dB Magazine

The Living End

Author: Nina Bertok

“Every time you turn on the news or read the paper, the powers-that-be are trying to tell us we’re constantly in some state of emergency; whether it’s war or natural disaster,” explains bassist Scott Owen about the title of The Living End’s new album ‘State Of Emergency‘. “It seems like the current thing.”

Then again, everything has a double meaning when it comes to the Melbourne rockabilly trio. “Most of our songs can have at least two or three different meanings. They can be taken literally – What’s On Your Radio could be like, ‘what music are you listening to?’ – but you can also look into them more deeply: a song can have several different meanings. Again, What’s On Your Radio, that was written on a more broad spectrum, it’s basically saying ‘what’s going on, what are you all about, what’s going on in your head?’, but by using the radio analogy.”

And no doubt, it is this varied and democratic approach to music and songwriting that has secured the Living End a place among Australia’s creme-de-la-creme of rock bands. Since their 1999 self-titled album, Owen, Chris Cheney (guitar/vocals), and Andy Strachan (drums) have built up one mother of a fan base, not only in Australia but overseas, all the while racking up gold and platinum records and scooping up three ARIA awards. Yeah, not bad for a bunch of kids calling themselves the Runaway Boys and playing rockabilly covers only ten years ago.

“Our music is a product of what we listen to,” Owen declares after attempting to explain the band’s sound. “Our music has evolved because our tastes have evolved over time, what we’ve been exposed to and have been getting into has always been changing. It’s really hard to say in which exact direction it’s changing in, though. We listen to so many different styles of music: we never narrow ourselves down to just one. It doesn’t really matter what style you’re playing as long as it’s done well and it’s right for the song.”

Being rooted in such an old-fashioned kind of music like rockabilly, Owen admits, has not merely helped the Living End survive as long as it has but has also played a part in maintaining the band’s distinctively fresh sound.

“Even though we tend to change from song to song, there’s always that rockabilly undertone, the double bass and the guitar solos are that rockabilly trademark. It came from the first kind of rock’n’roll and I think it has this infectious thing about it, and maybe that’s what makes the songs seem kind of timeless.”

Although Owen expresses gratitude towards the band’s die-hard Australian fans, he is also hopeful about eventually making a similar impact on the American audiences.

“It’s something we want. It would be a real achievement to be able to go from a tiny place like Australia all the way over to America and make an impact on such a big country that’s already got so much music. It would be a lifetime achievement for us, though it’s not something that we’d die unhappy if we didn’t achieve. We’ve had a crack a few times, but we’re certainly not ready to give up yet.”

For now, however, Owen and the guys are more than happy to cater to their homegrown audiences; the recent Big Day Out ones, especially.

“Playing in front of forty-thousand people… there’s nothing that compares to that, it’s amazing. It’s funny, sometimes when you’re on stage in front of that many people you get really nervous and it starts to feel so bizarre, so you freak out and you don’t get the time to relax – and you don’t take it all in. But other times, when you stop stressing and you look around and take it all in… it’s incredible.”

That is, when you’re not getting pelted by water bottles.

“A couple of weeks ago I got hit in the waist by a full water bottle, that made a bruise about the size of a tennis ball! It was pretty weird because we were just playing away and everything was going alright…then all of a sudden it was ‘smack!’ and I remember thinking ‘ouch, that hurt’. It must have been thrown from miles away, right in the middle of a song. I must have looked like I was thirsty or something.”

‘State Of Emergency’ is out now through EMI and The Living End headline Handpicked at Loxton Oval on Sat 8 April.