Midnight Juggernauts, from left: Daniel Stricker (drums), Andrew Szekeres (bass/guitar/keys), and Vincent Vendetta (lead vocals/keys/guitar/bass)
Photo: Cybele Malinowski
The amorphous music of Australian trio Midnight Juggernauts—Vincent Vendetta, Andrew Szekeres, and Daniel Stricker—compares with the synth-rock of French electronic-music duo Justice, as well as hip indie-rock. Reviews of the band''s two albums, Dystopia (2007) and this year''s The Crystal Axis (both released on the group''s own Siberia imprint), have labeled their music as “space disco,” “stadium disco metal,” “dirty organ rock,” and “prog rock”—all of which they say are appropriate.
The music stems from Vendetta and Szekeres'' individual rough sketches. Both have home studios with Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, a few guitars, and a plethora of vintage synthesizers, such as the Yamaha SS30; Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus, JX-3P, RS-202, and SH-1; and Wurlitzer 200A. Onstage, Vendetta focuses on keyboards and Szekeres on guitars, but when writing, both tend to use synthesizers.
Because the Juggernauts spent a lot of time on the road following the release of Dystopia, they recorded The Crystal Axis with a live perspective, which made for a warmer, more organic sound. Where Dystopia revolves around sidechain compression and kicks that give it a driving sound, The Crystal Axis is less about compression and more about openness. And yet, there are songs on The Crystal Axis that are composed of up to 120 tracks.
“What sounds like one or two main parts is [actually] 15 synthesizers; then there are drums and different percussion layers, then the guitar layers,” Szekeres says. “The vocals are heavily multitracked. [In] a song with a five- or six-part harmony, where each vocal is double-tracked and there are [also] five backing ‘oohs'' and ‘aahs'' that are doubled each time, that''s already 25 to 30 tracks of vocals.”
At one point, all of the band''s equipment was set up at Sing Sing Recording Studios (Melbourne, Australia). There, they re-recorded some songs through Roland RE-201 Space Echo delay units, creating duplicate tracks with lots of effects for a giant wall of sound. For “Vital Signs” (see Web Clip 1), they re-recorded the guitar through a Space Echo, which was Sing Sing engineer Chris Moore''s idea. In addition to multitracking the guitars and creating backward guitar, they reversed those elements when recording into a Neve VR60 console and then lined them up to create the melody on the song.
To obtain dead-sounding drum tracks, Stricker was confined to a makeshift room made of sound baffles. He also hit anything in the studio that produced a hollow or dense metal sound—such as seats and walls—on top of a variety of shakers and tambourines. “Wind of Fortune” (see Web Clip 2) is stripped back in the verses for a ''70s AM radio pop sound. For this effect, the band created ambient layers with drones—using an ARP 2600 and a Moog modular—and placed them subtly underneath the song, which gives it an instant science-fiction tone. The Juggernauts also credit the ARP Solina String Synthesizer, which is a hybrid of an ARP Solina String Ensemble and ARP Explorer, for this sound. “It has this filter and a built-in monophonic analog synth,” Szekeres says. “You can get the strangest, spacey sound. It is the arpeggiated sound on the chorus of ‘Dynasty'' and on the intro to the album.”
Home base: Melbourne and Sydney, Australia
Go-to vintage synthesizers: ARP Solina String Synthesizer, Roland VP-330