Dress Slowly For Success

It may have been over three years in the waiting but heralded Aussie rockers You Am I are about to release their latest studio album Dress Me Slowly. Check out our interview with You Am I drummer Rusty Hopkins who gave his insights on the new album, winning the ARIAS, the Big Day Out and how much fun You Am I are having still being in a rock & roll band.

You Am I will release their fifth studio album, Dress Me Slowly on April 30th. To celebrate it’s release as well as their upcoming Reverence and Disregard tour, the boys are planning a secret performance that will be simulcast on Channel V and Triple J. It will take place on April 30th at 9pm. The gig will unveil each song off the album in sequence allowing fans a sneak peek at what must surely be one of the most hotly anticipated Australian albums of the year.

In conjunction with their new album and national tour, You Am I have re-launched their official website You Am I Central. Check out the site for information about giveaways for the secret show, advanced tracks from Dress Me Slowly as well as providing updated news on the band.

Next Music recently caught up with You Am I drummer Rusty Hopkins who found time to chat about the band, the new album and just about anything else that was Aussie and rock & roll. And as we find out, You Am I are about as Aussie and as rock & roll as it gets. It’s been three years since your last studio album.

Enjoy the break Rusty?
We’ve been pretty busy really. We made a live album and we wrote about 30 songs for the new album. We haven’t been out on the road very much. We did a couple of tours here and there. But compared to a few years ago when we were like INXS doing 200 shows a year. It’s been pretty good.

Any reason for the time off?
I don’t think it was anything pre meditated. We were initially expecting to put this album out this time last year, but things conspired not to make it happen. The band had a couple of different producers in mind. We tried out Ed Buller and that didn’t work so we scrapped all that and then we had Cliff (Norrell). We were going to put the album out at the end of last year, but there were so many records coming out so we thought we didn’t need to rush it out. We were just quite happy to let it happen naturally and in the end we ended up writing three more songs for the record anyway. It’s been good because it has allowed Tim to write what I think is probably our best record.

Does Dress Me Slowly differ a lot from previous You Am I albums?
We’ve probably got a more considered approach to things. We have a habit of rushing things like a bull at a goat sometimes – which is good. But this time we took our time. I don’t think it’s any real stylistic differences, we still see ourselves as a rock and roll band. And that’s what we like to be. I like a lot of different types of music but I can’t see up trying to incorporate a DJ or anything like that to our sound. We were just happy to be ourselves and make another record.

Can you tell me a bit about the recording process?
The first sessions we did were in November of 1999 with Ed Buller, but he didn’t really have the same kind of ideas about the record that we did so in the end it wasn’t really working. Last year we got this guy called Cliff Norrell who used to be Scott Lits’ engineer. He has produced a couple of records. He produced the last Rollins Band record. He was recommended to us by a lot of people and so we spoke to him on the phone and he made the right noises. We basically just went into the studio in Sydney and spent four weeks recording. We had a whole bunch of songs and whittled it down to about 12 or 13 and recorded them. Then we put the single Damage out and that did pretty well. Tim had a bunch of other songs and we thought lets go and record them as well so we went into the studio with Paul McKercher who recorded our live album and Hourly Daily. We went to the studio with him and recorded these three extra tracks and they ended up all making it on the album. We mixed the bulk of the record in July in LA – and that was fun. It was just a good collaborative process that everyone got involved in.

Dress Me Slowly is a very interesting title for an album. How did that come about?
It’s a line from one of Tim’s songs. I think it comes from this idea, I think it’s Spanish. It’s more about measuring yourself and being what you want to be and not being too concerned about outside influences and outside forces trying to change you.

After the huge success of Hourly Daily, You Am I were getting labeled with the Best Aussie Rock band tag. Was it hard to live up to these types of expectations?
I think we’re a good band. I don’t know if we’re the best. We weren’t around to hear a lot of that stuff. The day after the ARIAS we went to London and did a tour with the Lemonheads, so we were kind of away for most of that. I’ve got my head buried in the sand most of the time listening to old sixties records and stuff like that. I don’t listen to a lot of radio or read a lot of the “press”. I’m pretty oblivious to all that. I think people have this tendency to put bands on pedestals and that’s happened to us for a while. But we’re quite happy that we managed to ride through all that and come out the other side still intact and even better than we were then. If you start reading what people say about you it can get dangerous. I think we are all kind of cynical and jaded and we don’t believe anything that’s written about us.

But you enjoyed winning the ARIAS?
(Pause) Well, you know. I have one at home and I use it as a doorstop. It’s nice that you get that recognition but when you’re 15 and standing in front of the mirror with your tennis racquet you are not thinking about winning awards – you’re thinking about making records and being on stage. I think it’s far more exciting that you can pack out a room in most places in the country and have a bunch of people singing our songs than having won some awards. It’s not a competition for us. It’s just what we do and what we like to do. We’re not out to beat anybody or be more popular than anybody we’re just out to do what we do, do it well and at the end of the day be happy with what we’ve done and not pander to popularity. We’re not like that. We just want to be a band that can be respected in 20 years time.

