WAY OF THE EAGLE
To describe Way Of The Eagle as the new solo project of producer-songwriter Jan Skubiszewski is to overlook the spirit and scope with which it comes.
Having topped Triple J’s Most Played Track chart with first single “Rattlesnake,” featuring the dusty pipes of Australian golden boy Dan Sultan, Way Of The Eagle is best described as a creative vision. A banner under which one of the country’s most prolific and revered young producers can do his thing the only way he knows how, turning his street-side studio into a buzzing, beat-pumping drop-in centre for collaborating artists. A way for Skubiszewski to deliver the kind of good-time and affecting musical moments that sound suspiciously like instant radio and festival classics.
Simply, it’s a way forward and up. The name ain’t for nothing.
“I love melodic songs and writing songs with different singers,” Jan explains the genesis of his new adventure. “And I think people love to sing along to songs – I know I do. I want that to be a really big part of Way Of The Eagle.”
Starting out in his teens as a studio engineer, Skubiszewski cut his teeth on lauded early recordings by The Cat Empire, rapper Phrase, John Butler Trio and soul kicker Daniel Merriweather. He’s since become the go-to producer for recordings that seek to step beyond genre and capture attention. Most recently Skubiszewski has worked with rapper ILLY and sleek young singer-songwriter Owl Eyes to realise their left-of-centre aspirations. As half of the duo Jackson Jackson, his songwriting partnership with The Cat Empire’s Harry Angus, Skubiszewski also has an ARIA Award nomination to his name, for the group’s 2007 album, The Fire Is On The Bird.
Way Of The Eagle is an entirely new prospect. On his debut Rattlenake EP, Skubiszewski sets the scene with four distinct tracks. “Rattlesnake” announces Way Of The Eagle’s entrance with a sleazy Nevada Desert swagger and a killer brass section. “Find Your Love” goes straight for the darkest corner of the club with its glitch beats and distorted synth lines underpinning Daniel Merriweather’s honeyed R&B vocal. “Falling Mountain, Drowning Seas” sweeps across a snowy landscape with a heart-wrenching performance by singer Emily Lubitz, front-woman of the band Tinpan Orange and partner of Jackson Jackson’s Harry Angus. Lastly, “Arrow” points to future festival-tent elation with a coursing electro current, letting Skubiszewski tinker feverishly with his instruments.
“This has definitely become my focus. I’m not producing other bands at the moment and I’m just really excited to build Way Of The Eagle,” Jan says. “I’ve written this music so that lots of people can enjoy it. It’s not dense jazz music and it’s not taking itself too seriously. There’s a strong sense of musicality, but the essence of it is to make people get up and have a good time.”
It wasn’t inside his studio but in a cavernous old room at Melbourne’s Abbotsford Convent that Skubiszewski wrote “Rattlesnake” with Dan Sultan. The nucleus of the song took form easily and quickly, Skubiszewski tells. “I was going through all of Elvis’s Las Vegas period and a lot of the songs from that time are based around that one tight lyric that the whole song would build to. I thought about this idea of a rattlesnake and this femme fatale thing, and when I said it to Dan he just exploded and all these lyrics came out. Before we knew it we had a song.”
Some of the vocals Sultan recorded in the convent that day even made it onto the final track, which was rounded out with live drums, a string section and brass. “It was a terrible room to record in, but we really liked the performance so we kept those vocals in,” Skubiszewski says. “There was just this carefree vibe. We were just having a lot of fun with it.”
Onto a good thing, the rest of the Rattlesnake EP was recorded in a surge of activity in the months prior to its release. The way of the eagle, it seems, is to work fast and go by instinct. “I’ve really got the creative momentum up to make a special album, I think,” Jan says.
Watch for the swoop.