Bursting with melody, ambitious hooks and sincere intent, Eleven Eleven is the long-awaited return of NSW Central Coast rockers Something With Numbers. Five years on from 2008’s Engineering The Soul – and following on from front man Jake Grigg’s sabbatical in Los Angeles with his side project, Maniac – Eleven Eleven is 11 killer tracks from a band filled with newfound energy. From stomping glam falsettos (“Wild One”) to ballads of regret (“Summer”), dancefloor beats (“Harvard + Stone”) and straight up riffs (“Meant To Be”), Eleven Eleven sees Something With Numbers returning bigger and better than ever.
Off the back of singles like triple j favourite “Stay With Me Bright Eyes”, Something With Numbers could have kept powering on. But back in 2009, Grigg had other ideas. “I was never gonna make another record after Engineering,” he admits frankly. “I was just over it; I don’t know why. I was over the idea of five guys standing in a room, playing heaps loud guitar, heaps loud drums together.” After 10 years, SWN needed a break. Two members exited for good. Grigg decamped to LA, founding Manic with The Matches’ Shawn Harris. “I needed to unleash this creativity I had inside me,” he explains of the move, “this music I had to get out.”
Two years on, and the singer was homesick. Really homesick. “I was recording a lot of music on my computer, and it’d gotten to the point where [Shawn] and I were making songs that we hadn’t actually played live,” he recalls. “One day I realised I missed the whole, ‘Hey, I’ve got this new song, let’s jam it out!’ thing.” Grigg wrote a tune he felt would fit his long-time band, emailing demos back. “Then I thought (excitedly), ‘Whoa, I might just write a few more…’. Turns out I missed being in a room together with friends playing music,” he laughs. “I missed playing live as a front man.”
Griggs’s adventures in America are all over Eleven Eleven. In 2011, armed with just a ukulele, he spent four weeks road-tripping from west to east, relying on his music and the kindness of strangers to stay alive. “I got rid of my phone, my money, and I hitch-hiked from LA to New York. With nothing at all, I had to beg, play for food. I was trying to do the whole Jack Kerouac thing, ‘cause I really wanted to experience not only travelling across America but also the people – and the only way you experience people is by actually talking to them. I had to talk to them, otherwise I’d be dead!”
Hitching rides with unstable weirdos, keeping clear of the path of tornadoes, being offered three-course meals for nix in restaurants… by the time Grigg reached the Big Apple he’d made enough cash for an airfare back west and had $600 in his pocket. Tracks like “Wild One” and “Run Through The Fire” got their start on this journey, their seeds written while busking for up to eight hours a day.
“The experience really opened my mind up about the world, and made me appreciate people I care about.” The album’s title – that moment when you look at a clock, and it’s always 11:11 – represents something much deeper for the singer.
Recorded in October 2012 at Annandale’s Jungle Studios with producer Lachlan Mitchell (The Jezabels, The Whitlams and SWN’s 2004 debut, Etiquette) and Mixed by Tim Carr, Eleven Eleven wears its heart on its sleeve. “We went in with the mindset of, ‘If you have an idea, it has to beat all the other parts to get in’ – ” says Grigg. “I really wanted to work with someone who we already had a relationship with, because we didn’t want anything set in stone.”
Come January, Something With Number will return to the festival circuit as part of the 2013 Big Day Out. With Eleven Eleven, they’ve emerged with their most personal, and their most striking, offering to date. “A few years ago no one’s heart was in it,” Grigg finishes. “But with this record, I really took the reins. I got to express myself completely.”