End Of The Beginning
Author: Lauren McMenemy
The Living End is tying up loose ends – but not selling out writes Lauren McMenemy.
A band releasing a “singles collection”? Chris Cheney is the first to admit that sounds a bit suss. It wasn’t until he saw a potential track listing for From Here On In, the Living End singles collection which hit stores this week, that the band’s singer/guitarist realised it was a good move.
“It sort of reeks of, I don’t know, stale creativity or the end of a band’s career,” Cheney admits. “But we’re only three albums in; it’s just because we’ve spent a hell of a lot of time touring that we haven’t had as much output as we would’ve liked.”
And that’s the other thing. Since The Living End released its debut EP, Hellbound, back in 1996, it has been a constantly evolving entity.
Listen to something like 1997’s Prisoner Of Society – incidentally the third-highest selling single in Australian music history – next to latest single, I Can’t Give You What I Haven’t Got and there’s quite a technical leap.
“The thing that we liked about (the singles collection),” says Cheney, “was that it was basically tying up that period. I feel some of the stuff we’ve written lately is quite different to what we’ve done in the past. And for me, it’s refreshing to just get that period and say ‘Well that was then; this is now; it’s time to move on’.
“It’d be really cool for anyone who’s never really liked us or liked our albums, but have liked a couple of songs,” he laughs. “This one’s for them.”
The tour, however, is for the fans. It’s been almost a year since the Living End toured Australia. That was, of course, the big comeback tour, following the big comeback spot on the 2003 Big Day Out.
The “comeback” referred to the band’s return after an enforced hiatus. Even though it came after Cheney was involved in a major car accident – he could barely walk let alone play guitar – the band admitted at the time it was a break they desperately needed.
During the downtime, drummer Travis Demsey quit, replaced by Pollyanna’s Andy Strachan. The Big Day Out shows were Strachan’s introduction to the world of touring with The Living End; the band’s third album Modern ARTillery, his introduction to their recorded world.
Now a couple of years into the new family, Cheney says it feels right. The songs they’ve been writing have him very excited.
“It’s just been a really good inspirational period of late for some reason,” he says.
“But it also feels like after doing all this touring we’re working better as a band probably than what we did when we recorded the last album because we hadn’t had Andy for that long and we hadn’t had that much live experience, and that’s just imperative with this band.
“There are so many sides to a rock’n’roll band. Ultimately the most important thing, I think, is whether we sound good and we write good songs, but all the other stuff as well just seems to be settling in very nicely.
“And we’re probably one of the bands that’s a bit more pedantic and precious about certain things and little, probably unimportant things to some bands. We drive ourselves crazy with it, but I think we’ve got a work ethic there that we just like to strive for.”
But it’s still on the live stage where The Living End shines brightest. Glowing reviews accompanied the release of Modern ARTillery around the world, but when they hit the stage, you’re witnessing one of the tightest, most inspiring Australian outfits of this generation.
“I think for us, this is the tour of the year,” says an excited Cheney. “Forget the overseas stuff. For us, this is it, because it’s home again and it’s been such a long time since we did a tour here that we just can’t wait.
“It’s not like the old days when all we would do is just drive around this country. Obviously we can’t be everywhere at once. We’re trying to do something overseas but we don’t want to neglect Australia either – we just love playing here, and we’ve obviously got so many more songs that do well here and overall the tours and the shows are just better. Starting off overseas, you’ve always got to try to build the audience, and then there comes a point when you go ‘I just want to play to an audience that knows these songs and is going to respond’.”
And sing along at the top of their lungs…
“Yeah, we have a lot of songs like that, that people seem to try and let their aggression out and let their frustrations go and, Jesus, do they let them go sometimes,” he says. “It’s a bit weird (to watch), but I can understand it because that’s sort of what we do on stage as well.
“I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t have the band – I don’t do any other exercise for a start than being on stage, so for me it’s a good outlet there.
“I’m not the type of person to go and see other bands and jump in the mosh pit and sort of lose myself there, so I can understand it but I wouldn’t be caught in there for quids.”
So with the release of From Here On In on CD and DVD, and the accompanying tour the end of the beginning has arrived; it’s on to the next phase now. A new album is on the cards for next year, and there’s the ever-growing (again) overseas market beckoning.
“We’ve got very definite ideas now, after the last album,” says Cheney. “The last one, not letting anything out of the bag but there were parts of it that just didn’t come out like we wanted it to. It was a strange time and a strange situation with us trying to find out feet, but at the same time we had a lot of pressure on us from overseas to produce straight away.
“And I think we learned a lot from that. I’m feeling like the songs that I’ve been writing lately they just sound like us…I think they sound more original. For me, the more material we get out there, the better. I can’t wait.”
From Here On In is out now. The Living End plays a sell-out show at the Thebarton Theatre on Sunday.
Rock Around The World
The Living End is one of those Australian bands that have always just been there. Prisoner Of Society shook the country in 1997, and from there the trio has been consistently punching out the quality. Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t help but hum those anthemic choruses. But what many Australians don’t realise is that the Living End has also been one of our consistently successful overseas outfits. Constant touring in Europe and the US led to spots on the US Warped Tour, festivals aplenty in Japan – even a gig on Letterman.
Indeed, the Living End has spent most of this year Stateside – there was the “Aussie Invasion” tour with Jet and the Vines, then a tour with Blink 182 and No Doubt. That’s some fairly impressive supports there for a band that had been out of the overseas market for close to three years.
“We took a little bit to get back ontrack, I suppose, because it was like three years from the last time we went overseas to when we went back, which is a lifetime in this industry I guess,” says singer/guitarist Chris Cheney.
“But we found that when we did the Jet and the Vines tour over there that half of the audience and the critics treated us like an unknown band – to people who weren’t familiar with us we were the “opening act” and we were quite good and all this sort of stuff. And then the other side of it was people calling us ‘Aussie rock veterans’, and all this sort of stuff just ’cause we were a couple of years older than the other bands – and only a couple I might add; I think some of them might be the same age,” he laughs.
“So there were people who were aware that we had done pretty big things over there – we had done things like Letterman and like massive kinds of things but once you sort of stop and have a break like that, people forget easily.”