relationships. He gently leads the reader to the end
As far as you can predict, what does the rest of 2020 look like for Cold Ghost / Fletch?
As with most artists, my year is panning out differently to what I had originally planned. But now that a little certainty is creeping back, I am putting on 2x Stories in the Key of GC events this year with the first on 10 July at HOTA when restrictions are further lifted. I am also going to release my new Cold Ghost album later in the year too. This has been a little while in the making, and I hope to tie off loose ends and finish it off soon.
Jump onto Bandcamp now to enjoy some ‘Love on the Beach’.