Infusion were and are a group that originated from Wollongong and, for a short while, took hold within a specific arena. During their first run they had a number of releases; one of which was their second album, Six Feet Above Yesterday, which turns twenty this year.

I had the good fortune of talking to Infusion’s Manny Sharrad about the album, and we touched on a few things about it.

Ez: What was it like going into the writing period of Six Feet Above Yesterday after Phrases and Numbers?

Manny: I don’t really remember… We always worked very oddly in the sense that each of us did very separate parts. We all came up with ideas. We all contributed.

It was very much a case of we started writing pretty much straight away, I guess. I mean, we were constantly writing, but what evolved into this album changed a lot because we were starting to get noticed a bit and we were on the verge of signing onto major labels. So I think the style of what we were writing evolved quite a bit in that period of time. Partly because when we started we were just “let’s just write stuff”. When you start getting signed to big companies and things like that your attitude adjusts slightly, going “Oh yeah; we need singles!”

But on the whole it wasn’t the major drive behind what we ended up with.

It’s always hard to sort of know where your head’s at at that time, but looking back, we’d done the first album and we were quite happy with that. I think because we were sort of getting more interest we were really pushing ourselves a bit more in what we wanted to try out, really.

The first album was very electronic. The second album, we were like “Oh, we’ve got a bit of money now. We can try out things like putting a string quartet on a track” *laughs* That sort of thing. So it really broadened the horizons with production and the styles of songs we could write. It was still very electronic, but we had a lot more live instruments. We had a lot more friends come on board and do parts, just to see what it sounded like, really.

It was basically widening what we could do. We were still doing the same kind of things, but because we had the opportunity to use more instrumentation, it allowed us to try a variety of different styles and songs, which is what the album sounds like. It’s pretty varied. There’s a lot of stuff on it that’s very different from one another.

At the time we were all writing very different stuff; we all come from very different influences and that sort of thing, which is I guess what made us us. Someone would start writing something and go “Hey, I’ve come up with something” and the others would then add to that and it would be taken to something a bit different. For instance, the track “Invisible”, it’s a waltz. It’s in 3 / 4. Wouldn’t have thought about doing that before. And it’s a quite ambient song. I don’t think there’s any beats in it at all.

That was simply because I’d written a song and I went “Oh, this is actually really nice” and the other guys were like “Oh yeah, let’s do that”. But there’s tracks that were originally very hip hop based. Of course a lot of dance floor-friendly tracks and there’s a lot more sort of atmospheric stuff on there. A bit of breakbeaty, a bit [of] progressive stuff. It’s a mixed bag. That’s what we were like. Whatever ideas worked worked, and because we had a bit more money to play with, we did it.

We weren’t so much trying to write an album that had a specific sound the whole way through. A band like U2 or Coldplay; they’ve got their sound and it’s like that on every song. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to try different flavours on every single song, but when we put the album together, in the end, we really wanted it to be an album, so we tried to craft it as such in the final product, and it is what it turned out [as].

We didn’t set out with a specific idea of what we wanted to do. It was just a whole bunch of ideas that we had at the time. There were a lot of other tracks that didn’t make it on there, that didn’t work for one reason or another, because we had an awful lot of stuff to play with.

It was literally just what worked worked. Then we put it together and went “Here’s an album” and that’s what it was, and it wasn’t really ’til after the fact that…

Certainly some people in the record label we were on sort of started going “We want a single”, and we were like “Well you could’ve told us that before. There are many tracks on there that could’ve been singles, but if we had known you had wanted them to be a single, we would’ve worked a bit more to make a single.”

Ez: I think that even though it has a bit of variation, the songs do hang together well, but what I find interesting about it is that… You could argue that it starts in “The Careless Kind”, but I would argue that it starts in “Love and Imitation”, because the first few tracks are more “song”, so to speak.

Manny: They’re more single sort of songs. Put them up front and then go into the flavour of it all.

Ez: “Love and Imitation” starts that expanding out in that way, although it is definitely more kind of a dance track. Then you get to “Daylight Hours” and that’s when the album goes wide open.

