The Boys Are Back In Town
Author: David James Young
There’s a pretty good reason that pub rock survivors The Living End have been so noticeably quiet of late. Not only do none of the band members remain in their hometown of Melbourne, none of them are even living in the same state as one another.
“I’m in Byron Bay, Chris [Cheney] is in Los Angeles and Andy [Strachan]’s down on the south coast of Victoria,” explains double bassist Scott Owen on the line from his aforementioned new home. “We’re very spread out. I particularly enjoy this area. It comes as a bit of a change for me – I grew up in Melbourne, I was always a bit of a suburban cat. I got the itch to go and explore by the ocean. I love to surf, and me and my family love this part of the world. It’s gotten its claws into us, and I don’t feel any inkling to move in a hurry.”
It appears The Living End are working at a far more casual pace these days in comparison to even five years ago. There was a time when the trio was seen as the nation’s go-to festival act, to the point where it would have been quicker to list the events the band hadn’t played. These days, however, Owen is well aware that there’s a bigger picture to consider for both the band members and their collective nearest and dearest.
“We’ve aged, let’s face it,” he says with a self deprecating laugh. “We’ve all got families now as well. Chris and I have been a part of this since we were friggin’ teenagers; since we were about 16 years old. We pretty much haven’t stopped. You can see the band as a bit of a brand now. We want to make a lifetime out of this, because we can’t imagine doing anything else. As fun as it is to play every night and then jump in the van, it’s tiring and restraining of your time commitments. There’s a life away from that now, especially because we all have families now. In a way, we have to tread the boards carefully these days. We have to be a bit more intelligent about our approach, and I think we’ve balanced it out pretty well.”
Back in Australia for their first headlining shows in just over two years, The Living End have booked a small run of intimate club dates in order to get the wheels back in motion. The boys will take in Canberra, Towradgi and Sydney, as well as a handful of shows alongside the immortal Jimmy Barnes, whom the band collaborated with on his recent 30:30 Hindsight project. If that wasn’t enough to fill their collective days together, the first glimpses of TLE’s as-yet untitled seventh studio album have just hit the horizon.
“During the week, rather than just laze about, we’re going to be heading into a studio in Melbourne and we’re going to be working on some new material,” says Owen. As for what we can expect from the follow-up to the 2011 LP The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, the bassist isn’t quite certain. Perhaps, to rattle off a cliché, it will be best to expect the unexpected.
“Because we live so far away from one another, we only see each other when we’re playing,” says Owen. “There hasn’t been that much communication regarding what we’re going to do. Normally, the creative process for us is to spend months and months inside of a rehearsal room. We’d fine-tune tonnes of songs and then whittle them down. This time, we’ve agreed to go in a bit more blindsided and just smash it out. We just want to keep it simple and make a rock’n’roll record – just get in there and sweat our arses off. We’ve all been in the creative mindset for the last 12 months or so, just working on our own stuff. We’re chock-full of ideas, so we’re just gonna get together and chuck them all in.”
The last time The Living End toured Australia was as part of the extensive Retrospective Tour of 2012, in which they’d play through each of their studio albums in full; start to finish and one per night. The shows were incredibly successful – including a completely sold-out run in Melbourne – and gave the band a chance to reflect on each release individually, as well as fans’ reactions to them.
“There’s obviously younger punters that would have gotten into us with White Noise or whatever, and then the older ones who’ve been with us since the first album,” says Owen. “It was really cool to see the differences in the audiences every night. That tour had such an impact on a personal level, as well. As we made those records and toured them, you felt the last record you made is the most important record you’ve made. You love some songs, you get sick of some songs. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster. But that tour really put everything into perspective for me. It made me love the shit out of the band. It made me realise why people like this band. I may have been overthinking them at the time, but I’ve fallen back in love with all of our songs again.”