Doing What They Do Best
It’s easy to forget just how familiar the Living End have become on the Australian musical landscape. While the last month may have been the calm before the storm of the release of new album State of Emergency, as anyone who saw the band tear up the main stage on the recent Big Day Out jaunt can testify, they have a plethora of material that can’t help but connect.
Mostly written at home and then brought into the rehearsal room and worked on, State of Emergency returns to the Melbourne born-and-bred trio the energy that was missing on Modern ARTillery. “Some of the songs took a few months to work on, some of them came together really quickly, and we basically spent a month in a rehearsal room doing demos and all that kind of stuff, and fine-tuning the songs and trying as many ideas as we possibly could,” is how double-bassist Scott Owen explains it. “Before we recorded the album we did do a couple of ‘secret’ gigs to try out the new material.”
Late in 2005, the band ended the year by playing secret shows as the Longnecks – a ruse that didn’t last very long as the band was quick to find out as shows in Melbourne and Sydney sold out in quick fashion. “We called ourselves Glen Waverly and the Mentones once,” Scott says. “They were basically for the purpose of seeing how they felt to play live and seeing what people thought.” He understands that the band’s rabid fans were always going to chase them down in any guise. “It was kind of a sigh of relief at the end of the gig, as the reaction seemed to be pretty good,” he says of the crowd verdict on the new tunes. “It was pretty nerve-wracking getting up there and playing a whole set of new songs.”
State of Emergency was recorded in the relaxed atmosphere of Byron Bay, with the band spending four weeks there, then more recording back home in Melbourne in bits and pieces. It meant that the band’s original plan to get in and out of a studio in quick time (spending three weeks in total in the studio) was thrown out the window, and instead State of Emergency became one of the band’s most intensive recording experiences yet.
“We wanted to do it really quickly and really raw, with minimal overdubs,” he comments, “but when we got into the crux of recording we soon realised that it was actually going to take a lot more work than just belting it out. Basically the songs have a few overdubs and a few little ideas and enhancements that go on top of recording, but we figured that the songs warranted more than having a live sounding thing.”
It’s resulted in State of Emergency being quite a long album, with the twelve tracks on it whittled down from an original choice of fifteen. “It was just too hard to let some of them go,” Scott admits. “When it comes down to that final culling process it’s a really difficult thing because you become so attached to them, and it’s so hard to leave anything off. Then after we’d finished making the album we went into the studio and belted out a bunch of stuff so we could use it for b-sides and the last song on the album, “Into the Red”, is actually one of those songs.”
The Living End demoed a lot of material to make sure that nothing was left by the wayside, with the band working hard on getting the most out of all the songs, with Scott explaining that the final number of demos totalled around the 40 or 50 mark. “We always end up with that much material, and then there’s just the enormous culling process.”
Modern ARTillery by comparison was not nearly as enjoyable an experience for the band, with it being very much geared around the demands made on the band by their American record label, Reprise, from whom they have now parted ways. Now the Living End are back to being free agents.
“We are going to the States in March for the South By Southwest festival,” he says of the band’s overseas ambitions. “We’ve never done it before, so it’s going to be fun to see how it all goes. It’s always got an amazing bunch of bands and everyone who goes says it’s amazing. Apparently every shop or restaurant in this little district in Austin turns into a venue for the week.”
The plan after the BDO run is to do a national tour around May, with the attitude being that the Living End simply want to get out there and back in people’s faces – they love it, their fans love it, and radio has certainly loved “What’s on Your Radio?”, the first single from State of Emergency, garnering the band the sort of chart positioning not seen since the halcyon days of their first record and singles like “Second Solution” and “Save the Day”.
“I think it’s stayed in the charts for longer than any of our other singles as well,” confirms Scott, “so that’s a good sign for us to be this far down the track and still be able to stay in the modern chart. It’s a good feeling!”
The band’s first EP, For Your Own Good, came out way back in 1994. But of course to the band it doesn’t feel that long – it doesn’t seem like a decade ago that the band were THE band on the rise, when everyone wanted to be their “Prisoner of Society”.
“It feels like a lot has happened over the years, but we still don’t feel like an ‘old’ band. We’ve always got devilishly handsome looks on our side,” he deadpans.
The Living End’s State of Emergency is out now.