What with having more money and more time, you guys are going “Well let’s just do what we want”. Did it end up being consciously this decision to have a point where the album goes wide open with what it’s doing?

Manny: I guess so, ’cause we always liked albums that do that.

The core progressive element of some of the stuff.. I mean the first album was very progressive, and so we wanted that flavour still there. Just a lot of the tracks that we had were more single-based, or more short. So we had a bit of both worlds.

We’ve always been very conscious of albums that a journey, and we like those kind of albums, rather than albums that [are] straight up just pop hits. You want to listen to the whole thing as a piece.

It’s definitely something we had in mind, especially when we put the tracklist in together. So you start out with a banger and it sort of goes wide screen as it goes along and takes it on this insane journey *laughs

Ez: Let’s use “Daylight Hours” as an example. What I think is really interesting about it is how – and a few of the other songs do this, some more overtly than others – but it does use brash sounds, especially in the second half with the bass – but it doesn’t have that kind of brashness. It’s still very ambient in a sense.

Obviously writing what you want and being cool with it is great and everything, but how did you get to a point where you’re fusing these sounds and using them, where taking them individually, it’s obvious they have that kind of brashness, but put together they don’t?

Manny: When we wrote it, it started out as the second half of the track, where the bass and drums are growling away. It was the beat; it was the upfront, in your face, stomping thing. But as it evolved I wrote all the words for it…

Originally it was in the same key all the way through, but I went “No, let’s change it a bit and put chord changes in to make it a bit more interesting, and just keep looping that”. As it evolved we started adding the middle extra flavours, like “Let’s try some vibraphone stuff”. So we were recording a real vibraphone and sampling bits of that and other kind of parts and creating odd rhythms, and adding lush chords, and it evolved into something quite atmospheric.

I think at some point we went “Let’s have a whole intro section” which *laughs* is the atmospheric part. “All that flavour; all that atmosphere is really lovely. Let’s have a section of that on its own just to begin with, and then kick in.” It was very much a group effort, that one, and it kept evolving into what it is, but it all started from that slamming thing, and that was it.

I think we all thought it was one of the best tracks on the album. It turned into something we didn’t really expect, but we were really happy with. Some of these things you just never know where they’re gonna finish up. That’s the fun of it.

Ez: I think – at least in similar space to it – is “Dream” and “We Follow. I Fly.” Whereas “Dream” does go for the more overt, in a sense, with a similar kind of sound base – in terms of energy – and “We Follow. I Fly.” goes for the more ambient.

Manny: I think “We Follow. I Fly.” was something Jamie came up with. Out of the three of us he’s sort of the most soundtracky-headed person. He loves his atmospherics and that sort of thing. That was a kind of experiment. A nice little ambient interlude sort of thing.

“Dream” was a demo I came up with on my four track at the time. I think it was pretty much me trying to be Massive Attack or something *laughs*, or just fucking around really, and distorting the hell out of sounds, but with that repeated vocal thing going on. It wasn’t very atmospheric to begin with ’cause it was just very raw, but when we did it in a studio we got a friend to come in and do the guitar parts on it and make it really grungy, and [we] stuck all this atmospheric delays all over it. It came out of a very rough sketch on my four track [and] wanting to take it down that path of making it a really dark, atmospheric thing. It kind of matched up with a few of those tracks as well.

I haven’t really looked at the track listing for a while and I was just having a look and I was like “The second half is pretty dark; it’s really spacious for quite a while”, and it sort of resolves, but, you know, that’s kind of what we wanted.

Ez: I think there’s a bit of an undercurrent of that darkness throughout the whole thing. I guess it’s just a bit more obvious [in the second half], and then you get to “Always There”, a good driving song for going down the M4.

Manny: *laughs*

Ez: But after having this section of very concentrated heaviness, you get to this much more kind of reaffirming song, and then you get into something that’s a bit more – some would describe as cathartic, some would describe as sad, in “Continental Drift”.

Manny: It’s a funny track, that one. We actually wrote that for the first album but it never made it on there for some reason. I can’t remember why. But we always imagined it would be the last track on an album because of what it was. It was just this odd little ambient thing with this weird piano loop which I came up with on the piano one day, so we sampled a shitty recording of a piano.

