In our latest issue (#754, September 2014) we featured an article on Brisbane lads Violent Soho, following the band during their huge, sold out national tour. As is often the case in the world of word-count restrictions, large chunks of the chatter between our reporter, Marcus Teague, and the band didn’t make it to through the final edit. So here’s a selection of excerpted quotes on a whole bunch of different topics, including the reaction to the latest record Hungry Ghost, their disastrous tour with 30 Seconds To Mars and growing up as part of the Fat Wreck Chords generation.
ON THEIR ROOTS
Luke Boerdam (vocals, guitar): Our band, when we first started, was about partying. [Our first gigs] we pulled up to a pool hall, rocked up with shitty guitars and a DS-1 distortion pedal. We played eight weekends in a row.
James Tidswell (guitar): Three tins for ten bucks.
Luke Boerdam: And that’s what our band was. James would said, ‘One day we’ll get a show at [tiny Brisbane venue] Ric’s’. That’s honestly what we aspired to, that’s all we gave a shit about.
James Tidswell: I got given my instrument. I told I was going to play bass. Then [bassist Luke] Henery changed his mind and said he wanted to play bass. And he was singing. But Luke was better. [laughs].
Luke Boerdam: We didn’t know rehearsal rooms existed when we started. Everyone started from the same level of shitnes. We were friends first. We picked up guitars to be in a band together as friends.
James Tidswell: When we really defined what we wanted to do was in about 2006. We grew up in the Fat Wreck Chords generation, we were suburban kids when the whole Blink “Dammit” thing happened, that was our Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. So being involved in that community [was great], but then watching it turn into what they call “hardcore’ with all these bands literally having tracks running as if they were a pop band, and singing along to their own voice and that sort of thing, when we first saw that being done in 2006 in the scene that we’d grown up in we went home, Luke and I, and said ‘Well that’s what we’re definitely not doing’.
[We thought] music sounded better in the ’90s. Even though it was in the charts it was sincere and honest. It wasn’t fake. I remember being a kid and everyone was up in arms about Madonna singing along to one of her own tracks. Now we live in a world where the alternative hardcore bands – not all – are doing that and passing it off as alternative music. So I think for us, in 2006 we made a definite decision to never have anything behind what we do – we literally are those suburban people and this is what we’re into and this is how we do it. Live, it might not be perfect but we’re not trying to make it perfect. We’re trying to play it. And have fun doing it.
ON TOURING AMERICA
Luke Boerdam: Going through the washing machine that was that eighteen months – living in a Brooklyn apartment and touring – it felt like, how could you not put that experience into your band, how could you not write a record that reflects some of that, and pick up some of that? It was this huge experience for us.
It was great musically that time in America. When you quit your job and all you do is sit in a van for six hours a day and listen to music, there are lessons learnt in terms of [gaining] a new big list of influences. Touring with Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr, meeting those bands, seeing how they run their bands, you come back and it’s like, ‘Let’s make a record!’ As if you couldn’t.
And we could relate to them. We could see ourselves doing that in 20 years and still being those dudes. They treat their band like a family and that’s how we treat our band. But everything else that was part of that experience…there’s a very dark side of the American music industry.
James Tidswell: I think we did 15 shows with Built to Spill – who are the greatest people we’ve ever met or toured with – and from them we came home with the mentality that [no matter what happened in America] we were still going to be a band and play shows. We went on tour with other massive bands and bands we really admired, but with Built to Spill they weren’t participating [in the industry]. There was no facade. It was 100% them as a band. And that’s what we learnt too. ‘Oh we’re a band too, just like these guys.’ When we went into radio stations and they were trying to get us to do these weird things, it was a cool introduction to, ‘Oh so THAT’S what they’re talking about with “the game”.’ And that’s when we realised, ‘Well we’re not that band. We never will be and we can’t be.’
Luke Boerdam: We did really well in Canada with [2010 single “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend”]. We played this radio thing there and the head of the station came along and said, ”We like you but you’re tracking so shit on our stats, we’re going to have to pull it.” He was like, “We get calls all the time with people requesting it, but we’re going to have to pull it.”
James Tidswell: Because of the stats on the call centre. So that was the very first time we saw that. And it was like, “Oh! Oh yeah nah we don’t do that.” It’s not even like we would if we could. It’s we actually can’t.
Luke Boerdam: So when we got back home we were like, “OK we’re working day jobs for the rest of our life. We’ll just be a band ’cause that’s what we’re gonna do.” We never thought about money cause that was a side issue. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do during the week to get it.
