Category Archives: Interviews

Feature interview: Boy and Bear are bouncing back

Boy and Bear Paul McBride Scenestr interview

Four years spent coming to terms with a debilitating illness hasn’t dampened Boy and Bear frontman Dave Hoskings’ lust for life as the band return home for a national tour.

After a much-publicised struggle with chronic dysbiosis – a microbial imbalance in the gut – Hoskings is enjoying playing and touring as much as ever, despite the journey towards fourth album ‘Suck on Light’ being a tough one.

“Life’s really good,” he says. “[The album] felt like a long time coming and when I listen to it, I’m still happy with it. I think we were able to produce something that we’re really proud of it, and it’s nice to be on this end of the cycle with the record, and we’re thinking about touring and travel. It feels good to be back.”

Hoskings’ accompanying diagnosis of anxiety and depression was also overcome as the multi-ARIA-award-winning band got back to business.

“At the back end of the last record I had kind of fallen to pieces,” Hoskings says. “I had to work out what the hell was going on and that took a bit of time. I’ve been a pretty open book about the whole thing and I’ve come a really long way. I’ve still got some challenges and I’ve still got a way to go, but that’s still moving in the right direction and I just have to stay patient and keep seeing the really effective doctors that I’m seeing. The main thing is that I’m much more comfortable and my functionality is much better. I’m up and I’m working and I’m surfing a bit, so that’s really good.”

The Sydney five-piece will play The Drop festival in Noosa, Newcastle, Manly, Coolangatta, Torquay and Busselton, and a slew of regional and metropolitan shows starting 29 February and ending in May with the completion of their 65-date world tour.

“Touring is going really great,” Hoskings says, “We love playing in Australia, but the world is a really big place and we want to embrace the scope of that – being able to travel, play in festivals and try to compete in these markets is really fun. North America has been great. We haven’t been back to Europe for a little while, but sales have been really strong for this tour, which is kind of heartening, I guess. We’ve been out of the game for a while and you never know whether people might have moved on, but it feels like our core fanbase is really solid. It still feels really odd, in a nice way, that people on the other side of the world who speak a different language are still embracing what we do. We get to travel over there, play and sell out some gigs, which is amazing.”

A love for touring regional areas was established early in the indie-rockers’ eleven-year career.

“Our early years were much more ‘adrenaline’, more excitement and much more partying,” Hoskings says. “Now, we want to pace ourselves a bit. We still love getting up on stage and playing, but the difficult part is all the travel and the lack of sleep and things like that. Each one of us has our own routine and we generally know what we’re getting ourselves into. We do a bit of prep and we feel pretty good about it. If you don’t do the regional shows, you’ve only really got five or six gigs in Australia, in terms of capital cities. But right from the start, we had a discussion with our management and it was definitely something we wanted to do. It’s not always easy touring regional Australia. It has its challenges, but it’s been a really rewarding thing making that decision early, so there are crowds and audiences that are used to us coming. That’s been really good for us, and it feels like people are just welcoming and enjoying the fact we’ve made the effort to get out of the major cities, although we’re hitting Brisbane at the Fortitude Music Hall. That should be really cool; I’ve heard so many great things about the venue.”

‘Suck on Light’ was recorded in Nashville and features themes of overcoming hardships and emerging from the other side with a smile.

“We decided we wanted to work with Collin Depuis and he was based in Nashville,” Hoskings says. “So, it was either we head there or we get him to come to us. Nashville is probably just got the edge on a lot of studios around Australia. There are plenty of great players if you need them and really good musical resources – it’s just a really effective place to record. We would definitely succumb to the fact that we’ve got one foot firmly planted in pop music and, I think, with good pop music, when you dig underneath it, there more complicated things going on. I think that some songs take time and certain things can take a while. But you also don’t want to lose that musical instinct and energy that can come. The whole recording took us about six weeks, so not an extremely long time, but not banging it out either. It can be a bit of a time warp in the studio from 10am to 7pm and you don’t know where the day went. We did try to get out of the studio once a week – even to just chuck a Frisbee around or get on the bikes.”

With a new lease on life and his health conditions under control, Hoskings has been productive.

“I’ve been kind of noodling around with stuff,” he says. “I had some demos, so I set up a file on my computer which just said ‘album five’. I took a photo and sent it to the boys just as a little motivation, I guess. I’ll try to build a body of work over a period of time and I’m already thinking about the fifth record.”

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Feature interview: Sleaford Mods’ Deep Discontent

Sleaford Mods Paul McBride interview 2020

At first glance, Sleaford Mods might seem easy to pigeonhole, but scratch just below the surface and there’s a seething mass of contradictions and complexities ripe for discovery.

The English duo of vocalist Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Fearn has been aggressively yet cleverly ripping apart the ruling classes, societal norms and austerity-era politics across 13 years and 11 albums, but not everything is as simple as it seems, Williamson says.

“I’m wary of the fact that I don’t have to struggle any more, so sometimes I feel that I’m not the person to ask about frontline politics,” he says. “I personally don’t want to repeat myself on each album by saying how shit everything is, do you know what I mean? At the same time, I want to talk about how shit it is, but you can’t just talk about things in a clichéd manner, because that’s just fucking rude. These things are serious; they affect people. You have to talk about things like that in ways that people will feel. I’m not talking about some fucking bolshy, middle-class audience that just wants to hear you say ‘fuck whoever’, but real fucking connection with misery. It’s a bit of a tightrope; you’ve really got to think about it.”

Embittered rants about unemployment, working life, human rights, pop culture and capitalism layered over punk/hip hop sounds are the duo’s bread and butter. Williamson is hyper-aware of the power of words and forthright about his process of getting his lyrics to the right place.

“I just make sure I’m checking myself because it’s easy to fall down the cliché trap,” he says. “It’s easy to be lazy. If you’re talking about a situation you’ve experienced or a feeling or somebody you don’t like, it’s important to dress that with something that is as potent as how you feel about that subject. [Writing is] cathartic to a certain degree, but I can be a very resentful person, a very bitter person, or full of self-doubt. I’m never fucking happy really [laughs]. You could see me as a successful singer in a successful band, but I’m never content about it. I feel good about myself a lot of the time, but, at the same time, I get pissed off and take things personally when things don’t change. It’s swings and roundabouts, innit?”

Williamson, who has been teetotal for over three years, and Fearn are making their first visit to Australia to play WOMADelaide and a run of shows starting 29 February in Wollongong.

“It was always something we wanted to do but just weren’t in a position before,” Williamson says. “I don’t want to sound like a complete idiot, but, in the past, we would have been literally paying to come over and we’d have no money to take back. We were a grassroots band and we came up together. We were doing it on our own and didn’t really connect with the proper industry until later. It feels like the time spent in Australia will be put to good use, although I can’t fucking be doing with wankers on drugs in my face, talking shit [laughs].”

Wankers aside, Williamson is keen to connect with audiences here, and isn’t worried about his often bleak, UK-centric subject matter resonating with fans in the southern hemisphere.

“People get the gist, do you know what I mean?,” he says. “The music speaks for itself. It’s kind of a universal feeling you get from listening to it. Yeah, the lyrics are a bit alienating, I guess, but, generally speaking, it’s a sound that’s familiar with people. It carries a lot of aspects of sounds that have gone before, but it’s also got a modern, new approach to it as well. Nobody really sounds or operates like us. We’re kind of on our own.”

For Mixdown Magazine

Feature interview: A hell of a trip with Kikagaku Moyo

kikagaku moyo paul mcbride interview

From busking outside train stations and having to pay to play in Tokyo’s live music venues to becoming a leading light for Asian music internationally, Japanese psych-rockers Kikagaku Moyo have come a long way since their 2012 conception.

The band, whose name translates as ‘geometric patterns’, has toured non-stop, released four albums and two EPs, and spawned a record label in drummer Go Kurasawa’s and guitarist Tomo Katsurada’s co-run Guruguru Brain.

Much of that success was down to early push and pull factors that saw them leave their homeland and discover new communities and audiences abroad, Kurasawa explains.