It was very much a conceptual track.

When we were putting this album together, it was like “Why don’t we just whack that on the end? That’d be awesome”. We had it. It was there. It was done. Just kind of drift off at the end.

Ez: It kind of makes me rethink of Phrases and Numbers, but at the same time I don’t think it quite fits, because – when you think about Phrases and Numbers – in a lot of places it’s a much more muted record than Six Feet…, and “Continental Drift” does fit a lot better with those songs.

Manny: I think that’s what we realised. I think the reason we didn’t put it on the first album was ’cause it was a little bit too different in the sense that it was quite odd. A lot of the tracks on the first album are quite – I wouldn’t say simple, but they’re very direct. They’re still quite atmospheric and very journey-based tracks. Even though this one is quite ambient, but [“Continental Drift” is a bit too quirky, I think *laughs*

I mean, the whole creation of it was pretty fucken’ quirky because it was just me fucking around on a piano at home, and coming up with these really odd parts and going “What happened if I looped that? That’s really nice. What happens if we put a cello on there?” and then the whole concept of it starting out in mono and going into stereo and being trippy. It didn’t really work with the stuff on the first album, but on the second it was like “Yeah, this is a really great way to finish”.

Ez: See I like this because what sounds like Six Feet… was – because you had more opportunity and range – it was very much an album of “Let’s try this”.

Manny: Yeah, absolutely. We were really letting our influences show a lot more on the second album. We said at the time that I came more form a songwriting background and I liked songs, so I was writing lyrics, I was writing songs, that sort of thing. I liked a lot of indie pop, and we all liked electronics; that was the thing in all of us, but I came from a much more experimental, weird pop angle. Frank was much more from a hip hop background, and Jamie, he loved listening to movie soundtracks; especially electronic movie soundtracks.

We were all coming from different angles, but we all met up in the middle of what we did, basically. We all liked dance music, but this one gave us the opportunity to flex our muscles and try a whole bunch of different styles.

A lot of the tracks on really evolved from what they started out as. We never rushed anything; put it that way. Some tracks took years to finish ’cause they’d constantly evolve. We’d stop working on them for a few months and then come back to them if someone had another idea of where it could go, and so they were constantly mutating until they ended up the way they were. And that’s just how we worked, really.

So a lot of the time we never knew what we were going to finish up with, but we knew it when we got there.

Ez: You basically went in with a plan to make an album, but nothing much more beyond that.

Manny: Yeah, pretty much. The genesis of a lot of these tracks started as very basic, simple demos, or – especially from my point of view – I’d have a song written which would then have to be pulled apart and then rearranged. Or just in the sense that the style I had written it in would change completely once we put it in with all the other sounds and everything like that, and it’s actually started out as a really jangly, britpop-sounding demo on a four track, and it ends up a breakbeat track or something.

There’s a lot of back and forth, and that takes a long time to condense it all down to what it ended up as; especially when there’s three songwriters involved. There’d be times when [one of us] would be “It has to be like this” and the others would be like “No, it should do this” and they’d go away and do something with it, and it would be like “Oh actually that’s pretty good” *laughs* “We’ll go with that then”.

Ez: You mentioned prog before. Can you describe to me the influence of King Crimson – specifically the eighties era – had on Six Feet Above Yesterday?

Manny: *Laughs* I never listened to them and I don’t think the other guys did either.

Ez: Damn!

Manny: I know who they are and I’ve only really just start kind of going back and going “Ah, yeah. That’s pretty good”. To be honest, it’s just one of those bands that back then I don’t think I knew much about. There was a lot of other acts from around that time that influence. Obviously Floyd had a big influence.

Even stuff like SKY. My parents had one of their albums.

I realise now I probably heard them, or people covering their songs without knowing it. It was one of those things where you look back and go “Oh, that! Right. I know that.” I can’t honestly say they were an influence, although I do like Robert Fripp’s stuff. I think he’s great.

