Hugo Kohler

Track-by-Track: Jade Imagine give the rundown on new album Cold Memory

Aussie outfit Jade Imagine capture a breadth of lived experience through their simmering indie anthems. The group’s new album Cold Memory, out Friday via Marathon Artists, filters an impressive range of sonic influences – sweeping club music, forlorn alt-folk balladry, lush psych rock and atmospheric art pop – without ever sounding overstuffed.

Jade Imagine’s red-headed songwriter, Jade McInally, treats fraught and fun as equal agents; she evokes a pierced menace on the album’s corrosive title track, whereas second single “Instinct That I Wanna Know” emanates an almost Trish Keenan-esque mystique. No matter what stylistics Jade Imagine adopt, Cold Memory wraps itself around you like a warm, custom-knit sweater, as if being briefly invited into their inner circle.

For this Track-by-Track, McInally breaks down the inspiration and recording process behind each song.

01. “I Guess We’ll Just Wait

“I Guess We’ll Just Wait” introduces the album to you with a warm hug. This song began its life at the homestead in Killarney where we wrote a chunk of this album together. James, Tim and I were mucking around on our instruments that day and as we landed on the verse feel, Tim pressed record. Later I took the demo idea home and began to write lyrics.

Nearly two years later, this song had almost broken me. I had a whole notebook worth of lyrics. I felt so strongly that the words had to capture something simple and special, I just hadn’t nailed it yet. I wanted this song to feel like a friend’s hand on your back. I confided in my friend Angie and she said to only keep the lyrics that you’re completely in love with – which felt like fitting advice because this song isn’t supposed to be intellectual,  it’s heartfelt – and pretty unashamedly earnest – so I went through and edited the whole thing to where it is now.

It was a balance between not overthinking it, but staying with the writing as long as it needed until it felt right. My motto throughout this whole album process was to keep it simple. Whenever I felt anxious or overwhelmed I’d just come back to that – keep it simple.. But sometimes to get to simplicity, you have to wade through complexity.

As with the rest of the record, we recorded the drums with Marcel Tussie remotely from Fremantle, WA. The day we were due to finish tracking the rest of the instruments here in Melbourne, Tim was given an old upright piano and we found the missing piece of the puzzle to the song!

02. “Instinct That I Wanna Know

Instincts are not learned, it’s a feeling. “Instinct That I Wanna Know” is a song which explores the feeling known as “ESP”, for example, when you’re thinking about someone and they just happen to text you at exactly the same moment. The special connections you share with some people in life.

This song was so fun to write. It came about one morning when Tim rode his bike over to my house. As soon as he got inside he picked up my guitar and said he could hear a tune in his head. We worked it out on the day and I sat on the couch for hours, writing pretty much all of the lyrics that are there now.

I was getting hung up about this track not fitting with the rest of the album, but I think genre needs to be ignored if it’s standing in the way for no good reason. I really love Charlotte Adigéry’s playful electronic records, in a way this is inspired by her.

03. “Back And Forth

Sometimes people don’t realise that they’re asking a lot of you – and sometimes you don’t even realise it yourself until it’s too late. “Back And Forth” is a song about setting boundaries. I was inspired by something a person close to me was going through. They had reached a point in a particular relationship where they had to call it quits. It was really sad, but they just couldn’t give any more of themselves. It’s important to pay attention to how different people make you feel when you’re around them, and to remove yourself from situations if you need to. 

The song was originally called “The Way Out”; co-written by myself, Anna Laverty and Kaitlin Keegan. I later reworked it with the band from scratch three times, it just wasn’t feeling right, the song needed to feel light and fun, to contrast the heaviness of the lyrical content. I grew up on a lot of Nick Drake, Neu! And Talking Heads. The final version references all of these bands. 

04. “Cold Memory”

“Cold Memory” was written in Killarney after a freezing cold mid-winter swim in the southern ocean. It was inspired by the coastal bumpy drive we took to the beach and the rush of adrenaline after swimming, and then being completely ruined by march flies that were waiting to bite us on the beach after swimming. 

What started as a very simple, almost childlike joke idea for a song became something far richer, full of light and shade. And now I feel it represents so much, which is why we named the album after the song too. I love how songs can gain more and more meaning over time; the memory of the coldness we’ve been through over the past couple years and depending on one another when life feels dark. 

This song features a sample we created with piano and SPD-percussion. One of my fave parts about the song is how the drums and bass parts become one big formidable train powering through the song. A week before we had to send the song to get mastered, Tim sent me a version with vocoder on the final chorus. 