“When we started, people were beginning to care more about music outside of where they were,” he says. “At that time in Japan, media would see you as either a Japanese band or a foreign band; different things were expected from domestic and international bands. There was a tendency at the time for Asian bands to be like American bands; to sing in perfect English and those kind of pressures. But we’re not from L.A. and I like being different. Also, in Japan at that time, bands had to pay to play, whereas in Australia we found you could get paid, even if it was gas money or dinner money. So, we thought, ‘let’s go to Australia’. It gave us confidence quickly after our first show in Melbourne.”

Guruguru Brain – founded in 2014 – is a major focus for Kurasawa and Katsurada this year, as the label seeks to expand into new territories and make connections internationally; albeit with a focus grounded by a DIY approach and communal aesthetic.

“It’s nice to feel that we’re supporting the community,” Kurasawa says. “This is something I see in Australia because, geographically, it’s so hard to tour in America, so the community has to support each other. That’s kind of what we are trying to do for the Asian music community. This is a big mission for us; even more than the band. The band is nice; hanging out, playing music with friends and touring, but we’re also trying to focus on the label, so we’re meeting new bands from Taiwan and some others. I look for originality and identity in the music. It’s interesting that a garage band from Taiwan can be so original but you can hear influences from, say, New York or Chicago. You can connect over feelings that maybe we grew up listening to the same types of music.”

Kikagaku Moyo’s mind-bending sounds range from hard-rocking psych to mellow, sitar-drenched folk and much more in between, and every live experience is a very different beast, with about 20 to 30 per cent of the show being improvised. The band will tour New Zealand and Australia beginning 28 February, with a show at the Croxton Bandroom on 4 March.

“Every day we change the setlist and we have songs that can change and become improvs,” Kurasawa says. “We just kind of have to see what we feel, and it depends on how the song is affected by the atmosphere and the audience setting etc. This will be our third time touring Australia. The first time we came was in 2013 when we had just started the band, so it’s really nice to come back to where it all started in terms of touring. Last time we played Gizzfest, we connected with lots of audiences and other bands. It’s a very nostalgic and special place for us. I think we are going to stay in Japan after this Australian tour to do some writing. We will record this year and hopefully [a new record] will be finished this year. Since we are self-releasing we can do it any time we want. There is no pressure.”

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Feature Interview: Dune Rats

Dune Rats 2019

New album. New tour. Same debauchery. Dune Rats are back, baby.

If ever a band lived every day like tomorrow was the apocalypse, it’s the Brisbane trio, who are almost as well known for their off-stage antics as for their catchy garage rock and punk gems.

Being a bunch of hot messes hasn’t held them back, though. In fact, it’s probably still their biggest catalyst as they hurtle towards their tenth year together. Just maybe, however, there are hints the band are growing up in ways not even they might have expected.

Set for release in January, third album, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ steps into new territory for the group, says bassist Brett Jansch.

“Nobody is Peter Pan and stays young forever,” he says. “Because we write together, we want to write about things we actually give a shit about, and when you get a little bit older, your life is changing. Not everyone wants to hear another song about cocaine and Scott Greens and shit, you know what I mean? I like when albums by bands I love are different and they take it in a new direction.”

The band avoided difficult-second-album-syndrome with the wild success of ‘The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit’, which hit number one in the ARIA charts upon its January 2017 release, but such a lofty achievement isn’t taken too seriously in the Dune Rats camp.

“Different album, different things,” Jansch says. “It was rad that that album went to number one, but let’s see how this one goes. I think the songs are way better on this one that the last one. That’s not to say the last one was shit, but it’s just the evolution of the band and not trying to fall back on the same way to write a tune or the same things to write about. We’re pretty psyched. It’s taken a long time; we finished recording at the end of January this year and I’m fucking psyched about how it turned out.”

The band took time out to record with long-time friend and collaborator James Tidswell of Violent Soho on production duties.

“It was probably one of the most laid-back recordings we’ve ever done,” Jansch says. “We wrote the songs pretty quickly, then when we went to record, we went to the Grove, which is a studio at the Central Coast in New South Wales. It’s a place where you live there and record there as well, so we were constantly churning the album over and getting it done, while we were having beers and shit. It was a very pleasurable recording experience.”

With a large and loyal following built from years of criss-crossing Australia and putting in serious mileage overseas, the band is in a solid position to capitalise with ‘Hurry Up and Wait’, set for release on 31st January via Ratbag Records.

The record pays homage to the group’s whirlwind touring life and associated excesses, among other strange and wonderful tales.

And while they may be a little older they aren’t necessarily that much wiser, recently telling triple j of the story behind latest single ‘Crazy’ being one of the excess and indulgence they have become (in)famous for.

“’Crazy’ is one of our heavier songs that we wrote over in LA when we were surrounded by a lot of excess,” singer Danny Beaus said. “Everyone is doing anything and everything because it’s available, whether it’s taking drugs, eating shitty food or being surrounded by technology. All this stuff at the end of the day, whilst awesome at the time, doesn’t leave you any better off even if it feels that way in the moment. We didn’t set out to make a big album, or a polished album, or an album about partying because the last one did alright, or an album not about partying because we want to get away from that. It’s just writing about different stuff in our lives. It was always just going to be Dunies.”

Following a European jaunt, the trio are hitting the road for an Australia tour starting in February, taking in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with support from Ruby Fields, Northern Beaches indie-rockers Dear Seattle, and Wollongong three-piece Totty.

“[Europe has] been a blast; such a good time,” Jansch says. “It hasn’t been that real relentless touring like in the past when we’ve done 30 shows in two months in the UK or the States. We’ve kind of just been blagging through cities we’ve loved and the shows have been really, really fun. [Back home], I hope people can get they and check out Totty, and stay the whole night. The whole night will be full of enjoyable music and good times, and stepping up into venues of that size will be awesome for us. Hopefully that means 3000 people having a good time, so I hope it’s a great place for people to get loose and sing along.”

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Feature Interview: Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions

Scorpions band 2019 seattle

They may have been around since 1965 and have an average age of 63, but German hard rock royalty Scorpions are planning to tear Australian audiences a new one when they co-headline with Whitesnake in a few weeks.

The five-piece, perhaps best known for their 14-million-selling, 1991 power ballad ‘Wind of Change’, will have been on their ‘Crazy World’ tour for close to three years by the time they arrive for shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on 19th, 22nd and 24th February respectively.

Founder member, 71-year-old rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, can’t wait to reconnect with fans here, speaking of previous visits and chances to reconnect with the enthusiasm and vitality of someone a third of his age.

“We’re coming back because we love it so much,” he says. “I remember that in 1992 we had a fantastic offer to go to Australia, but my friends were so tired from touring after one and a half years on the road with the [original] ‘Crazy World’ tour, and we had a number one or number two hit in Australia with ‘Wind of Change’, and I said, ‘let’s get this done’. But we were tired and people couldn’t be convinced, and now we have the possibility. In 2016 we played some shows there with Def Leppard and we had a great experience there. That was the reason we said to our agents that before we go into the studio to make a new album, we would like to do another tour in Australia to heat up the market, then the offer to go and co-headline with Whitesnake came up.”

The two bands make perfect sense as co-headliners, having known each other for decades and recently having played monumental festivals together.

“We played with Whitesnake already this year in Brazil”, Schenker says. “We played Rock in Rio with the Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden, Muse, Imagine Dragons and our friends Bon Jovi, and [the festival] voted us the best act in Rock in Rio for 2019! That’s pretty good for a band that has been on the road for over 50 years.”

Founded in 1978 by former Deep Purple singer, David Coverdale, Whitesnake arrive in Australia on the back of the release of thirteenth album, Flesh & Blood, released in May. It’s been 12 years since they last played here.

“We get on so well together with Whitesnake as we have been friends for years,” Schenker says. “They are great people. I remember, in the old days, the headliners would try to fuck over the openers because they were afraid they would be better than them. Our way is different. We want to be the best; there’s no question about this, but we are friends and our bands, Whitesnake and Scorpions, have a crossover in fanbase. In the end, we have the possibility to convince the audience that the whole night was a great package and send them home happy. It needs to be the whole evening, the whole show, all the bands being fantastic. In the old days, rock and roll was a rough and tough kind of music, but, these days, David Coverdale is a gentleman onstage.”

