Tim Rogers & The Twinset Tour Starts In Adelaide Tonight…
Beloved rock’n’roll raconteur Tim Rogers, together with his band The Twin Set kick off their national tour tonight at The Gov to celebrate the release of their long player Tines of Stars Unfurled. Tines of Stars Unfurled is a bookend to Tim Rogers’ classic solo debut of ‘99 What Rhymes With Cars and Girls, marking the welcome return of his fiddle-and-squeezebox country-blues compadres The Twin Set, and the (slightly more temperate) barstool yarn-spinner’s perspective that made the You Am I frontman ARIA’s Best Male Artist twenty three years ago. That’s long enough to bring new poetry, wit and wisdom to the rock’n’roll philosopher’s kitbag as eleven new songs hold hands with their precursors across the chasm of innocence and experience. Kids grow up, adults split up, parents pass on, some nights look better in than out and somehow, the songs keep getting better. Like the first single says, Been So Good, Been So Far. “Guess I’m doing OK. How about you?” Tim Rogers spoke to Hi Fi Way about the album and tour.
Congratulations on the album. Has it been a good feeling to be able to correct some of the lyrics from What Rhymes With Cars And Girls?
I was talking about it with someone the other day and songs don’t necessarily have to be correct. I just found that some of the bravado and bluff was probably right for the characters at the time, but just over time thought it would be nice to offer a repost to that kind of coldness and to talk more how I thought that the actual people involved felt back then, whether it was me or friends of mine or exaggerated versions of us. I would’ve left to alone if it wasn’t doing the stage play and hearing those songs so often each week, eight shows a week and, and the idea came to me to write, whether it’s an update or just something that’s thematically similar. I mean, for example, if there’s a song called 28, which is quite interesting, I don’t think a song about a fifty three year old is necessarily that interesting, particularly when he lives pretty much the life of a twenty eight year old like myself. Rather than correct that song, 28 just for example, cause I think that was a droit at the time, to write about a young twenty two year old was probably a better idea.
Was the whole concept something you’d been mulling over for quite some time and it was just a matter of when would be the right time to do it?
No, no, probably just when the theatre show was on. When was that? Four, five years ago, and because the actors involved in the play would ask me a lot about the lyrics and even Aidan, Dear Aiden, who wrote the play and whose idea it was, he had a, a number of the lyrics wrong. Talking to him about that made me just look at those lyrics again and think, ah, yeah, that’s okay, but I wouldn’t mind just trying to make them a little better or different in character. If it hadn’t have been for the stage show I wouldn’t have done it. I mean, I had to do something on stage to stop panic attacks, really, whether it’s stage fright or just whatever disorder I’ve got. So writing responses to all those songs and a whole bunch of other songs, actually, some of the lyrics of which have ended up on the new Hard-Ons record, I don’t think they’ll be going into the new You Am I record, I wrote a lot because I was on stage sitting and just enjoying or being terrified by the experience night after night for months. That’s what we came up with, so it’s really only in the past four years maybe.
Starting off as a writing exercise did you think it would evolve in to a more formal proper release?
Releasing a double album’s pretty fucking formal, no, I think some of the lyrics from songs did make it to the last You Am I record. So, no, they’re kind of all over the joint and some were just done purely to help ground myself during those theatre performances, so I wouldn’t have to leave the stage. I just find wordplay and little story writing vignettes or crosswords, whatever it is, if that is one thing I know that can help, so I’ll just do that. There was not a strong enough of a complete narrative to make it into something any more formal than a record.
Did you find that some of these ideas were really starting to come at you quite fast as you started to get into it?
Some came fast, but the ones that came fast, probably, I still left in notebooks. I just want to take a bit more time with them and each of the songs musically went through about probably four or five different iterations before we ended up with what we’ve got. Definitely lyrically I’d spent more time on them than I would’ve done twenty years ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago. Songs will come up every couple of days. I’ll get an idea for something and scribble it down or make a little recording on a tape recorder. Maybe one out of every thirty is something I continue with. I think it’s a mistake to not, it depends what you want from song writing and what you want from writing. I think I just demand a little more of myself these days and I demand more of other people as well.
Anything that came hastily probably got scrubbed out and replaced. And again, there was so much of it that there’s some Hard-Ons lyrics there, there’s some new Bamboos lyrics and You Am I lyrics from the last record. There’s a lot of notebooks, they’re spilling out of every cupboard and out of every shelf at the moment. It’s tempting to cull them and burn them and feed them to the, to the donkeys, but we’lll leave them sit for now and I’ll reappraise them maybe when I’m, I can’t tour anymore.
Do you think you have to write with a particular focus whether that’s Tim Rogers solo, The Twinset, You Am I or the Hard-Ons or do you let the ideas come to you and then see where it best sits?
Lyrically they’re not that much different. I think it would be really condescending to think that I’ve got to write a certain way for the Hard-Ons or You Am I or The Bamboos or Twinset. I think my writing style, it’s hopefully changed and possibly evolved over time. I know it’s definitely less successful, which is I think a good sign , and no, no, I, what I’d like from writing is finding something romantic in terror or pain, something that can maybe offer a little bit of hope and little bit of joy. I think that that’s pretty much a thread through anything I’m lucky enough to be involved in. Blackie from the Hard-Ons, he and I talk about that quite a bit because we’ve got very different writing styles, but I think it works and it’s working better on this new recording.
