Interview: Elize Strydom
The Living End has never been busier – and that’s the way they like it. National tour? No problem. European jaunt? Bring it on. An album of demos and rarities? Absolutely.
This time last year the Melbourne three-piece was preparing to unleash their fifth studio album, White Noise. It came after a period of uncertainty that threatened to put an end to things. After a brief hiatus Chris Cheney, Scott Owen and Andy Stachan resolved to pick up the tools and get the ball rolling. Scott says after a shaky start, the pieces started to fit.
“There was a very distinct moment when things started happening and the tunes were getting us pretty excited. And it did sort of feel like a bit of a comeback. That break had given us time to think about how we felt about the band. It put everything into perspective so when things started happening and songs started coming together there was a pretty amazing confidence in the band. We did put pressure on ourselves. We did say we’re not going to bother making another album unless it’s a bloody good one. We’re not going to settle for second best, we wanna make sure if we’re going to do something it’s gonna be something that will make all three of us really happy. And when we started doing that all the fear and the pressure fell away and everything started going really well again. And I think it shows on the record. The response to the record has been great which has really boosted our confidence.”
So much so that the band has spent the last eight months crossing this wide brown land performing one packed show after another. Perhaps it’s time they crossed the pond? Scott agrees.
“We’ve got a trip to Europe planned for April. We’re just doing a few shows of our own in the UK and Europe and after the Australian tour we have a quick trip to Japan. Then back to Europe again which will be the summertime, when all the festivals are on. We’ve managed to get ourselves on quite a few of those which is very exciting. We’ve done them before but not for many years. It will be great to get back in that part of the world and playing the festivals.”
After numerous overseas trips to test the waters Scott says the band is ready to give international success a red hot go.
“It’s always a bit of a carrot dangling in front of a band’s nose to be able to establish a big audience in another country. Australia is so far away from everywhere else and it is a bit of buzz to go to another part of the world and still get the same sort of reaction that you can get in this country. But it’s something that takes a lot of hard work or good timing or both. It’s definitely a goal that we feel we’ve got plenty of energy within ourselves to chip away at. You never, never know if you never, never go!”
But before the Aussie darlings are eaten up by new audiences they’ll embark on a whistlestop tour of the country playing shows in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. But not Adelaide. And fans on their Myspace page have made their disapproval abundantly clear.
“ Well we’re playing in Adelaide in a couple of weeks, we’re doing the Clipsal 500 and it’s also just a matter of timing as well ‘cos we’ve got these couple of trips to Europe planned,” says Scott, in defence. “If it becomes a problem we’ll have to address it!”
Damn straight. Punters will be getting a whole lotta bang for their buck with Gyroscope and Tame Impala on the support roster and Scott couldn’t be happier with his tour-mates.
“Gyroscope we’ve played a lot with in the past and we just love those guys and we get along with them really well and we really admire them as musicians so it’s great to be going out on the road with them again. Tame Impala are one of those bands that are just really exciting. I see them as pretty unique in what they do. There’s no one around doing the sort of music that they’re doing and I really like that about bands, when you find something different.”
Gyroscope [photo: Stuart Blythe]
Speaking of something different, Scott says that’s exactly what you’ll find on the new White Noise Rarities Collectors Edition.
“It’s a bunch of old demos that we’ve thrown by the wayside over the years. Whenever we go into the studio to do a record we always write a whole lot of stuff as far as demoing goes before we narrow it down and we end up with a whole lot of songs on the cutting room floor that we never do anything with. When we’re doing demos we’re always pretty experimental so some of the stuff is quite interesting and we feel like it’s a waste to not doing anything with so we thought it would be a good idea to slap ‘em all onto a record and put it out.”
They’re full of good ideas, these boys. When the bushfires ripped through Victoria destroying homes, communities and lives many of us were left reeling from shock and felt ill-equipped to make a difference. Chris, Scott and Andy decided the best way to help was to do what they do best. They travelled north to some of the worst affected areas including Yea, Alexandra and Kinglake and staged impromptu performances making do with an acoustic guitar and a wheelie bin in place of a drum kit. Scott says the experience was surreal.
“It was pretty eye opening just seeing the actual terrain. The damage that the fires left was heartbreaking. Talking to a lot of the people up there about their stories of survival, or not, was pretty heartbreaking to see in the flesh. You see plenty of footage on the TV but when you see the miles and miles and miles of destruction; that was pretty unbelievable. Our whole thing was to go up there and play some songs and say G’day and try to take their minds off the reality of it all for half an hour. To help them have a good time and get a smile on their face. We felt very privileged to be allowed in those areas, it was amazing. Everyone has something they can offer. You can donate money but to give something physically is another thing. I think that’s the sort of thing they need when their spirits are so low. I think whatever it is that people can offer is going to be of benefit.”
The Living End kicks off the Raise The Alarm Tour on Friday May 1 in Brisbane. In between dates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth they’ll hit the stage at Groovin’ the Moo in Townsville, Maitland and Bendigo.
Related tour details: The Living End, Raise The Alarm Tour May 2009
Big Day Out 2009 Gold Coast Review