Friday, April 30, 2010

VIOLENT SOHO's American Takeover: The Exploding In Sound Interview

Violent Soho may hail from Brisbane, Australia, but the band have been taking America by storm for nearly a year now, cementing their raw grunge influenced sound. One of our absolute favorite new bands, the quartet have been on a marathon tour of the country, head banging from city to city gathering new fans at every stop. Radio has taken notice, quickly embracing Violent Soho's return to the glorious days of The Pixies, The Jesus Lizard, and Nirvana. 2010 has already seen the release of the band's self titled Ecstatic Peace Records debut, several high profile tours, performances at SXSW, as well as an appearance on Fuel TV's Daily Habit. Drummer Mikey Richards was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions for Exploding In Sound discussing their current home, touring, and much more...

EIS: How are you guys doing? How was the tour with The Bronx/Mariachi El Bronx? Did you get a good response from the fans?

MR: We're doing pretty well considering we've been touring the US for around 8 months now. We're all pretty tired, but doing better than ever at the same time. The tour with The Bronx was just the best thing ever for us. They are one of the tightest bands around and play such a solid and hard set every night. We learned a lot from them. By playing with them every night, we were really able to feed off them and just bring our best to the table. As always the crowds were pretty different every night, though generally I think the response from the crowd was pretty good.

EIS: How did the band form, and how long have you guys been playing together?

MR: We've all known each other since we were in high school and would jam every now and then at our parents garages or wherever we could. We've existed as Violent Soho for about 6 years. In that time we decided to learn how to play our instruments properly and eventually tour. We just all decided at one point that we didn't want to do anything more than play in this band so that's all we've been doing for a while now.

EIS: Your new record is about to be released in Australia, are you excited for your hometown fans to hear the new versions? Is there an added pressure to please the home audience?

MR: I think that there is only the amount of pressure that you put on yourself to do anything for anyone else. We set out to make a record that we felt best represented us and our history as a band to the world. Any previously recorded material that we've had released was sold on the scale of only about 1000 copies to people who would go to our shows in Australia. That music has never properly been available in the United States or Europe before. To go from releasing that which was really a collection of demos done over something like 3 years to then have the opportunity to work with someone like Gil Norton in the studio where "Bohemian Rhapsody" was recorded makes it just a completely different thing. We were lucky to be given the opportunity to do a project on this scale. It was always obvious to us this would be more like making a second debut record rather than a follow up to the first.

EIS: Over the past year or so you’ve toured with Built To Spill, Dinosaur Jr., and other legendary acts. Has the experience of playing with these bands had any impact on you guys? Any special memories from the tours?

MR: It definitely has but not always in the way that you might expect it to. I learnt a lot from Doug and Jim of Built To Spill just in taking note of how completely relaxed and friendly they were to us. They're just evidence of the fact that treating people with respect is the best way to go in any situation. They also do all of their own tour managing and guitar teching. I mean these guys could be playing to 1000 people and still I've got Doug coming up to me with a case of beer every night and seeing if I want some hummus. I've never met such a humble and chilled out person in my life. They're a band who just completely understand how they work and what they need to be able to do in order to maintain a balanced mind-set whilst on tour. They're definitely a great group of people to aspire towards.

EIS: When did you guys relocate to Brooklyn from Australia? How do you like it here in the states? Any major differences?

MR: We've been located out of Brooklyn for around 8 months now, but have spent the large majority of that time touring the rest of the country. We did enjoy a bit of a white Christmas in New York, which was nice for the ladies. There are some huge differences. List: population, pollution, grass, accent, food, water, garbage, people, society, buildings, beaches, clothes, weather. All of these things and many more are so unlike where we're from that you could go mad. It's a beautiful city though.

EIS: How did the deal come about with Ecstatic Peace? Was that something you sought out or did they come approach you? Were you already intending on moving the band stateside before the deal?

MR: We really had no plan on what we were doing, though we may have thought we did. We were offered the opportunity to head over to the UK and the US to play some shows. Thurston [Moore] must have caught wind of us somehow, because he called our manager and told us he was going to come along to a show. The next thing we knew he was watching us play in this tiny bar in Manhattan. We got to have dinner with him and he asked us if he could put out our record. It was an incredibly bizarre experience. From there we realized that we needed to live here for at least a while to get things going. There is so much ground a band needs to cover in America. It's a lot of work but it gives you the excuse to call your band a "real" job.

EIS: How heavy has Thurston Moore’s hand been in your development? Did he work with you guys on the record in any capacity?

MR: The record was really just a project involving us and Gil. Gil did come at Thurston's suggestion though. With Ecstatic Peace! I don't believe Thurston really has the intention of cradling the bands he's representing. He just wants to give the bands on the label the opportunity to record a quality album. That's all most band's need.

EIS: The self titled album is phenomenal, every song finds the perfect balance between raw kick ass rock and infectious pop hooks. What brought about the decision to revisit/rerecord many of the songs from “We Don’t Belong Here”? While I absolutely love “Narrow Ways” as the album’s closer, what happened to “Scrape It”?

MR: "Scrape it" may reappear some day in the future. We do still play it in every set that we do. "Narrow Ways" is obviously very different, though I think it suited this particular album more. I guess the idea of just having a really balanced feel to the album led to us choosing a few different and newer songs. We chose the songs that are on this album on the basis that we felt they were our best songs we had written to date. The notion of re-recording them wasn't awkward because the approach was so very different.

EIS: “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” has been receiving a great deal of radio airplay in the States, earning you guys performances at several big radio station concerts this summer. For me personally I can’t be happier that radio is actually embracing your music, and I think it gives hope for the direction of mainstream radio. Have you guys caught your song on the radio, and is it something you’re particularly excited about?

