It’s no secret that the last year was a difficult one for all and sundry, with the music and entertainment industry being hit hard. Whether you’re an artist whose home is on stage, or whether you’re a music fan whose home is in front of the stage, we were all in it together, with everyone sidelined throughout 2020 as a global pandemic saw events postponed, cancelled, or impacted in some capacity.
As 2021 brings with it a cautious sense of normalcy, so too do music festival begin to return to our calendars, with the likes of the long-awaited Spring Loaded festival set to appear next week at long last.
First announced in February of 2020, the Spring Loaded festival was set to be a massive two-date celebration of the Australian music scene of the ’90s. With the likes of Grinspoon, You Am I, and Regurgitator on hand, the unfortunate timing of the announcement came just weeks before COVID-19 took hold, with restrictions causing to the postponement of the event.
Now, Spring Loaded is back, with 2021 seeing the festival expanded to eight shows across six months, with a rotating bill of of Grinspoon, You Am I, Regurgitator, Jebediah, Magic Dirt, Frenzal Rhomb, Custard, The Fauves, The Meanies, Tumbleweed, Screamfeeder, and Caligula set to perform across various lineups. Needless to say, it’s arguably the biggest celebration of ’90s Aussie rock ever seen since the likes of Homebake back in the late 20th century itself.
With the Spring Loaded festival set to kick off in just over a week, Grinspoon guitarist Pat Davern spoke to Rolling Stone about the upcoming dates, time spent sidelined from the stage, and the band’s upcoming plans.
Firstly, let’s begin with the standard question here: How have you managed to deal with everything over the last year? Have you pulled through it alright?
Yeah mate, we’ve been fine. I live in beautiful Byron Bay, so I’ve just turned myself into a full-time influencer [laughs]; having coffee at the finest cafés. Nah, man, it’s all good. I’ve been helping my wife, which has been great. I mean, there’s been a few worries, obviously, about what the post-pandemic is going to look like for the band, but nah. Things are starting to look up, I reckon. Grinspoon have been around a long time. We’re big enough and bad enough to take a year off without it hurting too much. There’s a lot of people in worse positions than us, so we’re nothing but grateful, really.
What were your COVID-safe activities? Just keeping indoors with a bit of music, or was there a bit more going on?
I kind of worked all the way through it, to be honest. There was always kind of jobs along the way. I did a couple of gigs with Phil [Jamieson], as well – we did the Under The Southern Stars. Did a bit of writing. But we have been looking forward to getting the behemoth that is Grinspoon back out on the road.
How badly did it affect plans on the Grinspoon front? I know Phil’s recently launched his solo stuff, so was that always on the cards, or did you have anything planned apart from the Spring Loaded festival?
Man, we’ve always got stuff on the boil. I’m sure we had a pretty big year in front of us, to be honest. But, it’s funny how things turn around. Like Spring Loaded, which was two shows, has now turned into 10, 12 shows, I don’t know how many – a lot of shows. One door closes, another one opens, you know what I mean?
I think that while borders are still closed to international acts, and they still have to quarantine and stuff like that, if it opens up here, Brisbane will be in a good position to entertain people where we can headline festivals, and do things like that. So, we’re really lucky, man, at the end of the day. We could be totally somewhere else when it comes to the pandemic, and all those kinds of things in this country. Being in the music industry, as well, nothing is certain. It’s the toughest industry in the world, nothing’s really certain, is it? You’re only as good as your last record.
I don’t know if it was something you guys had considered, but I’d long felt as though 2020 would have been perfect for some 25th anniversary celebrations.
Yeah, we could’ve, but we didn’t. I mean, damn it. But New Detention is 20 years old next year, and if that’s not a reason for a celebration, then I don’t know what is. I look at that record as what kind of took us from being a force on triple j to getting us over into commercial radio and getting us to the kind of band where people actually know who we are. You know what I mean? “Chemical Heart”, “Lost Control”… Five singles off that record. It was a behemoth in itself, so I reckon it’d be great to celebrate 20 years.
When was the last show you actually played prior to the pandemic?
We did a show down in Adelaide – I think it was the festival to the motor racing event down there [the Superloop Adelaide 500]. Funnily enough, we went into the studio – we booked a studio out for a week – and did some jamming and did some writing, flew home, and then bam; that was it.
I assume that would’ve been one you kept looking back on during the time of the pandemic?
Yeah! Well, we just did a show in Tasmania, actually. We just did a show at the Royal Hobart Botanical Gardens. It was us, Ocean Alley, and triple j bands, I guess you’d call them? Obviously great artists. That was a sit-down event, 10,000 people. Amazing, you know? Not everyone sat down, I’ve got to be honest, but it felt like we were back at that first gig. We felt great and it was amazing to be able to entertain people again. It was really great. Just getting that ‘on stage’ feeling again.
Now, the Spring Loaded festival was first announced early last year. What your first thought on joining a lineup like that?