‘Wind of Change’, which describes the breakdown of the former USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall, became, for millions, the political anthem that accompanied the reunification of Europe after 50 years of division. Schenker sees it differently.

“’Wind of Change’ became the soundtrack to the most peaceful revolution on earth”, he says. “But we didn’t see the song as a political statement; we saw it as a human being statement or a statement of hope. We hope that people – human beings – can find a way to live together in peace. As our planet becomes smaller and smaller, we need to have the right way to bring people together and not against each other. The reason we are on the ‘Crazy World’ tour now is like when we were on the ‘Crazy World’ tour 30 years ago. Then, it was crazy in a positive way, with the Berlin Wall coming down and two big worlds coming together and making some peaceful decisions, but now, we are looking at a crazy world in a more negative way. We are always two steps forward, one backwards. In the ’60s and ’70s we started travelling around the world to show people that Germans weren’t bringing war; they were bringing love, peace and rock and roll. That’s the reason we were one of the first rock bands to play in Russia; to show people that music is a very important part in life. Mozart said, ‘What would be the world without music?’ and he is right. Music is the best communication you can have.”

The permanent addition of former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee in 2016 provided a welcome shot in the arm after James Kottak’s dismissal for alcoholism. The band’s live performance has benefitted in new and unexpected ways, Schenker says.

“We were fighting very hard to get James back into the band,” he says. “We were hoping that we could keep him in the band, but after bringing him into a rehab kind of place to get him away from drinking, people were telling us that he needed more time than we could give him. Matthias [Jabs – lead guitarist] said that Motörhead had been friends with us since they opened for us in 1974 in Blackburn, England. When we got the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they were there and we became friends. When Lemmy was very sick, I went to his dressing room to see him and I congratulated him for 40 years of Motörhead being together, and he congratulated me for 50 years of Scorpions being together. We were close, and when Lemmy died around Christmas, Matthias had the idea to ask Mikkey Dee. I called him, and he has always been a Scorpions fan. I can tell you, when Mikkey Dee was on the drums during our first rehearsal, I had to kick my ass again because it was a very strong attack he takes and he makes me a more effective rhythm guitar player. The right riff with the right edge is the way I play, and this is the way he plays his drums. We always have fun when we play every show. It’s fun to be onstage and kicking each other’s ass – people can see that and they are impressed. They can see that, even though those fucking bastards are 70 years old, they’re still rocking like a hurricane!”

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Feature Interview: Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari

Enter Shikari Australia 2019

Sixteen years and five albums into its career, Enter Shikari is a band comfortable with expressing itself in unique and refreshing ways.

Nowhere is this more clear than on latest single, the upbeat ‘Stop the Clocks’ – a song that took the band to a new creative space, says frontman Rou Reynolds.

“’Stop the Clocks’ was one of the longest and strangest writing periods,” Reynolds says. “With a lot of our albums, we’ve released standalone singles. [Fifth album] The Spark, for some reason, seemed to take on a bigger and longer lifespan and we wanted to give it its own space and era. Even the recording process changed its guise and atmosphere a few times. It was a difficult song to make sure we nailed. It felt like it was quite a ‘summer’ track as well, so it was nice to release in summer. With negative emotion, you can get to the core of it easier, but with positive emotion it can seem trite or bubblegum-y. You can fail to encapsulate the positive passion that you’re trying to get across. So, in those moments you have to really think about it so it doesn’t come across too contrived, cheesy or obvious.”

After a long period of heavy touring on the back of The Spark, released in 2017, the UK quartet will arrive on Australian shores to play Good Things Festival in December.

“Australia is always one of the best places to perform,” Reynolds says. “First of all, we go there when it’s winter up in the northern hemisphere, so that’s nice. It’s a kind of nice mixture between the UK and America – it has a lot of the good points of both. The shows are always amazing as well. There’s a passion and energy we always look forward to. We haven’t played there in quite a while, or at least it feels like a while and we’re very much looking forward to getting back. I’m not bad with the heat, but Rory, our guitarist, definitely struggles with things.”

Since that widely-acclaimed release, the band has been honing its already considerable live skills with tours in some not-so-obvious places.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Reynolds says. “We got to go and do eight shows in Russia, which took us out of the normal cities we play – Moscow, St Petersburg, and all the way really far east to Lake Baikal [in Siberia] to bits of nature I never thought I’d see. It was incredible. I think they just appreciate bands that actually go there. Every country has its bad aspects, politically, but there’s an energy there that we probably don’t find anywhere else. The shows can get to such an ecstatic level, ever since we first played there. We just got back from America, where we did a stint across Texas, the east coast and Canada. Then we were back at Reading and Leeds in the UK for the first time in five years, which felt almost like a homecoming.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live experience when the band lands for the December run of shows, and possibly with some unique surprises thrown in.

“We’re so naturally fidgety that we have to keep the show moving forward,” Reynolds says. “We’ll throw in remixes of songs or mash up different songs together or re-imaginations of songs. It’s one of the most important things about the band, because people want to see an honestly passionate show. Nobody wants to see a band that’s been on tour for three months playing the same set, because it’s just boring. I think we’re just relentlessly progressive in everything we do, so the show keeps progressing as well. We hopefully can make people feel all sorts of things.”

The band are working feverishly on album number six, Reynolds says.

“We’ve started the next album,” he says. “We’re still in the early stages but there’s a good wealth of new music now. With every album, the first stage is just sheer panic as you’re coming to terms with the fact there is this beast that has to be reared and that can be disorientating and imposing. But once you get started and get bearings and direction, it becomes and fun and you get over the sheer anxiety of the project. That’s where we are now. The plan is to have it out next year.”

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Feature Interview: Winston McCall of Parkway Drive

Parkway Drive

Sixteen years and six albums into his glittering career, Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall isn’t about to start taking anything for granted.

“From day one, we’ve always had to prove ourselves,” he says. “We’ve always said in interviews that we just go out there and do what we do, but, now having sat back and looked at it, the place we’re at now is literally the last place anyone would have expected for this band, including ourselves.”

Sixth album ‘Reverence’, released in May last year, pushed the band’s creative ambition further than ever before and has brought not only exciting new avenues and achievements, but additional pressure to the Byron Bay metallers.

“The past 12 months has been crazy; like a complete time-warp,” McCall says. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of touring and the band has grown so much in that time that I forget the fact it’s only been a year since [‘Reverence’ came out]. It’s been the biggest release of the band’s career and we’ve reached several milestones in the past 12 months. These are things we never even thought we would see and they just rolled over, one after the other. It’s been busy and hectic; so hectic. We’ve had three major injuries within the band in the past 12 months, we’ve played the biggest headline shows we’ve ever played in every continent we’ve played in, then we’ve played the biggest festival appearances and biggest shows of our lives.”

Written and conceived around a dark period for the band, ‘Reverence’ was informed by personal tragedy and loss, and took the five-piece’s music into sometimes difficult yet often ground-breaking territory.

“All of that writing and stuff happened, we brought the record out during that whole ongoing thing, and I guess it’s just a part of life.” McCall says. “It’s something that never leaves you, that loss. It gets easier the amount of time you put between when it happens and now, I guess. You carry it with you all the time and you see it through different lenses and shades as you go. In that respect, dealing with it is going well, but you always have a relationship with it. That’s probably the best way to describe it.”

After a heavy few months spent touring Europe and the States, where McCall says he was offered crack in a diner before food was even mentioned, the band will play its only Australian shows of 2019 at Good Things Festival; a trio of dates which stand out for several reasons.

“It’s our first time being able to headline a major Australian festival,” he says. “And it’s really cool to see heavy and alternative music making a resurgence in festivals in Australia because it’s such a massive thing and it’s such a massive community. It’s been underplayed in the past as a lot of people think it’s a small amount of people in this country who enjoy this music, which is so far from the truth it’s insane. So it’s really nice. So many people in the past have seen the local Australian scene of lesser or less of a commodity than an overseas name, and for us to be able to make a statement by being in that slot is a massive, massive deal. It’s going to be fucking awesome and we’re pumped.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live show when the band lands for the December run of shows. Inspiration for the visual spectacular that is a Parkway Drive gig can come from almost anywhere, McCall says.

