Songs to Sleep On is the debut album of Melbourne singer/songwriter and guitarist Lucas OʼConnell. It is a refreshing new interpretation of poetry, melody and philosophy in a format that reﬂects his wide cultural experience, and is presented in a manner that is both entertaining and provocative. He is an astute social commentator and is able to capture attention at a visceral level with his musical skills.
Before basing himself in Melbourne, Lucas had been traveling throughout the world over the last decade, living some kind of Bohemian existence. He first began performing publicly whilst living in Japan, then afterwards lived and traveled throughout various places in Asia and South America which helped to kindle his musical inspiration. Whilst living Europe he studied the cultural, social and religious divisions of society and then began translating his thoughts on such issues into music. He is a paciﬁst, a humanist, an environmentalist and critic of the excesses of materialism.
The guitar became Lucas' instrument of choice as a traveller, and the early phase of his career was playing for the pleasure of his fellow travellers. Songs to Sleep On had its genesis when Lucas was living in Essaouira, Morocco, but the inﬂuences are also old European, Hispanic and Asian.
Whilst in New Zealand during 2012, Lucas planned his debut album with renowned producer Dr. Lee Prebble, and then collaborated with a group of elite musicians based in both Melbourne and Wellington to engineer and record Songs to Sleep On. These include Nick Martyn, drummer extraordinaire for international songwriting contest winners Clairy Browne and the Banginʼ Rackettes; Francesca Mountfort, award winning Cellist, a.k.a. Nervous Doll Dancing; extremely talented Danish Bassist Ida Dueland Hansen; vocalist Holly Beals from New Zealand indie band Family Cactus, plus Melburnian musical stalwarts (and mentors to Lucas) Phil Day on Horns and Hue Blanes on Piano, completing the impressive contributing line up. The recording was done in both Melbourne with Cesar Rodrigues of Blue King Brown and in Wellington at Surgery Studios with Dr. Lee, who was the principal studio engineer. The album was also mastered in Wellington by Mike Gibson at Munki Studios.
The musical style of the album is soporiﬁc, dark but soft. It is a little Gothic, bohemian but cosmopolitan, difﬁcult to attribute to a particular genre. It could be described as a mood album, that mood being beautifully dark, perhaps purposefully somber as Lucas paints a bleak lyrical picture of some of the deep-rooted cultural and societal problems that face humanity today. He usually plays a fingerpicking style of guitar, and the music could be compared to that of Nick Drake, early Leonard Cohen, Elliot Smith, or perhaps Paul Simon.
The amalgamation of sound is beautifully melodic. Musically, the songs flow wonderfully. Mountfort’s cello shines throughout the album (especially notable in 'Sands of Fantasy') and works wonderfully with Lucas’s guitar. The Radiohead-like 'Information Overload' takes society apart with O’Connell’s hard-hitting lyrics and equally hard-hitting drums from Martyn. The albums first single, 'Liquid Night' (which features as a psychedelic music video created by award-winning Aussie/English director Oliver Buckworth) leaves us wanting to cosy up with a warm bottle on a cool winter evening. It showcases the trumpeting skills of Day and beautiful backing vocals of both Beals and Hansen. Lyrically speaking, the songs are largely philosophical and emotionally diverse. Each tune is a journey in itself, and each has its own story. 'Wandering Girl' recalls Lucas’s friendship with a woman of the Sahara and deals with the cultural confusion she has to live with, while ‘Ocean War’ tells in part his brush with the ferocity of water during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The album closes with the ever so spooky ‘Song for a Ghost’, describing a post-apocalyptic scene, a eulogy for a nihilistic civilisation, somewhat expectant of self-destruction.
For a ﬁrst album, Songs to Sleep On is mature and reﬂects the considerable life experience of a gentle and perceptive individual. You can see Lucas gigging and busking around Melbourne.