ON TOURING WITH 30 SECONDS TO MARS
James Tidswell: [One of our highlights] was watching Built to Spill play the Cat’s Cradle in North Carolina, [this legendary] venue where, growing up, we knew Archers of Loaf were from. Then only two years later we’re pulling out of the 30 Seconds To Mars tour and heading home [to do a regional tour]. People are thinking that our band’s over. But then we’re playing ATP Festival with Archers of Loaf only a year later. To us it felt like that whole time was, “Holy shit! This is out of control!” And people are saying it’s a comeback. Are you kidding? It’s constant.
The 30 Seconds to Mars tour was such a waste of time for us. We were sending text messages to our friends like, saying how funny it is how we’re high-fiving Jared Leto and shit. He’s got me in one of his movies at 3am in the morning making me run down the street in a gimp suit and making me have a beer.
But we got 17 dates into a 30 date tour and then called it quits and went home. We just kept saying to each other, what are we doing here? We grew up with Grinspoon, Frenzal Rhomb, bands that toured Australia and toured it regionally. So we came home and straight away did a regional tour out to Shepparton, a community that was really the first to ever really support us.
ON RECORDING ‘HUNGRY GHOST’
Luke Boerdam: After coming home from America and not having a label, the thing I had in my mind was that (2010) self-titled record couldn’t be it [for us]. That couldn’t be the last record Violent Soho did. Because we thrashed it for however many years. So Hungry Ghost was like, it’s time for us to be selfish and do it exactly how we wanted to do it.
Hungry Ghost was written over about four years, if you add up all the demos and songs that didn’t go on the record. We had to do it in a shed. We had to call up Bryce [Moorhead, producer], who had to sell his studio – he was a tree lopper – and we said “You have to make it. Because you’re gonna make it the best.”
James Tidswell: It felt like we didn’t have to worry about people’s expectations. The idea was we’d get people to work with us and be around us that weren’t thinking of how it was supposed to sound. To be detached from what people were saying about us. So that if we did go into the record choosing to do anything it was to make sure we surrounded ourselves with people that were so outside of the industry that they had no idea of the expectation of us.
Luke Boerdam: Maybe the fact we just have been in a band for 8 – 10 years, you can’t argue with that [laughs]. You just can’t. We met in high school and started a band and we just kept playing music and that’s what we enjoy doing. And hand on heart, [if we weren’t this successful] we’d still be playing in a band, doing 2am gigs. Maybe not as often, but we’d still be doing this because it’s just what we enjoy doing. Because we want to write music and put out music that provides people with an alternative that isn’t just fake plastic commercial shit.
James Tidswell: I think the second chance “comeback” thing is kind of funny to us, because to us nothing changed. We’re still going on with our plan! Which is playing music. And when all these people start coming to the shows…I dunno what happened there.
And we never thought that the Hungry Ghost album cycle was going to get to the point of “Fur Eyes” being a single. “Hungry Ghost” and “Fur Eyes” were put on the record so in six years time, we’re enjoying playing Fat Louie’s or wherever and trying to play better songs and get better at our instruments. This is the first tour that we’ve played “Fur Eyes” on, we just didn’t expect to end up there. So I guess for the future it’s to write songs that we might not be necessarily good at playing live, but to at least get better at it. ‘Cause we’re still not trying to impress you. We literally want to be who we are.
Luke Boerdam: We just don’t want to compromise. It’s like, whatever happens with the band, I don’t want to do it if at the end of the night we can’t go back and play Super NES. I don’t want to be doing it if it doesn’t have that same dynamic, if it doesn’t have that same reasons behind it, if it doesn’t have that same drive, if we’re not getting that enjoyment out of it. I think 80% of it is we just like hanging out with each other.
James Tidswell: I’d just like to put it out there and on the record: we one hundred percent never had a problem with being called grunge. People want to give us a lot of shit for wearing our influences on our sleeves. But we just aren’t interested in hiding our influences. We aren’t trying to impress. We’re trying to enjoy it for ourselves. Naturally you’re gonna wanna play music that you like the sound of.
Luke Boerdam: [When people say that] we just kind of think, “Oh you kinda got it wrong.” But I guess it’s hard to see what a band’s intentions are when they’re writing the music or what they want it to sound like. There’s nothing wrong with grunge, but its this whole “revival” idea. “Violent Soho are one of the bands that are bringing back grunge.” It’s like, ‘woah’. So if you’re gonna label it grunge then so be it, I just think it’s lazy. [Laughs]. I think there’s a better word for it. I don’t think songs like “Fur Eyes” and “OK Cathedral” and “Hungry Ghost” are grunge.
