1999.05.21 - Herald Sun
Date: 21st May 1999
Author: Cameron Adams
Featuring: Chris Cheney
Deep in the heart of Richmond, The Living End are working on their debut album. Nothing unusual there, except that the recording has been punctuated by some less-than-expected events.
When the Melbourne trio went into the studio in January they were just another bunch of noisy hopefuls who-d had a small amount of success, best known for fluking a support to their heroes Green Day and a minor radio hit, From Here On In.
Then it all went horribly right. Second Solution, the EP they’d recorded in two days just to have something to sell at concerts, started tickling the national top 40.
Propelled by constant touring and radio saturation of the teen anthem Prisoner of Society, the EP (released on an independent label) became a Top 5 hit and went gold in the process.
Even before their chart surfing, major record labels had been sniffing around the band.
The buzz spread, with talent scouts from several American labels flying halfway around the globe just to catch a Living End gig.
Frontman Chris Cheney is suitable frank about the attention his band is receiving.
"It’s certainly not a bad problem to have. Some bands hate having A&R guys at their gigs, but there’s nothing wrong with selling albums. If you can get a good deal and still do your thing, what’s the problem?"
The Living End have just signed with US label Reprise, home to Green Day, among others, and are in the unusual position of still deciding who will release their records in Australia.
One thing is for certain, the album they started recording in a rather low-key manner now has a lot of people very excited.
"I used to get so frustrated," says Cheney, "I’d think, ‘How come we can’t get a song on the radio. How come nobody comes to see us play’. (Industry) people would hang up on me. I’d sent 20 tapes to record companies with no replies."
Prisoner of Society may now sit subversively on Video Hits, but it wasn’t meant to be that way.
"We thought it’s just sell 500 copies at the most," Cheney says. "Even on the EP it’s the second track. There was no plan of attack. I guess it’s just the timeless rock and roll message to rebellious teenagers in the song that seems to click. Plus it’s a different sound. You can really hear the double bass and twangy guitar. It’s so raw compared to something like Aqua."
The Living End started life as a rockabilly covers band playing hits from the ‘50s, complete with gravity-defying hair and distinctive clothes. The look remains, but the sound has moved on a few decades.
"I remember one of the earliest underage shows we did," Cheney says. "It was the height of grunge and we were treated like these Elvis impersonators playing mum and dad-style music."
Their music now annoys parents. "It’s weird that people have latched on to it," Cheney says.
In the meantime, the band continue to work on their album with produced Lindsay Gravina (Spiderbait, Magic Dirt), trying to ignore the pressure surrounding them.
"To have people wanting to hear our music is something we’d have killed for a few years ago," Cheney says, "but I’m glad it’s happening now because we might not have been able to handle it then or we might not have had the songs."
The next frontier is their first American tour, where they have scored a slot on the prestigious US leg of the Warped tour alongside NOFX, Bad Religion and Rancid.
"The original foundations of rockabilly started in America and to have the chance to play there is nerve-racking. But I’ve always loved that music. There’s no reason why we can’t be as good at it or as much into it just because we grew up in a different country. Maybe there are no bands overseas who are like us. I guess what we’re doing is king of unique."