No End In Sight
Author: Lisa Dibb
“Pretty much every gig, someone requests that!” Bassist Scott Owen says. He’s talking about Uncle Harry, track from The Living End’s 2001 album Roll On. The song is one of the silliest the band have released (“Uncle Harry pissing in the bath”) in their long career, but it still gets yelled out at gigs, some fifteen years later. “rock and roll keeps you young.” He notes.
Owen is unable to quantify what the band mean to their fans, and their country; the ‘End have been a fixture of the rock and landscape in Australia for over twenty years. Most of you reading this have a favourite album, no doubt. Personally, I can’t imagine an adolescence without Prisoner of Society in it.
“I know what it’s like to have favourite bands and buy records; that important music, albums I’ll never tire of, it’s so hard to imagine [that] in regards to us, because we’re inside it, in the bubble of the band, and it’s hard to step out.” he says. “We did that retrospective tour, where we did all our albums, which was a good opportunity to get a sense of that, go back and relearn all those early albums, good opportunity to get perspective. It’s always a bit of a mystery to me, how our albums have shaped and affected people’s lives; it’s a spin out, almost too hard to grasp.”
2016 saw the release of the band’s seventh album, Shift; listeners will notice the change in their sound from some of the headier punk of their older records, to a more refined rock style. Although The Living End have manifested in different ways over their long career (a normal progression), Owen maintains that every new record has a sense of the band’s spirit within.
“What this one offers, more so than any of the others, is mostly lyrically.” he says. “A lot of our songs- the majority- have been politically or socially charged; there haven’t been that many songs written from a personal point of view, that’s where this album is different. It’s all pretty much Chris’ experience with himself, opening up, being a bit more personal, letting feelings and things be known. Our music’s always shifting and changing.”
“When you think of English punk in the seventies and eighties, there’s definitely an identity to that; in the US it’s the California punk thing…the punk scene in Australia came off the back of that.” Owen explains, as we discuss Aussie punk, and the humour that often comes with it. Aside from the aforementioned pensioner ode, the ‘End have never gone for much of the jokesy stuff.
“Aussie punk bands, when we were starting, had a bit of an Australian identity; bands like Frenzal, Bodyjar, stuff like that, [had an] Aussie edge to them that sets them apart from similar style bands from overseas. It’s a hard thing to put your finger on. We always found the humour thing in music always kind of wore thin quickly [for us].”
In late 2006, Cheney took a hiatus from the band, as fans feared this would mean the end of their beloved trio. Cheney took a break from music, and the band got some much-needed distance. It ended up serving them well; they came back together, made a banger album (White Noise), and continue to tour and record as they always have. “There is no end in sight, I’ve never felt like it’s time to stop doing it. Never. I know Chris [Cheney, frontman] did, for a period; there was one point where we did sort of disband for a year, he felt like he needed space from it; “I wanna walk away from it for a while”. And that happened, [there was] basically about a year where we stayed out of each other’s way. I dunno what changed or what clicked, but he was compelled to put it all together again and we made White Noise , that was an awesome period after a hiatus. I was confident it wasn’t the end, just a matter of taking space for a little while. I still feel like we can manage this, we can continue to do it and the novelty hasn’t worn off – I still get major excitement getting together with those two guys.” “After having been a band for twenty years or whatever it’s been…I guess to look at it from the big picture, as it progresses, you get more and more perspective on the things that matter, compared to the things you used to focus on that seemed important that the time, but weren’t really- in hindsight. Being on stage, playing gigs…making records and being in the studio, I’ve always found a bit of a chore, to be honest- I’d much rather be on stage. The record is rewarding at the end, all those hours creating songs, chipping away, but the process I find quite boring. It’s not like the instant karma of being up onstage, that’s what gives me the real feeling of being what the band is. There’s been all these steps along the way, but it all boils down to one thing: we still love playing music with each other. We’re so lucky to have this life.”