It’s that thing where a lot of those bands who were around, but I was way too small to realise who they were, or listen to them properly, but in retrospect, going back and realising that they were there in the background of my life, but I didn’t know about it, and I’ve discovered that a lot with quite a few acts, or artists, and it’s been quite surprising to go back and go “I’m gonna listen to this person properly now”. I can see what the fuss is about now.

Ez: It properly helps with the distance of time.

Manny: Absolutely, yeah. Of course, it always helps. There’s always stuff in the eighties or nineties that I thought was rubbish at the time and then go “It’s actually not bad”. I just wasn’t in the headspace for it then. It’s very much down to who you are and what you’re into at that point in your life. There’s a lot of stuff I really enjoy now that I would have never listened to as a teenager.

You know. You change. Things happen.

Ez: So, “Love and Imitation” was turned into a single. Why?

Manny: Well… again. I referred to it before, but it was very much a case of the record label – at this point – going “We’d love another single”, and we were like “You could have told us this when we’re not on tour and really busy traveling around everywhere”.

I think we tried to get “Best in Show” out as a single, but we couldn’t do an edit of it well enough. It was too tricky, and we didn’t have time to go into a studio and rework it from scratch. We were like “What the fuck do we do?” and the easiest option at the time was [an edit of] “Love and Imitation” ’cause it was a track that we could edit easily.

I came up with the lyrics on top of it, which took fucking ages! I think I came up with three different sets of lyrics. We spent quite a bit of time popping into random studios around The UK to record attempts at vocals for it, and just going “Nah that was shit”, and it was really frustrating. So it took about three goes to get what we ended up with and be happy with it, but it was the only option that we had at the time.

“Love and Imitation”; we were playing it and it was a really popular track. We would have liked to have put out “Best in Show”, or maybe even “The Careless Kind” but we didn’t just have the time to do it properly and we didn’t want to put out a shitty edit.

“Best in Show”; it’s a great track but it’s very hard to do an edit that didn’t sound like it had been edited from the album version, if you get what I mean. We were quite picky about those things.

So it worked. It was popular, but it was like pulling teeth.

Ez: I remember it being particularly well-received as a single.

Manny: It was. The video clip was pretty good. The guys who did that put a lot of time and effort into that. I mean, hell, animation takes a while.

Ez: Was it the same people who did “Legacy”?

Manny: Yeah. But that’s very much them doing a Gorillaz clip *laughs*

This is a very different style. We had to go into their studio for a day to be hung up in a harness and suspended from the ceiling while they videoed us so they could then rotoscope over for the animated sequence. That was fun *laughs*

Ez: So talking about the dark undercurrent that runs through the album that becomes a bit more obvious toward the end – at least sound-wise – there are still, at least optimistic parts to it…

There is “Invisible” which does have the element of the psychedelic in the lyrics and its gentleness. Still has some apprehension to it, but seems to lean more toward the optimistic. There’s “Always There”, “Better World” and even some of the lyrics on “Daylight Hours” as well.

I imagine that when it came to writing lyrics you weren’t trying to write anything particularly cynical or optimistic. What were you looking to touch on?

Manny: A lot of the time it was more flavours. I mean “Daylight Hours” is definitely that sort of track. It’s stream-of-consciousness insanity, but optimistic insanity. Some of the tracks are very dark. I think at the time… we were all fairly dark guys in the sense that we see seem quite jolly at the surface, but we always liked darker music. More eerie stuff I guess, or atmospheric. So that kind of runs in a lot of what we do.

I think at the time we were probably in much darker places in our lives than we are now. It was a hard job being in a band at that time. We were only at that point – starting to make a living out of it, even though we’d been doing it for a while.

Ez: ‘Cause you guys started in the early nineties, right?

Manny: Mid-nineties was when we first started doing gigs, but it did take us a very long time to get up to speed in the sense of putting out albums and that sort of thing. We were doing a lot of 12 inches for quite a while. I think we were all quite uncertain as to what we wanted to do in our lives, and you’ve gotta work these things out; it takes time.

