Something Around The Corner
Author: Ben Preece
It takes tragedy for The Living End to triumphantly return with an album that wipes the floor with their previous effort, as frontman Chris Cheney tells Ben Preece.
You get a sense that a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into virtually everything The Living End touches, be it the relentless tour schedule – which just after the new album was been released began with an appearance at Splendour In The Grass – and blistering live show or each and every song on the group’s six albums. It’s what has kept them atop Australia’s most beloved list ever since the Second Solution/Prisoner Of Society EP was dropped into the arms of thousands of impressionable teenagers some 14 years ago. From there and fast forwarding into 2011, they’ve become one of the biggest live drawcard sin the country, something of a household name within many circles.
Already, their sixth album, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, is being touted as their finest since their 1998 self-titled debut, a record that undoubtedly changed the face of Australian music as we headed into a new decade. It’s being a long and harsh road since, there’s no doubt about that, but the last couple of years – between 2008’s White Noise and now – have been some of the most testing for frontman Chris Cheney. The result is a record that is The Living End’s most honest to date and, as Cheney explains it, their darkest.
“This is definitely our most personal record,” he confesses. “It really does have quite a lot of dark moments lyrically on the record and a lot of it, I think,I feel are my most personal kind of set of lyrics. If anything, it’s sort of the opposite of what we’ve had in the past, which has been very directed towards social issues and various topics. I just got to a stage, starting in the middle of last year, where – I don’t know if it’s an age thing or what – but I started to think, ‘Fuck, like what does any of this mean? Where do I go from here? What have we been through and what’s next?’ And then my dad was real sick – he actually passed away a couple of months ago, straight after we finished recording – so I was dealing with all of that during the recording. So I think that there’s a lot of that on the record, there’s a lot of questioning about, you know, just what any of it kind of means and does it mean anything at all?”
Despite his real life tragedies and even, at times, self doubt, Cheney continued to remain focused, constantly reminded himself of his goals and continued to plough through the process. “It’s been the most difficult year of my life. There was just days where it felt so trivial to me – being in a rock’n’roll band making an album – so I did question my importance. You’re dealing with a serious issue like that, there were just times when I felt like, ‘What’s the point of any of this?’ That is the whole thing – if we don’t have goals, if we don’t have things we want to achieve, then we have nothing. So despite everything that’s going on you have to still stay focused and it’s all about quality of life I suppose.
“But it was very hard because there was a lot of lyrics onthe record that particularly deal with a lot of sensitive topics – things like For Another Day, we only have our lives for another day, as in, if we only have now, then what are we going to do with right now? That’s the whole crux of this record, and for me, that’s what I mean about the title. It was very much sort of saying,‘Well if this is going to end, if this era, if this part of our lives is going to end, I hope to God there is something else around the corner.’”
Aiming for “spine-tingling” moments throughout The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, Cheney namechecks classic songwriters like Glen Campbell, Bruce Springsteen and the Bee Gees while revealing to have stripped away the excess to achieve the strongest groove possible.
“Those kinds of songs – By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Gentle On My Mind – there’s just something about them; beautifully structured and just so carefully crafted. And that’s what I tried to do with these songs. I was just really meticulous with just drafting and drafting the songs over and over again to get them to a point I was happy with. But also, you want it just to flow and just sound like it’s just kind of happened and that’s very difficult to do. I think for some songwriters, Noel Gallagher or whatever, you know has written a few songs in five minutes, which never works that way for me unfortunately. I think it’s our strongest record sinceour first one. I think it completely wipes the floor with White Noise.
“There’s definitely a some big moments in the songs and that’s what you want in an album, you want there to be these peaks, these certain moments that characterise a record. So that you listen to the whole record through and have, rather than just ‘That’s a good song, that’s a good song, that’s a good song’, you have these moments that really hit you and send shivers down your spine, or whatever it is that we like about our favourite records. We’re fans of music, we’re fans of great albums and we’re fans of musicians so I think we’ve gotten better at all those elements over the years. I feel like I’m a better songwriter and we’ve gotten better as musicians and I guess that’s the reason why people still find it appealing.”