Midweek apathy, a relentless downpour and the scourge of lingering pandemic panic weren’t nearly enough to dampen the spirits at Sleaford Mods’ debut Brisbane appearance on Thursday night (12th March).
The English duo, touring Australia for the first time since their 2007 inception, left nothing in the tank after what must be one of the most brutal, hard-hitting, entertaining and darkly funny performances of recent times in these parts.
Speaking of entertaining and funny, Eamon and Josh from Sunshine Coast slackers The Chats provide a solid support slot, even though they do almost nothing of worth other than hit ‘play’ on a playlist, crack a few tins and sit in front of quizzical audience grinning from ear to ear. The award for the most laidback DJ set of all time has just been given.
For Sleaford Mods’ Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson, not much, it seems, is laidback, although they’re not above taking the piss out of themselves with as much venom as they attack the ruling classes, austerity politics and pop culture.
Opening with ‘The Committee’, ‘McFlurry’ and ‘Fizzy’, Fearn nods and bops behind his laptop that teeters on a battered, old stool, while Williamson vents spleen, sends spittle sprays for seemingly impossible distances, and contorts his body in tune with the tunes while flitting between ranting, rapping and preaching – all liberally sprinkled with a plethora of c-bombs and truth bombs in equal measure.
It’s the no-bullshit nature of the duo’s act, full spectrum of emotions witnessed onstage, badass beats pumped forth by Fearn’s laptop, and utterly acerbic and absorbing vocal and physical performances by Williamson that makes a Sleaford Mods gig a truly unique and necessary experience in 2020.
Through ‘Kebab Spider’, ‘TCR’, ‘Reef of Grief’ and ‘Jobseeker’, the pace doesn’t let up, and the diverse Triffid audience laps it up from beginning to end.
Williamson’s lyrics and mannerisms provide many of the highlights, and while Sleaford Mods may be too riddled with complexities and contradictions to be the heroes we need in 2020, anything that gets Brisbane dancing on a cold and rainy Thursday evening is worth the price of a ticket alone. Ten out of ten: should visit again.
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.”
The anticipation and tension in the air was palpable in and around the mosquito and hot chip haven that is the Brisbane Entertainment Centre as the mighty, genre-skipping rockers Tool made their first visit to the town in seven years in support of their highly anticipated fifth album, ‘Fear Inoculum’.
Support came in the form of a brutal and demanding performance by Author & Punisher, also known as San Diegan solo artist Tristan Shone, who delivered a punishing and absorbing set of pounding, industrial drones as the male-dominated, heavily lubricated audience poured into the sold-out, 13,500-capacity venue.
Reports from the quartet’s Sydney and Perth shows spoke of visual spectaculars, a strict camera ban, and a band musically at the peak of its powers, and this show didn’t disappoint on any of those fronts.
Behind blinds surrounding the edge of the stage, the foursome took their spots to an intense outpouring of emotion, kicking off with ‘Fear Inoculum’; the lead single from the album of the same name. It was a special moment for a Brisbane audience who had waited years to see their heroes once more, and it showed.
Singer Maynard James Keenan began as he meant to go on, on a raised platform behind and to the side of Danny Carey’s drum kit, surveying his domain with menace and anticipation, crouching for the most part with his mohawk and punk getup visible as a silhouette against the searing visuals. Bassist Justin Chancellor twisted and twitched as he delivered thundering notes to leave ears ringing for days, while Adam Jones was the epitome of cool as he reeled off the riffs.
“Hey Brisbane,” said Keenan. “Heard you’ve had a bit of flooding recently. Being so near the ocean and all. Yeah, whatever.”
The setlist remained similar to the band’s two Australian shows thus far, with ‘Ænema’, ‘Parabola’, ‘Schism’, ‘Pneuma’ and ‘7empest’ featuring as part of a relentless wall of sound that the audience lapped up every second of. Almost as entertaining as the show was the venue’s security team’s eagerness and enthusiasm to jump on anyone using their phone, even if not taking photos, and issue a sternly worded warning or eject them from the centre, as signage and PA announcements repeatedly warned of the perils of using video recording equipment at any stage of the occasion.
