It promises to be a party over 20 years in the making when Irish pop royalty The Corrs return to Australia for the first time since 2001 later this month.
The family quartet and touring band will perform at an exclusive one-night affair at Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley on 26th November, with their only other Australian appearance being a 250-person-capacity Q&A session at Sydney’s Carriageworks the evening prior.
Drummer Caroline Corr speaks of the band’s eagerness to return to one of the first countries outside of its own that took the Dundalk band to its heart from its early days.
“What was brilliant about Australia was it was the first territory where our first record sold and that people actually knew who we were,” she says. “We were still kind of obscure, but, bizarrely, ‘Forgiven, Not Forgotten’ did really well and so when we arrived there, we were wondering how so many people recognised us. Unbeknownst to ourselves, the record had been selling and it was a great feeling, and we had some amazing shows there. It was just so new and great. We’ve always talked about going back to Australia and finally we have an opportunity to go back.”
The multi-platinum selling band has sold over 40 million albums since their 1995 debut but last released an album in 2017, so does the Australian show announcement feel like a comeback?
“I suppose it does,” Corr says. “Although it depends how long we come back for. Maybe there’ll be many comebacks [laughs]. We seem to do a record and a tour, take a long break, then come back together and do something. The pandemic was obviously devastating for the music industry, and we probably postponed about three tours as it was impossible to go anywhere. Once the pandemic was over, we could figure out how to come back together. We’re talking about more touring and it’s just getting the right tour in place. For me, it’s how it feels to do it again. It’s nice to go to places where people haven’t seen us in a long time; it’s new for them and it’s new for us. That’s why Australia feels so nice for us.”
As a family affair the band has a unique musical understanding but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have to work at it.
“When we come back together it clicks, because it has to click,” Corr says. “We all have our own personalities and our little quirks, but we know each other so well. We’ve all obviously grown together and, as family, it wasn’t always easy being on the road together and it wasn’t always easy working together, but we’ve become much better at listening to each other and talking things through. Of course, there’s going to be things that piss you off, but you just move on.”
With 20 years between drinks, the band has set its sights on giving Australian fans – and undoubtedly a multitude of Irish ex-pats – exactly what they want.
“For Australia we are going to play what people really like and what people really know,” Corr says. “Australia has so many Irish ex-pats who have lived there for long periods of time, and it’s nice to connect with your country of origin and hear some Irish music, and we will be playing Irish music, of course. There were also certain songs that were released that did really well in Australia. We’re working on the setlist in our rehearsals in Dublin. Obviously, we’ll be doing ‘Dreams’. We’ll do ‘Breathless’. We’ll do some Irish music. I think it’ll be a good show.”
Nic Griffiths may have been playing music for decades, but he’s never been as excited by a line-up than the one he’s part of now.
The singer-songwriter fronts Brisbane-Gold Coast heavy rock quartet My Kind of Chaos, and despite a few pandemic-related hurdles of late, Griffiths is as keen as ever to get out on the road and rock.
“We were rehearsing, and everything was going great,” he says. “And then the pandemic hit. We spent a lot of money on film clips and getting the album ready, and everything just fell apart. I nearly gave up, but I thought, ‘You know, I’m not gonna’. I kept going and managed to find the band we have now.”
The solidification of the line-up resulted in the completion of debut album ‘The Monster Stirs’; an eight-track collection of hard-driving rock.
“It started with myself and my friend who I’ve been playing music with for 30-odd years,” Griffith says. “We decided to write an album, and when it was finished, we would put a band together. We had this great drummer who brought his mate Mick [Norris], a bass player, and he came and played one song on the album. From there, Mick said ‘I’m in; I wanna be in the band’, so he stuck with us through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the drummer didn’t quite make it. Then, we found Cameron [Appleton-Seymour], our guitarist.”
The completion of the line-up by drummer Rick Zammit was the icing on the cake for Griffiths, taking the band’s musical chops up several notches.
