2000 - United Magazine
Date: 2000 (Summer Edition)
Featuring: Chris Cheney, Scott Owen & Travis Demsey
United had no trouble backing The Living End into a room as they have to be some of the happiest rockers in the country. They have a wildly successful debut album, have to be one of the most popular alternative bands at the moment and us punkers have known it all along: The Living End have always rocked. Not bad for a band who had to release three EPs to become an overnight success?
A brush with fame...
"Probably when Prisoner of Society just kept going further and further up the chart and selling more and more." Says drummer Travis Demsey of when it dawned on him that the band would be huge. "I thought Jesus, we did the bloody thing for $500 bucks or something. This has to stop soon."
For double bassist, Scott Owen, it was hearing his own song blasting repeatedly on the national alternative broadcaster's Request fest. "For a couple of weeks in a row hearing people ring up and saying 'We want to hear The Living End song! Prisoner of Society! Arrrgh!' And I was thinking Shit, it's like fan mania!"
Follow that platinum paved road...
The Living End had made such inroads in this country, the ultimate litmus test for aspiring punk rockabilly (whatever) bands is the gruelling but exciting Warped festival, all the way across the U.S. of A. Vocalist and guitarist (and if you noticed very chief songwriter) Chris Cheney tentatively muses, "Yeah, they saw us play. Uh, what's the word I'm looking for..." Owen breaks the humility, "They liked it."
"They seemed to understand where we were coming from anyway. They didn't just stare and say 'Well, that's original, rockabilly meets pop punk sort of thing' they were more so saying that they liked the trip we were going on." Demsey rationalises.
After receiving endless support here, the band seemed to relish the fact that they are wholly unknown in the States. "It was good to have to convert people. They kick you ass," says Demsey. Cheney also seemed to like a bit of pressure. "We had to convert them every day. There was no one wedged up against the barriers or screaming at every song. It was like 'Let's do our thing', you don't get lazy, you have to prove yourself. That was the best thing about it because we had to play really well and it got us into shape."
Al locals, Frenzal Rhomb, were the only other Australian act in the States, I asked if there was a certain camaraderie between the boys. "Oh there was. The Frenzal Rhomb merchandise tent was just like your local Aussie Pub. It was awesome, they pulled the back seat out of the van they were travelling in every day and pit it out the back of the merch tent. We'd sit there and drink beer all day, it was hilarious. It was great to be with them on tour, they know how to do it hard." Cheney smiles knowingly.
I asked whether they learnt some lessons from the Rhomb, when each band member eyes quickly darted to me, in unison saying, "Oh, we taught them some lessons."
Overall, how could the experience be bad? "We got to watch Rancid and The Reverend Horton Heat and Bad Religion every day, it was awesome." Says Owen with genuine enthusiasm. He continues with a spark in his eye, "We were blown away to be sitting around having a conversation with Rancid. Talking to someone else from the Bosstones, I mean that's fucking awesome."
A long hot summer...
Summer festivals have started, and the first thing I expected is The Living End to join the staple summer festival bands like Grinspoon, Regurgitator, Spiderbait, etc. Travis is quick to stop me. "I disagree, I don't think we are the staple people. We've toured allot, but we've been selective about where we tour and how we tour. We'd still do pubs and we'd rather do one of those venues for two nights in a row and keep the vibe than get a big venue and pack it out and be big rock stars. It just so happens that when you're releasing an album, what is better publicity is there than to go out and do tours."
Scott is also slightly defensive saying, "We've never done Homebake before. We've never done the Big Day Out." Travis continues, "We've never done Livid before. The only thing we ever did was Push Over and that's because it's good and we support it anyway."
Scott is satisfied, "And Rancid are playing, fuck it, why not?"
And why are they doing the Big Day Out over warped? "I think we're getting stereotyped into doing punk shows so if we get the chance to do something different, we'll do it." says Scott. Chris finishes with what we all knew, "Everyone expects The Living End to do the Warped tour."
So what's better for this live machine. At Push Over, many said that The Living End shot from a great height over Rancid and I know they took the trophy away at The Falls last year. Scott clarifies "There's nothing like the festival, seeing a huge amount of people but it's great to do a pub tour and you're shoulder to shoulder with each other and there's not, say Regurgitator and people from bands standing beside you."
"I feel really naked on big festival stages." Chris says.
Scott admits, "I'm more paranoid about what I'm doing on stage than the people in the audience so I just love being in the pubs." And the difference is, Travis reveals, "If you drop a drumstick or something like that at a festival, no one even notices. You just grab another one and keep playing because the sound takes that long to get to them anyway. At least at a club when you drop a drumstick and look into the crowd, someone's looking back at you thinking 'Hey, I saw you buddy.' It's sorta cool like that."
Back in the 50's...
"(The name of the band) was from a movie called Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley, one of those old rock n' roll movies from the 50's. At the end of that it says the living end because it was some 50's saying, you know the original 60's Batman movie? It says it at the end of that too. I'm a big fan of that movie."
"It's a 50's saying, if someone says you're the living end it means you're a bit wacky," starts Scott, and Travis finishes with "....a bit zany, kapow, bam!"
"It was embarrassing, dragging a double bass to school. Trying to play rock n' roll at lunchtime when you've got nothing to do. It took them about three years to find out what we were trying to do but I could understand it perfectly."
"We were 17, 18 years old and if you wore funny shoes and had funny hair and you wore sweat shirts everyone else thought we dressed like their dad. Like I'm going out to play a game of golf or something. I just think, shit, that's what I'm into. If someone thinks it's a bit weird, good on 'em." Scott defies this childhood tormentors. I ask Scott about golf. "It's been about a year since I've played a game of golf but I like the golfers for what they wear, and they wear cool shoes."
The rockabilly days...
Are all the old rockabilly oldies coming out of the woodwork? Chris says no. "Not really anyone new. If they liked rockabilly then they probably already knew about us. It was a strong scene. I mean that was all we did for a few years. All the bands got along with each other. It wasn't the kind of gig where you go backstage and then come out and play and then go backstage again. The punters would be drinking with you in the pub just before you were about to get on stage."
"It's just that they don't bother coming to gigs anymore because out musical direction has changed. Also, it's a rockabilly scene. They're into rockabilly, they're not into going to alternative rock n' roll band venues, just like we didn't used to do it. Occasionally you see them but it's more often when we go to their gigs."
Hitchen a ride with Green Day...
Much has been speculated over since The Living End toured with Green Day. When Green Day released Hitchen' a Ride more than a few Australian raised an eyebrow. The Living End didn't. "It's a cool song," laughs Travis. Cheney asks, "Do you think it sounds a bit like Stray Cat Strut?"
Travis stops him short. "I think Green Day would be well aware that we sound a bit like that song. I think we sound a bit like them. Green Day are not stupid people. I think Billy Joe knows it sounds like Stray Cat Strut but he's into rockabilly and good pop from the 80's as well as punk. He's just thinking that this is the riff to suit these lyrics and it is a little bit different."
Scott puts an end to it all, "Maybe he just thought, 'I like The Living End style, I might try to write a song like that'. When we heard their style we thought that we might try that pop, hard punk thing that they do.".