2000 - READ Magazine
Author: Liz Ortega
Featuring: Chris Cheney, Scott Owen & Travis Demsey
The Living End
The Living End first graced the US with their self-titled release on Reprise Records back in 1998, introducing "Prisoner of Society," which quickly became a radio favorite. Now, they are back with another album, Roll On, that features a second radio hit. I met with the band the day after their explosive sold out performance at the Roxy in LA. Considering both parties were extremely hung over and feeling like shit, this interview was completed in the absence of foul odors and vomiting.
Great set last night! It was my first time seeing you guys.
ALL: Thank you!
So, how do you like the US of A? How many times have you been out here?
SCOTT (bass): We've been out here about six times. We spent quite a few nights here in 1999--we did a couple of tours...
How do you like playing out here as opposed to playing back home?
TRAVIS (drums): Well, we love it!
SCOTT: Playing out here is kind of like going back to when we first put out those couple of EP's that we had at home. People were just starting to become aware of the band and we started building a little bit of a following. So, it's good to get back down to that...just letting the music talk and trying to convert people rather than being at home where people already know who we are. It's good to have that hunger to let people know who we are and what we're all about.
What are you all about?
TRAVIS: Just playing good music and hopefully doing for people what our favorite bands do for us. You know, just make you feel good when you feel sad and when you feel sad there's a friend to lean on. You know, something to go out and get pissed dunk to. Music, to some people, is something they turn on in their car. For us, it's everything! Apart from my family and friends, rock n roll is the greatest thing that I have. It's like my most valuable possession, I would say.
What would you say incites the content of your songs?
CHRIS (guitar/vocals): I think a lot of it comes from issues that we see on television or newspapers. It's just such a good place to start writing lyrics about something...Some of our stuff is completely made-up. It comes from all different areas...
TRAVIS: I think knowledge is sexy! In today's day and age, rock n roll bands are a dying breed...not many bands can play their instruments well. If you look back in the jazz era or the 40s, 50s, 60s, and the 70s--they could all play their instruments well. It was the tools of their trade. The 80s and the 90s, bands just sort of got SHIT! It was all about what supermodel they're dating or they trashed a hotel room or they're going to star in a movie.. I think we can play and we all have different influences and we mold them into one melting pot and our lyrics make sense.
SCOTT: There's two sides to it--rock n roll is supposed to be fun, it's supposed to be dumb, and it's supposed to be young. But it's also supposed to be a bit inspirational--a lesson and a voice.
So, where do you place yourselves as musicians? Are you trying to send a message to your listeners?
SCOTT: I think the general message we're trying to send is that people should really be aware. Like Travis was saying, knowledge is sexy and it's healthy. You don't have to preach things to people to prove that you know things. It's just a matter of being aware and knowing what is going on.
TRAVIS: If you've got two bands of similar nature - the Dandy Warhols and Dope - the Dandy Warhols are very smart people. As much as they sing about how much they want to "get off," you listen to the lyrics and you understand where that guy is coming from--he's had a hard day at work, he's got a shit job, and he wants to go out to a bar and get pissed. That is a smart song because it relates to nearly everyone in the world and they understand it. What I don't find intelligent is people going "Yo, ho! Suck my mutha fuckin dick!" I don't find that intelligent and I really don't know any ladies in Australia that would just drop to their knees and give you a blowie. That's just the road we stay clear of and unfortunately a lot of the rock n roll bands are like that.
Let's dabble into the new album...Roll On.
Because I said so. Now, how is this album different from your past projects? Do you feel you have progressed musically? I want to know if your views have, for a lack of a better word, matured with each release.
SCOTT: Maturity in rock n roll is debatable--rock n roll is supposed to be young and edgy and immature. But musicians like to think that they understand their instruments and their music to "mature" their writing. I think we have progressed without losing the juvenile side that just wants to get fucking sweaty and rock out. We still want to put out our music loud and hard and still add that fun stuff to it but also have a little bit to say as well. We want to do something else with our music, but still maintain that fun rock n roll vibe. I don't think we've really changed much over the past two albums apart from that we listened to a lot of different music.
TRAVIS: On this album, we had so many influences that weren't going to make it on the album. It was just going to be too erratic. So, we put the songs that were going to be more in line with what we wanted the world to perceive our band as, which is a rock n roll band with varied interests. There are lots of great songs that didn't make it on the album. To a lot of people, apart from Australia, this is their first album--they don't even know about the first album.
