UK Dark Rock Legends The Sisters Of Mercy Start Their Australian Tour This Week…

UK’s dark rock legends The Sisters of Mercy will be returning to Australia & New Zealand this October and November, playing shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland & Wellington. Recently celebrating their 40th anniversary, The Sisters of Mercy are one of the most important bands to emerge from the post punk scene, with the imposing presence and the heavily melancholic voice of Andrew Eldritch giving their mark. They are a reference point for the dark rock sound and the dark culture in general with their music gaining cult status and has since been cited as a major influence by the likes of Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and My Chemical Romance.

Over the course of four decades The Sisters of Mercy released three, utterly brilliant and hyper influential studio albums scaling the charts around the globe and have amassed a legion of devoted fans who flock to see classics such as Lucretia My Reflection, Temple Of Love and This Corrosion, a testament to their incredible live shows. Ben Christo from the band speaks to Hi Fi Way about the tour.

2019 seems an eternity ago when the band was last year and given the last few years it must be great to be able to finally return to Australia for another tour? It feels like we have all got plenty of time to make up…
I think what you just said is really valid. It does feel like a different age, a different time, different people. I feel like a different person. I mean, do you feel like a different person? I’m forty two now when it started I was thirty nine. I kind of missed out on my fortieth birthday because of the pandemic and I’m sure a lot of people did. I feel like it’s only now that I’ve resurfaced again, I can go out and do tours but wait a minute, I’m in my forties now, when did that happen? I think you made a really point there that we sort of missed that change and suddenly it feels like really long time ago. I lived in London at that time, I don’t anymore, when I was 39 and I was very much used to going down a certain road, now my location has changed and so much about my life has changed, I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people that the pandemic and the lockdown made them look at a lot of things, press pause on a lot of things and reassess, and certainly did for me. Do you feel that it did for you?

Since live music has been back I have probably overindulged a lot more than what I normally would have. Just grateful that things have a normalness to them now.
It’s great that you’ve been going out and going to shows and really jumping back into it. Being a huge music fan and to have had that taken away from you for two years and now to be able to enjoy it again, I think that’s great. I think it really shows that you’re grateful for it.

How were those first shows back playing as a band again for you?
You don’t know what you have lost until it is gone, it is a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason because it’s true. That’s definitely the case with the music. I think it was slightly different as a performer because it was incrementally reintroduced for me as a performer. It wasn’t like I didn’t have anything and then I had everything again. It was more like we went and did a show here that had some restrictions. Then we did another one that had these other restrictions. It was only a very incremental and slow release to where we got to the point at the end of the European tour. We got back from a tour a few weeks ago, I had to stand back and go, hang on, this is amazing because we are actually doing shows where we used to do shows. We’re on stage, we’re rocking, the room is full, there are no restrictions, there’s no masks and there’s no fucking tests on the door. Things have gone back to being normal again. That’s amazing! The very fact that we are out we’re playing is huge after having to stay at home for two years.

Do you have plenty of awesome memories from the last tour here because the show at The Gov was incredible?
I’m really glad you felt that way. I remember quite a lot about The Gov show because it was quite different from any other show on that tour as it was a lot more intimate. I remember thinking what a great vibe, the venue that had a really great feel and that people really appreciated the music. Everybody who was there was really passionate about it. There wasn’t really any kind of passive observers of like, I’ve just gone to see a band. It’s like, I love this band. I guess sometimes, particularly in Australia, you know, the other guitarist in the band is Australian. He joined a few years ago and he’s telling me that as a music fan and as a musician, it can be quite challenging in Australia because it is so isolated. Often a lot of bands don’t come to Australia, so you never get to see him. Often as a band member, it’s very hard to break out of Australia. So I think there’s a lot of appreciation in Australian music fans and musicians for music because there is a certain degree whereby it’s rationed and maybe there isn’t that access to it.

How did the band manage being off the road during Covid? Was it an opportunity to write new songs or start other projects?
Well, we were very prolific as writers over the pandemic. We came up with about twenty or thirty new songs, twelve of which are in circulation in the current set that we’ve just been showcasing live. We were fortunate enough that there were a couple of strange little pockets of time where restrictions lifted enough for us to get in a room together and work on the tunes. So we would be writing a lot and sending things back and forth over the net. Then have these couple of periods where we could actually get in a room for ten days and start fleshing out what we think are the best ideas. How do we put the vocal to this and that?

We were actually really productive, the most productive the band has ever been since I’ve been in it in terms of new material. It’s the first time the current line-up is the first time where we’ve been playing a significant body of work that is written by the current line-up of the band. When I joined the band, the set list was made of this bizarre amalgamation of bits and pieces from all over the last twenty five years from different people, different incarnations of the band. Now it’s really consistent. I think that’s really brought us together as a band as well, that we’re playing fifty percent of the songs which our songs that we’ve done together, the current line-up. I think that means a lot.