“We’ve retained creative control over every single aspect of this band, which means there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into it. If you have the drive to create something more, we have a very large canvas, but that means you have to have the imagination to fill it. Ideas come from everything: other bands, theatre, music, film, videos, from literally just walking around spaces, architecture and anything from the past. We’re taking an interest in what our lighting guy is doing and work with him to create something so we know what the physical and emotional impact of the stage show are. It takes a hell of a lot, but being able to couple your music with something you know will heighten the experience is a very powerful experience. At the end of the day, when you rock up to a gig, you know it’s very different to just watching your favourite band play your favourite song. We want it to do things that create moments that are worthy of your time.”

While they’ve come a long way from that Byron Bay backstreet to being a major player in Australian and world metal, McCall and Parkway Drive will likely continue aiming to prove themselves for some time to come.

“Years ago, nobody was saying Parkway was going to be able to get as big as we are, play the songs we play, create the music we do, put on the shows we put on and have the actual imagination to do that,” McCall says. “We’ve had 16 years’ worth of pressure and this has been the year we’ve realised we can do this and we have the space to create something using our imaginations, rather than just be in survival mode. So there’s more pressure, but we’re also aware of what the pressure is, and how to deal with it better. There’s been a hell of a lot of people who say we’re one thing and we’ll never be anything else, or we’ve been left out of many equations, which is fine. But it helps us realise the fact we were aware of that status the entire time, and it’s something we’ve been trying to smash. It’s nice to know we’ve been able to do that. It’s been a very interesting experience.”

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Andrew WK: Philosophising with the King of Partying

Andrew WK

“A professional partier and an amateur human being.”

How Andrew W.K. would introduce himself to someone who doesn’t know anything about him reveals the depth behind the hard-rocking, party-anthem-wielding force of nature his fans have come to adore since he blew up internationally with single ‘Party Hard’ in 2001.

The reveal is appropriate.

Since 2010, the 38-year-old American has stepped back from recording to explore motivational speaking, writing, authoring an advice column, and collaborating with other artists. His work has recently seen him named person of the year by suicide prevention group the American Association of Suicidology.

Now, he’s back with You’re Not Alone: his first album of new songs in nearly twelve years. It’s a typically triumphant collection of rock tracks featuring his trademark big riffs, infectious hooks and buoyant choruses.

While he acknowledges he is lucky to have made another album at all, the finished product was only ever going to have one goal: make the listener feel better.

“I only want to put good vibes out into the world, and I’m very focussed on that mission,” he says.

“I imagine we have a perpetual need for positivity. The best things in life give us the strength and resilience to face the challenges that are worth solving.”

For the King of Partying, partying can mean a whole lot more than just getting drunk with friends.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with getting drunk, but it’s not limited to that,” he says.

“First and foremost, it’s a decision to break away from the torturous debate over whether life is good or bad, and it’s an acceptance of the possibility that it is intrinsically good. Then it’s finding the wherewithal to celebrate all that goodness. It’s basically looking at life as a celebration of not being dead, and trying to find the value in the difficult parts of that experience.”

Taking a philosophical approach to partying is fairly unique among hard-rocking musicians, but Andrew W.K.’s power of positivity reaches further, into all areas of his life. His remedy for feeling low is a common one.

“Music never fails. There are people out there, and they’re few and far between, who don’t get the power of music. I could be in a completely defeated frame of mind and turn to music, and it will instantly change not just my thoughts and mood, but the way my body changes physically. It changes the way it feels to exist for the better. Like so many people, we can just imagine a song, and it sounds so much better in our heads than it does being played. It permeates the best part of our soul, and if we can hold onto that in the face of difficulty, it will see us through.”

Another uncommon thing for a hard-rock musician to do is to include spoken-word pieces in an album, of which there are three on You’re Not Alone. Again, the themes are positivity and overcoming doubt.

“Including those was suggested to me by someone in my management team, and it never would have occurred to me,” he says.

“It’s a very exposed and vulnerable contrast to very dense and celebratory music. I didn’t allow my own fears or trepidation to sway me from recording them. I recorded them at the very last second – I literally could not have delayed putting them off any further. I recorded them in the mastering phase – you’re supposed to be completely done with all your recording by that point. The engineer was very generous, and I recorded them quickly and spontaneously. I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I transcribed them for the lyric book, those words were what I was telling myself through the recording of the album and what I tell myself in everyday life. I thought maybe someone else could relate to them as well.”

While he is reinvigorated and empowered by his new album and seemingly feeling freer than ever, Andrew W.K. is sticking firmly to his stated mission – albeit with 17 years more experience and maturity since ‘Party Hard’ made his name.

“I’ve not yet done most things, as far as what I would like to do,” he says.

“I would like to get better as a person and serve this calling. That’s really all I should allow myself. There were times in the past I felt pressure to be ambitious, to think bigger and broader, and do all sorts of other things. I’m not cut out for those things – I’m barely cut out for this. I just want to get better and better at delivering on the promise that I have committed myself to, and that’s party power.”

Australia, known internationally for its party power, is firmly in mind for a visit.

“We have been talking about coming over for concerts and I’m extremely excited about that,” he says.

“Australia has never faltered in not only appreciating party power, but conjuring it up. It would be great to be re-energised and refuelled with a Down Under trip. Hopefully it will happen this year.”

You’re Not Alone by Andrew W.K. is out Friday 2nd March 2018 via Sony Music Australia

For The Brag

Interview: Tommy Stinson

As a founding member of legendary alt-rock pioneers the Replacements, Tommy Stinson cemented his place in music history and had a hand in influencing artists as diverse as Green Day, Wilco, the Hold Steady and Lorde.

tommy stinson the replacements

Described as both the “best band of the ’80s” (Musician magazine) and “the greatest band that never was” (Rolling Stone), the Replacements were critical darlings during their lifetime, yet achieved little commercial and mainstream acclaim.

After their 1991 implosion, Minneapolis native Stinson added an 18-year stint as bassist of Guns N’ Roses to his rock and roll résumé, becoming a bonafide rock stalwart in the process, while appreciation of the Replacements’ discography grew steadily.

Following a much-lauded and somewhat tumultuous Replacements reunion in 2013-15, a new line-up of Bash & Pop, a band vehicle for Stinson’s solo work, was formed last year. The group’s first album in 24 years, Anything Could Happen, was released in January, and marked a return to the spontaneous recording methods that were a feature of early Replacements records.

Now 51, the amiable and down-to-earth Stinson is enjoying making music as much as ever.

What’s life been like since the new album came out?

We’ve been touring a lot. We’ve just done a five-week tour with the Psychedelic Furs here in the States and we had a rip of a time. However you would categorise the Psychedelic Furs, their audience was really sweet to us – a rock and roll band – and we had a really good run. I look forward to hopefully doing that again some day.

Is Bash & Pop back for good?

We’re going to keep fuelling it and moving forward. The reason it became Bash & Pop was that we made a band record. On the first Bash & Pop record, I played more instruments than I wanted to play and it ended up being me, the drummer and sometimes the guitar player making that record. This was more of a group effort. We would hash out the songs and do them in five takes, tops. We kind of took the template from how we used to do things in the ’80s.

When we started the Replacements, we would record in a particular way. Paul would show us the basis of a song, either in our basement or in the studio. He would say “Hey, Bob [Stinson, lead guitar], play the melody like this,” and we would record it, getting the best recording we could in as few takes as possible. Back then, tape was expensive for us, so we had to do it quickly. I took that template and applied it to my new record and I think people understand why and I think they can feel that in the record.

Do you prefer being in charge of making your own record, as opposed to being at the whim of a Westerberg or an Axl?

I like all different kinds of things. I like producing and I like playing a role in a band – all of those things I’ve done over the years. With Bash & Pop, the songs we write together end up guiding us instead of us trying to guide the song into being something it’s not. That’s why I like playing with these guys – we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.