It didn’t matter, though, as, following surely one of the most intense aural assaults of recent times, hordes of sweaty, black-t-shirt- and cargo short-wearing fans left the Entertainment Centre, hopeful to not have to wait so damn long for next time.
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
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.”
It was a night of big hits, storytelling, sequinned blazers and a masterclass of musicianship as Elton John and his band brought their Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to Brisbane on a humid, midweek evening.
The 72-year-old may be around halfway through a 300-odd-show run for a tour which began in September 2018, but the energy level didn’t let up for over two and a half hours as the British Knight Bachelor showed he still has the Midas touch when it comes to mesmerising an audience – a task the old master has been succeeding at for close to 50 years.
A lack of supporting artist made little difference to the palpable level of anticipation echoing around the dated walls of the Boondall venue as an army of Elton diehards found their seats while adjusting flashing glam-era spectacles, removing layers of glitzy clothing and chomping on boxes of hot chips with eyes affixed to the big screens for signs of movement on their hero’s part (kudos to the tour team for the acknowledgement of the Turrbal and Yugara people as the Traditional Owners of the area).
If anyone was feeling a tad lethargic or in the depths of a midweek funk, the first few bars of “Bennie and the Jets” changed all that. Its delivery was one of power, poise and nonchalance; tossed off by a master in perfect control of his realm and with nothing to prove. The fact that we were witnessing a man who has created some of the most perfect pop hits for several decades hit like an embarrassing reminder that we shouldn’t have expected anything other than utter brilliance.
“All the Girls Love Alice” followed quickly, before the man himself addresses his people. “We hope you like what you see and what you hear,” he says, before launching into “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “Border Song”; the latter before which he takes the opportunity to relate how Aretha Franklin’s decision to record it in the early ’70s gave him and co-songwriter Bernie Taupin great confidence as young musicians. This is the first of many such reminiscences and nods to the skills and input of Taupin of the night.
The anthemic “Tiny Dancer”, as fifth song in a 25-song set, is almost thrown away without a care, but not before getting the biggest response of the evening with a spine-tingling sing-along in the 13,000-capacity venue. It’s a similar situation for “Rocket Man” in eighth position, although the band take their time with the classic track; each taking a masterful solo to transform it into an extended, bluesy jam. Elton takes his bows and laps up the adulation between hits, and a genuine connection is felt between performer and audience.
There may be moments for the diehards only, including “Burn Down the Mission”, and patches of lower intensity that follow, but towards the pointy end of the show, the hits start rolling again, with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “I’m Still Standing” and “Crocodile Rock” which perfectly set up an encore of “Your Song” and obvious closer “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.
The overall feeling as the frenetic applause finally fades and the satisfied hordes dissipate into the night is that they just don’t make them like Sir Elton any more.
For Best Before
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.”
They may be 25 years into their distinguished and acclaimed career, but you can bet your shoes on the fact Regurgitator aren’t about to start taking themselves too seriously.
In fact, the Brisbane trio brought out all the weird and wondrous silliness they are known and loved for as an appreciative audience, many of whom were likely not born when the band formed, brought the party to the Tivoli on a balmy Sunday evening.
The second of two nights celebrating the homegrown legends, this was a veritable mini-festival of fun stretched over six hours, with supports Koko Uzi, The Stress of Leisure, The Fauves, Screamfeeder and Shonen Knife providing the build-up to the main event.
Much like Regurgitator’s musical output over the last quarter-century, it was a wild and eclectic affair that played out in several parts; each celebrating a different element of their history and interjected with humourous and ludicrous introductory videos featuring Dylan Lewis and Tim Rogers, among others, as well as retina-searing and, at times, hilariously lewd graphics.
Early tracks ‘I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am’ and ‘F.S.O.’ (about domestic violence – “Let’s fuck that right off”, requests frontman Quan Yeomans), went down a storm amid a maelstrom of noise and enthusiasm as the band bounced around in costumes adorned with multi-coloured pom-poms.
