The Living End
Author: Emily Kelly
When Chris Cheney, front man for The Living End, tells me that he is counting down the hours until “things start up again”, I can’t help but sympathise with him. If history is any indication, things are about to become incredibly busy for The Living End, with the release of their new album, due out February 6.
“Things are just starting to get really busy,” he says of the recent release of the album’s first single, What’s On Your Radio? He explains that, contrary to popular opinion, the song does not deliberately and literally discuss the medium of radio itself.
“It wasn’t supposed to reference radio, like radio stations. It was about where your headspace is at, or what you’re tuned into. Initially, the first line popped into my head, the radio idea of ‘what’s on your mind’, like talkback. It’s more about everyone’s different directions in life. Hey, it’s not the best thought out song, but that’s rock and roll!”
Keen observers of The Living End’s career would notice that many of their most successful singles delight in imparting elaborate stories and social commentary instead of more personal tales.
“Yeah I think that we have done that in the past, but I definitely think this album has changed. I’m fully aware of that, but I’m not sure why that is. For me, from a songwriting point of view, I always enjoy trying to write things from an outsider’s point of voice. Commentating on something that’s happening to someone else, like Second Solution where a character is on the run. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of thing, make believe worlds. But with this album there are more personal songs on there. I wanted to write songs that are more from within.”
Interviews with Cheney conducted after the release of their previous album, Modern Artillery, didn’t exactly reveal an incredibly confident character. He spoke of his desperate desire to create the perfect album, and hinted his disappointment that Modern Artillery failed to live up to his incredibly high expectations.
“I really think with the last one, I gave it everything I could, but the songs weren’t executed properly. They were really lacking. I’m not really disappointed by it, but there are parts of it that I wish we’d done better. We were too ambitious on the last album, which is fine, but I think you have to back it up with confidence and we didn’t really do that. But we learnt from that and we did that this time.”
Cheney’s feelings on their newest creation, however, are completely different and he is brimming with confidence as he discusses the album. There is a hint of uncertainty that becomes occasionally apparent, but his attitude remains incredibly positive.
“Even when we were mastering it, even though we’ve heard it 6000 times, it still sounds good. I thought we’d be well and truly sick of it by now. I’m pretty excited because I don’t think our albums have ever captured what we do on stage. With this record, underneath all the live energy, we tried to have killer songs and killer hooks. It was really important that we have a pop moment this time. It has to be really satisfying. You have to get it. It has to be done properly or there’s no point. The crafting of each song this time was good, and then we put that energy on top of that. We have narrowed this album down to 14 songs, we have thrown away so many songs and been so meticulous with this album. It feels like we have it right. It’s about to take off, I can tell. It’s just a matter of getting out and playing live and having an album we’re really proud of. That’s the feeling behind it at the moment. Let’s get this one right.”
I ask Cheney whether he thinks the band may put too much pressure on themselves to create something brilliant.
“Yeah well, I do kinda wish it wasn’t the case because it drives me crazy. There are a lot of sleepless nights and blood, sweat and tears, but we wouldn’t work any other way. It’s a combination of a few things, a hunger, a drive and an insecurity. We’re never really too confident in what we’re doing, so we strive for excellence. It’s like a double-edged sword, it’s really an ambition thing, trying to prove that you’re still relevant. It’s a matter of not getting lazy because we still have so much to learn. People think ‘Oh it’s your fourth album!’, but I think its only the fourth album, we’re still leaning how to do things properly!”
Throughout The Living End’s 11-year career, they have been incredibly successful, and not only within Australia. Their appeal has reached the furthest corners of the globe, including the notoriously fickle US music industry. Despite this success, they’ve prompted very few imitators. The punkabilly genre, it appears, is currently their own.
“I don’t know, I have theories on it! One is that…how do I say this politely…if you’re into rockabilly, like 50s rock, you live for it. You don’t care for anything else. There are a lot of people like that who hated The Beatles, Sex Pistols, Nirvana. We loved them. We always wanted to be more than a rockabilly band. I could never understand why people wanted to limit themselves to one style of music. It is a shame to miss out on so many albums and bands that are there to discover. I don’t really know why there aren’t more bands doing this, but it makes us look better!”
What’s On Your Radio? is out now and you can also catch The Living End at the Big Day Out.