With the advent of all these computerised recording devices, people can get so bogged down. And I’m not saying I’ve never done that, because I did two solo records on digital devices that I maybe spent too much time thinking about. You can overthink a whole lot of things with them. But when you’ve got a whole band in the room, and they’re there for a weekend only, they’re sleeping in your house with you, and you’re getting all stinky together, you can maybe capture something in one great moment.

Were you generally happy with how the Replacements reunion went, and would you have liked it to be longer?

To be honest with you, I think we could’ve stretched it out a little bit longer. I don’t know if Paul wasn’t having fun with it, you know about that whole T-shirt thing? [Westerberg wore T-shirts with a single letter spray-painted on them over a number of shows, which, in order, spelt “I have always loved you. Now I must whore my past”.] Dude, if you’re so not into it, then why the fuck did we do it? I’ll be super frank with you about that.

When we did the Mats reunion, I thought it would make people happy, it would be super fun, and we’d maybe make some money. We did it, and I thought it was fun, but if it wasn’t fun in [Westerberg’s] head, then why the fuck did we do it? I don’t know if that was directed at me, or who it was directed at, but he kind of made a statement with his shirts that meant the tour finished up with a negative purpose and we should have stopped when we were ahead.

I say this candidly because I think that, at this point in our lives, whatever message you are trying to get across, this is not the best way to do it. The best way to do it would be to play until you don’t want to play, then move on and do something else. That’s what I do – call me kooky for calling it what it is. We only live here once, and when you get in your 50s, why would you do that you feel that you have to do, instead of what you want? Neither one of us had to do any of it, and it was fun for a while, but the T-shirt thing bummed me the fuck out.

Will you play together again?

Not if he pulls out another T-shirt message – fuck that [laughs]. I’m kidding a bit. I never say never, but it would have to happen only if the stars align in the perfect way, where we thought we could have fun with it and not get caught up in the bullshit.

Are you happy with the amount of respect the Replacements got in the band’s lifetime?

I never look back like that. We’re from Minneapolis – the music community in Minneapolis when we were kids in the ’80s rivalled, in my opinion, any music community in that era, or in any other era I’ve even seen. We had Hüsker Dü, the Suburbs, there was us, and lots of art-y bands. We all hung out together, played shows together, travelled together, and it was a real community.

Back in the day, Minneapolis was like the World Series for bands. Whatever bands we played with, we wondered who was going to win the game tonight – it was very competitive, but in a healthy way. I haven’t seen it yet. I lived in L.A. for over 20 years and only saw it in some ways, but completely different. It was a very special scene and I would love to converse with anyone who thinks they lived in a similar kind of music community.

What’s your favourite Replacements album?

I can’t listen to any of them, but if I were going to be straight-up honest with you, the one I can listen to the most is All Shook Down. It didn’t sell as much as Don’t Tell a Soul, but I think that’s when the Replacements were appreciated in a greater realm because of the songwriting. Paul wrote some great songs on that record.

If you listen to that record, and it was hard enough for me to listen to it to even remember the parts I played, that’s a great record. He did what Paul is best at – he basically produced that. Some of is is perhaps a little over-thought, but that whole record stands up completely, from top to bottom. It’s dark as fuck, though. You don’t know want to throw on your headphones on a sunny day and go for a walk in the park with that one on, because you’ll want to fucking slit your throat. But whatever.

Will you play with Guns ‘N’ Roses again?

I never say never about that either. I’d say it’s about as likely as doing the Replacements again. I think they don’t need me – they’ve got Duff and Slash and they’re doing their thing. They’re all my friends and I’m glad they’re all out there, working their butts off and having a good time. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them. Unless Duff quits, and he was the last man standing the last time, there’s a pretty good chance they’re not going to need my fucking bass-playing skills any time soon [laughs]. Just sayin’.

You’ve been in bands since you were 12, 13. How do you stay grounded and stop yourself going crazy?

I’m still working that out [laughs]. It isn’t easy. A lot of people think that because you’re on stage, everything is great, but a lot of hard work goes into that at every level, whether you’re playing a club, theatre or stadium. It is a hard thing, and I’m not going to boo-hoo about my woes or anything like that, but it’s hard to balance that life and have some semblance of normality for yourself.

Any chance of a trip Down Under?

I’ve been talking to [You Am I guitarist] Davey Lane about it a lot, and trying to get You Am I to be my backing band [laughs]. We’ve been talking for years about it. Maybe I can go over go myself, although I hate doing the solo acoustic thing by myself – I like to have someone I can spitball with, and make shit up or whatever. I’ve always had a good time in Australia, so never say never. I can do a whole bunch of things that’ll either be fun or completely fucking disastrous [laughs].

Anything Could Happen by Bash & Pop is out now.

Check out all things Tommy Stinson here.

For The Brag

Feature: The Preatures Get Personal on Album Number Two

Three years. That’s how long The Preatures toured around their hit single ‘Is This How You Feel?’ and the subsequent album, Blue Planet Eyes. When the band finally returned home early last year, they were completely exhausted.

The Preatures 2017

“Stepping out of the slipstream of that whole touring life was really welcome,” guitarist, co-songwriter and producer Jack Moffitt says. “In a good sense, we had reached the peak of what we were probably capable of achieving during all the time we spent together.”

But getting back to Sydney was also about The Preatures getting back to their roots. They holed up in their inner-city Sydney Hibernian House recording studio and set about writing material for a new album. The result is Girlhood, released last month. It’s an intensely personal collection of songs.
Moffitt says after the roller-coaster ride of a seemingly never-ending touring cycle, getting back to basics simply felt “right”. But the extent to which the band would incorporate their hometown into their music would eventually break new ground for them, and at the same time help introduce a new audience to an Indigenous language.

“We recorded it [at Hibernian House] because we have roots in that place; roots that have a lot to do with us growing up as a unit,” Moffitt says. “We didn’t see ourselves making this record in any other way. Sometimes you just know these things, so we made that choice.”

Forming in 2011 as a country-rock-soul quintet (the now-departed Gideon Bensen was the fifth member), The Preatures steadily built a large and loyal Australian following before taking a more mainstream pop approach with ‘Is This How You Feel?’ in 2013. Blue Planet Eyes was released the following year.

The single, the album and the subsequent time on the road turned The Preatures into proper internationalists with fans all across the world, but Moffitt reckons there will always be something intrinsically “Sydney” about the band.

“Everything has something innate that you can’t escape, and when you start writing, you’re pulling on threads of things that you don’t know how to explain,” he says. “Having made the last record in another part of the world [Austin, Texas], even though it was really hospitable to us and felt good, it wasn’t our place. We wanted the opportunity to really explore what it would be like to be here and work on a record.”

“It was a real catharsis to put a lot of energy into exploring that. Now that I reflect upon it, I can hear everything I’ve grown up with in this city on this record.”

It was during this writing process that singer and co-songwriter Isabella Manfredi attended a production of The Secret River by Sydney Theatre Company. Based on a novel by Kate Grenville, it tells the story of first contact between European setters and the local Dharug people, who lived scattered around what is now much of modern Sydney. Inspired by the play and armed with a desire to include Indigenous language in a song, Manfredi and the band wrote the single Yanada.

“It really moved her to hear that language,” Moffitt says. “I think it stirred in her a longing to find a connection to this place after so many years spent abroad, speaking or learning Italian and German. Then, coming home and hearing that language … she wanted to use [that] when we started writing for the album.

“When we were writing Yanada, [Manfredi] gradually set out to speak with and learn from the Indigenous community about the language. She came across [Aboriginal elder, musician and educator] Jacinta Tobin, which was such a special thing. To have the song acknowledged by Jacinta and all the people we’ve encountered through that process was such an amazing education. It started our relationship with this great heritage we all share.”

Working out how to include Dharug in a pop song respectfully and appropriately took time, Moffitt says.

“It was a real experience to … be guided by members of the community like Jacinta Tobin and [actor and Indigenous campaigner] Richard Green. Everybody was so generous and supportive of what Izzi was trying to pull out of this song with respect to language. It was an eye-opening experience, and has had a profound impact on my life.”

