the gang interview, where you get a whole band throwing
in their two bob's worth. And the subject here is You Am
I - rock and roll outlaws to a man. When the wives and kids
let them be.
And that's You Am I, who now get described
in terms like 'elder statesmen' and 'decade-on veterans'
of The Rock, Oz variety. Tim Rogers - in suit, tie and vest
though it's still fairly early in the morning - is the leader
of the band, and gets most of the good quotes in, starting
with bemusement at their new, almost respectable standing.
"Yeah, when did that happen?," he questions, "In
the space of a week, suddenly we weren't the 'new, hot,
young, fresh things' anymore."
But as he does often, he switches from
the flippant to the thoughtful in a sentence. "But
I guess we are down the track a bit. Not many Australian
bands even get to make five albums, and we are lucky that
people still have an expectation that we're going to make
a new album of great songs rather than saying things like
'yeah, well they're not gunna do songs as good as that hit
single of four years ago'."
"What it comes down to for us is
creating something, something passionate, naive, and just
having the experiences of it, good and bad."
This is the position that You Am I find
themselves in now, with the release of said fifth album,
Dress Me Slowly. There's the classic big national tour to
go with it, under the banner of Reverence & Disregard.
Reverence & Disregard for what, gentlemen?
Tim again gets in first: "For rock and roll, of course.
I still get caught up in the history, the romance of it.
Like when someone says 'come and record in LA, The Stones
did some recording at this studio in 1972, and we're like
'HEY! ALRIGHT!', we're there."
"The Disregard I have is for what's
purporting to be rock in some places today. Cutting the
sleeves off your shirt, putting in some hair dye and going
'RAAAAWWWWWKKKK!!!!' and bleating the angst of how you were
mistreated as a child - that's not rock to me. Yes pal,
you're a step closer to the edge, but what are you going
to do when you get there?".
But for a bunch of blokes, three-quarters
of them doing it for a decade, can they still be a boys
gang when they go out on the road?
"Totally," is the definitive Rogers response.
Andy Kent is a little more thoughtful: We're all that bit
older. There are marriages, children. That puts an emphasis
on having to stick together, and be true to what we do."
Tim again: "We know when we get together we can be
a gang of 15 year olds. Those closest to us know that, and
accept that's what we do. My two month old daughter already
knows I'm a complete fucking flake - dancing around the
house to old Nazz records - she really likes those incidentally."
Rusty Hopkinson still can't quite believe it all: "We
recognise how lucky we are, that we can even say that this
is our job is pretty incredible, having played in lots of
bands who have never made a dime, never travelled, never
did anything. And that's not saying we're going to be millionaires
out of it. It's just about doing what we do. And it's ours."
"There's the perception in some places
that we are all buying our second beach-front mansions,"
Rogers muses, "and yes we have sold some records, and
have had some acclaim. But we still have troubles paying
the bills. Like that Juice list of the 50 most powerful/influential/whatever
people in Australian music - I'd say I'd be one of the few
on it that has trouble paying the mortgage some months."
"But that's not the only reason you
get in the van, it's because there's a gig at the end of
it, where you can make a racket for an hour or two."
There is money to be made, particularly
if a band is prepared to do it 'the American way'. Having
been through some real ups (a well received tour with Soundgarden)
and downs (not having a record deal there at the time to
capitalise on the good notices) in their dealing with the
USA, You Am I at least now know what they are dealing with.
Tim: "It's not a need anymore, the
fascination is different - it's great to be in Memphis or
New York, but the bullshit of being told to talk with certain
record company people, or certain radio people just sucks
the life out of the whole band."
"To be stuck on some bad tour, dragging your arse across
America for no result - I don't think I could face that
again," agrees Rusty.
"It can be a nightmare," according to Andy, "the
attitude that they'll only release something if they know
it's going to work."
One of the reasons Dress Me Slowly has
been so long in coming was a whole season of recording was
trashed due to disagreement with the approach of a producer
appointed by their American record company. Everything was
to be 'loud and proud', all big hooks and no substance.
"The songs that are on this record are the ones that
were untainted, the ones that the producers didn't try to
fuck with - those ones ended up as b-sides."
"Here's a copy of this Dave Matthews
Band record, can you make it sound like this?," is
how Russell describes the career advice.
"But some younger American bands
seem to go along with it, love it even. We met some bands
over there, and the first thing they say is 'so, who you
signed to? who's you're A&R man?," Tim despairs,
"Should we mention that a young guy we met named Marilyn
Manson was right up there in that attitude?"
"The strange thing is you get noticed,
and get signed because you are different - and as soon as
they sign you it's 'ok, change now', and they do."
So, Tim, with all the shit of it, how
do you still write happy rock and roll tunes?
"Ahh, that's simple. I'm in one of the handful of great
rock and roll bands in the world. I've got a beautiful wife,
a beautiful little daughter, a handful of good friends...."
"...a good car..." Rusty interjects.
"...and a wish my footy team was doing better."
the North Melbourne AFL tragic adds, before he goes on,
showing some of the idealism is still intact: "It's
just the nature of it, a bit of bullshit purpose about it,
some heart and soul. Just getting up like we did for Studio
22 the other night, and just having a frigging ball with
these guys. What more could you want?"
So, you're just a good old-fashioned rock
and roll band?
"We're a GREAT, old-fashioned rock and roll band,"
he corrects, firmly. No argument here.
You Am I's Reverence and Disregard Tour
with Eskimo Joe and The Vines is at The Enmore Theatre on
Friday. Dress Me Slowly (RCA) is out now.