MR: I have actually heard it a couple of times in some different towns. I did hear it on KROQ in LA. That was a big deal for us of course. It's great to have the acceptance here that we've never really received back home. It's exciting to have your music considered on a popular scale that just isn't possible from where we're from. Try and find the last band from Brisbane, Australia that have ever been played on mainstream radio in the United States before. It's pretty much just us and Savage Garden in the last twenty years.

EIS: There are so many great choices for the next single, has one been picked yet? Are there any b-sides from the recording sessions lying around?

MR: We have a couple of b-sides that may surface sooner or later. We've struggled quite a bit on what will be the next single really. A number of the songs on the album probably have the potential to be the next single, I think. "Muscle Junkie" may be a safe bet though. It seems to be a song that has always connected well live and I think that this has really carried across effectively in the recording.

EIS: Seeing your performance live reminds me of what it must have been like to catch many of the grunge legends in their rawest primal form. Were you guys able to catch many shows in the early 90s?

MR: We were in first grade the year that "Nevermind" was released, so no. It would have been nice though.

EIS: Do you have favorite songs to perform live? Have you ever played any covers?

MR: For me at the moment, "Muscle Junkie" and "Here Be Dragons" are my favorite to perform live. I just get a real strong head-bang going on during these songs. They're a lot of fun to play. Though my favorite song to play live does often change. Over the last few years we have played some different covers, though our cover of a song called "My Pal" by an old Aussie band from the 80s known as GOD has always been a favorite of ours. We still play it most nights. It just has such a ridiculously catchy guitar riff that plays throughout the entire song. It's a real shredder.

EIS: Any interesting pre or post show rituals? With your stage presence and intensity, you guys MUST be exhausted after a set…

MR: We don't have anything too ritualistic. Though I do tend to have a bit of a stretching regiment going on these days. Playing an energetic show every night with the amount of head-banging I do works towards getting quite a bit of tightness in the neck and back, so yeah, that's a must for me at the moment. Aside from that I generally have a red bull just before and a cigarette just after the show. This works wonders for me.

EIS: Favorite thing about living in the states? Thing you miss most about Australia?

My favorite thing about living in the United States is that the cost of living is so much lower. Australia hasn't been hit by the last global recession yet so inflation there is just through the roof still, as well as interest rates and all the like. We definitely don't have a dollar menu at McDonalds, let's just put it that way. Things I miss? Everything! Family is a big one though.

EIS: Australian music over the past few years has seen an incredible resurgence in 90’s and grunge influenced rock between bands such as you, Talons, Regular John, Sugar Army, and more. Is the scene down under very close knit? Any great new bands we should know about?

MR: It is and it isn't. Sydney and Melbourne can be real ass-holes to each other. It's painful to watch and pretty pathetic at times. Melbourne and Sydney just work in such different ways. They seem to love to hate each other. Little old Brisbane where I'm from doesn't really share a bar in that, which only helps towards bands not having an agenda outside of just wanting to make the music that they want to. It's really nice over there actually. The weather is much more pleasant than any other city in the country and the music scene is much more accepting than most places I've been to. The scene we come from is really just a big group of friends. Some particularly good up and coming bands from Australia that I've heard recently that I just love to bits would be The Seizures, Daddy Long Legs, Sweet Dreams, Satanic Urinal, and Bronze Chariot to name a few. Check 'em all out.

EIS: Constantly being on tour, what have you guys been listening to in the van?

MR: Loads and loads of everything. We normally just stick to our own ipods, though when something gets blasted on the stereo recently it's normally been a bit of Les Savy Fav, (early) Soul Asylum, Best Kissers In The World, and all my favorite Black Metal albums.

EIS: This question is mainly for James... each time I’ve been able to see you guys live, one of the very first words out of you has been looking for weed. Have you had much luck? Now that you’ve relocated to Brooklyn, do you take advantage of the weed delivery services? Next time you’re in Boston be sure to get in touch with me...

MR: Wow thanks dude! James ain't around but I can definitely answer this for ya. He asks for marijuana donations every night. Most nights we get nothing, though on some nights we get very much in luck. When we played Santa Barbara, CA, and got about half an ounce collectively from there. It seems that everyone in that town is carrying. Usually the request just gets a bit of a laugh. I think that's why James tries to make sure everyone in the audience is deadly sure that he is being serious. We have no money and smoke weed all the time. This can prove to be a problem, especially in New York, where the delivery service may be very convenient, but is also very expensive by our standards.

EIS: Violent Soho will be making an excellent addition to this year’s Lollapalooza Festival. Any bands you’re excited to see? Have anything special planned? Any Soundgarden fans in the band?

MR: None of us are huge Soundgarden fans, though we all will make sure to see them on principal. I really am a Kim Thayil fan over a being a Soundgarden fan. He's such an incredible guitarist. So far we haven't planned anything too special around it, though I think just playing such a legendary festival will make for an incredible event for us to begin with. We just feel really honored to have been chosen to play it. I've never seen Green Day before so that will be cool. I'll also be interested in seeing how The Strokes shape up after having such a huge break from playing. Fuck Buttons, The Antlers and The Dodos are all pretty good bands as well. I'll be sure to check each of them out. We're very pumped to play this festival.

1 comment:

Andy Nelsen said...

MR: You mentioned Best Kissers In The World. Gerald has re-formed the band with some new members and is getting ready to play in the Pacific NW. We have shows booked in Seattle and Portland in the next few months. We are going to be playing songs off of the unreleased album "Yellow Brick Roadkill" and a lot of the older stuff. See or