Intertwining the Dharug and English languages in a modern-day track not only connected the band to their area’s history, but to a branch of Australian music stretching back to Yothu Yindi and Warumpi Band.

“Neil Murray from Warumpi Band worked and spent a lot of time in communities in the Northern Territory, and wrote My Island Home,” Moffit says. “We’ve grown up with that as an echo in our consciousness from what was around in popular music when we were kids. It seemed to disappear for a long time, but maybe it was because our awareness of it was only there because of our exposure to it in popular music.”

The Preatures have an enormous presence in Australian music and Moffitt recognises the potential for the band to start a conversation about shared history and language.

“Even if the discussion turns to the definition of “yanada”, which in Dharug means ‘moon’, you’ve got two terms that could be the start of someone’s path into learning about their communities,” he says. “For me, I’m not even qualified to really pass any comment on it other than what my experience is, which is that I feel like I’m at the start of a lifelong journey.”

A new album of course means another round of touring. There have already been performances at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney and the Forum in Melbourne. Next up is a performance at the Spiegeltent for Brisbane Festival, followed by shows in Adelaide, Perth and a clutch of regional dates. Moffitt reckons they’re ready.

“We’re at that point where we’re looking forward to being back in that vacuum,” he says. “That mode of touring.”

Girlhood is out now on Mercury Records.

For Broadsheet

Q&A: Hatchie

Hatchie

Anyone who’s been to more than a handful of gigs in Brisbane will be familiar with Harriette Pilbeam. As bassist, sometimes singer and songwriter for indie-rockers Babaganoüj since 2011, and previously as a member of sugary pop outfit Go Violets, she is an established figure on the local scene.

Now, barely three months since Pilbeam introduced her solo project Hatchie to the world via Triple J Unearthed, she has signed management and PR deals, seen her music charting on the Spotify Viral charts, been added to the Bigsound Live line-up, and gained the kind of attention many other young artists would sell their mother for.

The reason is debut single ‘Try’ – a shimmering pop gem unlike anything the 24-year-old has been involved in so far. Pilbeam explains how ‘Try’ came about and what the future holds for the burgeoning project.

Why is now the right time for a solo project?

I started writing these songs that didn’t suit Babaganoüj any more – they were a lot more pop and not as grunge or ’90s-sounding as Babaganoüj. They required much different production and I wanted to play around with more ’80s UK references more than [those of] ’90s US bands. I thought it was a good time to pursue that, and I really wanted to experiment with that kind of stuff by myself, rather than in a band. I recorded ‘Try’ 18 months ago and decided to put it out on my birthday in May to make myself do it.

Your bio mentions Cocteau Twins, Sky Ferreira and Wolf Alice as influences. What is it about those artists that works for you?

With the Cocteau Twins, it’s a lot about the vocals, and the ambience with the guitars. I really like the production of some Sky Ferreira songs because they’re pop songs but the production is more alternative, with the drums especially. She’s not just a straight pop singer. I wanted to do an amalgamation of all those things, and play around with vocals and harmonies, but with more pop writing.

Is ‘Try’ indicative of how the project will sound overall?

I think it’s maybe too early to tell. I have a lot of demos I haven’t produced yet, so they can go in any direction. I think that ‘Try’ sits in the middle of the kind of music I’ll probably be making. There are a few songs I’ve already got done which are a bit on the poppy side of ‘Try’, and a few songs which are a bit darker, ambient and shoegaze-y.

You’ve had so much attention in a short amount of time.

I’m very excited and it’s pretty overwhelming. I did not expect half of the things that have happened to happen so quickly. I thought I would be self-managed for at least six months or something, and I got a manager within a day of releasing Try. So many things have happened so quickly and it’s shocking to me. I’m very grateful that it’s even got this far.

How did the deal with Jacob Snell of Monster Management come about?

He just contacted me when ‘Try’ got played on Triple J. I put it up on Unearthed and he contacted me within a few hours of its release. We spoke on the phone two days later, got on really well, and it just made sense. I thought I’d maybe want to keep my options open a bit longer, but as soon as I had the phone call with him I wanted to just do it, and didn’t care about who else comes along. I don’t think I’ll regret it.

Brisbanites will recognise landmarks in the clip. Is where you’re from important to you as an artist?

Brisbane has a unique music scene in that it’s quite small and everybody knows each other. I don’t think I needed to incorporate my home town because of what it means to me, but it probably affects me without me realising.

What does being on the Bigsound Live line-up mean to you?

I’m excited to see a lot of the other people who are playing, but it’s also exciting for me as an artist to meet people I wouldn’t meet outside of Bigsound. It’s really cool because they get so many international people coming in. I’m really excited to meet people, not even in a business-y way, but just to talk to people about what it’s like to work in the music industry. I am really interested in that as I studied it at uni. I’m excited about all aspects of it, not just playing.

What makes up a Hatchie live set?

I’ve got about a set’s worth ready to go now, and I’m still in the process of teaching the other members the songs now. It’ll probably be about seven songs – mainly poppy and upbeat. I’ve got my friend Ritchie [Daniell] on drums – he’s in the Grates. I’ve got the two guitarists from the Creases and me on guitar and samples. It’s pretty fluid at the moment and depends on the touring schedule that is worked out for the next six months, which is all being decided at the moment.

How do you build on what you’ve already done?

I suspect a support tour with another Australian band, and then hopefully lots of shows overseas in the next six months to a year. There are a lot of things about to be locked in. I would love to go to the UK and play the Great Escape Festival next year. The UK would be my number-one priority.

For Broadsheet

Q&A: Glitter Veils

The Brisbane duo going international with the help of one of America’s most well-regarded record labels.

Glitter Veils

Glitter Veils wasn’t always Glitter Veils. Most recently plugging away on the Brisbane dream-pop scene under the moniker YOU, it was in July last year that Luke Zahnleiter and Michael Whitney (also of The Rational Academy and Nite Fields, respectively) were presented with a persuasive argument to change their band name.

Terrible Records got in touch. It was co-founded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and is home to Solange, Twin Shadow, Blood Orange, Moses Sumney and Australia’s Kirin J. Callinan, among many others. Terrible suggested the switch to the more memorable and SEO-friendly moniker. It then went on to release Glitter Veils’ album, Figures in Sight, on its Flexible imprint, which focuses on unique debut releases.

After listening to the album it’s easy to see why. Raw, abrasive, deep and mesmeric, the layers of sound play out like an experiment that may or may not reach a conclusion but will be a hell of a ride either way.

Zahnleiter and Whitney, champions of the album format, explain their processes and how they ended up on Terrible.

Was putting Figures in Sight together a complex process?

Michael Whitney: It started off as a bedroom project for me, and then I wanted to play it live. Then Luke came along and we became really good friends. I guess from that initial period it was about two years of writing, recording, restructuring and going back and forth to the studio.

Luke Zahnleiter: We were pretty fastidious and got a bit obsessive in parts of it, but, overall, we’re happy with how it came out and happy that the overall sound has been getting a good response. We’re kind of relieved in a way.

Was it important the album had an overall sound or feel?

LZ: Michael and I listen to similar music and we have quite a varied taste. I think it’s about the feeling and mood we can create in the music. We could attempt to make a style of music, but [the album is] essentially what came out at that period in time. Whatever was impacting our life was funnelled through that.

MW: Luke and I come from pretty different spectrums of how we play instruments, and I think that is reflected in certain ways. The guitar has a similar sound over the whole album. I tend to like a lot of older pop music and stuff like [American composer] Angelo Badalamenti [best known for his work scoring David Lynch’s films].

David Lynch is often mentioned in your reviews. How does that sit with you?

LZ: I’m happy with that. When people say “David Lynch”, I think they mean the Twin Peaks [theme] song [Falling]. I think it’s more of a mood thing.

MW: That kind of tragic beauty.

Describe the moment you heard Terrible was interested.

