Lost Animal Is Influenced by Dylan and Ex-Girlfriends on ‘Ex Tropical’

Photo: McLean Stephenson

The sparse, almost dub-like keyboards and echoey piano flickers of Australian-based singer-songwriter Jarrod Quarrell’s lo-fi confessionals on Lost Animal’s debut Ex Tropical have an enchanting quality about them and seem to owe a sonic debt to Leonard Cohen and self-titled-era Peter Gabriel. While those two artists may rate somewhere in Quarrell’s bank of influences, they’re not among the five biggest influences he names when Hive reaches him at his home in Melbourne, shortly before he embarks on a tour with Spiritualized. As it turns out, his greatest inspirations are far more complex, though when he’s done, he exclaims, “I’m pretty excited with myself that I was able to squeeze out five.”

1. Bob Dylan

“If we’re talking about music, the biggest influence on me musically, which hopefully you would just automatically get by listening to my music, would be Bob Dylan,” Quarrell says directly. “I find the way he has fun with words really engaging; he has a way of stretching a word out or shooting it out really quickly. I also like the way he doesn’t repeat how he does songs. I’ve seen him a few times live and it seems to infuriate people who can’t recognize that he’s playing a hit until he’s sort of halfway through when he hits the chorus.” The way Quarrell relates Dylan to himself, is even more direct. “When I was in my early 20s, I liked the stuff that he wrote in his early 20s,” Quarrell says. “And when I was in my mid 20s stuff, I liked his mid-20s stuff. I’m 30 now, and I’ve found I’m drawn to his divorce period, like Blood on the Tracks and Desire a lot.”

2. Local Melbourne Bands

“Most of the music I listen to is probably Australian, like friends’ bands,” Quarrell says. “I always feel friendly competition when a friend releases a really great record. I feel like it’s my turn to up the ante. Probably the most important person along those lines would be a guy called Dion Nania. He had a band called Panel of Judges who was in Melbourne for the last 10, 15 years. They’ve broken up now, and he’s living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He just started a band there called Free Time.”

3. Movies like Woman in the Dunes and Holy Mountain

“The film has lots of long shots of shifting sand,” the singer-songwriter says of 1964 Japanese film Woman in the Dunes. “That sounds pretty boring, but that’s only one part of it. To me, it’s a metaphor of do you work to live or do you live to work. It’s also a metaphor for relationships about how they can nourish you and keep you alive, but also start stifle you and kill you at the same time.” He explains: “Basically this guy is collecting bugs in the dunes and he gets fooled into going down to this sand dune to this house to spend the night. And they track him there. And he met this woman in the dunes and they had to constantly dig sand to stop it from engulfing them. So I guess it’s just a metaphor for work and why we work.”

Another movie that means a lot to Quarrell is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s trip flick Holy Mountain. “I don’t know what the fuck’s going on in it and I don’t care,” the singer says. “It’s just visually really exciting and visually really entertaining. I noticed about five years ago, and I think it was about the same time he released his box set, a bunch of music videos were referencing him. MGMT’s ‘Time to Pretend’ ripped off Jodorowsky, and an Australian band called Empire of the Sun ripped him off in their clips as well.”

4. His own free time

“Time itself is a massive inspiration, or motivation, if you will, to create something,” Quarrell says. “Any kind of job I’ve worked has been something short term, unskilled labor, keep your hands moving stuff. Now that I’ve got time to work on music, and I am working on it, that’s when I feel at my best.” The way Quarrell maximizes his time greatly affected the creation of Ex Tropical.

5. Ex-Girlfriends

“I wanted to make a danceable record with kind of heavy subject matter; sad songs that you could dance to,” Quarrell says. “Ex Tropical consists mostly of heartbreak songs or breakup songs. I’d broken up with one girl that I dated for four years and I went straight into a relationship with another girl I’d been playing in a band with. So long story short, those two women influenced the record. Probably 80 percent of the record are about heartbreak or breakup songs to me.”

Ex Tropical is out now on Hardly Art. Watch the video for “Say No to Thugs” below:

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