We had different lives. We were studying or working, or whatever. It kind of took a while to do the thing where you go “Well, let’s just chuck it all in and do the band” and when we did that, of course it was very much we were working our asses off doing gigs or writing or whatever. So it took a while for things to improve, financially, and for us to be a bit more happy in our lives, I guess. So there’s a lot of darkness there, just from personal experiences and frustrations about being in a band where you’re not making much money but you’re really struggling to put out the best stuff you can possibly do.

We didn’t want to churn out pop or cheesy dance hits. As soon as you say you’re in an electronic band – especially back then – everyone’s just like “Cheesy pop song, dance hits”. “No, we’re a real band, even though we don’t have guitars or drums” *laughs*

A lot of the time people would think we were DJing on stage. There’s three of us; we have a hell of a lot of equipment on the stage. How do you think we’re DJing?

So there’s a lot of frustration from that point of view; from what you’re being perceived as. Especially [from] other musicians in bands with drums and guitars. We were one of the few proper electronic bands; not just DJs. We got up on stage; we [played] instruments and performed. That’s how we started playing, so everything was doing something and we were creating the tracks on the fly, from the ground up.

So it sounded like we were DJing I guess?

We always played one flowing show that just went all the way through. There were no stops and starts in between songs, so it was a proper mix.

So, you know. I guess it’s all that frustration from being in an upcoming band and banging your head against walls a lot of the time, because you’re really pushing the envelope of what you perceive as what you do as musicians, and what is out there, and because we were one of the few doing that in Australia, especially…

That’s why we went overseas a lot, especially in the UK [where] people understood what we were doing a lot more, because there were bands like that over there. Here it was quite an interesting thing to be doing. It was great because we were one of the only ones doing it, but it was quite frustrating at times because I don’t think a lot of people understood it.

As time went on, things certainly changed. But yeah; I just think in general, we liked darker-sounding stuff. We were never really interested in happy pop lyrics. We were interested in the bands that did stuff that was a bit darker and different.

I mean, we all loved Depeche Mode, New Order, a lot of those bands.

Ez: You said that you were looking for flavours actually makes a fair bit of sense.

Manny: Frank wrote “Careless Kind” and “Best in Show”, the lyrics.

Ez: He did a really good job.

Manny: It was surprising because he’d never really done that before and brought those to the table and we were like “Oh, these are good”.

“Better World” is probably the most straightforward track on there as it was very much written as a three minute pop song, as such. It was written when we were touring in the states and I was watching CNN, stuff like that way too much, and realising how fucked it was. It’s completely about that, about how the media over there was just pumping propaganda at a country that didn’t understand what was going on outside of their borders.

Ez: Perhaps not as optimistic as I thought it was.

Manny: *Laughs* No, it’s not optimistic at all.

Ez: I thought maybe “Girls can be Cruel” was a bit more obvious and a bit more direct in a sense.

Manny: That’s an odd one actually, ’cause I remember writing it but I don’t know if there was any particular reason for the subject matter. It was a case of we’d come up with a really good instrumental groove and track. I came up with the vocals for that and I don’t know why I picked that theme *laughs* Probably a bit grumpy on the day or something.

It’s another angry song but I don’t know why I picked that theme. I guess it was just easy at the time.

Ez: It sits well on the tracklist but I think it might be the weakest song on the album.

Manny: That’s kind of what I think too, to be honest. It was very much a case of… I think of all the tracks on there it was written as a single more than anything else, with the knowledge that it would be that… from memory anyway.

Ez: The other thing as well is, I wouldn’t take it off the album ’cause it fits. In a sense it does play to the heritage and the perception of Infusion, in possibly being the most “dance single” song.

Manny: That and “Love and Imitation” are probably the two biggest clubby things on there.

I was never fully happy with it myself. I think it needed something extra in there. It’s missing one little element which I still can’t work out. Maybe a horn section; that’d be cool. A big brass band.

It’s probably the most shallow song on the album, if you get what I mean.

Ez: At the time, how did you feel the album fit into the electronic soundscape, after its release – especially in Australia – vs. how you feel about how it fits now?