There is a lot of diversity in your album, as far as musical influences go...
CHRIS: Yeah, we have so many different styles of songs and even the ones that we've chosen for the album, there's still a rock variation. There's the reggae, the ska, psychobilly... We couldn't imagine doing just a straight ahead blues album, it's just not in us. We love playing so many different styles of music--it would bore us to death if we played just one particular style of music for the whole entire album. I don't think you create any sort of originality by doing that. Some of those songs, yeah they may have a ska or reggae influence, but I don't think it's like 2-Tone ska or Bob Marley reggae. It's just our interpretation.
You now have two hit songs on American radio. How do you feel about that?
CHRIS: We're very lucky, you know. We couldn't be over here playing small clubs and struggling to be on the radio and stuff, but we're very lucky that we've got the advantage of having a couple of songs that people already know, so it's a foot in the door. I mean, most bands would kill for that...we probably take it for granted a little too much. Just for the record, we're very thankful.
When did you all get together?
TRAVIS: Scott and Chris have been together for years in a rockabilly band. It's been five years now since I've been in the band.
Did you just say rockabilly?
CHRIS: It was just old English-neo psychobilly and old 50s stuff.
What the hell is Sockobilly? Or did you say Psychobilly?
CHRIS: Psychobilly--it's my accent.
Sorry, I thought there was yet another branch on the musical tree. There are so many terms that people slap on music, it would be no surprise if Sockobilly was in fact a musical style.
TRAVIS: Yeah, that scene is really big on this side of town, isn't it?
That's Los Angeles for you. The Identity Crisis Capital of the World.
TRAVIS: It's really bizarre. I admire the fact that people come out here to live their dreams. At least they've got the guts to get out of where ever they live. But when they get here, they get treated like shit. People say to the women, "You're too fat, lose some pounds, you'll be a great actress" or "Get your teeth fixed, mate. You'll become a great star." People are so condescending here...they want the perfect image. They're so transparent. It's a fuckin joke here, but we've got some great friends here and they live here and they love it. It's just not for us.
CHRIS: We're really lucky to come from Australia. We've seen the world many times over and that makes us very aware. If it all ends and the band breaks up, at least I'll be able to say to my kids, when I have some, 'Dad went everywhere and I can assure...go see the world because you'll come back loving Australia.'
What do you have lined up once your tour ends?
TRAVIS: We might be touring with Green Day, doing a few weeks on the Warped Tour, hitting up Japan and that pretty much takes us up to the end of the year! What a life!
Wouldn't you rather be doing accounts receivable?
CHRIS: Oh yes!
TRAVIS: The grass is always greener... when you're a kid and you're watching MTV and you just think, 'Wouldn't it be great to get free cymbals. Wouldn't it be great to have a nice drum set. Everyday I wake up and get to play the drums all day.' And in theory, that's what I do but everyday, I never see my drums so I can't practice. We play the same songs--we only have 30 songs. So, even if we mixed them up it's like we've done this for three years, we can't really fuck around too much because it fucks up the song. It becomes pretty mundane. My mates back home say to me, "Oh, you're so lucky. You get to tour the world!" I say, 'What are you doing?' "Oh, we're going to the bar to get pissed and then we're going to the football game tonight. Then tomorrow we're gonna have band practice and smoke some drugs." I sit there going, "I remember those days." I was broke but I chose what I wanted to do all day. Now, I'm in a rock n roll band and I can't do shit! It's pretty grueling...but I've still got a few good years in this bit. It definitely makes you want to look into other avenues...like I can't believe some of the books I've been reading. I can't read Rolling Stone again, I don't want to see Jennifer Lopez's ass on the cover again--I'm sick of it. Then you start reading books on politics and stuff because when you feel like you're just so dumb all the time, you're like "I've got to educate yourself." Between all the heavy literature and watching VH1's Behind the Music, I'm very smart.
Or Rock n Roll Jeopardy, I kick ass on that show!
TRAVIS: Where do they get the people that go on that show? "Oh, you're a talent scout for a major record label--you don't know shit about music, but come on the show!"
Great meeting you all and have a great tour.
ALL: Thank you.