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Violent Soho

Violent Soho

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Tuesday 27th October, 2015 2:08PM

Despite more than 10 years together as a band and three full-length albums under their belts, Aussie outfit Violent Soho have never made it to these shores for a show. It's an understandable oversight, as the Brisbane group have had their noses to the grindstone over the last decade. Following the release of their self-funded EP in 2006 and debut record We Don't Belong Here in 2008, the group were signed to Ecstatic Peace! Records, a company headed by their hero Thurston Moore. Under the label's guidance they recorded their self-titled album, relocated to the States and toured with some of the top names in the business.

However, the American dream wasn't all it was cracked up to be and in 2011 the band returned to Australia with no label. Somewhat a blessing in disguise, the group went back to their roots, signed with local indie label I Oh You and recorded third album Hungry Ghost with "Brisbane's version of Steve Albini", engineer and producer Bryce Moorhead. That record turned out to be a great commercial success and now Violent Soho have their fourth album in the works. With news that the boys are preparing to jump the ditch for their debut New Zealand show this Friday (and will be back in February for an appearance at Laneway Festival) UnderTheRadar got on the phone with guitarist/vocalist Luke Boerdam to have a chat about the new record, being called a grunge band, and selling their cars to fund recording...

UTR: So earlier this month you released new single 'Like Soda', can you tell me a bit about it...

LB: Ahh I'm not very good at selling my own music haha, but it's got a real sunny suburban thing going on with the imagery, and it's set in pokies rooms and it's kind of about the worker's life and, I wish this didn't sound so heavy because the song isn't heavy, but destruction of the soul through these distractions. That's the best I can describe it, I wasn't expecting that question haha.

One thing I've noticed is that your band constantly gets compared to Seattle grunge groups a lot, but you have been together for a long time, 10 years. Does it annoy you that those are still being used as touchstones? Are they still relevant touchstones?

From my point of view, it honestly doesn't bother me anymore. Music is music, it doesn't matter what label it's given. If someone sends you a song over iTunes or whatever your not going to listen to it because iTunes put it in the "pop" genre or whatever, it's just whether it's good music or not. But I wouldn't describe our sound as "grunge" or Seattle sound, especially not the record we are working on, or Hungry Ghost the last record we released. I think earlier on we probably wore our influences on our sleeves more. I think sometimes bands take time to find their stride and discover what sound they want to make, and stuff like that. And I can definitely say that our band, for the first five years we started out by playing with punk bands in Brisbane in bowls clubs and pool halls and wherever we got thrown in Brisbane, and then we got signed in America and recorded this pretty epic record with Gil Norton in Wales, and from then on it felt like we were being pulled in a certain direction. But by the time we got home after we went through that whole American thing, it was awesome to sit back, and I think we really realised what we wanted to do as a band. So those labels do feel old and aren't really relevant anymore, but on that note if someone walks up and says "oh you're that grunge band" I don't really give a shit. It's cool man, thanks, I'll take the compliment, I guess.

So how is work on the new album going?

So we are still in the studio and just doing some more writing. We actually prefer the option of recording locally because it's cheaper. So we don't spend money on hotels and flights and stuff, and we can buy another three weeks of recording, which we value heaps. We just take a really slow approach and we think that if you are patient and really work through every decision and take your time and are not having sleepless nights trying to finish before a certain date, it leads to a really authentic album and sound. It's funny, when you are in the studio and you work on a part 10 different ways it kind of starts sounding like mush, but two months later when you haven't heard the song for awhile it's like "oh man that's awesome, it's a really cool sound", haha. It's the little things, like it might take hours and hours to get a certain guitar sound but all those details add up. And that's how we like to make records now.

Yeah, it seems that coming at things with fresh ears when you've been slaving over it is really crucial...

Oh 100 percent. You know, 'Covered In Chrome', the song that broke us out in Australia a few years ago, I remember recording that song and thinking it was boring, hahah. Some people might agree with me, but a lot of people won't. But now if I haven't heard it for six months and then I listen to it I think "oh that's an awesome song", it's got a good intro, it's got a good hook. You're right, when you're in the studio it's kind of dangerous. You can be your own worst enemy sometimes if you are just slaving over a track for weeks on end. I remember hearing that when You Am I were recording Hi-Fi Way, Tim Rogers apparently locked himself up in a room for a week because he felt like he wasted the opportunity and the record was horrible, and now it's something like one of the top 10 Australian records ever released. So, I think it's pretty funny how you get so sucked into a song and rip it apart, but it bigger picture it's just a good song.

Your last album, Hungry Ghost, was a breakthrough in terms of sales. How does that affect you when you sitting to write material. Does that play on your mind at all?

Um, I think that's were if we were a younger band it would be a bit stressful, or it would be at the back of your head. But I feel like after being a band for 10 years, and going through the American thing I was talking about before of going over there and playing for a year and living there, and then to get dumped back home and be living with your parents in the same bedroom when you were 15 [laughs], that kind of had an affect. The biggest lesson is that we would happily work day jobs or do nights at a supermarket if it meant the record sounds better. We want to put that first. So we have a rule that if it takes ages, then it takes ages. There is no point pushing something that you're not proud of, or pushed into, or rushed into. Usually bands release every two or three years, or more now, they are just churning them out. But I'd rather take years on a record and then tour it, and every song on that record be like the fucking best song ever. Especially when you are touring and playing the same songs over and over, you wanna be playing music you are into. Sorry, I totally trailed off, but yeah it hasn't plagued my mind this time at all. I think it's because we've done this for so many years now, I've just got to keep writing songs and I kind of get this feeling in my gut when a song is ready, and that's what I go on.

I like that concept of doing what you need to do to get by financially, so that you don't have to sacrifice the integrity of your music. It reminds me a little of something I was reading earlier about James [Tidswell, guitar/vocals] selling his car to fund the first EP, Pigs & TV back in 2006. So you've kind of come full circle on that ethos...

Yeah that's true. James had to sell his little Nissan Micra so we could do our EP. Because we actually recorded it in a friend's garage and it was okay, but we weren't that happy with it. And we heard another local band called Eat Laser Scumbag!, who are this kind of a punk garage band, and we were like, "oh man, that sounds so much better than ours", hahaha. And it was recorded by Bryce Moorhead, so that's how we discovered Bryce, who did Hungry Ghost and is doing our current record. That's how we found him. So James sold his car so we could work with Bryce. I always think that's a bit crazy, like if I had a kid who was 18 and I bought him a car and he sold it, I'd be so pissed off, hahaha.

Were they pissed off?

No, no. I think they knew James' personality. I don't think they bought him the car anyway, I think he worked through his high school years for that car, so it was his choice. And we just slowly paid him back, haha. It's kind of funny, we had this like payment plan where we just kept paying James back for his car. It took like 18 months, but he got his money. We had to give him a bit of our paychecks every week, hahaha.

Hahaha, I love it. So you guys are coming to New Zealand finally. All this touring around the world, and you've never made it across the ditch as a band...

I know! I can't believe we've never been there. Something has always just come up, you know. Throughout the whole Hungry Ghost campaign... well three different members have kids now, since we've done Hungry Ghost. So we are doing as much touring as we can as well as factoring in family. But James grew up in New Zealand as a toddler and Henry is a New Zealander, so they go back and forth a bit, but I'm definitely keen to come and check out New Zealand in all it's glory.

Violent Soho are performing this Friday 30th October at Kings Arms Tavern in Auckland, with support from PCP Eagles and Miss June. Head over here for more information and to buy ticket.

OR!! Enter the draw to win an awesome Violent Soho prize pack, which includes tickets to the show, a tee shirt and coloured vinyl.


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