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‘You Can Bring Your Drumsticks, Play Pat’s Guitar, or Throw the Bass’: Inside Grinspoon’s 2023 Resurgence

Grinspoon vocalist Phil Jamieson tells Rolling Stone all about their upcoming 'Easy Detention' tour. Just don't call his band "angsty".

They won the national triple j Unearthed competition in 1995, announced a hiatus in 2013, and reformed exclusively for a run of Cold Chisel supports in 2015, exactly 20 years after their inception. Grinspoon fans have witnessed the band’s growth over that time, through years of treading sticky pub floors and festival stages, trekking gear up and down Australia’s east coast through the hottest of summers to build the kind of career that lasts the ages.

It worked. The band’s extensive ‘Guide to Better Living 20’ tour in 2017, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of their seminal debut LP, sold out across the country, and paved the way for bigger venues on 2019’s ‘Chemical Hearts’ tour. This year, they’re doing things a little differently: but fans and fun come first, no matter what.

  It’s 10am on a Tuesday, and I’ve just caught Grinspoon’s frontman Phil Jamieson folding his laundry. He’s at home for just two days – today just happens to be laundry day. Between the fourth reprisal of the ‘White Album Concert’ tour with Tim Rogers, Chris Cheney, and Josh Pyke, a series of solo shows marking a full year since the release of his solo album Somebody Else, and Grinspoon’s upcoming ‘Easy Detention’ tour, amongst other projects and unannounced shows, Jamieson is going to need a lot of clean socks in the coming months.

“It looks like you’re going to be a busy boy for the rest of this year,” I tell him, guiltily ignoring the pile of clean laundry threatening to teeter off my own couch. “All of those dates and still nothing for North Queensland, thanks for that.”

“It’s funny, I did notice that when you announce a tour it becomes a suggestion box in the comments; it’s like the commentators don’t want to acknowledge the fact we’ve already put thought into it,” Jamieson quips. “My favourite was Canberra. Canberra got really upset because I said we’re visiting every state. I’m like, ‘Well we are – Canberra’s in the territory.'”

Unlike Grinspoon’s pre-pandemic tour, which took in venues like Melbourne’s Forum, Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion and Brisbane’s Fortitude Music Hall, their upcoming tour will be reminiscent of the smaller clubs the band played on the original Easy and New Detention tours over two decades ago.

“On today’s episode of Hoarders, I found this…” I tell Jamieson, brandishing a poster from the first regional North Queensland leg of Grinspoon’s New Detention tour. “Supported by Giants of Science and Razel, who wanted to kidnap me and take me on tour with them, if memory serves me correctly.”

“Oh yeah, Thomo (Sarah Thompson) played drums for Razel, then we worked out years later that Camp Cope have Thomo in the band, and that was her first ever tour, the Razel tour,” he says. “That was 21 years ago now, it’s wild.”

Jamieson’s own memories around the same time are now jogged by documentaries like 23 Hours Of Waiting Around, which includes footage from the making of New Detention, as well as live footage from their Enmore Theatre show in April 2003.

“I remember what I wore,” he says. “I didn’t really love that. But yeah, I sort of remember it… I’ve been reminded by the footage of the Enmore show on YouTube, it’s been cut back but there’s snippets with lots of crowd videos and vox pops – it’s fantastic to see the vox pops, to see what people were wearing and what people were saying, because there were no smartphones capturing everything like we have now.”

When he first pitched the idea of the Easy Detention tour to bandmates Pat Davern, Joe Hansen, and Kristian Hopes, Jamieson says he wanted to emulate what You Am I had presented a few years earlier.

“With their second and third records Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily a few years ago, they had no support acts and just did Hi Fi Way in full and then Hourly, Daily in full with an intermission; I loved that model and thought that was a fantastic way to do it,” he says. “When I pitched the idea, I think the band were cool with it, but the powers that be were like, ‘Well we’re going to need a support.’”

Instead of playing both records in full, there will be substitute deep cuts from both albums, Jamieson reveals, which in theory will change throughout the tour. What you get, he says, will depend on which night you come.

“We have never played “Dial Tone” live,” he says of the Easy track. “We haven’t played “Yarni Marni” since 1998, “Signpost” hasn’t probably been played since 2002, “Hate” [from New Detention] has never been played, “Killswitch” hasn’t been performed live since 2002, “Make It Happen” since 2003, “Tang” at least maybe the year 2000 is the last time I think that was performed, and “Undercover” very similar.”

There will, of course, be crowd favourites – “A Thousand Miles”, “Lost Control”, “No Reason” and “Chemical Heart” are all setlist staples at most Grinspoon shows – but Jamieson says fans can expect others to make a comeback for these shows, too.