Were you surprised that, new music was created during this time? Last time we spoke you said there were some ideas floating around, but it might have been timing or something like that where the band probably wasn’t in a position to be thinking about new songs.
It might be the old necessity is the mother of invention situation whereby because we couldn’t carry on our 2020 tour, but we felt very much like things were going well with the band because various factors that had been working our favour. We were like, let’s keep doing stuff rather than previously we may have just been this band that just thrashes out songs from the past and we’ll just put it to bed until we can go out and play shows again. We felt like we were on some sort of a trip and we were on some sort of new energised new journey. That enthusiasm, positivity and creativity became something about writing rather than about touring. In some ways it was the most and has been the most prolific period of the bands since I joined.

Was there a conscious effort when you were writing to makes these songs connect with what you’re playing in the live set currently or was it whatever you came up with?
The way that I often compare the band is because it’s a band with so much history and so much pedigree and lineage, is that I try to think about it like imagine as a screen writer, you’ve got asked to write a new James Bond movie, right? So you would have an idea of what sort of things that the movie would need, the gadgets, the villains, etcetera, etcetera, certain situations, but you want to have a fresh spin on it. You want to make it your own. That’s how I approach writing songs for the Sisters. I know what the world of the Sisters is. I just have to write a new script that something that is from my heart and is authentic to me within that world. So I know there are certain things that won’t work and there are certain things that will work. It’s quite a good framework to start in. If someone just said, write a movie, you’d be like, well, where do I start? Someone says, write a Bond movie, I’ve got a good idea where to start and that’s what it’s like with a Sisters.

Are you still amazed with how well the three defining albums for Sisters Of Mercy still stack up and stand that test of time?
Yeah, it’s amazing. The eternal question we’ll never know is that if there had been more albums in the interim, would that have at all affected the impermanence of those three records or are those three records so powerful that it doesn’t matter if there’d be new work? For example, take a Motorhead, they just kept making, making and making more albums, but it didn’t necessarily undermine the power of the originals. I think there’s something about the Sisters that it’s a band that has managed to maintain its subculture, sub alternative culture, identity, and integrity, while still being mainstream. It’s a band that has had songs in huge mainstream Hollywood movies and yet it’s still an underground band. It’s still a band that has the integrity and kept hold of its of its ethos in that sense. There’s a lot of Motown and pop sensibilities in the Sister’s music that, perhaps the average listener doesn’t really identify that that’s what they’re listening to, but that’s where a lot of the influence of music comes from is the Motown era.

Certainly, what Andrew was telling me about the pop sensibilities and the rhythmic sensibilities, but maybe infuse the music with a bit with more than just being an alternative sound. It’s got a lot of primal undercurrent to it that resonate with a lot of people. I was saying to someone else earlier that something about Sisters of Mercy, there seems to be one degree of separation at the very most between myself and a Sisters fan. It would be weird stuff like my auntie might say, oh, my hairdresser’s, a big fan of you guys, there’s always some weird tenuous kind of link that somebody somewhere has a connection with the Sisters Of Mercy. I think that’s a real testament. I’m not sure how many more bands from where the Sisters comes from era wise can say that they are a band that have retained their integrity as an alternative band whilst creating and gaining a mainstream reach.

Are you signing to see more now than ever before that generational shift in the, in the fan base as well?
It’s incredible. The last tour that we just did around Europe, there’s people from three generations there. There’s eighteen year olds and there’s 60 year olds. I think it’s because music now due to the internet is so accessible to anybody at any time, so that a new fan can hear a Sisters song at a click of a button and, and the click of a link, just because perhaps someone in the band that they love is wearing a Sister t-shirt, or perhaps they hear a track on a Netflix show or whatever and they can very quickly find stuff in the way that maybe when I was growing up you couldn’t, you could only find new bands through a particular TV show or a radio station or a magazine. Now you can find it through so many different ways and you can find it instantly. It’s really interesting seeing that there are these younger fans and I spoke to a few of them on the European tour asking how do you even know this band? It’s through that, it’s through the fact that the bands they love named checked the Sisters, Spotify playlists, stuff like that. Given that we are a band with a lot of credibility and history, we still get pushed to the forefront of things like playlists and recommendations for soundtracks and stuff because the band’s got this reputation and this history.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch The Sisters Of Mercy on the following dates. Joining them for NZ and all east coast shows are riff-heavy, raucous rockers Elko Fields and post-punks New Talk will open in Perth. Tickets from SBM Presents

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