05. “Home

“Home” was written after a horrible / hilarious Airbnb experience. I was on a writing retreat in rural Victoria. I was by myself, in the bush, on the first night of the session and I’d just gone to bed. All of a sudden I felt something fairly weighty brush past my face – it felt a lot bigger than a mosquito. I turned the lights on to see a whole family of microbats flying around the bedroom!

I persisted for two more nights, trying to sleep under the sound of flapping bat wings. I don’t think I slept more than an hour each night, it felt like I was in a horror film. I finally cancelled the trip, feeling like I failed my first proper writing retreat in ages. When I got home, I sat down, and this song came out, pretty much in one go, on my acoustic guitar. I like to think I had to go through that experience to get this song? 

In the studio, I wanted to keep the recorded version as simple as possible, to encourage a sense of peace and calm – how I felt after arriving home from the crazy Airbnb trip. We ran the vocals toward the end through Tim’s space echo. Simplicity – and warm hugs – once again became the motto of the album.

06. “Down To Us”

“Down To Us” started with Tim playing around on the guitar. It was a playful process. We were jamming on this idea for ages. I was playing the synth. It kinda reminded me of a Chromatics song or something with real nighttime moody vibes. I sat on the couch in the living room at Killarney and sang lyrical ideas into my phone.

The song talks about blocking out the noise of the world, taking your time getting to know someone. I like how this song mirrors that concept by just taking its time to get to the next section, meandering. The final track was cut down from about a 20-minute jam we had initially! If you listen closely I’m playing a cowbell that Tim’s mum found in a field that had fallen off an actual cow – and it was in tune with the song! 

Whilst James wrote a lot of the drum parts of the record, Marcel played them amazingly in the final versions and brought a whole new character to them in some instances. You can hear Marcel put down his drumsticks right at the end of the song; it’s those personal touches we decided to leave in that makes me love these recordings even more. 

07. “Get Light”

“Get Light” is a letter I wrote to a person very close to me. It talks about seeing someone you love punishing themselves and you feel like everything you say to try and help them feel better, just exacerbates the problem. Sometimes you just have to shake it up, do something – anything – to get out of the space you’re in.

Like one side of a phone call, I wanted the vocal to feel like a conversation, and the acoustic guitar to feel soft and close. We recorded the demo at Tim’s old house above a bar on smith street at night with the sound of the bar in full swing below – you can hear the crowd downstairs in the demo through the vocal mic actually.

08. “Stay In Ur Zone”

Honestly this has to be one of my favourite songs off the album. I just absolutely love the way it all came together. For me it’s like a meditation to keep it real. Don’t compare, go at your own pace. Even though the time signature changes through verse to chorus, I wanted the song to feel effortless. I had a writing session – more of a hang out really – with Stella Donnelly and I asked her if she could think of any verse lyrics as I was feeling stuck. She came up with one whole verse on the spot, and it’s still there in the final version, in all its modest glory.

09. “Grow Taller”

I asked my internet friend Nile Marr to sing on this song. We’d been collaborating since mid 2020 where I sang on a few of his tracks, and it felt like the right place for his vocals. Thematically it worked too, as we had become friends over the past few years and I’d really opened up to him about certain struggles I was going through, which speaks to the themes throughout “Grow Taller”. That is, when you are super honest with people you meet, it gives you both an opportunity to learn and become better people.

Another line that I wanted to highlight was “If I met you when it was easier to see the bigger picture” ; sometimes we’re not open to growth, but this song is a reminder to myself in a moment of clarity to always try to put emotions aside if they’re standing in the way of becoming a better human (doesn’t always work out that way, lol).

10. “Lines”

Written around the same time as “Home” – and on the same guitar –, “Lines “was a beautifully organic one to write and play as a band. We demoed it in Killarney as a group, all set up together in the living room, the fireplace in the corner. The way it came out was how it stayed, so much so that we kept the original synth parts from the demo in the final recording. The song holds a lot of pain but a lot of positive feelings too.

It was written after a horrible experience I went through being manipulated out of a home. It makes me think of all the people in the world who are displaced and searching for new places to call home. I love Snoopy’s bass line so much, and I love what everyone came up with on their respective instruments throughout this track. When playing this song I feel so held by the band, it makes me want to cry just how much I love them all.

Cold Memory is out Friday via Marathon Artists (preorder it here). Check on Jade Imagine via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.