You Am I have been described as the ‘guvnors of Australian rock&roll’. You definitely could be considered elder statesmen of Australia’s rock music scene. Has the rock industry changed a lot since you started out?
I’m 36 now and I’ve been playing in bands since I was 15 I think it changes all the time. At the moment there are some really good bands out there but there’s also a lot of bullshit. I think the commercial scene is worse than it has been in years. I’ve never seen so much money music around. There isn’t much real music to me in the mainstream. There are a lot of bands that have their eyes on the prize. I just think it’s just in the hands of the moneymen at the moment. Hopefully that will change. Generally it does. There are just too many bands that are in it for the wrong reason. Last year I spoke to this young band and all they could talk about was ‘when we got signed’. It was like the Year 0 for them getting signed to a major label deal. I think I come from an ethic where it’s more important being a band and having an identity than fitting in to some A & R guy’s idea of what a band should be. I’d rather go and see some band that are doing it for the love of it than for the fact that they might get on Channel V or something like that.

Being from Sydney, do you think the scene here is as strong as it used to be. I always think of that famous photo of Tim Rodgers playing on the footpath of the Annandale Hotel as in a way being the symbol of rock music dying in Sydney.
I don’t think it’s as dead as people say it is. It was for a while but Annandale is back. I saw Rocket Science there a little while ago. There are a few other places as well. But going to see a live band is something that people do anymore,

Do you think dance music has something to do with it?
There has always been dance music around. I think wherever the girls go the boys will follow. There is a lot of big rooms full of dance music that people go to and it’s really easy. It’s hard for me to comment because I don’t go out much these days because there is nothing I want to go out and see. And the times I have been in dance clubs I would say – I would really like to hear a good song. And a lot of the time it’s just “doof doof”, it’s like people trying to punch through to some other place. It’s hard to relate to what’s going on. But maybe that’s just some jaded 36 year old who likes Japanese psychedelic music more than what I consider to be boring mainstream music.

You Am I have played at a large number of Big Day Out festivals since they began all those years ago. This year the festival was struck be tragedy with the death of a fan while watching Limp Bizkit’s performance. How did what happened at Sydney this year affect the band?
Things like that really scare me. You’ve got 50 000 people and it’s a big party. A lot of people are pretty stressed out. It’s a big day. People get on stuff. so it doesn’t surprise me. You take a band like Limp Bizkit and the ethic they take which probably comes from hard-core punk and stuff like that. But it’s different to a little punk rock gig with 50 people jumping around. Instead you’ve got 20 000 people in the mosh pit. Something is bound to happen. Not everyone there is there to be part of a community and jump around and enjoy it. I think there are a lot of different emotions going on and a lot of them are negative. You have probably got kids who have jobs and get yelled at all day and it’s probably a good way for them to take their frustrations out. Unfortunately it can lead to tragedy that was bourn out by the Sydney Big Day Out. It was too big Limp Bizkit were probably the wrong kind of band to end with on a day like that. To have someone so aggressive and break stuff. It just seems to be asking for trouble.

Will the Big Day Out be the same?
I think it’s the whole notions of rock festivals. To me it’s a pretty bland way of seeing a bunch of bands. So it’s hard for me to comment on that. If there’s a market there will always be festivals. But the powers that be will just have to think about it more and think about how you deal with the fact that there are a lot of people that all want to jump around but it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time is the same. Should there be 15-year-old kids jammed down the front of Limp Bizkit shows. You would never want to say ‘no you can’t do that’, but sometimes I think it’s dangerous, it is really dangerous. It kind of blew up in their faces a bit.

Yeah, I saw this interview with Marylin Manson after he was pelted with glass bottles his Big Day Out performance and he said that at these festivals you get so many different sub-cultures of society who would not usually interact with each other and that can be the recipe for disaster.
It’s funny because we were in between Mudvayne and Sunk Loto and people will say ‘wow how are you going to cope with doing that, people aren’t going to be going crazy’. Well to me I rather have a group people standing around singing our songs than to see a bunch of guys with their shirts off running into each other and expressing their love for our music by throwing themselves around blindly and not even listening to the words or what the songs are about and just thinking ‘here’s a chance to get rid of some of this excess testosterone that I’ve been storing up all week’. It’s nice to be able to do these things because it’s hard for kids to see bands sometimes. A band like us normally plays at over 18’s venues. It’s not something I’d like to do all the time those big shows. Rock and Roll always works better for me in small dark rooms.

 

Victor Woolley