The concept behind the new Fly My Pretties album may be their boldest to date. It goes against everything you thought you knew about the musical collective and sees the group attempting something they've never done before.
Over 15 years and six albums the group's identity has revolved around the idea of being a live audiovisual experience with a well established format; announce a high concept to hang a string of shows around, record those gigs and then release a live album of the show.
"We've done things the opposite way round," says frontman Barnaby Weir when talking about their previous releases. "We haven't done any studio recordings, ever."
Until now. Their new album, which is out tomorrow, is titled Fly My Pretties: The Studio Recordings and, if the name didn't give it away, it marks the first time the core band, joined by the expected smattering of guests of course, have recorded and released an album put together entirely in the studio.
• Premium - How weed, rap and Shihad changed Black Seeds' Barnaby Weir's life
• 10 Questions with The Black Seeds' Barnaby Weir
• Watch: Barnaby Weir and Ned Ngatae perform 'Get Away'
• Album Review: Barnaby Weir, Tarot Card Rock
"It's something new for us. Originally, the idea was to get that magic in the performance and capture it live," Weir explains. "We've done that well in a number of different ways, but we've never had official studio versions of these songs. People love them a lot and I thought it would be great to have a definitive album version of these songs."
That's the second big news around this release. For their first studio album Fly My Pretties went back and re-recorded favourites from their various albums. It begs the question, why not move forward with new songs?
"There's a catalogue to draw on and what we want to do is catch up with the project to therefore move on and do a whole new bunch of songs," Weir explains. "I feel that we need to bring attention back to these songs because they're such a great bunch of songs. To take them out of their individual albums elevate the quality of the audio and then re-present them.
"It's good for us to catch up with ourselves, take stock and say, 'Hey, here's some of the best that we've done.' Then we can move on to new material and a new concept. Which will be live."
This makes this record, and Part Two, which Weir says will be released next year, followed by a potential Part Three, not really a "Best Of", although they have re-recorded previously released singles but is instead a selection of songs the group feels represent the entirety of what they've accomplished.
Weir admits that the song selection "took a lot of conversations" but he feels they got the mix right.
"This is reorganising and re-presenting what's already good but this is a better album to listen to," he says. "You're not swapping between the sound inconsistencies of the different live albums."
Giving the songs a high-audio fidelity was one of Weir's motivating factors for this studio project.
"The songs have a lot of meaning for people but some listeners won't play them or won't check them out merely because they're live," he says. "The first album, Live at Bats, is probably the least professional-sounding one but the most loved. The sixth album, String Theory, is a high-quality-sounding live album that you almost wouldn't know is live until you hear the clapping at the end. But we were restricted by the takes we had. In the studio we don't have all those constraints. We could really refine small details and redo things if we needed to. We were going for a lush sound on this and I think we got it. When you turn it up there's a consistency there that wasn't in the live stuff."
But was he ever worried they might lose some of that intangible live magic?
"I think these studio recordings have a sense of the magic that's in the song," he replies. "It's a different approach. You don't have the hype, excitement and adrenalin of the crowd and stuff, that's true. But it's nice to flip it on its head with heaps more experience and record a studio album. It gives the songs a new lease of life. Champion is one song that was on the first album in 2004. We've played it a lot but I just sing it better now. My voice is lower and has more control and the tone of the song's fuller. In that way, for me, this is the definitive version because it just sounds much better, to my ears."
As for how he thinks the fans, raised on a diet of live recordings, will take this foray into the studio, he's optimistic.
"I think they'll be excited to hear these new versions," he enthuses. "Both versions are there but this is an option for fans to listen to new, high-quality versions of the songs they've loved for a long time. It's the highest quality thing we can give them in terms of audio. They may like it better or they may like the original version better because they've heard it so much more."
Then, he grins and says, "But this album is like hearing the songs from inside the artist's head, as opposed to outside, in the audience's head. "
Who: Barnaby Weir, frontman of Fly My Pretties
What: New album, The Studio Recordings Part One
When: Out now