You Am I

He's got a gob full of Sao and Vegemite. He talks in song lyrics and rock hipster slang. He's the skinny white boy out front of Noel Gallagher's favourite colonial band, the guy with a gift for romanticising whatever happens under his Hill's Hoist, slipping a few neat changes underneath and forging another defining moment in Australian rock. He's Tim Rogers, brains behind and big mouth in front of You Am I. The three wise men of punchy, satorially-conscious antipodean pop have dropped a fourth album en route to maintaining what always has, and always will matter about the sacred art of rock & roll: "I just wanna play good shows and look great."

Describe your first gig as a punter.
The Johnnys at the Manzil Room in King's Cross. I was 15-and-a-half, caught the train from Parramatta, drank a flagon of white wine with a couple of friends. I can't remember much about the show, just people in the crowd and brief flashes of Spencer (Jones). I see the same kind of rabbit-in-the-headlights look on kids at shows now, thinking they're gonna get stabbed or something. Then I threw up on the way home.

What was the first Australian album you bought?
Back in Black (AC/DC). Vinyl and cassette. I bought the tape for my brother for Christmas or something, thinking it would be mine as well, but that wan't to be. So I went out and bought it again.

So who or what made you decide to work in rock & roll?
Keith (Richards) was the big one. Not making music or anything, he was just so drop dead fucking cool. It was all cigarettes and haircuts. Then my brother Jaimme 'cause he'd take me to see bands locally, where I could see it was all possible. And then Goose (from Box The Jesuit), who made me realise that you were in rock & roll if you thought you were (laughs). I joined his band.

Which Australian artists most inspired you?
Malcolm Young is the most consistent influence. I've never been a big AC/DC flag-waver but whenever I thing of Malcolm Young, I seriously think that all is right in the universe. It's a total guitar thing - and he's a good lookin' kid. He's got good cheek bones. Also Brad Shepherd. I was like, "Oh, right! He's the guy who's mixed all the people I've got stuck on my wall - and he can really fuckin' play!" Then there's yer Stevie Wrights and Billy Thorpes. I've got one of Stevie's gold records that his son passed on to me. That's fuckin' big, man.

Have you ever found being Australian a hindrance overseas?
Just in ordering drinks. Professionally, we get asked to do package tours, like Superjesus - Regurgitator - You Am I and you think, "Oh my God, what a bunch of fuckin' convicts." You do get condescended to a lot. But we wear it like a fuckin' badge anyway.

Is there a tall poppy syndrome here?
Darling, I'm too intoxicated with poppies to notice.

Is it difficult being out of step in terms of your success locally and overseas?
It's probably meant the band has stayed together longer. You don't get asked for "Berlin Chair" in Germany. You can go and be a totally different band and then come home and be cute and cuddly.

How do you see the Australian rock scene in five years?
Oh, it's all about Grinspoon, but I find it difficult to care. I know "scene" is just a convenient term but when people think in terms of Grinspoon - Regurgitator - Powderfinger - You Am I... those people are nice, but I feel so little in common with those bands that they might as well be from Mars. And I'm sure they feel the same way. You don't want to do the same thing as someone else. I don't feel like there's any "scene" at all.

Will you still be around in five years?
I'll still be playing. I've thought about moving to a different country but I'd miss the footy. I doubt the band will still be around. I can see us playing as a backing band for a singer, still trying to steal your girlfriend...

What's wrong with the Australian music biz?
The new boss is the same as the old boss. This reinvention and the new guard... I mean gimme a fuckin' break. And I think there's a problem with people who don't go out listening for things. They're waiting for youth networks to bring them what they should be listening to. There's always brilliant music out there. It doesn't have to fall on you from a playlist.

Do you now, or have you ever practised your stage moves in front of a mirror?
Probably not the one that you think. The best ones come through ignorance and vodka.

 

Michael Dwyer