Weekend Of Rock is almost here and ready to transcend on Adelaide Oval for three glorious nights of rock music. It kicks off with the awesome combination of The Angels and Chocolate Starfish. Chocolate Starfish powered on to the Australian music scene in the early 1990s and quickly established themselves as an influential force with their cover of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, original hit Mountain and perennial favourite Four Letter Word. They wholeheartedly earned their reputation as one of Australia’s best live bands of the 90s, boasting two Top 10 albums and six Top 50 singles, and received an ARIA award for ‘Most Popular Album’ at the 1994 Australian Music Awards.
Twenty-five years later, the band is living up to this reputation and then some, still blowing audiences away with their powerhouse performances and magnetic stage presence. Chocolate Starfish continues to deliver the pure, unadulterated entertainment for which they are renowned, their captivating shows imbued with intensity and revelry – and, as always, with a few surprises. Hi Fi Way spoke to Chocolate Starfish front man Adam Thompson about Weekend Of Rock and what 2021 has in store for the band which includes a new album.
Playing live is the life blood of Chocolate Starfish, it is great to be able to talk about playing live again?
I know, a proper live rock ‘n roll one rather than a scaled back acoustic thing to thirty people.
Playing a Weekend Of Rock here in Adelaide must get the band excited?
Absolutely, I don’t know how often they do domestic concerts at Adelaide Oval, I know they have had some internationals there but I think it is great to be able to showcase some local heritage rock ‘n roll acts at an iconic venue, it is fantastic.
Not having played many shows do you feel a little rusty?
Interesting, we got one in on New Year’s Eve which we were fortunate, that was semi-acoustic outdoor show to about four hundred. It was still the resemblance of a real show. We played a couple of other indoor shows acoustically and this will be our first one since March, twelve months after our full on rock experience.
Have you been going a bit twitchy and stir crazy most nights normally when you would be playing shows?
Yeah, we have had a lot of Zoom calls with the band and ask what did you binge watch this weekend or what bit of gardening did you do which isn’t usually in our vocabulary but during COVID we found ourselves in those situations. It has been hard in that respect but the upside for us is that we have written and recorded a brand new album which I think is the best thing we have done since the debut. We’re excited to put that out in the next couple of months. We had time over that period and haven’t had that since I was twenty five to really get in to a song and be super critical on ourselves. That was a real plus.
Is it a bit of a departure from what we know?
It is definitely a departure, I don’t really know how to describe it. Probably a lot more lush, definitely more contemporary and I’m not saying that to say that we are going for a younger audience or anything like that but I think sonically it is a lot different for us. It is fresher in many ways and is a lot more keyboard driven this album rather riff rock than the other albums have been. Using the piano a lot more and a bit more lush in to melody structure as well. It certainly would fit a long side a Birds Of Tokyo or a long that genre.
Creatively, do the songs start on the piano?
Mostly, some of them do start on the piano with me and a melody. I usually throw them to the piano player on this album at least because he is the best one to work out what I’m trying to get at as I’m not a player player. I can play basic chords. He sees that melody and knows what I’m looking for. I’m after the minor variation of that chord or suspending the seventh going in to the chorus. He is great like that and because he has been the governing body then it tends to be that his structure becomes the bedrock. When we started sharing around with the rest of the band there was this overwhelming feeling this is the way that this album should sound. It was interesting as there was a song I wrote for my wife in our wedding eighteen years ago. At the time we were estranged as a band, so the rest of the band weren’t at the wedding. I was going through stuff during COVID, old videos, digitising and as a laugh I said check out this song, here I am in my kilt with my blonde hair singing this to my wife. The band said this song is fantastic and I said ‘oh really’, that was my wedding song and I did it for my wife. It turns out that everyone had a vibe on it and part of the album now. Strange things happen when you have time on your hands.
Was that great being able to have time in the studio as well trying to piece it all together?
So much of the arrangements and structure of the songs were done over the internet with each other. I might pass three melodies forward and say what do you like out of this, then we might cut and paste with the first half of that one with the second half of that one. None of us had a day job that we were going to, except weekend concerts, we had all this time to do it. The overwhelming thing, and I’m sounding a bit augmented as I’m getting to the point, is that we had time to listen to each other. It was a real metaphor for what drove us a part twenty five years ago when we had our extended break and all those things. Time to listen to each other and time to feel what each other meant rather than quickly, quickly satisfy the label or our own egos or whatever.
Has that brought back some excitement back in to the band?
Yeah, it really does. We’re even thinking of having one of those bonafide launches for the album. Hiring out of a proper theatre and doing it properly. I don’t think we have done that since the debut when someone else was paying for it. That’s how much we believe in the songs that have been created and the way it is. It is a special thing and we want it to breathe new life in to the band. It has been a bit of an up curve the last couple of years. We have been making some interesting decisions the last couple of years that have held the band in really good stead, pulling good crowds and even doing this classic album series has been a smart move. It has opened up our performance ability to wider crowds then them listening more to our music and what we doing.
It will be great to see you perform Bohemian Rhapsody later in the year.
At the end of 2019 when I did that in capital cities, two thousand people in the Palais in Melbourne and twelve hundred in Sydney, that’s some really big crowds we would’ve normally play to, just playing your old albums from the 90s, even if ten or fifteen percent become fans you’re picking up five to six hundred people out of these shows we are doing. It has been really good and those Red Hot Summer tours and even Rock The Boat we did the last couple of years have been really good things to pick up. Different fan bases where Starfish wouldn’t be on their radar.
Has it been hard to keep a lid on the excitement?
You could probably tell from my personality, the band have to try and keep me under wraps because I always dream big and think big. I said to the guys three or four years ago if we are going to come back and do this properly I want it to be my mission to change what people perceive a heritage rock ‘n roll band. I want us to be the point of difference and by that I mean, I want us to be so flexible and I’m not putting in a corporate phrase, so flexible in our delivery and choice in things that we do that people are so excited by our next project. Starfish won’t be rolling out out the meat and potatoes from the day. If I have a mission going forward it is to change people’s perception of heritage rock ‘n roll.
Are you going to be tempted to play a new song or two at the Weekend Of Rock?
I reckon we’ll keep that surprise up our sleeve at the moment. I’m tempted. Let’s see what happens at rehearsals and how they feel about the show we are putting together. You never know!
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Chocolate Starfish playing with The Angels at a Weekend Of Rock at Adelaide Oval on Friday 19 February. Tickets from Ticketek.