Neverending Story

Author: Tommy Las Vegas

The Living End were lucky enough to tour the US with Jet and The Vines, “there was a healthy rivalry and it pushed us all, which was fantastic,” drummer Andy Strachan tells Tommy Las Vegas.

It’s hard to know where to start with a band that has had platinum record sales, major national and international tours, ARIA awards, mainstream airplay and critical reverence heaped upon it, but talking to The Living End, it’s pretty obvious pretty quickly that all of those endorsements are secondary to their passion for the music they make. This passion and sincerity were fundamental to their success when they first burst into the mainstream with their self-titled five-time platinum debut album in 1998 and are integral to the momentum they sustain today. In keeping with their humility, they take none of their accolades for granted of course, but an ardent self-belief is still inherent in the infectious smashes that they continue to churn out today.

“I don’t think the success we’ve had plays on anyone’s mind really, except for the way in which we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves – individually, probably more so than as a band,” says drummer, Andy Strachan. “But I think anything that comes along is just a bonus. We do what we do and obviously we try to do it the best that we possibly can, so when you achieve something, or when something like a gold record is given to you, you don’t even think about it, it just comes along and then you go, ‘fuck, that’s awesome,’ It’s still like Christmas every time something like that happens to me and I think the other guys are the same.”

Modesty aside, given singer/guitarist, Chris Cheney’s highly publicised, almost fatal car accident on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road in 2001, it’s obvious why the band takes nothing for granted. This was undeniably their most challenging and frustrating period. Cheney’s slow rehabilitation prevented him from picking up the axe for many months and then just as he was edging towards recovery, then-drummer Travis Demsey quit the band. Ultimately though, the jeopardy that the band was in revitalised their hunger and with the addition of Strachan, brought them closer together. After the release of last year’s album, Modern Artillery, which debuted at #3 in the ARIA charts, the band undertook extensive global touring in 2004, racing across the US with Blink 182 and No Doubt and also partaking in the Aussie Invasion tour with Jet and The Vines.

“It was a fucking awesome tour, it was my favourite tour to date, I don’t think I had any preconceived ideas of what it would be like before we left, but getting to know those guys was fantastic. They’re all down to earth and lovely people and every night was basically just a joy,” says Strachan. “You get to watch two great Aussie bands – or three actually, with Neon too – and it’s really inspiring and such fun to be a part of. And obviously Jet are doing massive things over there; I wasn’t surprised by the crowds that were turning up and the energy that they were getting across, but it was pretty overwhelming and very impressive. And every night we tried to play the best we possibly could, but I think the experience pushed every band to another level; If one band had a great night, then it was the next band’s job to do better than that. There was a great camaraderie between the bands, but there was a healthy rivalry too and it pushed us all, which was fantastic.”

With plans already underway to start work on a new album after an upcoming national tour, the Melbourne trio’s schedule for the rest of the year is hectic. Their forthcoming double DVD and singles collection CD, The Living End: From Here On In (1997-2004), is about to inundate record stores too, and for a band that is still arguably in its formative period, it’s no mean accomplishment to already have enough singles to fill a full album. Besides the singles CD however, the double DVD is also a substantial addition to any fan’s collection; it boasts exclusive documentary footage, all of their film clips and an entire live gig. According to Strachan, the package is as much an introduction to The Living End as it is a retrospective release.

“I look at it like a book end. It’s like an insight into what’s happened up until now and it pretty much leaves the next album wide open. Although we’ve written two brand new songs for this album too and one of them is on radio at the moment and it’s a big departure from the kind of stuff that we’ve done in the past,” says Strachan. “But, yeah, I think it just ties everything up and give us a fresh slate. I suppose we can pretty much go in any direction we want from here, which is pretty healthy, I reckon.”

As with any band, Strachan notes that the changes in the music climate from 1997 until now have had their impact on The Living End; the rigours of life in a tour bus have taken their toll too, but Strachan – still new compared to Cheney and [double bassist] Scott Owen – is as passionate as he has ever been. Notching up awards for the Best Bass Guitarist and the Best Lead Guitarist at this year’s Jack Awards hasn’t done any damage to the band’s morale either, but the electricity between the three of them has been most crucial to their ability to steamroll any music industry hurdles.

“I think the music climate changes constantly. It’s definitely changed since 1997, with different trends and styles coming in and out of fashion and I think it has impacted upon music in general,” says Strachan. “The music industry hasn’t been a pleasant place for a long time, but I think The Living End has managed to stay above water by almost ignoring all that bullshit that goes on. We’re very focused about what we do; it’s our job and it’s our life and there aren’t really any distractions, we just do it to the best of our ability and we still have goals and aspirations. It’s what we want to do and it’s what we love doing, so there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be 120 per cent into it.”