IT'S almost become cliche over the past year to describe albums or songs written before COVID-19 as "prophetic" in terms of predicting the pandemic's effect on the music industry.
However, when it comes The Bamboos' new album Hard Up it's a cliche that rings devastatingly true. In the opening title track, vocalist Kylie Auldist begins by busting out with a soulful and defiant, "I don't wanna work for free/ Ain't no job security, no more."
It was tough going for The Bamboos in 2020. The year was supposed to be a celebration of their two-decade history as one of Australia's preeminent funk and soul-fusion bands with the release Hard Up, followed by a tour of the UK and Europe.
Instead the Melbourne nine-piece spent much of the year in lockdown and endured a 12-month break between gigs.
"It was strangely prophetic in that way," Bamboos band leader Lance Ferguson says. "We wrote that song [Hard Up] halfway through 2019. We certainly had no idea that it would resonate the way it did with what was to come."
Regardless, there's plenty to celebrate on Hard Up, the collective's 10th studio album. The record perfectly encapsulates the euphoric late-night vibes of The Bamboos' stage show, which was no happy accident.
The album was recorded over a week, just prior to the pandemic, in house in the central Victorian town of Lancefield. It's a DIY method of working Ferguson had long desired.
"We turned the lounge room into the rhythm section room, the dining room was the horns section," he says. "There were wires running everywhere and it was really good fun.
"We were recording drum takes at 2am. Things that you dream of doing. It was just having a group of people all focused on a goal together. There's a beautiful camaraderie that comes out of that.
"We were only there for a week, but you can get a lot done in a week when you're almost working around the clock. It was a good time, very collaborative."
The Bamboos' long-serving frontwoman Auldist sang on eight of the 11 tracks which made the final cut. However, while in lockdown and alone with the album's masters, Ferguson decided something was missing.
When COVID restrictions permitted the band reconvened to record another three tracks. Sydney soul singer Ev Jones laid down a vocal on older track While You Sleep and US artists Joey Dosik and Durand Jones were invited to sing the freshly-written It's Gonna Be OK and If Not Now (Then When).
"I was in the unusual situation where I had a finished album fully mastered and ready to go," Ferguson says. "Usually it's a race to the finish and you deliver the master and it's going to go straight to manufacturing.
"This time I had four or five months sitting with it, reflecting on it and digging into it. I never get to do that. I was thinking there were a few songs that maybe weren't as strong as they needed to be, so I actually threw in a few more."
The Bamboos' Hard Up is released on Friday.