Name: Joff Bush
For those who don’t know, what is your role within the iconic TV series ‘Bluey’?
I’m the lead composer of Bluey but more importantly, I play the role of Busker from the show.
Take us for a little walk down memory lane to how Bluey came about and meeting executive producer Daley Pearson?
Daley and I met when we were teenagers making little spoof-y short films. We’ve been working together since and he thought I’d be a good fit for a ‘little’ kids show Ludo we’re making. I was actually hesitant at first as I hadn’t really done typical ‘kids’ cartoon music but after introducing me to (Bluey creator) Joe Brumm and seeing the rough versions of the episodes I knew I just had to do it. Even then, Joe had an incredible unique vision for the role Music would play in the show. One that felt fresh and exciting. Daley has always had a great knack for assembling a team too – he’s like Zordon.
Tell us about the zoetrope effect on Side A of Dance Mode? What is it and how does it work?
The idea for the RSD vinyl design of the family dancing on a Zoetrope record came from the label and Bluey Producer, Sam Moor. Honestly, I had no idea about how it worked until the tester arrived. It’s super fun! Basically you need to change the frame rate of what you see – by using a video app on your phone, or strobe light, or waving your hand in front of your face, or possibly blinking really fast. It’s kinda like old school animation really in itself. It’s a gimmick of course, but a really fun gimmick to try out.
The music for Bluey, while always fun, crosses many genres, talk us through your writing process?
Everything in the music is informed by the story of each episode. The result is that we end up with a unique score every time. Sometimes the approach is completely different – we may play the character’s internal perspectives in one episode then take a more philosophical or ‘external’ approach in the next. This can lead to a whole bunch of different genres too. It helps that I collaborate with an amazing team of musicians and composers each who with their own talents to make those genres come to life in a Bluey-esque way.
How was the approach to creating Dance Mode different to Bluey The Album?
I definitely felt the pressure of the success of the first album with this one. We had a working title of ‘The Trifficult Second Album’. Generally, I just tried to ignore the noise and create a space where we can make the album that was something I (and the team) really loved ourselves first. If anything, I hope the fun, energy, love and care we put into it shines through.
Tell us a little about where the album was recorded? What was the process?
The album was recorded at Alchemix Studios in Brisbane with the brilliant Marly Lüske (from the first album) mixing and engineering. The process begins with us dissecting the music cues we wanted to use from the show. Then we arrange and expand them into the full tracks we wished we had time to make while in production. We actually re-record most of it, bringing in horn and string sections and some of our favourite musicians from around the world. Most of this is done through old vintage gear in the studio but we also have a whole bunch of musicians with home studios sending things through to us as we go.
Most memorable moment from being in the studio?
My Favourite moment was when Engineer, Rose Parker, Daniel O’ Brien and I had to make some last minute animal noises for the track ‘Doo-Ba-Zoo’. We stood around a mic each taking turns to do different animals with a heavy pause between each one. It was the most absurd thing and trying not to laugh (and ruin the takes) only made it harder. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a session.
While you compose all the music, did you bring in other instrumentalists on this release? If so, talk to us through the team.
I compose about 3/4 of the music myself these days but much of what you hear on the albums are from the amazing team of composers I collaborate with. On this album, Jazz D’Arcy features heavily with our score for Rain. She’s been integral part of the Bluey Music team from the start so it’s been a real pleasure to make so many tracks on this album with her. Pluto Jonze (Lachlan Nicolson), Meg Washington and Steve Peach are the other main collabs on Dance Mode. I can’t speak highly enough of them as artists and composers too. They sure give me a lot of pressure to live up to what they all bring. On the musician side, there’s too much talent to mention but violinist extraordinaire Youka Snell and sax-genius Joe Roberts play on most of the tracks and lmost every episode of the show too. They’re such an important part of the sound of Bluey.
Bluey The Album was created as stand alone tracks, but also one continuous body of work (perfect for vinyl), have you done the same with Dance Mode?
Oh very much yes! We had the vinyl in mind from the start often asking things like “how do we make this track fit on side A so Side B start with this”. We even culled some favourites because they weren’t fitting in with the ‘story’ of the album.
Do you have a favourite track on the album? Which one and why?
My favourite track is probably ‘Cat Squad’. At the end of each session, while still recording we asked each musician to shout ‘Cat Squad!’ and we compiled them all together. The result is that (almost) everyone who features on the album is in there. It’s a real celebration of the talent that went into making it. Also, I get to sing ‘meow meow meow’ over and over.
Any plans to take Dance Mode on tour?
I’ve been asked this a bit and I would love to! I hope to in the future when I’m on a break from composing for the show. I’m a bit pedantic and wouldn’t want to make something not-great though so it may take some time to put together.
Alongside Bluey, you compose for Australian Survivor, The Family Law and Are You Tougher Than Your Ancestors?, do you have a favourite Australian artist you listen to when you’re off the clock?
I’m very fortunate to get to work with some of my favourite Australian artists already. I generally listen to vinyl off the clock at home and have a big shuffle list of my favourite Aussie artists for the car. I would feel bad picking just one. I always have a bunch of unopened vinyls waiting for me at home and I love the novelty of discovering new talent. I wish I had more time to enjoy it all.
Do you have a favourite store to go digging for records? Either in Australia or overseas?
I usually start at vintage shops for the weird old gems but here in Brisbane: Rocking Horse, Jet Black Cat Music and Dutch Vinyl are my go-tos. Oh, I hope they stock Dance Mode! after that plug or it’s going to be awkward. 😉
Where will we find you on Record Store Day 2023? Instore? Record store? Listening to records in peace?
Oh I’m definitely going shopping!