Next came the rap-rock section, and a switch to the “life-sucking” (bassist Ben Ely’s words) tracksuits, with ‘Light Me on Fire’ proving to be a high point.
Another switch to a somewhat gold-sequinned costume affair and the arrival of Seja Vogel on keys brought the band to their ‘Unit’ phase, which was always going to be a major highlight of the evening, including the graphic cartoon rimming on the big screen during ‘I Will Lick Your Arsehole’.
The lingering feeling is that if Regurgitator was to somehow still exist 25 years from now, it would continue to be the irreverent, self-deprecating, outsider beast that it has always been. And that’s exactly how it should be.
With livers running at 200% capacity and the memories of a normal routine feeling distant and fuzzy, it’s time to dust ourselves off and give it another crack at Bigsound’s third official night of live music.
First up at Crowbar Black is Towns, playing their twelfth show since Saturday. The Adelaide duo immediately set the scene for a tip-top evening with a charismatic, funny and skilful set of punk/pop/rock numbers. “I’m so fucking happy!” says frontman Aston Valadares, grinning ear to ear, before throwing a bunch of t-shirts into the audience, Oprah-style. A medley of television themes, including ‘Home and Away’, ‘Round the Twist, ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Friends’ provide a fun counterpoint to their admittedly “little sad” track, ‘Bleach’.
Over at Black Bear Lodge, Sunbeam Sound Machine’s Nick Sowersby and his band are making a gentler, more blissed-out sound, including tracks from new record, ‘Goodness Gracious’. ‘Talking Distance’ goes over particularly well in a venue that is perfect for the intimate feel of the group’s music.
At the Elephant, Reliqa vocalist Monique Pym is more into demanding intimacy from her enthusiastic audience. “Tell someone you love them – the person right next to you!” she suggests, to awkward glances from strangers taking in the Gosford collective. Pym is a powerhouse of energy with a towering voice that must place Reliqa as one of the most exciting young metal bands in the country.
Mermaidens are certainly not the demanding types at the Ivory Tusk, saying they “don’t want to get in trouble” if they play over their timeslot, although they do mention their new album being out tomorrow (6th September) several times. They do exactly as their bio describes, and do it extremely well – all dreamy vocals, hypnotic guitars and more charm than you can poke your hangover at.
At the Outpost, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers are simultaneously expressing their gratitude for the presence of a sizeable crowd, generating considerable industry buzz, displaying their Canberra home-town pride and playing a collection of rock and alternative numbers like its some of the best parts of the ’90s all over again. ‘I Like That You Like That’ is their best song and marks them as serious contenders.
Following a solid first-night show, the draw towards Laura Imbruglia at Black Bear Lodge is almost irresistible, and going against some imagined principle/protocol/ethic/whatever of Bigsound and seeing the same artist twice suddenly doesn’t seem in any way criminal. The Melburnian and her band, the Bin Chickens, are, quite simply, a class act. ‘Tricks’ and ‘Carry You Around’ allow lead guitarist Alex MacRae to flex his considerable chops as the quartet settle into a potent groove for another evening-winning set.
What a bloody great three nights of live music.
Dusting off hangovers, minor/major exhaustion and the shadow of day jobs brings the second night of BIGSOUND back into focus, and with another outstanding line-up of bands to get the teeth into, the appetite is big for night two of the showcase.
First up at Crowbar is Sydney quartet The Buoys, who blast through a high-octane, “emotional rollercoaster” of a set, with frontwoman Zoe Catterall getting among the audience and getting into the mood by snagging a bite from a punter’s Bloody Mary celery stick between bouts of highly impressive shredding.
Over at Ric’s, Egyptian-Australian Mariam Sawires is impressing in a somewhat more serene fashion; her voice on songs like ‘Together’ – inspired by missing her sister when living in Japan – soars high and marks the nomad vocalist as not only one to watch, but probably deserving of a classier setting than the milk-crate-adorned surrounds of the beloved Valley venue.
Meanwhile, at The Wickham, Sydney rap queen Lauren. riles up an enthusiastic audience by getting in their face before claiming, “I only smoked one bong today!” to a huge roar of appreciation.