“Only two months ago we found Rick, who just came off tour and was gig-ready,” he says. “He learnt the songs in four hours. When he came in to audition, it was about halfway through the first song that we realised we weren’t auditioning him anymore, he’s auditioning us. We’re happy to say we passed the test. During our rehearsals, I actually forget to sing because I’m admiring his drumrolls so much. The band that I have now is the band I’ve dreamt about my whole life; they are amazing, incredible musicians.”
With the line-up locked in the band’s manager started booking gigs and now the pandemic pains are in the past for Griffiths.
“We get a second crack at it,” he says. “We did pretty good overseas and that, but now we get to tour the album. The response so far has been amazing. It’s such a solid album as it was produced by double-ARIA-award-winner Anton Hagop. He did a fantastic job. We’re going to be touring all next year, for all those who’ve had their double jab.”
Having reached a level of contentment not experienced in recent times, you’d be forgiven for thinking a punk veteran might have mellowed. Not so; Griffith says there’s always something to be peeved about.
“I’ve come from a traditional punk background,” he says. “I was one of those teenage, pissed-off punks from back in the ‘90s. There’s always a bee in my bonnet about something. A lot of my songs are about life experiences. There’s a song on the album called ‘Making Zombies’, which is about the ice epidemic, which is everywhere. There’s a song on there called ‘Stop Running’, which is about me chasing success. There’s a song on there called ‘Euthanasia’, which is self-explanatory. I try not to write empty lyrics; there’s always a message in there. I think it was one of the things that attracted the other guys.”
Despite restrictions being eased and a new album unleashed into the world, Griffiths is not content to sit still just yet.
“We’ve released the first single off the second album already,” he says. “It’s called ‘Calm Down Karen’. I had a run-in with a ‘Karen’ in a store in Pacific Fair. It was ridiculous. She was just screaming, and I came home and wrote that song in two-and-a-half hours. The lyrics just wrote themselves. In hindsight it turned out really well.”
An upcoming run of shows will see the new line-up and material being simultaneously road-tested.
“We’ve got King Lear’s Throne on 28th November,” Griffith says. “Vinnies on the 10th of December, 13th January we’re at the Zoo, and we’ve just picked up our first festival at Jimna Rocks in April. Everything’s just exploded for us.”
Hayden Thorpe isn’t one for pondering the simple things in life.
The 35-year-old Englishman, formerly of the now—defunct Kendal indie darlings Wild Beasts, is much more of a big-picture kind of guy.
As keen to explore the wonders of the minutest chemical reactions in the inner wirings of the mind as he is societal-level shifts in thinking and action, and the vast and unknown wonders of the universe and beyond, the multi-instrumentalist is nothing if not intriguing.
Second album Moondust for My Diamond, a smoothly enchanting 12-track collection of cerebral and propulsive pop featuring production by Nathan Jenkins – aka Bullion – is clear evidence of this. Thorpe’s interests, from science, religion, humanity, the cosmos, sex, temptation, and contemplation of the end of days drip from every pore, filling the record with big questions and the wonder and anxiety of the possibilities of the things we don’t know, poised just out of reach.
It’s enough to make one contemplate several aspects of life and existence, albeit set to a slick soundtrack that builds on the sonic palettes of 2019 debut album Diviner and last year’s Aerial Songs EP.
The tunes are charming and understated but it’s Thorpe’s lyrical themes that prove most beguiling. In Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself”, and Thorpe seems to have been on a grand Vonnegutian journey during the making of these songs. In fact, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine him locking himself away in a dank library for months on end, devouring all manner of obscure texts on philosophy, science and theology, before channelling it all into something he can set his countertenor vocals to.
“I’m an obsessive person but I’m also a person who has fads,” he says. “So, if you combine those two things, you get obsessive fads, into which I entirely immerse myself in practice, writing or theory. It becomes almost carnivorous; I need to imbibe it, put it in myself, become it for a while. I think most of the richness of the words come from there. I’m speaking like it’s quite a brutal process, but it is if you go quite deeply.”
