Pictures In The Mirror
Author: Tom Hersey
Earlier this year The Living End hatched a plan to play their six albums start to finish in a series of weeklong engagements around the country. Double bassist Scott Owen tells Tom Hersey about the ins and outs of such an audacious idea.
“I don’t know where this idea actually came from!” The double bassist laughs about The Living End’s seven-nights-in-each-city tour. “No one in the band seems to want to take responsibility for making the initial suggestion to do an album a night over a week.”
Immersed in the thick of rehearsals for the tour, Scott Owen, The Living End’s affable double bassist, is growing to realise the magnitude of their decision to hit up the capital cities around Australia to play the band’s entire discography live over the course of a week. Owen sounds entirely cognisant of the fact that the tour is going to be a massive undertaking. So why exactly did the band take on such a mammoth assignment?
“We were thinking about what fans might want and we came across this idea that we should play the songs that we don’t usually play,” he explains. “Then we also had the idea ages ago to do a show where we would just play our first album or just play our last album, something where we’d just do an album start to finish, so we sort of combined the two ideas and then it just seemed to grow and grow into what it is now, where we’re just playing everything.”
With six albums spread out over a decade-and-a-half, playing everything is no easy feat. The average headlining tour might require a band to learn 14 or 15 songs; for The Living End this aptly-titled ‘The Retrospective Tour’ has required them to get just about 80 numbers fighting fit.
“We started rehearsing the stuff about a month before the first show, but leading up to that month it was pretty frightening, thinking, ‘Shit, how in the world are we going to learn all those songs?’” Owen laughs again. “Because we had to learn about eighty songs, and alot of them we’ve never played live, and a lot more we haven’t played live for years… We were all thinking how this was going to be a mammoth task. But then we got into the rehearsal room and it was a really enormous surprise to find out how much the information about those songs was still alive and kicking around the back of our brains. It all came back quite easily, and when it came back it brought with it a whole bunch of memories as well. So it’s been a really, really great experience going back over all of those records.”
The nostalgic ride accompanying this process of going back over all of their material has been incredibly rewarding for Owen and his bandmates, namely of course guitarist/vocalist Chris Cheney and drummer Andy Strachan. It’s even allowed the guys to gain a new appreciation for some of the numbers that were never their favourites.
“In the first week that we were rehearsing we were trying to tackle one album a day,” Owen continues. “And in that week it was just a barrage of memories – every day there was something completely new. And as we kept rehearsing there would be tons of memories coming to us on a daily basis and I think that the whole experience has sort of changed how we feel about a lot of the stuff on our records. We’ve always been a band that has our own favourites on a record. But now, even the stuff that wasn’ tour favourite when any given record came out, now there’s this novel factor about going back and revisiting them. That stuff is really enjoyable to play now with all this hindsight, and the songs don’t feel like the chore to play like they used to, because it’s all new again.”
Pouring over all of The Living End’s records, from 1998’s self-titled debut to last year’s The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, Owen has found himself discovering trends within the band. When asked about what specifically he’s noticed about the evolution of the trio’s music, he replies, “I guess what we’ve done with our music over the years is become a little bit more wise about writing, so the songs have gotten a bit simpler over the years.
“I know the songs on the first album are very simple, but then we kind of went on this mission after the first album to try and prove that we could play more complicated music and different styles and do different things with our songs. And that was our mentality for the next couple of albums, and then it feels on the last couple of albums we’ve started to rein ourselves back in again, and made the music more simple.”
In addition to all the work The Living End have had to do preparing for this upcoming run, ‘The RetrospectiveTour’ is made all the more interesting because it also represents a very unique situation for a touring band, giving fans a chance to vote with their wallets. Sure,there were tickets sold for the entire week of shows in each city, but fans also had the choice of only getting tickets to see the albums they wanted to. It seemed fairly courageous for The Living End to put themselves in a situation where they’d have their entire catalogue, directly, quantitatively, critiqued by fans.
“Yeah,” Owen chuckles, “it was really frightening putting tickets on sale for this tour. Because if not many tickets sold it would have been a pretty huge downer for us. Like, we were going to go to all the trouble of doing this tour and we could have found out that people didn’t actually give a shit. So we were really, really relieved and excited about the response that it’s had. Like in Melbourne what started off as seven shows is now twelve or something. Yeah, there are a couple of records where the tickets haven’t sold as well, and you can’t help but think, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with people? Didn’t they like that record?’ But overall we’re awfully chuffed about how people have been responding to the idea, it’s really been pretty flattering actually.”
As its namesake implies, this tour – from the inception of its idea, the long rehearsal process and then actually trekking around the country for each week-long engagement – has been a rare chance for introspection for The Living End, Owen even believing that it’s led to the band finding a deeper insight into themselves. But after all this looking back, has it led The Living End to look forward?
“None of us are sort of ready to hang up the boots and retire, I can still see us making music for years and years, and playing music for years and years, but we don’t really know what the future holds in terms of when the next album will be or anything like that. And I guess that’s another reason for this tour; there’s no better way to know how you want to move forward than all this friggen’ looking back!”
Author: Tony McMahon
Danni Carr, singer/songwriter with edgy country outfit Mr Cassidy, explains to Tony McMahon that timing was an important factor in releasing her band’s terrific new record, Mountain Side. “We’re pretty thrilled and excited about its release,” says Carr. “Initially we were going to record a full album but started running out of time. Scott Owen, our bass player (from The Living End) was preparing to leave for rehearsals before embarking on a mega-tour around Australia and we wanted something to be able to promote before we played at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January next year. My second baby is also due to arrive in March, so we thought let’s just get something out there and get some momentum happening.”
As far as what Queenslanders can expect from the band’s upcoming show, it seems there’ll be awesome supports, an onstage get together and a return trip.
“We’re playing with The Starboard Cannons at The Joynt, which we’re really looking forward to. We’ve done a number of shows with these guys and they’re amazing! We usually end up doing a few songs all together on stage, which is heaps of fun .We’re also aiming to get up to Brissy and Goldy for some shows around January after Tamworth.”
Mountain Side’s title track was, apparently, written over a bowl of muesli and recorded later that day. Carr takes us through the process.
“My hubby (Ash Grunwald) and I were sitting having breakfast one morning and he picked up my banjo and re-tuned it to an open G and started strumming this really cool riff. I started singing the chorus and we were really getting into it. We pretty much had the song finished before we got to the end of our muesli! We have a studio under our house so we thought, ‘Let’s just get down there and get it recorded; (a) before we forget it and; (b) before Ash takes off on tour again’.”