Brisbane/Meanjin based artist RINSE (real name Joe Agius) released his debut EP this month, titled Wherever I Am. Having already cut his teeth and paid his dues in previous band The Creases as well as becoming a fixture of Hatchie, while having RINSE existing in some form on the sidelines, Wherever I Am is a triumph of Agius' patience, evolution as an artist and his refined and finessed ability to write a bloody good song.
RINSE (who we named as one of our Artists to Watch this year) said of the EP, “Wherever I Am is a compilation of songs recorded over the past few years across many different places. They serve as a sonic bedrock for what RINSE represents, and a place I’m excited to build upon. Each song represents a different moment of my development as a solo artist, from finding my voice to digging deeper in lyricism, as well as honing my own skills in recording and production.”
Steeped in nostalgia and romantic yearning, Wherever I Am is an emotional, liberating collection of songs which show Agius hitting his stride as a songwriter. Complemented by the throwback sounds of shoegaze, post-punk and new wave (all of which suit Agius' vocals and musicality brilliantly), the project of RINSE arrives with a fully realised debut offering.
Opening track 'Back Into Your Arms' is the loveliest break up song ever, and thanks to a guest feature by RINSE's fiancé, Hatchie, it's centred around emotion and shows both artists bringing their A-game to not ever overshadow each other, but instead share the spotlight and let both respective talents shine so brightly. Elsewhere, the exhilarating rush of 'Tell Me Tell Me Tell Me' provides some War On Drugs frenzy, while 'Tamaryn (Wherever I Am)' is one of Agius' finest songwriting moments to date (and is coupled by a brilliant video featuring fellow Artist to Watch for 2021, Squidgenini).
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Ultimately, RINSE proves with Wherever I Am that despite the many twists and turns his career has taken, he's exactly where he needs to be right now and his music sounds all the better for the experiences he's picked up along the way. Here, he takes us on a deep dive into each song on his EP. Check it out below!
Back Into Your Arms feat. Hatchie
Back in late 2019 I had just listened to Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House and picked up my acoustic to figure out how to play it. Instead I played some wrong chords and wrote Back Into Your Arms by accident. So first of all, thanks to Neil Finn for this one.
I originally wanted this to be a new Hatchie song and I wrote/produced it with that in mind, with her singing vocals on top of mine. It ended up not feeling right or fitting with the rest of the new record we were working on, so I decided to rework it into a RINSE track and keep it. It immediately felt really weird now without Hatchie’s vocals in there, so we decided to keep them and make her an official feature.
Lyrically, the song speaks from two different sides of a relationship that is falling apart, both needing something more from one another, and both holding onto the idea that just being in each other's arms is enough to make it work. At the time of finishing the lyrics it was peak COVID quarantine here, and it felt like every friend around me was coming out of a relationship of some kind, so it was heavily influenced by that.
Just after finishing the song I stumbled across an old prop house in Brisbane which was full of Halloween and graveyard-themed stuff. This accidental find led to me hiring a truckload of props and shooting a video for the song using them all. I’m still finding fake cobwebs amongst my things from the shoot months later.
Without You might be the oldest song on the EP and came well before I had even started planning on doing RINSE and this EP. I was listening to a lot of Talk Talk at the time and wanted a song with a similar slow swaggering groove and it all formed the whole track around a similar drum loop. It was a real struggle to record and get right in the choruses because of the falsetto, which is really unnatural for me to sing, so much so I nearly didn’t add it to the EP. But once again, Hatchie came to the rescue and added in some backing vocals and suddenly everything felt right.
I wrote this song about seeing or remembering someone you used to have a connection or relationship with, whether it was in a dream or passing them in the street, and reflecting on those once close times and also the distance and change between you both now years later.
What Hell I’m In
What Hell I’m In is the newest track on the record and one I only added a few weeks before announcing the EP. It is the first song of mine that I’ve ever really purposely talked about having Bipolar disorder on.
Having Bipolar is something that I’ve kept quite private about myself, ran away from for years and something I’ve felt a lot of shame and stigma around from myself and other people. For that reason, I felt like it was time to start being honest with myself and my music and hopefully begin to undo that. This song is the first step in that process.
It touches on the warning sides I see and feel when my moods suddenly flip, and being at the mercy of these feelings, which almost feel like I’m being held captive sometimes. Simultaneously, I also in a lot of ways feel lucky for the way that I am because it’s allowed me to create, work and think differently to others and realise a lot of my dreams through music and art. It’s both a very sad and happy song and I guess a bit of a love song to Bipolar.
Tamaryn (Wherever I Am)
Tamaryn (Wherever I Am) was the song that got the ball rolling for me starting RINSE a few years ago. I’d been writing a lot of songs but nothing with too much pop sensibility or that felt like a definite first single for the project. It was just one of those weird songs that came out of nowhere while I was practicing guitar and I don’t even know how or why I started the verses with “Tamaryn” because I don’t know a single Tamaryn in real life.
After recording it, I felt really unsure of myself and the song and just sat on it for years not really being able to even listen to it. When deciding what songs would go on this EP last year I felt like if I didn’t include this song now I would probably never release it so I decided to open it up once more and after some extra mixing and mastering it finally felt finished and something I was really proud to release. I couldn’t even tell you why I didn’t like it for years but nevertheless I think it ended up coming out at the perfect time anyway.
This song is in no way about one specific person, but more a collection of experiences I’ve had growing up. I wanted to write a love song that captured that feeling of falling hard for someone, and like a drug, how high and low it can make you feel at the same time. Basically if you’ve ever had a crush, this song is for you.
Tell Me Tell Me Tell Me
The starting riff in Tell Me is something I’ve been playing around with for years on guitar when I’m killing time at rehearsals or soundcheck in different bands and always felt like a really cool way to start a song but never much more than a thought. When Tamaryn didn’t feel right as the first single to release under RINSE, I finally sat down and began to write a song around it and suddenly had something really different, and what I felt like was a perfect place to start this project.
As a way of forcing myself out of procrastination and moving forward with the release, I booked myself some studio time and began properly recording it, not even having finished the song yet. I think this urgency benefitted the songwriting and performance and I managed to add the outro onto the song at the last minute which I can’t imagine without now.
This song speaks about an earlier time in my life where I wasn’t treating myself too well, living basically in a dump and drinking and partying too much. I was doing a lot of things to try and make myself feel better but was only really creating myself more pain. I felt quite alone in how I felt and often asked myself the questions presented in the chorus.
Trust In Me
Trust In Me was a true quarantine creation and one I’m sonically quite proud of. The song consists of just two repeating chords which I thought would be an interesting challenge and limitation to try and write a whole song over. It took a long time but the result was a real blend of all my favourite influences from the wall of sound guitars to the looping Madchester drum beat and constant pulsating 80s synthesizers. Lyrically it’s about sleepless, middle-of-the-night fever dreams, anxiety and loneliness and needing somebody to pull you out of those dark feelings.
'Wherever I Am' is out now.
Introduction by Emma Jones
Image by James Caswell