You Am I Seek Deliverance

Rockers turn around sixth album in record time.

"Milk?" Andy Kent enquires from under the paddle brim of his truckers cap. He pours coffee and passes biscuits as Tim Rogers arrives in the control room of Melbourne's Sing Sing Studios in a lather of Indian summer sweat.

"Just some old Tears For Fears," You Am I's gangly frontman quips when asked to divulge the contents of his walkman. He may be joking and he may not, but the scene before us is none too rock. The closest thing to degeneracy is a half-full bottle of Johnnie Walker Red by the TV in the adjoining studio. You'd expect it to be half-empty at least.

Words like restraint and maturity are double-edged in company like this, but an air of grounded diligence prevails in the last week of mixing on You Am I's surprisingly prompt sixth album, Deliverance. Long-term studio pal Paul McKercher is on hand fine-tuning an elaborate percussion track, but this is officially the band's first self-produced album.

Far from degenerating into unsupervised tomfoolery, Rogers claims there's been "hardly any squabbling, 'cause we all know what we're good at. I never touch the desk for example, whereas Andy's in his element there," He jokes with McKercher about orders from BMG to sign off on the recording budget. "We haven't even spent any of it on drugs!"

Bass player Kent admits he was the hardest to convince when Rogers suggested a new album just eight months after releasing their last, 2001's Dress Me Slowly. "But Tim was adamant. The band was a shark and had to keep moving. That was his analogy. It started to make sense. I mean, why not move on? We rehearsed in Sydney for three weeks and here we are.

"I don't the communication has ever been better. The trust amongst us is pretty good and it's nice to know you can take control of your own stuff with no interference and end up with something as good as this in five weeks."

Songs were the least of the band's worries. "I write all the time," Rogers says later over a gentlemanly game of table tennis in a valley of road cases. "Obviously a deadline gets you going but whenever I get a boner about a chord change or something I try to get the song at least half done. Something to sing to (Daughter) Ruby, you know?"

When he reaches back for a forehand slam, Rogers' left sleeve rises to reveal a massive new tatoo: two swollen hearts emblazoned with the names of his wife Rocio, and his one-year old daughter Ruby. Whereas their inspiration fuelled some of Dress Me Slowly's finest moments, this time a more established fire burns.

"When I started writing songs that deliberately for the record this idea of calling it Deliverance cam into my head. The songs all seem to be about some kind of release or the epiphanies that can come with being surrounded by loud rock & roll music."

A concept album then?

"Only in that we think we're really good and this is the proof. The concept is the abiding faith we've got in ourselves to make spirited rock & roll in a very cynical age."

Spirited only begins to describe the gritty, unembelleshed lyricism of the new tracks soon blaring from the control room speakers. One Trick Tony starts as a bar piano singalong before kicking into one of Rogers' classic character portraits. New guy Davey Lane's role blossoms in the glorious guitar play of Nothing's Ever Gonna Be The Same Again. The hook-laden Ribbons and Bows is due for another mix, Rogers says apologetically. "Paul reckons it's too FM-friendly."

"I always wanna make Sticky Fingers," he mutters when asked about the overall agenda. "But in this band, what I see all the time is the personalities of the four people and their different playing styles. I always want to accentuate that rather than pretend to be someone else. That's got to be enough to make people feel as enthusiastic about the band as I do."

Indeed, it sometimes seems that every thought and deed illustrates the depth of these four musician's commitment. Lane is studying a DVD documentary about The Band when drummer Russell Hopkinson arrives bearing the news of Waylon Jennings' death. The drummer lovingly describes an immortal memory: a 1950s portrait of the country outlaw in a blue-lined, black velvet cape.

"You don't see many capes these days," Rogers says wistfully. "Maybe Jess from Killing Heidi will wear one soon?"

As if the prospect of Deliverance wasn't enough, Rogers is about to don his soundtrack producer's cape for David (Idiot Box) Caesar's new film, Dirty Deeds. You Am I have signed on as the house band and negotiations are underway with vocalists Bernard Fanning, Daniel Johns and Billy Thorpe.

But firsts things first.

"I sorta see Deliverance as our king hit," Rogers states for the record. "I mean, I LOVE Dress Me Slowly, but if that one was the most You Am I record, this one's uber You Am I."

Michael Dwyer