1998.10.15 - Herald Sun
Date: 15th October 1998
Author: Cameron Adams
Featuring: Chris Cheney, Scott Owen, Travis Demsey
The future is looking bright for young band The Living End, writes Cameron Adams
THE Living End may just be the noisiest quiet achievers in the country. The Melbourne group scored the most unlikely top five hit earlier this year with their Second Solution/ Prisoner of Society EP. Released on a small label, its sales of 140,000 accelerated the trio to the hottest young band in Australia. Their self-titled debut album, released this week, is expected to be one of the biggest-selling local releases this year. But the one thing the Living End will not be singing is then-own praises. They're quick to deflate any hype.
"It's good at the moment," says frontman and main songwriter Chris Cheney. "We're not having too much success, we're pulling crowds, we're selling records. It would be nice if it could stay at this level."
That's unlikely, but the boys are keen not to self-destruct from overexposure.
"We don't want to be the band of the moment," says Cheney. "We're trying to have a natural progression. We like to be hands-on with everything, keeping the ticket prices down, that kind of thing. It's easy for people to turn on you if you forget about the music and just become a celebrity."
The band flinch when discussing the bidding war that saw several US record company executives flying to Australia to catch a Living End concert.
The situation was repeated with local record companies, all keen to get them on their roster, sniffing a guaranteed success.
In the end the band signed with Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records for the rest of the world and new label Modular records — distributed through EMI — in Australia.
The fact they had scored a top five hit on their own gave them power to negotiate deals with maximum creative control.
"That should be a standard thing in record contracts," says Cheney. "No one should tell you what to do. Record companies are fine, but really, they're just there to give you money to make your music."
The Living End had their first taste of the industry's darker side when a rumor circulated locally that they had returned from America with huge pay cheques courtesy of their Reprise deal.
"We didn't, because we've got no money," says drummer Travis Demsey. "People assume that because you're on TV or you've been to America you're automatically in a higher wage bracket.
"We used to get $10 a gig, now we get $30 each a gig. But anyway, so what if we made all this money, does that make us less cool?
"We've been in this industry for over seven years without making any real money. The average person doing a normal job would have been earning around $450 a week over that seven years, it's just that when you're in a band you get paid in lump sums. We're still waiting for that lump sum."
Their debut album, co-produced by the band and Lindsay Gravina (Magic Dirt, Spiderbait) is a confident mix of their beloved rockabilly, its punk off-shoot psychobilly and a heavy dose of pop thrills.
"People were saying, 'What direction have you gone in with this album?'" Cheney says. "It's the same direction. This is our first album, it's not like we're about to bring in keyboards or anything."
The band have already toured the US this year as part of the prestigious Vans Warped tour. The next frontier is a swag of summer festival shows including near-headline status on the Pushover festival, a big step from playing early afternoon last year. A UK visit is also planned.
"It was nerve-racking enough going to America," says bass player Scott Owen. "That was where rockabilly was born, but going to England will be even more scary. That was where rockabilly was revived and had something added to it, which is what we're trying to do."
THREE LOOSE ENDS
- They Supported Green Day before they had a record deal. Some suggest Green Day's Hitchin' a Ride owes a debt to the Living End.
- STARTED life as a cover band called the Runaway Boys playing songs by the Stray Cats. "We were three Elvis impersonators playing mum and dad music," says Chris Cheney.
- THEY'VE recorded a Frank Sinatra cover for a Reprise album as well as covers of Tainted Love and the Prisoner theme.
The Living End(Modular/EMI) out now. The Living End, Pushover, Myer Music Bowl, Oct 21; Hallam Hotel, Oct 28; Warragul Exhibition Hall, Oct 29; Hi-FI Bar, Oct 31 (under-18s arvo, over-IBs evening); Hi-Fi Bar, Nov 2; Geelong Wool Exchange, Nov 4; Warrnambool, Lady Bay Hotel, Nov 5.