Q&A with Underground Lovers
One of the most iconic bands in the early Australian indie scene, the Underground Lovers, have long been a mainstay in the industry. Underscoring Melbourne’s never ending ability to produce amazing artists, we take the chance to speak with the band ahead of their new album and intimate launch shows.
Firstly congratulations on the new album Staring At You Staring At Me
Can you elaborate on what the new album addresses and what it says about where you all are in your lives right now?
Staring At You Staring At Me is our new long play. The songs were initially inspired by the town we all come from – Melbourne. But as we recorded the songs and put them in order we realised it was an album about the male and female point of view trying to make sense of an irrational and absurd world – Actually all our albums are about that! The album certainly reflects the unease we are feeling in the world at this point of time.
Your single Rerun loses nothing of the signature Underground Lovers sound but if anything shifts up a gear with its richly layered and fuller sound. What was vintage Underground Lovers and what was new Underground Lovers about the sound structure for this track as well as the album?
We always go about recording new songs in the same way. Glenn (Bennie) and I will throw around ideas and come up with melodies and song structures which we then take to the band. We rehearse and then start recording. Rerun was a little different. I had the song and the hook in my head for about 8 years. I always imagined it as a dance track. I sang it to Glenn and he put together the chords and structure warning that it won’t be what I imagined. It came out better .. a stomping tune with all the Underground Lovers hallmarks, Glenn’s guitars, Maurice Argiro’s stomping bass , Richard Andrew’s exhilarating drums , Philippa Nihill’s keys , Emma Bortignon’s computer wizardry. Staring At You Staring At Me follows a similar pattern in that it plays on our strengths.
Having worked on other creative fronts such as the Mallboy soundtrack, written Rushall Station and performed in side projects such as Mist & Sea. Do these ventures bring a more defined sense of who Underground Lovers are when returning to a new Underground Lovers album?
Yes they do. Underground Lovers have been going for so long. Glenn and I have known each other since we were in our early teens and we have worked creatively together since the 90’s. Making music in the Underground Lovers is like a second language I am fluent in. It’s instinctive and easy. Making music in other creative contexts is different because I am learning the language as I use it.
Moving from the present to the past, your track Las Vegas is nothing short of iconic in its encapsulation of the time and place when indie music ruled supreme. How do you see your legacy as one of Melbourne’s / Australia’s quite essential indie acts?
Thank you for the compliment. I’m not sure that we are that essential. We just play music that we like and try to be as true to playing live as possible. For us that means being in the moment, improvising and seeing where the songs take us each time we play them. Every show is very different. Las Vegas is one of our favourite songs live. It’s a character song … a song about a guy transitioning into a splendid show girl. It was kind of out there in the 90’s. The subject matter is not such a big deal now.
Having quite major record label Polydor early on in your career for greater creative freedom. This truly independent ethos added much weight to your integrity as a self-determining outfit. With 20/20 hindsight how do you view this decision and the direction it took the band?
It was a tough one on one level because we missed out on $$$ but we did OK. We are free and we still make music together. Restrictions and obstacles made us think more creatively and outside the box.
You are masters of your craft but in the formative years where there any words of wisdom spoken to you from fellow musicians or artists you had the privilege of working with that really resonated with you and creatively helped change the way you approached making your music?
Fellow musicians and fans have always encouraged us with genuine warmth and spirit which is great. Kim Deal from The Breeders told us “don’t stuff up!” just before we took the stage in London. That was good advice.
You have played alongside cult bands including My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. The Cure who were back in Australia just last year are a group much like yourselves who have not only survived throughout the years but whose body of work has cemented itself even deeper as legendary. What have been your key successes in sustaining Underground Lovers?
Being in the moment and not following fads. Staying true to what we like. Striving to make music that makes you feel something.
You will be playing two imitate launch shows in Melbourne and Sydney but can we expect to see a wider tour coming up in the near future?
Yes we have a few shows lined up for later this year and for next year. Apparently we have a growing fan base in China…that could be fun … if the world hasn’t been blown up by then ….Who knows what the future holds … We want to play music forever.