Take lead single ‘The Universe is Always Right’. Probably never before or ever again will references to genies escaping bottles, Excalibur being pulled from stone and ‘cosmic arrows’ be made in a pop song. And certainly not one on an album that sounds as necessary as this. It’s clear from almost the get-go that Thorpe’s influences are many and varied, and he has used them to make surely one of the best albums of 2021.
“For this record, I got interested in Eastern mysticism, yoga and alternative practices,” he says. “My other hobby is science and I realised there are a lot of overlaps between the ways Eastern mysticism sees the universe and how science sees the universe. The difference is science medicalises the body and our emotions, but Eastern mysticism doesn’t; it actually incorporates the body, the mind, and the sense of the universe. Perhaps that is what is lacking in our terminology and our language; this sense of something beyond and how to incorporate the beyond into our very being. What goes on in those language spaces are spells; people are casting spells, and I say that in a very functional way. Casting spells is just an alignment of words; it’s just placing things in order. If you put certain words in a certain order, it elicits a chemical response in the body. It’s a very extraordinary thing. I wonder why all our songs are about love and spirit. Well, actually, it’s that invisible matter that stitches everything together; we can’t quantify it, we just know how we build our reality.”
It was exploring this meeting point between science and religion that led Thorpe to investigate the phenomenon of psychedelic therapy and a pioneering project integrating music and psychedelic drugs; an experience which has found its way most clearly into tracks ‘Suspended Animation’ and ‘Metafeeling’.
“Therapists are using this software while someone is in an induced psychedelic state; probably through psilocybin,” he says. “Basically, musicians contributed to a soundscape that the patient is listening to. I sang and contributed vocals and got really interested in both the practice of how I sing for somebody in that state and what would I do and how to contribute. It made me reflect on what singing is and what making music is. I got interested in it through a seminal book by Michael Pollan, ‘How to Change Your Mind’. It’s so interesting because I think you should always judge a civilisation by its drugs. Capitalism is very much the cocaine society, which is really about enlarging the ego. Whereas, in past civilisations the mushroom or other psychedelics have been the central theme of their civilisation. It’s inverse; actually shrinking the ego or dismantling the sense of self. Maybe we’re at a frontier now; we’re realising we’re all going around being encouraged to be warriors in our own way, going forth and it’s a dog-eat-dog-type world. But it’s clear that is creating so much damage, and it’s not sustainable. Secondly, it fucks the natural world when you do that too. Paul Stamets is one of my hero mycologists and he always states that the earth has already provided the operating manual for how we understand the natural world, and he says it’s psilocybin. We think the human point of view is the ultimate point of view, but I really don’t think that’s the case, personally.”
While a cocktail of energies ooze from Moondust for My Diamond, ensuring it sounds like a record put together by an artist with a simple love for the craft of songwriting on one hand, the flip side of Thorpe’s expansive thinking means he’s never far away from tackling the next big topic.
“We’re living through a reckoning,” he says. “There is a grand narrative of our time, where growth, success and aspiration are somehow virtuous qualities, and that is failing us. That is not working, and I’m so excited about what the music sounds like on the other side of that. If you think about it, music has always been co-opted by power; hymns and church music has always been the property of the church and therefore they have the spiritual ownership over peoples’ lives. Now, when big business owns most of music and hedge fund managers are buying up Bob Dylan songs and all the rest of it, you have to ask what is the spiritual value of songs now? I’m so interested in what is the other side of this; what language and what ways can we speak of the world beyond our own inner story. The legend of our time is absolutely our own inner world. We’re all encouraged to broadcast our every emotion. Songwriters especially, we’re meant to wave the flag of our emotions so boldly, and that’s supposed to be our currency. After a while of doing this, I’m thinking I’m getting more interested in the flagpole than the flag. There’s something beyond that’s worth getting it.”
