Tarmac Adam was formed in Melbourne, Australia, releasing its debut record Handheld Torch in 2003. Emerging out of the Melbourne indie music scene, singer/guitarist Matt O’Donnell had been working-up ideas for his second solo album whilst touring the US and Europe. Upon his return he connected with guitarist Sean McVitty to produce dreamlike early versions of the songs in 2001, before being introduced to Paul Hester, local personality and legendary drummer of Crowded House fame. Hester relocated the recording sessions into his backyard Sunshine Studios, adding his unmistakeable rhythmic signature to a few tracks. When fellow Crowded House member, bassist Nick Seymour, contacted Hester on a visit from his newly-adopted home of Dublin, Ireland, he was given a listen to Paul’s new project. Immediately recognising the material’s potential, Seymour put up his hand to produce and perform the songs. Further production in Nick’s studio in Dublin was followed by the addition of keyboardist Steve Paix, who along with O’Donnell completed the tracks in houses-turned-studios dotted around the bayside suburbs of Melbourne.
The soon-to-be unmistakeable Tarmac Adam sound was realised when Rob Feaster, a US engineer with a resumé that reads like a who’s-who of recording artists, signed up to mix the record.
The album was met with enthusiastic reviews, not least by Crowded House fans thrilled to be hearing their favourite rhythm section playing together again.
O’Donnell, Hester, Seymour, McVitty and Paix performed promo shows in Sydney and Melbourne, and soon attracted a loyal following of listeners beguiled by the new but somehow familiar sound.
Fast-forward ten years: the world had mourned the loss of Paul Hester. New experiences and perspectives on the vicissitudes and triumphs of life prompted O’Donnell and Paix to commence work on another batch of songs. Seymour was back on bass, recording in between surfing sessions on Victoria’s coast. Scotland-via-Sydney drummer, Ruben Alexander was enlisted to lay down the grooves, and young gun Josh Barber’s percussion put the icing on the cake. The new record, The History Effect, was recorded in TA’s studio in South Melbourne, completed in Nashville’s hallowed Quad Studios and once again mixed by Feaster. This was tightly-arranged indie pop: the clear baritone of O’Donnell supported by a scaffolding of layered guitars, harmonies and keyboards.
In 2013, O’Donnell and Paix took to the road in the US, accompanied by Barber on drums. The promotional tour included stripped-back shows, interviews, and radio and TV live-to-airs. Enthusiastic press and support from radio had given the band momentum, and so upon returning to Australia O’Donnell quickly began work on a set of followup material that would become the next album.
O’Donnell and Paix again called Seymour into the air-conditioning of their studio, away from the heat of the 2014 Australian summer, to lay down bass tracks. Barber took his place in the drum chair and ten new songs, more outward-looking, more universal in their subject matter, took shape. The tracks were taken back to the band’s second home, Nashville’s Quad Studios, where Feaster pulled out his old Echoplex machine and produced a spacey, expansive mix that took the sound of the band to a new height. Tarmac Adam’s latest album, In Place, released in 2015, was the result.
The new record sits next to the previous two TA releases like the third book in a series – you know the characters, you know the themes, but the story takes you to places you hadn’t imagined. In Place is where Tarmac Adam is right now, in the moment. Tomorrow’s gone before it begins.