I think with the Twinset, everyone wanted copies of the lyrics before they got their parts together. Each player contacted me individually and said, would you mind sending the lyrics? I thought, why? I mean, no one listens to that guff do they. They said, well, we think it’s important. Then everyone had had lyric sheets and that’s just no greater compliment to someone like me who wants to write well and these musicians who really didn’t need to have the lyrics there but wanted them, what a wonderful accolade that was.
Another Hard-Ons record is exciting especially after the last one. Are you excited with where it’s heading?
Yeah, the album we finished in I think two days, they will just call and say, here are the demos. I haven’t really contributed anything musically to them yet, apart from some vocal melodies, scansion and lyrics. Blackie and I will work on that separately and then together. We’ve got a European tour coming up, which is going to be fantastic. I would it if You Am I, the Hard-Ons and the Twinset can do shows together somehow. Having all those people in a room is very special and I take a look around and think, wow, I’ve really lucked out and everyone getting on like this big kind of family. Blackie and Murray from the Hard-Ons came to the Twinset show the other night in Sydney, it’s kind of like-minded people, Andy was there of course, and Davey, Rusty was out of town. That’s kind of what it’s all about for me.
How important was Jen Anderson’s influence on the new Twinset album? You can feel that energy come through on the album.
Huge. I contacted her over a year ago and said, look, I’ve got this idea and just to let you know, if you’re not interested in it, I’m scrapping the whole thing. I didn’t want to put her under pressure, but said, this is my idea and with Stuey being gone, Ian Kitney overseas, I knew I wanted to get Mark Wallace from Weddings in there wanted to get Ed Bates on pedal steel. If Jim wasn’t involved and she wasn’t able to do the tour, then I don’t think I would’ve continued or maybe the songs would’ve headed in different directions. We wanted to, and we talked about expanding her compositional role from, essentially kind of soloing and because she’s a gorgeous composer, and our compositional ideas, we’ve never, ever argued about them or found anything that hasn’t worked for what extremely different people we are.
I think that our music tastes aren’t that dissimilar and so her arrangements, just what she does harmonically and melodically with her arrangements are really important. Then when it would come to Davey’s parts, or Richard Bradbeer on bass, and Jeff Consi on drums got so heavily involved in the arrangements of the songs, I didn’t actually hear drums on any more than three of the original demos. I put a couple of patterns down and then of course he’d come up with things that are better. Everyone got very deeply involved in the composition and the energy, I’m glad it’s palpable because it’s very obvious to me, but you never know if those things translate on record or persevere through a record. I think it’s because it was a real deep dive and Jimi Maroudas, our producer, was right in there as well. We did scrutinise every song to a much greater degree than anything I’ve been involved in in the past.
The connection is very obvious and even with the photos on socials you could tell it was a special time. Did you have that feeling about the songs as they were taking shape?
It was quick and we had maybe three hours of rehearsals before we went into the studio and that’s just if you get the right people, I mean, the people happen to be exquisite players, but they’re also very dear friends of mine. We’ll talk a lot about music, not only Twinset music, but about anything. We needed to because the arrangements of instrumentation on a song like Live Near a Train Station is quite, well, I couldn’t imagine anything like that on the Cars and Girls record or anything I’ve been involved in. We were talking about harmonic ideas that I’m not quite sure where they came from. I mean, I was trying to equate it with Avant Garde composition in Czechoslovakia in the late nineteenth century. That wouldn’t fly because they’re classically trained musicians that I play with and they know what I’m grasping at straws.
Do you think the whole album experience this time around has got you thinking about what you might do later on, whatever that might be, whether it’s another Twinset or solo album in the future?
I’d be ready to start another Twinset record straight away. We’re on the road now and I get home and I’ve got to race around to a couple of farms out where I live and do some jobs, some mowing and a bit of work at a winery, vineyard up the road. I just want to get back in a hotel room with those people and write some new songs. We’ve done the last show with Perko and now we’ve got our own Twinset shows and we’re looking forward to expanding our sets a bit to songs from the first record and songs from this one, and who knows a bunch of covers and just taking it as far as you can go. We like getting into trouble and having fun and having a laugh, but getting sound checks and late early morning hotel sessions together where maybe we’ll tape some new stuff. I think that’s going to be happening a lot more. It’s a pretty special little group that I’ve been lucky enough to assemble.
Do you think the live experience now feels like the complete experience of connecting What Rhymes With Car And Girls what Tines Of Stars Unfurled?
It’s a bit of a mix. It churns me up a little. A lot of it’s very difficult to sing, particularly if it’s a song where people have passed. It’s an exhausting experience, but it feels worthwhile. The only way I can check it’s worthwhile is that when everyone gets back to the airport or we finish a long drive that everyone still wants to hang out together and no one’s in a hurry to go home. Maybe we’ll never go home. I don’t know, I do love coming home, but I’d much prefer to, you know, be playing with these people.
Is You Am I still bubbling away in the background?
They don’t bubble. It’s like an explosive chemistry experiment. Davey and I have started writing new You Am I songs. I don’t think we can physically get into a studio until later this year, but we’ll just keep writing. It’s good to know that no one’s ask to do anything. So we’re just doing it out of interest in what we’re listening to at the moment. I think that at this point the approach is that, Davey will handle most of the music and I’ll look after some other elements of it. That could change next week, we’re kind of in impulsive people.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Tim Rogers & The Twinset on the following dates, tickets HERE…