Never A Dead End
Author: Ben Hermann
Thanks to such modern developments as internet downloading, MySpace, MP3 players and – if all else fails – the pimpin’ sound system rigged up at Woden bus interchange, we live in an age where new and potentially exciting music constantly saturates our ears. We can indulge in new music whenever we feel the urge, and gone are the days of having to listen to Dude Ranch over and over until I – oh, I mean the collective ‘we’ – scrounged together $25 to buy another album (one with maybe a few less gay jokes). But even in an era of single-serve, quick-dispose plastic musical acts, there are still groups who stay on the scene and gain our undivided attention. Sometimes it’s out of a sense of commitment, sometimes out of sentimentality, or, in the case of THE LIVING END, simply because they continue to grace us consistently with stellar music untarnished by the shallow panache of whimsical music trends and fashionistic scenester posers. And although I can’t guarantee that there’ll be no posers at Stonefest this October, I can guarantee you that The Living End will be there to help you rock out and feel less guilty about those white canvas slip-ons and fauxflannel slim-fit shirt you bought from Cotton On the day before.
The group is in the midst of a string of New Zealand dates when I catch up with Scott Owen, the group’s loveable giant and double bass master. Ever keen for a chat and likely to chew your ear off, he quips about the group’s recent extensive tour of the UK and their upcoming return to mainland Europe. “It’s different, but many of the crowd favourites are the same because our following over there is pretty loyal and I get the impression most of the fans have all of our records,” he says. “But overall it’s just a blast to be in that part of the world and to experience the different cultures.”
The group released their fifth full-length, White Noise, in July last year. After Modern Artillery and State of Emergency, two albums laden with solid tracks but little musical exploration, White Noise marked a slight shift towards a heavier focus, keeping their fans on their toes and reminding the industry why they’ve been around for so long. “It felt like the harder sound, that we found in ourselves and explored for this record, was always there, but we’d never really tapped into it before,” Owen says. “But I think it’s definitely something we will continue in the future.” Owen admits that the group has as yet not begun writing for their next album, yet it would appear that any upcoming material will see them broaden their horizons, with Owen stating that the group will continue to move beyond their traditional rockabilly influences to “many different styles.” Hell, with Owen suggesting that Wilco and The Raconteurs are the most played albums in the tour van at the moment, no one can be sure what to expect.
Yet while their albums may diversify and evolve, their reputation as one of Australia’s greatest live acts is unlikely to change. While some acts seem to rely on people’s devotion and love of their music to get through a show, The Living End seem to treat every show like it was their first – never taking the audience for granted, always giving every last ounce of energy they have, and never failing to electrify the crowd into a manic frenzy. And who could ever forget that song. While many groups with seminal, almost institutional songs appear to weary of playing them, no such signs of weariness or boredom appear on the boys’ faces when they bust out that song at every single show. “It’s a funny question, because there are times when we don’t really feel like playing it,” Owen mentions. “But it always gets such a great response that it’s hard for us not to get enthusiastic about it.” Here here.
And even after so many years of touring, Owen seems lacking in any of the disillusionment or feelings of monotony that are prone to overcome groups of such age and experience. “Touring definitely has its ups and downs,” he says, “but the buzz from playing every night and seeing the world by far outweighs the negative aspect of being away from home and living out of a suitcase.” With the group now having been firmly cemented in the Australian music scene for well over a decade, it’s hard to see them fading away or breaking apart any time soon. Although members of some groups often have vague desires to explore other career paths, begin families or – god forbid – begin solo careers, Owen admits that he and the lads are still committed 100% to the group. And with such a bonza string of albums and high-selling tours under their belts, why wouldn’t they? “For the moment we want nothing more than to get our band across to as many people as possible,” he says. “I think we can stand the test of time. I feel that between the three of us there is so much diversity in our tastes that we still have a lot of records in us.”