Touring:

Marcus Casey talks to singer/songwriter TIM ROGERS of rock lords You Am I.

Congratulations on your fourth consecutive number one album. Now that's out of the way, where are you?
Thanks. I'm at home in Melbourne and I've just done a photo shoot and interview with a chap who was going off to cover a rugby league game in Brisbane, so I think I was something to get out of the road before he went off to his real job.
Fine and well, thank you. In fact, I'm enjoying this morning particularly because we're out of Sydney and overlooking a wonderful beach and it's a gorgeous morning. I'm watching the people surfing and so on.

It's all rock 'n' roll, isn't it?
Rock 'n' roll, sport, entertainment, Gladiators - yes it's all the same.

Has league taken off in Melbourne?
Oh, I think people are aware of it, but it's definitely the retarded distant cousin of the VFL. Maybe over a couple of seasons, and if they keep having Origin games like they have, then it will creep in. But they've got to push pretty hard to get through footy here.

How long have you been living down there? (Sydney-born Rogers lived in Leichhardt for six years.)
People seem to ask a lot of questions about it, but I didn't put too much thought into it. The fact I can do it and cover myself financially and all that isn't lost on me, and I'm appreciative of it, but it doesn't seem that much of a big deal. They are two very different cities, but I don't move too far from my house in Carlton so I can't really comment. Ask David Williamson about the differences.

I'm not actually interested in that part. But at least you get a real winter down there.
Yeah, it's a real man's winter.

When was your last Australian tour?
I guess it was with Oasis. We did a couple of album launch shows (for You Am I's #4 Record) in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - club shows - which were a half a rent-a-crowd, but they were fun nonetheless. It's been 18 months, two years since we've headlined our own Australian tour. We've done a lot of shows away, but locally we've had a long hamstring injury.

What's it like heading out on a national tour? Do you look forward to it, get into some heavy vitamin loading?
We used to do that. But for a month before it's a pretty good idea to go out and hammer yourself as hard as possible, smoke and drink and fight. If you try to get into any physical shape befor a tour it's all gone within a couple of days. And the shock of living on junk food, fun pills and alcohol is just going to knock you out. So you get into match fitness by shoutin' a lot, smokin', drinkin', fightin', then you're all right. But we don't see each other down at the milk bar every Saturday any more and we get kind of excited when we get on the plane, catch up, crack a couple, and talk shit about people.

Is it a road thing or do you fly between cities?
It's mostly air. A lot more bands fly between cities now because air travel's a lot cheaper. Traditionally I'm a bad flier, but the road's been far worse for rock bands historically, as far as crashing into things goes.

It kills you too.
Yeah, but there's something romantic about it when we're on the road touring Europe and the United States. But we're getting all excited because it'll be good fun playing again, and it's good ringing up those guys (bassist Andy Kent and drummer Rusty Hopkinson, who live in Sydney) and talking about what songs we want to play. We get together about two days before, have one or two rehearsals, and then go to the pub and talk about what pants we're going to share, who's rooming with who. The important stuff.

Some bands I know rehearse themselves into the ground.
The playing stuff, we try not to get too serious about it, get bogged down in the way we structure the show. We tend to get the light show together and the look of the whole thing. Then we have a couple (of shows) and see what happens, and people seen to respond to (the fact) that we don't take it all too seriously - and we don't have the patience anyway.

Do you have fun every night?
When amps blow up or someone does not put the right amount of lemon in my gin and tonic, it can be disastrous! I think the expectation before you go on... it's not nerves, you just want to go out and do what you do best, and when that doesn't meet the expectations you had beforehand, it's just disappointing. Mix it with a couple of drinks and put a big crowd out front and you tend to get upset disproportionately to how you should.

What's it like playing in front of different crowds? Do you notice big differences between the US, Europe and Launceston?
Not really, it's all like playing in front of a giant mirror! No, you realise days afterwards the differences. When we're up there playing we're pretty much trying to impress each other. It's like 'Hey Rusty, check out this new move!' And if he doesn't notice it, it'll be a Catfight At The OK Corral.

What size venues were you playing on your last overseas tour?
How big's your bedroom?

Yeah?
Yeah. We do play theatres when we're the support band or stadiums with the lilkes of Oasis in Japan. In the States we pretty much do smaller clubs. There we can play to satisfy ourselves, because no one's waiting to hear the single off the first record. Then we come home and people know our old songs, and we get a thrill out of that - it we can remember how to play them. But we were better in the old days, anyway.

Yeah?
Oh yeah. Ask anybody.

How's it going overseas? There's always been an expectation it'll go 'bang' for you.
Pretty slow. We've had a couple of hiccups over the last year or so. We took up offers from a bigger record company, and then the people who were enthusiastic about the band in that large structure found it hard selling us to the people writing the cheques. We're just not that conductive to radio, and I've got a few pockmarks which haven't cleared up and they show in videos. We're looking for a way to do it on a smaller scale and more consistantly, making records every year, not every two.

How important is that market to you? Do you want to grab it?
It would be fun, but it's definitely not the top priority. It has taken top priority for a long while in terms of scheduling our year, but in our heads it's pretty much looking to the next record. But when someone says (as they have in the past) 'Hey, come over and make the record in Memphis, LA or New York', we do not say no. We go and do our bit for convict rock.

You've spent a fair bit of time in New York and other places living and recording. Does that experience come out in the songs?
I think it does. It has helped us to be not aware of what's 'being fashionable' because we've got to play to entertain ourselves and turn each other on. I want to write songs Russ and Andy feel good about playing, and it makes me feel good watching them play them. Because we're not lying around worried about whether we're number 14 in the hearts of Australian youth, we just consistently work, enjoying the process of being a working band on the road. We'll see how long the joke lasts. We're passionate about what we do, but we're not precious.