“”Rock Show” is probably the one song that we don’t play much anymore, that was a single off Easy,” he says. “But I think that’ll make a comeback because it’s got a guitar solo that goes for 30 minutes – who doesn’t love a 30-minute guitar solo? And I think it’d be rude not to play “Anyday Anyhow” on this tour – I think you’ve got to play the first track off an album, right?”

The band’s new tour promoters, Metropolis Touring, brought a suggestion to the table that Jamieson says he initially felt uncomfortable with for the upcoming tour: there’s a reason why Grinspoon has never really done VIP experiences until now.

“They were like, ‘What about these gold experiences or VIP experiences?’ and I was like, ‘I hate them, they’re shit – unless people get treated like VIPs, I’m not doing it,’” he explains. “I’ve heard really good things about The Darkness and Justin Hawkins and how well they look after people that come: there’s a glass of champagne, you get to play something with the band, and it’s fucking cool as shit, and it’s really limited – it’s sort of one of those experiences money can’t buy. Or money can buy, if you’re one of the 30 or so people that bought it.”

Jamieson says he would much prefer to give fans an immersive experience they’ll remember for a while, rather than the “grift and grin” of a standard meet and greet or soundcheck package.

“So basically, you can bring your drumsticks, play Pat’s guitar, or throw the bass – it’s a pretty cool thing, I reckon. Or if you can sing, you can sing a song that we select… you can’t pick some fucking crazy B-side from 1996.”

Alongside the tour is the release, for the first time, of both Easy and New Detention on limited-edition coloured vinyl.

“That’s us in Kings Cross on the top of the New Hampshire Hotel,” Jamieson says, opening the Easy gatefold. “This was the tray of the CD, and funny, it’s an ashtray, and there’s more of us trying to look handsome… And they sound good. Me and Pat had to listen to them when we first got them, and I mean, I haven’t listened to those records for fucking years, so it was a bit of a trip down memory lane, but it was good.”

When the band signed their first record deal, Jamieson says he stipulated their debut release was to be vinyl. So, when MCA’s Grudge Records released Licker Bottle Cozy in 1996, there was a 7-inch vinyl version, limited to 500 copies.

“And then the CD age took over, and we were doing CDs – and selling a fair few of them, which was cute,” Jamieson recalls. “But what goes around comes around, and now we can do vinyl. It’d be interesting to know if we will put out the rest of the back catalogue – but these look good, and they’re both pretty good records, so nothing to be ashamed of there, which is nice.”

It has been 11 years this month since Grinspoon’s most recent studio album, Black Rabbits, was released, and with the renewed interest in the band – who have recently been announced to co-headline Let the Good Times Roll Festival with the UK’s Royal Blood this December – it begs the question: will we ever see new music from the band? They were, after all, tracking new demos before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We did track after the Adelaide 500, which sort of went somewhere but then sort of went nowhere, and then I went and did a solo record,” Jamieson shrugs. “I don’t know where it is up to in relation to number eight in Grinspoon, but never say never.”

Although Jamieson says the renewed interest in the band is “very flattering,” he says he isn’t sure if it necessarily translates to demand for a whole new body of Grinspoon material.

“I think the seven are pretty good, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a small part of a big wheel in that world, so we’ll see where the votes go because it’s a total democracy,” he laughs. “Some of the stuff from the Adelaide sessions was very raucous – it’s really quite heavy and pretty yelly and loud and enthusiastic, so I guess we’ll see where it takes us.”

In terms of “yelly”, Jamieson and I both agree that Easy was one of Grinspoon’s more raucous records.

“I remember reading something about a tour with Anthrax in the US and you being maybe a bit angsty around or just before Easy time,” I tell him. “What was going on for you then?”

“I don’t think I was particularly angsty; I think it was a really strange time in North America in general,” Jamieson retorts. “We were doing a lot of Canada as well, and as far as popular music went at the time, it was an interesting space to be making heavy music in, but not wearing a red cap backwards.”

American radio, he says, didn’t really know where to put a band like Grinspoon.

“We were metal, but we weren’t, and then we were alt-rock, but we were too heavy for rock – but we weren’t heavy enough for metal,” he says. “We had issues with management during Easy, so it was a bit of a tumultuous period in that respect, but it’s my favourite Grinspoon album. It’s really all over the shop and it’s really fun, I like it a lot.”

Grinspoon ‘Easy Detention’ Tour

Ticket information available via grinspoon.com.au

Sunday, October 29th
Miami Marketta Laneway, Gold Coast, QLD

Friday, November 3rd
Hobart City Hall, Hobart, TAS

Monday, November 6th
The Forum, Melbourne, VIC

Friday, November 10th
Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD

Saturday, November 11th
Hindley Street Music Hall, Adelaide, SA

Friday, November 17th
Enmore Theatre, Sydney, NSW

Saturday, November 18th
Nex, Newcastle, NSW

Friday, November 24th
Astor Theatre, Perth, WA

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