While Thorpe contents himself with pondering many of the existential questions in life, he’s also a realist, and understands that being able to find the time and headspace to write and record new music, never mind release an album, during a global pandemic and in the uncertainty of post-Brexit Britain, is an achievement in itself.
“I think this moment does feel like one of the more extreme frontiers of record-releasing, bearing everything in mind,” he says. “The sheer manpower and force of will to bring music out now is significant, so I’m really proud that the work has emerged as it has. I’m surprised by the album; it’s unlikely. It’s emerged in unexpected ways and brought me unforeseen adventures, and for that I’m grateful. In the UK there’s definitely a kind of crosshair going on with the Brexit situation for musicians and the pandemic; but also, just the cultural landscape; the value system in which music works now. It’s been transformed. The metrics by which people judge value means that it’s nothing other than bold and chaotic to follow your music into that black hole. I believe in songs; their potency, their ability to convert a magical substance within the body. It’s also an extraordinary thing to devote most of your waking hours to obtain a level of beauty. That’s not to be too high-minded; it’s a form of utmost expression and at its fullest realisation, a moment of beauty. The dissonance of a functional human being as well as someone who is entirely entangled with the machinery of making music is probably the challenge, but the more I make music in my life things get even simpler and you don’t need much at all if you have your devotions.”
His live band includes Frank Ocean’s bass player, Ben Reed, drummer Fabian Prynn, and saxophonist Chris Duffin, who, Thorpe says, will allow him to “live out all my Springsteen fantasies”. A tour of Europe and the UK is on the cards for early 2022.
“It’s been four years since I played with a band,” he says. “Our first gig was an extraordinary sensation to feel that music again. I really like the practicality and theoretical way of doing gigs, which is me and a laptop going around, but it doesn’t have that virility that I want. I’m going to go forward with this killer band, which is a fabulous thing to be doing. I really want to live this one out properly.”
If Moondust for My Diamond is any indication, it’s sure to be a hell of a trip.
The past couple of years have been slow for so many musicians, but beloved Australian singer-songwriter Sara Storer has been quietly productive behind the scenes.
The multiple Golden Guitar-winner has been spending the time putting together a wealth of new material before her appearance at Groundwater Country Music Festival.
“I released my new album the year before COVID hit and managed to get a lot of my touring out of the way and get the album out there,” she says. “Then we moved to Darwin early in 2020 and that was the start of COVID, and of all places to have moved to, the territory is pretty damn good when it comes to lockdowns and everything else. While the music industry shut down and there wasn’t much work at all in 2020. But, for me, it was just good timing for me. So, I’ve been writing, and I’ve got enough for a new album. My focus will be on that for next year; to get in and record somewhere and get the new album out.”
The story of the 48-year-old Victorian’s seven albums follows the former teacher’s eventful life, and her next release is progressing steadily.
“Every album is a diary of where I am, how I’m feeling, and what’s going on in my life,” she says. “For this [upcoming] album, I moved back to the Territory, and we leased a little place out at Adelaide River, about an hour away from Darwin. We had a beautiful little cabin there and I did some songwriting out there. So, there are songs about being back in Darwin and what that brings to me personally. Also, just little stories I’ve heard along the way over the past couple of years. If I hear a story I’ll write it down, and that gives me a number of songs. I can write them, sing them, and record them and then not go back to them for a while. So, what I need to do now is look at what I’ve got and look at what works best as a collective, rather than just having bits and pieces here and there.
Storer does what feels natural to her; following a long line of Australian singer-songwriters telling real-life stories of real-life people and places.
