The Living End

Author: Emily Kelly

The Corner, Monday December 17

I will admit, regrettably, that I attended The Living End’s show with a firmly instilled and rather smug sense of irony. It was, after all, many years since the band fi rst enamoured my 13-year-old self with their anti-authoritarian anthem Prisoner Of Society. It was also many years since I totally dismissed them as mainstream fodder, so revisiting their debut self-titled album seemed an apt way to revisit my fondness whilst not entirely surrendering my perceived good taste. Not entirely unlike attending a Vengaboys show.

Immediately upon launching into aforementioned song of a generation, I was forced to eat my words. The Living End may no longer be particularly relevant for a vast portion of their initial fan base (though there was a great deal of them throwing up the horns in a tame but thoroughly enthused mosh up front), but that doesn’t mean that they ever stopped being masterful musicians, or for that matter, writing good goddamn songs.

Steaming verbatim through their self-titled album, with the occasional embellishment, it occurred to me that for all my obsessive fandom, I never quite appreciated the quality of this band’s songwriting. Borrowing from every niche, nook and subgenre of the late ‘90s, this album was the embodiment of legitimate, Australian punk rock. It was cheeky and charismatic, the perfect representation of the band themselves.

Even as Chris Cheney lamented the band’s brutal touring schedule, suggesting that rehashing Second Solution was more fucked than it was fun, it did little to dampen his temperament. Smashing stuff. I was at once sentimental and then, deeply humbled. It was a bold move, regurgitating an entire career’s worth of albums for this Australian tour, but one that may have just reignited all the right flames.

LOVED: Revisiting Prisoner Of Society.
HATED: The chronological setlist dictating that all the best songs were played first.
DRANK: All of the beers.

Mr Cassidy

Author: Zoe Radas

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the most apt adjective that comes to mind when attempting to describe Danni Carr happens to be the same word as her own daughter’s name. Danni is mother to Sunny, wife to Ash Grunwald and one half of gorgeous new country/folk outfit Mr Cassidy. The other half is Emilie Owen, who has two children of her own with another of Australia’s darlings, Scott Owen. The two met when their husbands were playing together, and the subject of music and family became a deep discussion which quickly bore sweet fruit.

“You’re focused on [your children], I guess; that’s your main priority,” Carr says contemplatively, over the phone from Byron where she’s about to head back inside to continue rehearsal. “You lose a lot of that creative drive, and Emilie was the same. So when we met, we talked about that and I felt ready. I really felt like it was time to start playing again, and she was in exactly the same boat. Also with having husbands that are well-established musicians… you seem to be more supportive toward their things that they’ve got going on, which is cool.”

As it happened, the bluegrass stars aligned and Carr and Owen decided to get jamming, and jamming good. The result is an EP of five exceptionally beautiful, sometimes bangin’, always searingly heartfelt tracks, with Carr’s guitar and lead vox and Owens’ backups and fiddle accompanied by extra instrumentation from percussionist Fingers Malone, and Mr Owens himself. “Yes, he’s playing bass on the whole EP,” Carr confirms and then adds with a grin, “actually we were rehearsing today and he was doing some extra special stuff, and I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ He’s just playing so fast and slapping the crap out of the bass. He’s such an amazing player. Sometimes I kick myself: I’ll be at a gig, and I look over and Scott’s going crazy and I’m like, ‘Shit! I’m actually playing with the bass player from The Living End’,” she laughs brightly.

Carr also has warm things to say about Fingers Malone, whom she calls “the Modern Day Renaissance Man” for all the feathers in his cap. “He’ll play drums, he’ll help you write a song, he’ll produce the album, record it, he did all the artwork for the EP, he did the artwork for our posters and postcards, he does everything,” she says, but adds that he’s still incredibly understated. “You’ll say, ‘Why don’t you do a drum solo?’ and he’s like, ‘No way, I don’t do that shit’,” she smiles.

The titular track from the EP, Mountain Side, is driven by Fingers’ infectious shuffle with brushes on the snare, and some great unusual harmonies backing Carr’s vocals that are spot on as a bell. “It’s not recorded in such a bluegrass traditional way, it’s a bit more of a modern take on it. That one Ash and I wrote together over a bowl of muesli one morning and then went down and recorded it that day,” she says. The other stand-out is the hauntingly pretty Where My Babies Lie, which Carr wrote about the story of Robert Farquharson and Cindy Gambino, whose three sons were killed when Farquharson drove his car off the road and into a dam on Father’s Day in 2005. Carr has been friends with Gambino for a few years and for a long time felt a propulsion to write something about the tale.

“Being friends with her and having spent a lot of time with her,” begins Carr, and then pauses to ponder. “Her story, she’s very open about it, she will talk about it. I think it’s part of her healing. You just walk away from her feeling, ‘oh God, it’s just so, so sad.’ I only met her about three or four years ago, but it’s always playing on my mind. I think about her all the time, I think about her suffering all the time. It’s going to sound a bit wanky but I was getting quite upset, writing the verses, and I wanted it to be right. I didn’t want it to be too graphic, but I really wanted to tell the story. And it’s really quite a fine balance.” Carr sweated over anticipating Gambino’s response, but said when her friend eventually heard the finished track she was “freaking out”, in a good way. “She was glad someone could express her point of view, especially in the form of a song,” Carr breathes. “I was really happy and relieved.” Expect more awesomeness when the full-length is out (heads up: Nash Chambers may be heavily involved) towards the end of the year.

MR CASSIDY launch their EP Mountain Side at The Workers Club on Saturday February 2, supported by Dave Larkin.

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!”

Mr Cassidy

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’.”