LZ: When we finished the album we had no idea what we were going to do from that stage. It’s not like we had been playing live. We just got so involved in making the record that we didn’t have a plan of attack afterwards. We just sent it to a bunch of labels – mainly international labels – and kind of hoped for the best. I emailed quite a few with some early mixes. Then Ethan [Silverman] from Terrible emailed. It was very vague – I think it was a one-line response, something like: “This is cool, I’ll sit on this …”. Then three months later we heard from them again, and he got back to us with another vague message saying they wanted to put out two songs on the Flexible imprint, then we figured out a way to put everything out. We wanted to bypass plugging away at the local scene and getting on a local label.

Why bypass the local route?

LZ: We wanted as many people as possible to hear the album – that’s my main goal.

MW: We were sending it to labels that were probably above our heads, but we tried anyway. I just want to make really great albums. The live thing has almost been an afterthought with this last record.

LZ: We’ve both played in bands before and done local gigs and touring, and it’s exhausting to do that, and you’re not really getting much exposure. It’s usually the same people who come to shows locally, and we just wanted to get a broader audience.

How does it feel to have Solange, Twin Shadow and Blood Orange as labelmates?

MW: It’s a great roster and I love Blood Orange and Solange’s album. It’s something to aspire to – to make albums in a certain way and to push us even further.

LZ: We’re definitely in good company and it’s a great label. I remember that Twin Shadow album from 2010 or 2011 – their first full-length. I used to love that album. To think we’re now with the same company is a really good feeling. There are some great artists on Flexible, too.

Any international touring plans?

LZ: We’ve got a few Melbourne shows coming up, but internationally, we’ll see how it pans out. It’s definitely something we’d both like to do, especially in America. Having Terrible on our side to help is a good position to be in.

For Broadsheet

FEATURE: Kurt Vile

KURT VILE

KURT Vile is no mug.

The Philadelphian singer, songwriter, producer, and purveyor of delectably laid-back indie-folk tunes has been a guest in our country a smattering of times, but he’s got his audience pretty well sussed.

“I think Australians, in general, really feel music,” he says. “It’s a record nerd, gut-level or emotional thing; maybe an obsessive thing, which is very similar to the way I am. But there’s also a ball-busting, bullshit artist type of thing they can tap into, and [they] can have a good laugh. I feel they are really serious about music but also they can just bullshit and bust balls; they’re both equal. You know how to fuck with somebody to show that you love them. I feel a lot of Australians have those kinds of humour and emotions, you know?”

The 36 year-old will tour Australia solo for the first time in February and March, leaving his band The Violators at home. Successful previous sojourns and a recent surge in popularity here mean the idea of playing venues and shows the size of Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Taronga Zoo and Golden Plains Festival doesn’t faze him.

“I’ve been to Australia enough – this will be the fourth time coming up – to feel like it won’t make a difference,” he says. “I’ll be zoning out; kind of in my comfort zone. I’m sort of comfortable over there because, I don’t know, I’m just used to it over there. With The Violators we try to mix it up with keyboards and stuff like that, but [this time] I’ll just be by myself and my acoustic. I’m sure I’ll bring a banjo. Maybe one day I’ll have more of band with more instruments than a four-piece. I like to just go out, zone out, and not try to recreate the record.”

After leaving The War on Drugs, which he founded with long-term friend Adam Granduciel, and releasing his debut record in 2008, Vile has released six solo records and a collection of EPs of top-drawer folk, rock and psychedelia, with each record marking a musical and thematic progression from the last.

“I’m usually most proud of my newest album,” he says. “But that wears off once I start working on a new record. I look back and am proud of them all, but I would say maybe most of all ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; all those songs have a similar melancholia in the lyrics – there was a good theme going on there. The next few records obviously had themes going on too, but there is an interesting melancholic tone to ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; I can go back and listen to that one. There’s something about it. I wouldn’t say I’m most proud of it, but it’s some kind of statement.”

Not keen to rest on his laurels, and despite 2015’s ‘b’lieve I’m goin down’ not having been played in Australia yet, the hard-working Vile has already started on its follow-up.

“I’ve been in and out of the studio throughout this touring cycle because I feel like the last two records, in particular, took so long out of the touring cycle,” he says. “I don’t want to just get lost in this dark, black cocoon world in the studio. So I’ve been going in and out of the studio between touring for that reason. I probably have about half of the songs for the next record in some form. I think [fans] will recognise the sound; it’s not like it’s a drastically different record, but there’s always evolution. I think there’s a steady American roots thing going on in my music, and I don’t mean that it’s going to come out like ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ or something too country, but it’ll be some kind of roots scenario. I’ve always been into country and have been getting more into it lately. I read Jerry Lee Lewis’s biography – ‘Hellfire’ by Nick Tosches and George Jones’ autobiography. Since then I’ve basically been out of control reading about nerdy music things; especially Nick Tosches. I guess I’ve been a bit obsessed since my record came out.”

With talk of music nerdiness and an obvious knowledge of music history and lineage, Vile could be assumed to be a hardcore musicologist and collector. The truth is more interesting, however.

“I prefer to not have too many obscure records,” he says. “I have old country, blues and soul records. The stuff I get into is usually popular at one time or another. These days, if I go to the record store the records I want only cost two dollars or something anyways; ‘Country’s Greatest Hits’ or something. I usually space out and don’t even know what comes out in a particular year, but my buddy Luke Roberts put out a record which was great. Heron Oblivion’s record was great. I’ve had my head in the clouds listening to a lot of old music.”

Despite constant touring and having critically-acclaimed albums on his resume, the amiable Vile keeps his feet on the ground. As recently as 2009 he was working in a brewery while recording his third album.

“The constants are my two little daughters and my wife,” he says. “We just moved to a bigger house. It’s not a mansion, although it feels like it because I’ve never had any room my whole life. We’re also keeping our little house so I can go back to my roots and record there. So my everyday life lately has been carting things between these two houses and driving around. I’m pretty comfortable driving around in general, listening to music and zoning out. I’ve also done some little side projects. I did some songs with Courtney Barnett when I was in Australia last time; I’m not sure when they’ll come out or anything. I recorded in Nashville with a bunch of legendary old dudes. I’ve been in the studio with the Violators and I’ve been getting my home studio together, so I’ve kind of got my hands on a lot of different things and it’s all coming along.”

With 2017 mere days away, February comes quickly for Kurt Vile fans.

“The Violators are playing New Year’s at the Fillmore in Philadelphia, and a couple more shows in New York and Boston,” he says. “We have one more tour around Florida late January, then that lines me up to go solo and see you guys.”

Kurt Vile plays Taronga Zoo on Friday 3rd March and QPAC on Thursday 9th March

For Scenestr

Interview: Bruce Foxton of From The Jam

bruce foxton

THE JAM was a band of immense talent which did something most others never manage: splitting at the height of its power and fame and leaving fans wanting more. Quintessentially English, yet able to find audiences far beyond its native shores, the band’s singles list reads like a best-of of English rock from the last forty years.

With one foot in the punk scene and another in the mod-rock revival, the band found a larger audience than many contemporaries, and their music is as popular almost four decades later than it was when the original trio of Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler bothered the charts with a string of classic albums in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Now, bassist Bruce Foxton is keeping the spirit of the original band’s songs alive with From the Jam, with vocalist/guitarist Russell Hastings and drummer Steve Barnard. A new album is in the bag and an Australian tour is days away.

Hi Bruce, what have you been up to recently?

It’s non-stop. We had an album out earlier in the year called Smash the Clock. It was co-written with my friend and music partner Russell Hastings and it did very well over here in the UK. It charted; it got to number 31 and number 4 in the independent charts. It got some airplay, which was great, and we’re very pleased. The new material is coming along, plus we’re constantly on the road, which we love. We’re constantly kicking and we’re really looking forward to coming to Australia.

Can you tell me a little about when you realised there was a viable opportunity for this version of The Jam to be a band again?

