You Am I are without doubt one of Australia’s all-time essential rock n’ roll bands. More than two decades on from their first album release, You Am I have not only had one of the longest and most successful recording careers in Australia, but are also without doubt one of our most loved live bands and they are making a long awaited return to Adelaide to play the Cloisters at the University of Adelaide on February 27.
The Lives Of Others is one of their finest albums to date which debuted at #2 in the ARIA charts boasting singles The Waterboy, Rosedale Redux and DRB Hudson plus a swag of bonus songs on the recently released Deluxe Edition available digitally. Andy Kent speaks to Hi Fi Way about the challenges of the last couple of years, the relatively new album The Lives Of Others and their first show back in Adelaide since October 2019.
Congratulations on the deluxe version of The Lives Of Others, there’s absolute cracking tracks on there. Were you surprised with having so many good songs left over?
Often we don’t have that many fully formed and we make decisions a bit earlier as to what is going to be worth working on and what’s not. Due to the nature of the process and how we were all separated as we weren’t in the same room when we made the record it was individually worked on and busted up due to the situation. We got all the way to having vocals on it before the decision was made to maybe not include it. Just due to the process we ended up with stuff further along than normal discarded tracks. Here we are being able to put them out.
Is that a tough decision when you get to that point working out what’s in and what’s not as some of those songs arguably stand up in their own right?
That’s right, often it is a case that it is as good as anything else on the record but there is too many of that type of song. In the instance of some of these they didn’t end up where we hope, there is certain expectation placed on them and sometimes you think they will get to where you need them to be and they just don’t quite. On reflection they are fine.
What is the story behind The Jukebox Has Left The Jones?
There is a bar in New York that we used to use as home base which was on Great Jones Street and it was called The Great Jones Bar. It was a local neighbourhood bar that was really small that had five or six tables in there and the classic type of bar with a barman. At the end of the bar was a jukebox, early on we played at CBGB’s when that was still a running venue, just the same as it was in the 70s, that place had massive change going through various genres of music. Here it was essentially grunge bands in the 90s and we would play there. There were no dressing rooms, the bathrooms have curtains, it is pretty disgusting and we would be across the road and down the street at Jones Bar where we would hang out before the gig. Then it would become our regular hang so whenever we were in New York we would go to the Jones Bar and people would know we were there. This was before mobile phones, people would if You Am I are in town they would be at the Jones Bar. People would roll in and we would be there. Then the story goes the Bar had a great jukebox. The jukebox sold or something happened and one day it wasn’t there. The song is about a place where we used to hang which lost a bit of mojo because that thing isn’t around. The jukebox isn’t there any more, it is a bit of a metaphor for many things. The soul of the place wasn’t quite there.
Will those bonus songs find themselves on to a physical release?
We had a conversation about this the other day the four of us and maybe there are some opportunities to do some fun, interesting seven inch’s that are paired to certain events coming up or tours. We might do a couple of seven inch’s for the New Zealand tour and then there’s the question of what’s on it such as these b-sides that do not have a physical place where they live. I don’t know what will happen or where it will end up but we won’t re-release the record with a few extra tracks which seems pointless but maybe they’ll end up as b-sides on 7 inch singles or a CD, I don’t know. It could happen!
How hard has the last couple of years been for You Am I?
For me, it was pretty disturbing at the beginning of it and how does your business survive? It comes down to a small business trying to get through it like all the other small businesses. Once we got our head around it and last year we were able to ride through the last half of it knowing we have a big year this year and that we are ready to go. Mid December it was feeling fantastic and here we go a big family Christmas then launch in to it. Fuck me, didn’t it just go two steps backwards. The last month has been pretty tough I got to say. Where are we at? It is kind of fucked up! You have to hang on tight for a little longer or get a job or do something else. It is pretty shit I reckon!
Do you think touring might be more random dates with shorter lead times?
I don’t think there is any successful business model that will deal with it currently. It needs to either go away or government needs to accept and people need to accept it that there is some sort of risk involved. I don’t know, it has been too long and people have tried too many things to reinvent the wheel. No one wants to watch live music as a streaming event, that’s rubbish. People want to be in a room together and if that’s to hard the whole thing is broken. This Omicron thing, especially in Melbourne and Sydney, we’ll get over the hump and it will be a bit easier to deal with, better drugs to deal with it, and hospitalisations will go down. A lot of my friends have had it, it is tough but in the end hopefully it is just a gnarly flu. Who knows what is coming down the track.
How was it getting back on stage in Canberra a couple of weeks back?
It was great, it was nice to tap in to my really old amplifier and have it sound great. It was really enjoyable and it was all about getting that sound and just going for it. When you look out in the audience they are all wearing masks and sitting there. It’s rough!
You must be looking forward to getting back to Adelaide, the last show here was October 2019 and it must feel like forever?
I know! Once all the stuff starts to move around again we thought why not just book a gig in Adelaide. We didn’t do it last year so let’s just do it, hopefully it is all ok.
Playing the Adelaide Uni Cloisters must bring back some awesome tour memories from the day?
It has been a long, long, long time! We like this one as it has an outdoor element to it. Who knows what is going to happen, what the rules are, indoor venues are going to be tough but we are looking forward to this one.
It is very early days but are there any ideas floating around for the next album?
I don’t think so, it was five years between this one and the last plus we only put it out last year. I think the album has more legs in it and we haven’t played all the shows to support it we would have wanted so that is unfinished business. Playing in Perth, playing in Adelaide for example. It has been so disruptive I think people want a bit of normality and flow to get back in to it again. Once it settles down hopefully we might start talking about what’s next.
Looking back on The Lives Of Others and given all the challenges you must be pretty proud of how awesome this record is?
I think bands are pretty adaptable and focused, the don’t fuck around. There’s a certain natural drive to when people make music successfully together. It is a pretty powerful thing when everyone is on the same page and nothing is going to stop us getting this done. We worked it out just like everyone else did. It was a bit of an experiment, it could have been a disaster but it wasn’t thankfully.
What was your reaction to hearing The Waterboy for the first time?
It’s beautiful and that’s the thing, when you hear something and you go now I have to play on this and everyone has got to contribute, it started and grew based on the parts we were adding to it, and if someone lays down something that is quality it draws the best out of everyone else. All of a sudden it blossoms in to something that you all feel quite strongly about. It is great when those things happen, everyone is behind it and around it.
There is so much depth start to end I find I’m still picking something up each time I listen to it.
Good albums are like that!
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch You Am I on the following dates, tickets from http://youami.com.au…