ROI is the moniker for Brisbane musicians Matt Schrader and Barnaby Gickel and their latest take on collaborative, rhythm-based music.
Over the past decade, Matt and Barn have been the driving rhythm section for various Australian artists. Penning tunes in the back of tour vans and after late night rehearsals, they decided to create an album devoid of guitar, focusing on bass, drums, keyboards and other production elements and allowing the space to work within its own parallels. They turned to some of Brisbane’s most creative vocalists to collaborate on separate tracks.
The vocalists were approached on the premise that they use this project to expand their creative boundaries, thinking outside their normal genre and fuelling their hidden inhibitions that they might shy away from in their normal musical environment.
A full album was recorded at Airlock Studios with Konstantin Kersting at the helm. Disciplines such as rock, funk, folk and jazz were toyed with, creating an album that is hard to categorise but still able to flow and gel as a whole.
ROI offers a new and fresh take on collaborative music, steering away from the clichéd formulas and building the foundations of each song from the strong rhythmic roots that Matt and Barn have been providing artists with over the length of their careers.
Their album,August city is available for preorder here
Thanks for getting in touch, I have enjoyed listening to your album.
So ROI is a two person band. However it seems that neither of you sing. You use a few vocalists on the album, can you tell us who they are?
Sure! Neither Barn or I sing, so we wanted to write an album and use vocalists for different tracks. We approached a bunch of our favourite local singers, on the premise that we had never worked with them before and that they would use this project to expand their creative boundaries i.e. release something they generally wouldn’t in their own band.
The singers on the record are –
Alan Boyle from Blues Arcadia, Natasha Doherty from Smoking Martha, Robyn Dawson from Mosman Alder, Emily Brewis from Fieu, Stephen Ryan from Good Oak, Lauren Porter from Rowen, and Jeremy Hunter from Deeds.
It is a great idea that you encouraged them to expand their creative boundaries. Did the vocalists like that idea? It seems to have worked, did they enjoy that challenge?
Yeah they seemed to really enjoy it. We gave them creative control over the lyrics so I think they really formed a connection with the song; the whole album was a true collaborative effort.
How did you meet Barn and start ROI?
I met Barn doing some session work for Genshen back in 2007. We kind of became a rhythm duo, where if one of us got hired we dragged the other along, kind of a 2 for 1 deal. ROI came about because we were hanging out so much together playing music that we started writing our own tunes to one day form a band, but then we worked out we already had!
What was the driving force behind you deciding to do an album with no guitar?
It wasn’t the initial plan, but as we went along, we found that the sound we were producing was full enough, and worked well without that extra instrument. All the bands we have played in are dominated by guitar, so it was nice to explore rock styled music from a different perspective this time around.
We played the demos to a bunch of people and nobody picked up on the absent guitar, so that was that!
Your press release states that you toyed with rock, funk, folk and jazz as a genre can you describe what genre you think the album is or is it too difficult? I had a think and could not come up with one.
Yeah there are hints of all those in there; having a bunch of different singers from different genre bands certainly makes it hard to pinpoint a specific genre, but after playing live, we are a flat out rock band I reckon.
You both have been providing artists with music for a while, can you share a few songs with us that you worked on?
Genshen was where it all started, then we were in a band together for a while called Moniters. We did a record in Sing Sing with Forrester Saville, and a bit of touring.
You have recently had success with your single ‘Maths & Engineering’, which is a unique song. Listening to the song, it took me on a journey through Brisbane and the afterschool activities and school life. The more I listened the more I picked up on more memories. Without given away the story, I must say that it is defiantly a song that you need to have a box of tissues within reach.
Is this a true story written from personal experience?
It is true, written by someone who wants to remain anonymous, as it’s quite personal.
Yes I can understand that. I am glad that the story was told and hoped it helped this person to have it told.
How does it feel to be able to write lyrics and music that moves people emotionally and have a connection to the message of the song?
I can only comment from the music side. This song has had such a unique life already; Barn and I wrote the music in 1 take, just 2 guys lost in the moment jamming, and I had the tape rolling, threw some piano over it, and that was that. Stephen really epitomises this whole project of an artist creating outside his/her parallels – it’s the first time he has sung without guitar, and he changed his style to adapt to the music and story. To be honest, the creation and life of this particular song will live with me forever, and I’m stoked to hear that people are really connecting with it. I’ve had a bunch of messages from random people after it was played on national radio saying things like I’m crying all day at work, things like that, really touching stuff.
Amazing! Who is the vocalist on this track?
Stephen Ryan from the band Good Oak. I’ve seen Stephen’s band a few times out and about and I approached him after a gig one night saying that I’d love to have him on our album. He agreed, and we sent him the music and he put the story to the song.
Was this always going to be the first single?
It’s actually the second single haha. We were reluctant to put it out as a single, but I felt it was such a polarising track it deserved a shot. We had listening parties with friends throughout the course of the album and Maths was always a talking point – some loved and some hated it, so we were always pretty keen to get it out as a single, even though we were a bit worried about the subject matter, and that it’s a true story.
Ha! I need to research more! Sorry! Let’s just keep going….
With your success with this track ((Number 1 on indie charts and #4 overall) what are you hopes and aspirations for the release of the album?
Tricky question. We keep exceeding our goals as we have gone along, so I guess we are not trying to look too far ahead, not to lose the plate for the size of the table kind of philosophy. We were worried as a 2 piece that our live show would be tricky to try and give a good account of the album live, but we nailed the launch, and are really confident playing it live now, so I guess we would like to get out on stage with this album as much as possible.
I like asking tricky questions 🙂 After listening to the album I think the song I like the best is ‘In Mind’
Is there one song in particular that you connect to?
We actually have a strong connection with all of them to be honest. The project has been gong for well over a year, so we have had a lot of time with each song, creating the music then bringing it through the stages with the singers and the final product etc. Also now we are playing it live we are reconnecting with all the songs again, working out how to play it live etc.
I wish you well for your album Launch at The Brightside in May and look forward to following your career, all the best,
Thanks so much Jen!
Check out more about Roi on their facebook page here.