Legendary Aussie rockers Grinspoon are about to head out on their epic Chemical Hearts national tour, set to make its way around the country in October and November, supported by The Hard Aches, Gooch Palms and Bugs. In celebration of the tour, the band will be releasing a Chemical Hearts vinyl record on the day the tour kicks off, October 11, with a track list that will offer fans a nostalgic taste of what’s to come at the shows. Pat Davern speaks to Hi Fi Way about the tour and their recent resurgence.
Great to be talking to you. It must be a really good feeling, with the upcoming tour, selling out so many shows?
Just got to get Adelaide Entertainment Centre across the line! It’s a big room down there and we managed to sell it out last time, so I reckon we’ll do it and we’ll go damn close. Adelaide has always been a great town for us, mate.
Absolutely, there’s plenty of love for Grinspoon and it must be a great to know that compared to a lot of bands whose popularity starts to wane it seems to be the complete opposite for Grinspoon?
We’ve been through popularity waning, don’t worry, we’ve just been lucky with a bit of a resurgence to be honest with you. The last tour that we did was before we took a five year break, we went to LA, we recorded Black Rabbit and that was our seventh studio album. We came back and we thought it was a pretty good record, we went out and we toured on it at the end of 2012. To be honest with you, we were playing to a lot of half-filled rooms.
Our single got played momentarily on Triple J and virtually nothing on commercial radio. Up until that point in time in our careers, some records had sold better than others but we had always been able to tour, and be successful touring with people coming to our shows. We felt like our popularity was waning and instead of going out there and flogging a dead horse, we really thought, you know what? Let’s just give it a break. I mean, we honestly considered maybe even calling it quits. So it was thrown around for a while and then we thought, you know what? Let’s just go back. We all had young families at the time, let’s just go have some time out.
It wasn’t until 2017, when our management came back to us and said, “How would you feel about doing…, we know you guys haven’t even talked to each other andthat there’s no new music but how would you feel about doing the Guide to Better Living Tour?” For us it was like, yeah, let’s give it a go. That ended up being our most successful tour that we had ever done, we played to the biggest crowds we have in Australia. It was just incredible that we could go from a band, five years before, that was playing to half-filled rooms to playing bigger rooms than we’d ever played before, and filling them for multiple nights.
We felt really blessed. It was an amazing experience. So hopefully we can continue with that, and continue giving our fans a quality nights entertainment, and they’ll keep coming and seeing Grinspoon whenever we tour.
So what do you think do you put that down to? Is it purely that album? Or do you think it’s just rock starting to make a resurgence again?
I think we had just gone too hard for too long. The band started in ’95, we hadn’t really taken a break. We spent a lot of time trying to crack America in the 90s, the 2000s were really good for Grinspoon and we pushed hard, we wrote a lot of successful records such as New Detention, Thrills and just didn’t stop, we didn’t take time to re-stock, we just became part of this machine. We signed our deal with Universal, we pumped it up to a seven album deal. We were probably crazy in hindsight. I think that we needed a break because we could have been accused of phoning it in at times, which is what you don’t want to do being in a band. You never want to be accused of phoning it in. We’ve come back with a renewed energy and we’re just as passionate about doing it the way we’re doing it now as we ever were when we were releasing original albums. I’m not saying that we’re not going to do any new music because there’s a definite possibility we will.
I think if we do release any new music, we know that it’s got to be as good as or better than anything we’ve ever done, because our audience has stuck with us. We need to treat them with respect and we’re blown away by how much people still appreciate the band, even if it’s being a bit of a heritage act, people still see us as somewhat relevant.
When you were putting Chemical Hearts together did you get nostalgic when you looking back at the good times, the maybe not so good times, and the in betweens?
Yeah, there’s a lot of nostalgia involved in the whole thing. There’s some bitter sweet albums and there’s some bitter sweet songs. Everything brings up memories. People ask me, “What’s your favourite song to play?” and all that kind of stuff. When I do describe what my favourite songs are to play, they generally are based more around the situations that those songs were written, or where we were, or how that record was made.
One of my favourite songs to play is Hard Act to Follow. I didn’t actually write that, I wrote the guitar solo bridge section, which is arguably the best part of that song. The rest of it was Phil’s. I still think that’s probably my favourite song to play live. We recoded that one in Hollywood with Howard Benson who’s an amazing engineer, it’s the best sounding record that we’ve ever done. That’s the reason why I love playing that song, is that there’s just so much history, and I guess nostalgia involved in it.
Is the same vinyl touch up going to happen with the remaining albums?
I reckon the twentieth anniversary of Easy is next year, so we’ll have to do a release. That’s also one of my favourite records. A highly underrated record that one. I’d like to see that on vinyl because I don’t think I’ve even got a CD copy of that anymore.
CD copy? Do you think CD’s are dead?
Oh God, I wouldn’t know where to buy one even if I wanted one to be honest with you. I think the music company/ record company wars are over. I think streaming looks like it’s won. I don’t believe that music should be free, I believe that, just like a lawyer studies his books and hones their craft they should be remunerated for it sufficiently, that they should be able to lead a good life from doing that. Hopefully streaming will catch up and the revenues will keep following. People will understand that intellectual property isn’t something that should come for free. Maybe I’m just old fashioned like that, but I think that’s just the right thing to do. If we went back to that we wouldn’t be expecting to sell lots of records but hoping people would want to come and see us play it live. I think that that’s the way of the world for rock bands now and for a lot of those artists that aren’t in those upper echelons of Taylor Swiftdom. You’ve just got to grind, and the grind is what it’s all about.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Grinspoon on the following dates, tickets from http://www.grinspoon.com.au/