“I grew up on a farm, so I have a bit of a soft spot for our people and our country,” she says. “Country music originated from people writing about people out working on the land and their stories, and I do like writing about our characters in the bush and this great country. As an Australian, I grew up listening to John Williamson and what I love about his work was that he sung about Australia with a lot of pride and used everyday Aussie slang from his world and put it into a song. Aussies can be pretty ‘ocker’ but it still sits beautifully to me, as that’s how we talk, that’s how we greet each other, and that’s our characters. So I like to try to be as descriptive as that in my music, about our beautiful place and, of course, singing with an Aussie accent is important, as it would be pretty silly if I was singing about, say Dubbo for example, in an American accent. Listening back to my earlier stuff, I sound very Australian. I do love the Aussie voice in a song and you have to be authentic; it works well with my songs, themes and subjects and it’s how I’ve always sung.”
Storer will play the upcoming Groundwater Country Music Festival, which runs from 12th to 14th November. The 2019 event saw 73,000 people descend on Broadbeach for the free three-day extravaganza of all things country. This year’s festival features 44 acts, including Adam Brand, Natalie Pearson, Troy Cassar-Daly, Caitlyn Shadbolt and many more.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” Storer says. “I got to play at a big event about a month ago, using a full band. It had been a long time since I’d done that, and I was nervous and excited, but gee, it was good to do that. It was so good to be back on stage with a full band, big, beautiful crowd, and everyone is just there to finally hear some music and do the festival thing again. I can only imagine Groundwater will be bigger and better than ever. I’ve got a really good feeling that it’s going to be a big success. I love music and country music and catching up with friends too.”
After more than a year since her last release, indie-rock up-and-comer Evangie is back and ready to lay it all on the line.
On new single, ‘Deep Down’, the Brisbane-based singer-songwriter, real name Jodie Sanderson, explores themes of loss and abandonment that come with unreciprocated affection.
“I find it easy to write about things that I’m going through and to write very personal lyrics,” she says. “For me, songwriting is a huge expression of my emotions and a really good way to talk about how I’m feeling. I really love honesty in lyrics; talking about deep topics.”
It’s this honesty and openness that, along with the ability to write a climactic rock anthem, has been the vehicle for Evangie to channel her stresses into something positive.
“I’ve struggled with my mental health during the whole pandemic period, so I kind of naturally took a bit of a break,” she says. “I’m still going through certain struggles, but it’s important for me for people to be aware of it and hopefully it encourages other people to speak out about it, even if they don’t want to specifically talk about what they’re struggling with. I’m very open about [mental health] with friends and family. I’ll always talk about it because I believe it’s important to talk about things I’m going through rather than keeping them inside. With my music, I went a bit MIA and it’s important that people know I’m still trying to work towards things and people’s support is really special to me.”
Like debut single ‘Japan’, released last year, ‘Deep Down’ begins as a driving, crisp pop gem before exploding into life with towering vocals and a hard-rocking, anthemic finish.
“I’m excited for it to be released,” she says. “We’ve had that song for a while so it’ll be good to have it out. I’m most proud of the lyrics; they’re my favourite thing about the single. ‘Deep Down’ is one of my favourite songs, lyrically, that I’ve written. I’m really happy about how the production worked out as well; it really captured the essence of the song. I recorded with Cody McWaters at Hunting Ground Studios. We just spent a few days in the studio recording a couple of songs. We worked together to transform it from just the instruments that we used into something with a lot more effects and sounds to make this huge soundscape. I always ask my band for feedback as well, which is really important to me as I want them all to love the song too. I definitely have ideas of what I want it to sounds like, but I’m so open to collaborating with my producer and band to do what’s best for the song.”
With significant milestones already under her belt, including reaching number one on the Triple J Unearthed indie and rock charts and being awarded ‘Best Overall Performance’ in Brisbane City Council’s Qube Effect, Evangie is looking forward to a bright musical future.
“We’re going to be doing some shows to celebrate the release,” she says. “There’s a show at the Tivoli coming up, which won through Qube Effect, and seeing where things go from there. We’re just going to release the single to see how it goes, and keep on writing and perfecting my sound.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.”
“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
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.
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].
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.
“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.”