James Tidswell: I don’t think any of it is. And that’s ’cause we grew up with our older brothers who used to listen to Pearl Jam and Live’s Throwing Copper. And that’s what we thought grunge was. So we thought we’d stumbled on something different when NOFX and Blink and all that stuff happened. It wasn’t Live’s Throwing Copper, it wasn’t Pearl Jam or that sort of thing. That’s old people’s music. So then when everyone’s all of a sudden saying we’re doing that, it’s like, “What?” [laughs].
I have no problem with grunge. But it’s the word “revival”, as if people thought we had some plan. It’s like, “No no no, we don’t want those expectations – we don’t have plans! We can’t play the game that you’re trying to create around us.” And so when people first said that felt like we were backing out of it at a million miles an hour, but it’s only because of that word, “revival”.
Luke Boerdam: We just want to play and write music that is honest [to us] and like we don’t care about wearing influences on our sleeves. We just don’t think of music like that. To me that’s an analytical way to think of music. To say, “Oh I love the sound of it but I kind of can’t like it because it’s just a bit poppy”, or whatever word you want to use. “It’s a bit too heavily influenced by grunge, it’s not original enough.” That’s OK, of course everyone wants original music. But to stop yourself from listening to that, because of that fear [is stupid].
And from a writing perspective, that would be compromising. I’m always being drawn to three or four chord pop songs. To me that’s a formula in punk, grunge, The Beatles, everything. [laughs] We like having heavy distorted guitars and fucking jumping around.
ON FUCKING UP
James Tidswell: If someone fucks up, it’s not the end of the world. It’s hilarious to us. We don’t get pissed off with each other because we’re not trying to do anything.
Luke Boerdam: We’ve got these techs and they sometimes freak out, they might have a bad night on lights or whatever. They come up after the show and go, “Oh I’m so sorry about the lights”. And it’s like, “Don’t worry man.”
James Tidswell: “Here’s the bucket. And you’re havin’ one.” But yeah we never get pissed off. It’s like, “You played shit. That’s your own thing.” Cause we each go away and go, “Oh I wanna play that better next time.” It’s not like, “Man the labels gonna be pretty upset that you made a mistake there on the single that we recorded live for radio.” We don’t care. Don’t play it on radio.
Luke Boerdam: We have commitment. But it’s like, what’s the point in quitting day jobs if you just make the band another day job. Where everyone just talks to each other like employees.
James Tidswell: I’ll stuff up “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” the most basic riff in the world to play, in front of thousands of people at Falls Festival 2013. I turned to Luke and he’s just pissing himself at me.
We still have that same mindset. Ray Ahn from the Hard Ons said we were “shitcore”. That means you’re a band that doesn’t practice and you get up and it’s just the energy alone that gets everything across. He’s like, ‘When my mechanic comes to me and says “Yes I’ve serviced your car”, I don’t go [claps] “Woah that was amazing.” Because he spent four years learning a trade on how to do it. So he goes, “I’m not impressed by bands that sit there learning how to play all this fast tapping shit, I’m impressed by the bands that are just wanting to play it and get up there and do it, that’s shitcore. And that’s what you are. That’s what’s impressive.” I thought that was an awesome compliment.
Luke Boerdam: The other night I forgot the whole chorus to “Muscle Junkie”. I’ve been playing that song for six years now. I just stopped the chorus and laughed.
James Tidswell: Smoking weed will do that to you. [laughs].
ON THEIR FANS
Luke Boerdam: I just have this great feeling of appreciation. When you buy a ticket to go and see a band, it is kind of a big deal. I have this overwhelming feeling of, “Wow these people like it this much that they’re singing the lyrics back?” It makes me feel really appreciative that they come to the show and they’re fans. I also try, without losing my voice, always go out and say hello and try and say thanks. So does James. James spent two hours on the fucking merch table last night saying thanks to people. We’re blown away and very humbled.
I think where our band came from, we don’t put ourselves on a pedestal. All those dudes [in the audience] could start bands. All those dudes in the crowd could write just as good music. And I feel like [saying to them], “No no, we’re on your level. We started in a garage, we barely knew how to tune our guitars, and we wrote this record and it’s for you and it’s about us together.” So I don’t have this thing where I’m like, “Woah man, thousands of people.” I’m just really appreciative and would love to shake everyone’s hand.
James Tidswell: We cringe at the word “fans”. That’s not what it feels like we have, it feels like we have support. Support from people that want this sort of music to still exist and to still be happening. It’s almost like a team, and we’re the team that’s been chosen to be supported. It’s like they’ve gone, “That’s the team! We’re supporting them and let’s hope we can all build something off this.” And we’re the ones standing there going, “Thanks dudes!”