Manny: It was quite different from everything else that was out there, I think *laughs* and looking back, you do realise – ’cause we did have quite a few people tell us in later years that it was way ahead of its time. Don’t want to blow our own trumpet or anything like that, but looking back you go “Yeah it probably was”.

Sonically I think it was doing stuff that a lot of people weren’t… that became more accessible later, if you get what I mean. Styles have changed and it’s like a lot of other artists started doing that kind of flavour of sounds more toward the ends of the noughties. When we put this out, [if it was] five years later it probably would have been bigger than it was. It was received really well, but I think it was received by the kind of people who would listen to it in the first place and not by a wider audience.

But a lot of people [are] going back to it now and going “Yeah, that was really great”, and the first album as well. You can still listen to them today.

We really wanted to do the kind of music that you could play much later down the track and still think “This sounds good. This sounds great”. We didn’t want to be pigeonholed by a sound; a style that aged really quickly. We were always very aware of not doing that. We didn’t want a pop single that sounded old within a year. That was the problem with a lot of dance music around then ’cause it was always seen like that.

Yeah, some of it clearly sounds of its time, but I would like to think that there’s always something in each individual track that makes it unique in some sort of way, but I think that’s why what we did as a band worked. We all came from different angles, musically, so what we did end up with was always a big mash of all our own individual ears and psyches, basically. We wanted to make three dimensional music. We didn’t want to write stuff that we would be embarrassed about later.

We liked bands that wrote albums that you could listen to years later, so we wanted to do that. I think that probably confused the fuck out of our record label. We signed to BMG and they were great, but then they merged with Sony and it all went to shit ’cause I don’t think the people at Sony knew what to do with us, even though we won two ARIAs. It just kind of fizzled out and it was really weird.

We started writing our third album almost straight away in the knowledge that we were now signed to a major label and they didn’t come to the party, which was really surprising, considering what we were writing, we thought they would like and be able to market well and they just didn’t get it, or something. I think it was just the change of personnel behind the scenes that really kind of fucked us for a while. Eventually we asked to get out of the contract ’cause nothing was happening. Even though we nearly finished the record, they still weren’t stepping up to go “Okay, let’s do this”, and we didn’t know why, so we put the third album out ourselves, which was incredibly hard work.

Didn’t pay off as well as we hoped, basically, ’cause we didn’t have the big label behind us anymore. That was quite disheartening at the time. I think it was one reason why we basically burned out, because we’d spent so much time and effort on our part to do the third album, and not really gotten anywhere.

It was tough, but I still like the third album. It’s probably the most – I use the term loosely – commercial, but I still think the songs are great. But looking back on it, if we had known what was going on, we would have done it differently.

Ez: Being twenty years since Six Feet Above Yesterday, do you have any plans to celebrate it?

Manny: We had thrown the idea around a couple years ago of doing a twentieth anniversary thing for Phrases and Numbers. That obviously didn’t happen because of lockdown and Covid, but the idea was there, and we have thought about it. It would be great to do one of those shows where you play the whole album through from start to finish, but with this album it would be quite tricky ’cause there’s a lot of live instrumentation on it.

Whether or not we would want to recreate that live on stage or not is another thing, but it is possible. At least half of the tracks we still play, so that’s half of the job done, but there are quite a few tracks on there that we’ve only played a handful of times or not at all, and that would be a bit tricky to recreate those live on stage.

But you know, we’ll see.

God knows how we’d do “Continental Drift” though *laughs*

Ez: I guess if you wanted to play it as it was, you’d have to get a bunch of other people involved.

Manny: And whether or not we still have all the parts and stems for a lot of the tracks is another question. We’ve always been conscious of backing everything up, but even now, we’re going back a while. We’d have to recreate a few bits and pieces from scratch, but that’s kind of fun. We’ve been doing that anyway with certain things.

Phrases and Numbers is an easier album to a live performance of ’cause of the structure of the songs. It was much more written around how we played live, whereas this one wasn’t. It was written around what we could do in the studio.

We’re dealing with stuff over twenty years old, and it’s always interesting going back and wading through these strange folders on drives that you haven’t looked at for years and you go “What the fuck is that? Ooh, that thing”.

We’ll see.