It goes back to about 2006, when I was playing a relatively local show in Guildford in Surrey at a university. I was in a band called Casbah Club, which featured Simon Townshend, Pete’s brother, on lead guitar and vocals, Mark Brzezicki from Big Country on drums, and myself. We were on the same bill as [The Jam drummer] Rick Buckler’s band The Gift, and I got asked would I play a couple of songs with them, and I jumped at the opportunity. It went down a storm; it was the first time I had played with Rick for about 28 years or so. The crowd loved it and we loved it, and over the rest of the year I did a few more shows with the guys and we did a few more songs. The venues were selling out and there was a lot of interest; two thirds of The Jam was better than one third or none at all, and it has gone on from there. Come 2007, we sat down with Russell Hastings, who was also in Rick’s band, and realised we were having a lot of fun performing the Jam classics again. We got an agent on board and haven’t looked back.

Why do you think The Jam’s music continues to excite and interest people when so many contemporaries fell away?

You’ve kind of partly answered it, as it is very exciting music and it sounds very contemporary. A lot of the hits are still played over here on the radio, and lyrically we had something to say.

Do you think about the fact a lot of the issues in the Jam’s early-’80s lyrics are still relevant today? The issues of class struggle and “too many right-wing meetings”?

It’s sad that there are quite a few things we commented on all those years ago – sometimes naively, but those were our opinions at the time – that haven’t changed in 40 years. You can’t let it get you down; there are more important issues and you just have to keep going.

Do you get sick of being asked about Paul Weller and whether he will play with the band again?

He played on Smash the Clock as we recorded it in his studio. We loved the studio there and it worked for us; it’s very easy going and a great atmosphere. When we were in the studio Paul popped in, we had a hug and a cup of tea and I asked him whether he’d be up for playing on a song or two. He agreed and played a bit of piano on one track and some guitar on another. He did what he does best, and that’s really about as close as we’ll get to playing together. I’d love to play on some of his future material, if I get asked that is. We’re good mates and that’s it. He’s doing very well, and deservedly so. Rick has kind of gone down the author path right now and he seems happy, and there’s a lot happening in my camp and I’m happy. You’re talking about looking back, but we’re all looking forward.

Did you think this reincarnation of the band would last as long as it has?

It’s lasted almost twice as long as the original band. It was just exciting to do. Rick and myself, at the time, really took our time [deciding] on whether it was a goer or not. We didn’t want it to be detrimental to what The Jam were about. We didn’t want it to be a covers band, but when we started to perform again, the – dare I say it – old magic was there and I believe we do those songs justice. We’ve kept going and now the public are bringing their kids to shows. Doing the songs justice [was important], as we probably wouldn’t have even started if it didn’t sound right without Paul.

How do you pick the setlist?

The solo stuff is kind of weird because Russell has co-written the album. I’ll be putting two or three from the album, and although you’d think up against the classics they’d have their work cut out, they seem to be going down really well. Because the album was a minor hit and we’ve got airplay, people have heard it and are well received.

Any chance of a bit of ‘Alternative Ulster’ in there?

No [laughs]. My time with [Stiff Little] Fingers was excellent. I saw Jake [Burns, singer] probably about a month ago now; he had come over here to do a few festivals and we had a hug. We had some good times together and they’re doing well. Ali is back in the band now and I wish them all the luck in the world.

What does the future hold for From the Jam?

We’re not going to leave it as long between albums. We’re going to try to get an album out within the next year or 18 months. I’m still feeling good, touch wood. Our schedule is so busy and when you’re on the road so much, and we need some ‘normal’ time as well; we all have kids and pets etc. It’s like spinning plates or juggling balls, but we hope to get the next album out quicker next time. The next big thing we have is a few shows here, then a week’s holiday, then out to Australia. Busy, busy, busy.

FROM THE JAM PLAY:

Thursday 8th September | THE CAMBRIDGE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE NSW

Friday 9th September | METRO, SYDNEY NSW

Saturday 10th September | MAX WATTS, MELBOURNE VIC

Sunday 11th September | STUDIO 56 MIAMI MARKETTA, GOLD COAST QLD

Wednesday 14th September | SOLBAR, SUNSHINE COAST QLD

Thursday 15th September | THE TRIFFID BRISBANE, QLD

Friday 16th September | THE GOV, ADELAIDE SA

Saturday 17th September | CAPITOL, PERTH WA

For The AU Review

Interview: Ziggy Marley

ziggy marley

HE’S perhaps most well-known as the son of legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, but seven-time Grammy Award-winner Ziggy Marley is a major musical force in his own right, as well as being one of the nicest guys in the business.

Marley has just released his sixth solo studio album, Ziggy Marley, and explains how the record is not only the latest chapter in his career, but continues to carry the message of positivity fans of his father’s music will recognise.

Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel having just released it?

I feel good. I feel like it’s the record I wanted to release with the words I wanted to say. I think it shows some progress, you know? It shows what I’ve learnt through my whole musical journey. I like it.

Many of the themes are of togetherness and unity. What influences your writing in this way?

It’s because that’s the solution, you know? Why do we never put the solution into what we do? We don’t just want to talk about problems, we want to talk about solutions: love, unity and peace. That’s the only way the world is going to survive. Even though we talk about other things on the record, we always come back to solutions.

Is writing like this a reaction to the many divisive people on the world stage right now, or would you write like that anyway?

It’s a reaction to my reality, which is this world. It’s what I see and what I feel around me. This world is small now; everything that happens affects me. Whether it be something in Syria or in my back yard, I’m affected by these things. I’m inspired to speak and say what I feel about these things. I say what I’m inspired to say and that’s just how it is.

Is it difficult to be consistently positive?

It used to be difficult sometimes. But for this record, I am sure of love being the winner. I am sure of it, I am positive of it. If the guys who want to fight wars and divide people can succeed in their dreams, why can’t we who want peace and love succeed in our dreams? So their actions really show that our actions can succeed. If they can make wars and division happen, we can make peace and love happen. Of course we can make it happen. I know that.

Is there any extra pressure with this album, given your last won a Grammy?

No, I don’t think about the Grammy. Sometimes a critic might say something that shows they understand what I’m trying to say, and then I might think about it [laughs].

How important is it for you to release the record on your own label?

The way the industry is now, it’s the only way I can do it, because the Internet and streaming means I am not selling CDs; most people stream their music now. So I don’t need a big record company to do that for me. I’m satisfied with where I am, and I know what my place is and what I have to say. The freedom to be able to say it is very important, and I’m very happy that we’re independent.

Is there any significance in releasing a self-titled album at this point in your career?

I don’t know the reason. Things happen for a reason and sometimes you don’t know why. Eventually you’ll find out, and I’m still waiting to find out why it’s called Ziggy Marley. We tried everything else and that’s what came up. Who know why that happened? Usually we give it a title from the album; my last album was called Fly Rasta because we had a song called ‘Fly Rasta’. Love is My Religion and Wild and Free [were the same]. Normally I feel those songs fit and I feel good, but for this record, for some reason, none of the names gave the feeling that they fit, you know? So we just went with Ziggy Marley.

Being the son of the most well-known and loved reggae artist of all time: what are the pros and cons?

People love my father and they love me, but I think they also love me because of who I am too and what I’m doing. I hope I’m adding to the philosophy, idea and legacy. We get a lot of love. And the cons? It doesn’t even matter to me. What it is, it is, I get through life and don’t study that. I just deal in love; that’s all I’ve got [laughs].

When can we expect to see you in Australia?

Right now, I’m starting a U.S. and South American tour, but next year we would like to come down to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. I’m looking forward to coming down and playing some music for the Australian people.

Would you prefer a festival or your own shows?

I would prefer a festival because you can get to more people. I would prefer to play to more people as that’s how I can get the message across. But we can do it any size, big or small.

Byron Bay Bluesfest could be pretty perfect for you.

Yeah, that’s always nice.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

I’m touring, I’m putting out a cookbook soon, I did some acting on an American TV series called Hawaii 5-0; I might do that again, I don’t know. But mostly touring.

What is the cookbook you’re doing?

It’s a cookbook done by me and my wife and some friends of ours. We’re putting together a cookbook with some Caribbean-infused recipes, you know? It’s organic cooking.

What’s your specialty?

It’s oatmeal, man [laughs]. But I mix up a lot of stuff in there, it’s not just oatmeal.

Ziggy Marley by Ziggy Marley is out now.

For The AU Review