The Living End’s Big Day Out Ignites Their Big Year

Author: Michelle Feuerlicht

Leaping onto the Big Day Out main stage wearing boxer shorts would usually land you in the arms of security guards. Unless, of course, it’s Australia Day, you’re festival stalwarts The Living End and you’re rocking hard in underwear adorned with the Aussie flag to the rapturous delight of the Sydney crowd.

“On stage is where we let it all out”, says double bass player Scott Owen. “We’re pretty calm and pretty relaxed kind of people most of the time.

“That’s our outlet”.

In their 11-year career, The Living End have racked up a quintuple (five-times)-platinum album, two platinum albums and five gold records, won three ARIA awards and have played at three Big Day Out festivals. But say they still get a buzz playing to the huge crowds, which this year in Sydney topped 55,000 people.

“Getting up on the big stage and being able to play in front of that many people … is just an incomparable feeling”, says Owen. A highlight of the festival is also the chance to catch new music and meet the artists behind them, he adds.

“Some of my best memories are just stumbling across bands on other stages that I’ve never heard of before,” he says.

The Flaming Lips and Dan Kelly are two acts he says he’s discovered by just walking past them, and both “blew him away”. This year, the main attraction is the White Stripes because, as Owen says, he finally understands their appeal.

“When I first heard about the White Stripes they didn’t really strike me that much I think it was their looseness, it bugged me a bit.

“Being a musician I tend to find it easy to pick faults in other music, but now the more I’ve listened to them, I finally got it.

“The charm in their music is its imperfections and is the rawness and the humanness of it rather than it all being perfect”.

This philosophy is one The Living End have taken with their new album, State of Emergency (out February 6) which captures the energy of their renowned live acts and allows for an edgier, rougher feel.

“We just recorded the bass, the guitar and the drums all together and without being too finicky or too picky, we just went for the one that sounded like it just had the right vibe”, says Owen.

“We were trying to be really conscious that there’s no point in being technically correct if it just doesn’t have some kind of atmosphere about it.”

For a band who have been described as rockabilly, punk, rock, yet don’t fit into any specific category, State of Emergency takes it further with influences from bands in the British new-wave indie dance scene such as Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.

“We’ve just become so much more aware of other music that’s out there since our first album”, Owen says, admitting that they hope their fourth album will help them move past their 1997 hit ‘Prisoner of Society’.

“I reckon that’s probably every band’s attitude about their biggest song”, Owen says.

“We still enjoy playing it, it’s still one of the most challenging songs musically, for me especially… it’s still one of those ones where I really have to physically and mentally battle to keep up with it. But it would be nice to have a song that was a bigger hit than that”.

After their disappointment with the outcome of their last album, Modern Artillery, Owen says they hope State of Emergency will be their masterpiece, and send them on the path of other bands like Green Day who succeeded in outdoing a huge album (Dookie) with an even bigger one a decade later (American Idiot).

“The songs feel like your children,” he says. “You get so attached to them and you think these children are going to grow up to be world leaders.”

With the Big Day Out tour, a new album which has already garnered considerable interest with first single ‘What’s On Your Radio’ and a trip to the United States to join the South by Southwest festival, this might very well be The Living End’s year in the sun. But don’t worry, Owen assures us they won’t be lightening up.

“We want to make sure we do what we do best while we can,” he says. “There’s plenty of time in the future to make softer music but now is our time to be working our asses off and playing energetic music, which is what we want to do.”