Wow, what a vibe. There was a lot of social media talking about it as a cracking line up. The ‘90s… I don’t know, I think the heat is still there. They said it’d been selling well for all the shows, and they announced a lot more. I mean, it’s great, but a strange time though, man. It’s really hard to get excited about anything because there can be another fucking outbreak, and the whole thing can be shut down.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but look what happened to Bluesfest, you know what I mean? I’m really trying to not get too far ahead of myself. I’m really excited about going and doing these shows, but it’s really unfortunate, the time we live in.
I would assume then that you’re feeling a little bit cautious about the festival, then? Undoubtedly looking ahead with a bit of positivity though?
I’ve got my fingers crossed, buddy. We’re not there yet, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. It’s looking 99.9% sure that Sydney’s going to go ahead. The Queensland show, I mean, we’re getting better at it, at all this kind of stuff, and hopefully there won’t be any problems, and we can kind of get back to life sort of normal. But, noticeably up in Queensland they’re doing shows unseated, and stuff like that. Like, outdoor festivals, and stuff like that. And I think New South Wales will be next. And hopefully it’ll follow us around people can go to these festivals and have a good time. It’s going to take a long time to recover, but it’s a resilient industry. It will get back there eventually.
Looking at the lineup itself, I imagine that for a band like Grinspoon, it would be a pretty exciting bill to be on. I mean, Grinspoon would’ve played with all – if not most – bands on the lineup previously?
We’ve supported pretty much everyone on that bill. Back in the day we used to support Frenzal Rhomb, we’ve supported You Am I, we’ve supported Regurgitator. We supported all those bands. It almost feels rude that we’re actually headlining that show. It really does. It feels weird. But we’re just grateful that we’ve managed to, you know.. We’ve got good management, we’ve got people looking after us. It’s a good season for us, and we’re grateful for a band who’s been around for 25 years. Having the ability to headline a festival like this, to draw crowds, and to do that kind of stuff – it’s amazing.
And to be headlining these kinds of shows in that company is humbling. I’m always grateful to everyone who always asks me, “How does it feel?” I feel grateful to still be able to do something I love and to still be able to get those feelings. It’s like being able to live your life as a 20-year-old for a couple months of every year for the rest of your life, hopefully. You still have to fill those other months with something, though.
Now the festival begins next week and runs until November. This has to be the longest-running festival you’ve been involved in. It’s a completely different sort of vibe to regular festivals as well. How do you think it’ll play out over the coming months? Obviously there will be loads of anticipation from folks, the bands playing as well. It almost seems like a gift that keeps on giving in a sense!
It’s very true, and who knows what’s going to happen? I’m not a promoter so I don’t know, but maybe as things kind of open up, they’ll put on some regional shows? In a perfect world, we can do Spring Loaded from now until the last show in November. Hopefully they can fill some gaps like, “You know what, a lot of things are looking good. Why don’t we go here and put on a show here?”
I’m sure all the bands would be willing to do it. We’d be willing to do it. I think that maybe that’s the plan. I don’t know, I’m not privy to that kind of information, but it looks like to me that there’s a hope there that as things kind of open up, and as it becomes less of a risk to put on festivals, they might put on a few more because there’s a few places we’re going to and a few places that I think they should. So, hopefully that will happen.
I hate to use the term ‘nostalgia’, but 90s nostalgia – especially around Aussie rock – has risen dramatically in recent years, with lots of younger fans discovering the Grinspoon catalogue too. Have you noticed a change in demographic in the crowd?
Yeah, definitely. We toured a couple of years ago with Hockey Dad, and the singer of that band wore one of our t-shirts in a music video. So, props to that guy. You see it in those ways. And, you know, people talk about it. I read interviews with people who are in bands now saying, “I wanted his guitar sound.” There’s little bits and pieces, but we don’t think about it. I know that the ‘90s is when we kind of came through, but to be honest, the 2000s for me were sort of more… I don’t know. With New Detention, and Thrills [Kills & Sunday Pills], and Alibis [& Other Lies], those are kind of my three albums that I like, and that’s really when the band hit their stride.
That’s why I’m looking forward to 20 years of New Detention next year – the theatre musical stage show [laughs]. It was that crossover, you know, when we got onto commercial radio with “Chemical Heart”, and all of that stuff. That’s when my mum and dad, “Ooh, maybe he doesn’t need to get a day job”, and all of that stuff. It was a great time in all of our lives, and we were all really young. We started the band when we were young, and we felt like we were still kids and on this amazing kind of train ride.
Spring Loaded 2021
You Am I
And MC Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall
Lineups vary per show
Saturday, May 8th
On the Lawn at Royal Randwick, Sydney, NSW (18+)
Saturday, June 19th
Sandstone Point Hotel, Bribie Island, QLD (18+)
Saturday, June 26th
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, SA (18+)
Friday, July 23rd
Darwin Amphitheatre, Darwin, NT (18+)
Saturday, October 16th
Gosford Entertainment Grounds, NSW (18+)
Saturday, October 23rd
Stuart Park, Wollongong, NSW (18+)
Saturday, October 30th
Red Hill Auditorium, Perth, WA (18+)
Saturday, November 27th
Hastings Foreshore Reserve, Hastings, VIC (18+)
Ticketing and lineup details available via the Spring Loaded festival website