Bad Hair Day


It's one of those filthy days - pissing rain, Arctic winds and throbbingly ominous hangovers. Some bloke in a singlet walks past, swears at us, calls us all fags and then spits at us. No one wants to be here.
Tim Rogers and Andy Kent arrive together bedecked in shades and their customary naff gear. A seething Russell Hopkinson skulks up about 20 minutes later.

"How's it going Russ?"
"I wish to kill everyone here," he replies.
We leave him alone for a while.

There is a photo shoot. Tim puts on a tie and smiles sweetly. Andy stares black-eyed right down the barrel and a tiny black kitten named Chimp lightens Russell's mood sufficently for him to join the others posing happily.Photo shoot over, we adourn to a cafe rather than pub because the very thought of alcohol sets Russell swooning.

You Am I have a new album coming out this month. It'll be their third. Their second Hi Fi Way sold almost 50,000 copies and was dubbed and instant classic (that made them happy). It also won them an ARIA award and appointed them as saviours of Australian rock 'n' roll (that made them mad). The new album is called Hourly, Daily.

Rogers, the frontman, singer and guitarist is the obvious focal point. He's a gental soul with tousled hair and an impish grin. He has a low tolerance for fools and writes amazing lyrics.
Andy plays bass. When he looks at you he looks in you. He reads Philip K. Dick and eats nachos.
Russell drums and today wears the expression of a man out until 4am safe in the knowledge he can sleep in his warm bed while it rains outside, only to find that he must attend and AMNESIA photo shoot and interview via public transport.

In an interview in December, during the making of Hourly, Daily, Rogers spoke of his wanting to make "an action record, a creation record, a Small Faces record". Now it's about "thinking where you are and where you come from".

"Most of the material came after we got back from the States," explains the softly-spoken Rogers. "But it really started forming in those long months towards the end of a tour. That's probably why the album is so referencial to Australia, not for any patriotic reasons but because after so long on the road touring and playing, the whole process becomes perpetual motion and daily home life becomes surreal.

"Most of it is about things that most people perceive as mundane but to someone just out of the van appears very psychedelic and affectionate. That's what the title Hourly, Daily tries to capture. That's the way the album was going. Songs from different points of the day, diary entries from different people. It moves through every hour of every day... that's about as vague as I can get."

Hourly, Daily is largely a reaction to the You Am I American experience which had such a euphoric and yet debilitating effect on the band. In January they had been asked to tour the States with Soundgarden, probably the biggest band in the world at the time, at the band's personal request. Suddenly it was massive outdoor tens of thousands. They fulfilled their commitments to Soundgarden and embarked on their own tour, playing anywhere and everywhere across the country. They shot videos, did interviews and submerged themselves in the American dream. Then they came home, drained physically and mentally.

"Americans believe they're the centre of the planet but that also makes them the most isolated from the world as it really is. That gets to you. You miss your home, your suburb, the footy."

"To crack America," chimes in Russell, "all you need is one song with a catchy chorus. I mean we'd be in the mid-west and we'd walk into some shitty record store in the middle of fucking Idaho and there'd be Tomorrow by Silverchair playing over the speakers. It really hit home. All that Generation X bullshit has filtered through to this shitbox town in the middle of nowhere. It's like a scene from a movie and it scared the shit out of me because it just fit so well with that sort of mind-set."

The bands love/hate relationship with the U.S of A. becomes increasingly apparent. Tim Rogers takes over: "The indie rock Nazis are the same evereywhere. This one lady from the label we're now on over there was overheard saying, 'Now tell those boys not to drink before they go stage and ask them if they can write three choruses a song', basically telling you how to write an American radio song! Fuck, that pissed me off. That shit doesn't matter to us. We'll probably play 50 million shows before we sell a record but that's just fine with us, it worked for us here and it's great fun touring. All our favourite bands never cracked it big anyway. I mean the Pretty Things were better than the Stones and The Rissiloes were better than virtually anybody in the late '70s... you almost take heart to being unsuccessful," he laughs.

Success is something the trio have learnt to live with since Hi Fi Way was released last year and made a bee-line for the top slot on the Australian charts.

"We definitely didn't think it was a fantastic record when we finished it," says Tim.
"The whole thing was just a blur. It was all rushed and ugly and by the end we'd reached a point where we couldn't listen to it without being too referencial... y'know, 'Shit, I should've played that there and sung that this way', instead of being able to say, 'this is a good song and that's a good song and its a great fucking album'."

It was left to Andy to sum it up: "It was all too intense. We'd been touring so long that I think it came out as a Caesarean section rather than a birth. But it worked."

And so to Hourly, Daily, an album that was set for release in March, then May and is finally out. An album where You Am I shrug off the past year's trials and tribulations and disseminate them in some semblance of a musical release.

This album was recorded in Sydney with Wayne Connolly of the band Welcome Mat and Paul McKercher. Both are close mates of the band and were selected because "we know 'em and we can yell at 'em." In the past they'd recorded in America with Sonic Youth honcho Lee Renaldo but by this stage America was shitting them. They needed to relax and that meant recording at home.
Hourly, Daily is also notable for its recruitment of jazz maestro Jackie Orszacsky who did the string and brass arangements on a number of tracks on the album. It's part of what Tim Rogers calls "a fruit injection".

Absent from this interview was the defacto fourth member of You Am I, Greg Hitchcock, formerly of The Verys and an increasingly frequent contributor to the You Am I live experience.
"Greg's part of the extended family from a long time ago," explains Rogers. "We've taken him on the road with us a few time to help out. More or less he just embellishes things. We like to think of him as the cream on the cake."

However, Hitchcock and Orszacsky's contributions signify You Am I's desire to keep one step ahead of what is expected of them. When you expect them to go one way they'll rail against it and deliberately go in the other direction. Hitchcock and Orszacsky are what Rogers has taken to calling "fruit".

"It's not as though we're getting stale. We just wanted the live shows to be a little fruitier. The thing with Greg is really working itself out. It's yet to reach its peak. At the very least it gives people something else to look at on stage.

"There's something very beautiful about a three-piece powering away but why not throw in a bit of fruit... it's good for the digestion. The next album will be less fruity and more completely rocking. I've got no idea why, I've just got this feeling. At the moment we like fruity. We'll soon tire of it though."

You Am I have recently returned from three months in the States as part of the Lollapalooza bill and are home for their national tour to follow up the release of Hourly, Daily. The tour is something Rogers admits he can't wait for.

"I find it quite ludicrous to think I'm making a wage from something I love doing. You learn pretty early on. Rock 'n' roll groups don't make money. You play, have great times with your mates, then you become an accountant.
"I don't care if people understand what we're doing, what we're playing or what we're singing about," says Rogers. "I get my rocks off, that's as far as it goes.
"We're not here to get some sort of message across. We're full of the history of dirty, smelly, prissy, beautiful, foppish rock 'n' roll and we live it 200 nights a year. If people get off on it, I'm glad. That's what Hourly, Daily means to us. It's us with a fire up our arse and that's the way it should always be.
"I'd like to think that if we ever got stale we'd just knock it on the head straight away, but then you play another gig and it's fucking unreal, get drunk, smash the gear up and it's the best thing in the world."


Angus Fontaine