At the Brightside, Brisbane’s First Beige have packed out the room and melt into an instantly engaging jam, including a guest trumpeter, while at the Elephant’s crammed back bar, English quartet The Amazons run through a set of polished pop tunes on their first ever Australian gig, and Ainsley Farrell is winning hearts and minds with a classy, lilting and uplifting set at Black Bear Lodge, including new track ‘Dark Spell’.
Downstairs at Crowbar, Melbourne metallers Outright are loudly-and-proudly anything but polished, with powerhouse singer Jelena Goluza taking the classic foot-on-monitor stance between explosions of noise, before Sydney post-punk outfit 100 put in a solid and loose shift in front of an appreciative audience.
Seeing Mambali – from Numbulwar in the Northern Territory – is the perfect way to finish the evening; the Indigenous collective play an exciting, captivating show to a wildly engaged crowd as the evening draws to a close.
Is anyone ready to pass out yet?
Like Christmas, your birthday, or the dread of filling out another tax return, BIGSOUND rolls around again in no time; although it’s significantly more welcome milestone than many.
First up at Crowbar, singer-guitarist Siobhan Poynton introduces Scabz as “the shittest band at BIGSOUND” before opener ‘What You Stand For’ – a song about Anthony Albanese and false promises. “Told you we were shit,” she follows – a patently untrue statement. ‘Brett Lee’s Got no ID (And He Can’t Get Into World Bar)’ tells the story of Poynton’s encounter with the cricketer at a former place of work; a close call as he “likes Tony Abbott”, as it turns out.
Over at Woolly Mammoth, Concrete Surfers are conducting a more polite, but equally impressive and somewhat ramshackle, affair. “We’re here to hopefully rock your socks off,” claims frontman Jovi Brook, softly, while bassist Trent Courtenay – looking like the throttled young caddie from ‘Happy Gilmore’ – slaps his instrument like a master.
Only a lucky handful of people are present to witness Black Rock Band at the Woolly Mammoth, and what a delight they are treated to by the West Arnhem collective. They aren’t the only band giving an acknowledgement of country tonight, which is encouraging to see and hear, but are likely the only singing in Kunwinjku – addressing both a depth of cultural and social issues and making a rapidly growing audience dance their asses off, too.
Reija Lee, playing outside at The Wickham, promises to “amp it up a little” at the beginning of her set. The musical chameleon delivers a varied collection of pop and electro numbers, switching between bass and vocals and winning over a seated audience in no time at all. Her voice and performance deserves a bigger stage.
Over at The Foundry, Dianas are shaking the walls with the tightest performance so far this evening – the Melbourne-via-Perth group make a hell of a sound for a trio, despite complaints of an incredibly sticky stage. Powerhouse drummer Anetta Nevin steals the show with a skin-thumping masterclass, leaving her kit beaten and defeated as the cymbals ring out on the final tune.
At The Zoo, Laura Imbruglia and her band the Bin Chickens immediately prove to be the best act of the evening so far as they run through songs from new album, ‘Scared of You’. Opener ‘Tricks’ and follow-up ‘Carry You Around’ set the tone for a classy, skilful set that looks like it will be hard to top this year.
BIGSOUND veterans Bad//Dreems go about their business with the loose, vaguely off-kilter aesthetic they are known and loved for, playing songs from their upcoming third album, including new tune ‘Piss Christ’. Older tracks ‘My Only Friend’ and ‘Mob Rule’ still sit well among the new songs, while “oldie but a garibaldi” (frontman Ben Marwe’s words) ‘Hoping For’ remains some of their finest work.
Approachable Members of Your Local Community are the perfect end to the evening at the Ivory Tusk. The “deep south” Melbourne quartet, dressed in ludicrous, matching red Adidas shirts and shorts, are fun, upbeat and silly in all the best ways. New track ‘The Internet’ sounds like a winner while ‘Semiotic Vision’ is perhaps their best song, but it’s the performance that makes it a killer show.
Bring on nights two, three and four.