So when does an Australian rock band cease being the same band? Does each member of a band have an equal share in a title or is it the property of the lead singer? Would The Beatles still be The Beatles if George Harrison and Paul McCartney were replaced? Probably not. However they were still The Beatles when Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe left the band (for differing reasons). ACDC remained ACDC when they lost their lead singer. Pink Floyd twice survived the loss of a front man (Syd Barrett and Roger Waters) and were still successfully Pink Floyd – despite an attempt from Waters to have the courts prevent this.
So what is a band? Is it a team? A collective? A dictatorship? A franchise? Like much in music it is most difficult to define. So are Aussie rock tyros Wolfmother still Wolfmother without Chris Ross and Myles Heskett? (Author’s note: I certainly don’t regard the sans Slash Guns N Roses of Chinese Democracy vintage to be Guns N Roses at all). Ross and Heskett made up two thirds of the Australian rock band that took the world by storm with their retro psychedelic sound in their self titled 2005 album. In 2008 they left the band because of “irreconcilable personal and musical differences”. Lead singer Andrew Stockdale has since retained the Wolfmother name with a completely new team backing him up.
- Australian Rock Band Wolfmother – or is it?
But is it still Wolfmother? Can I begin a paragraph in this post without multiple questions? In both cases it does not appear so. Maybe it’s just the second album blues, but Cosmic Egg just hasn’t grabbed everyone by the balls as did their first release. Time will tell if the new Wolfmother can reach the same heights in Aussie rock as their earlier incarnation but the continued use of the name with a drastically altered line up raises a very interesting dilemma that could keep an army of lawyers employed for decades.
For more great original Aussie rock CLICK HERE
Midnight Oil was the first Australian rock band that made it big who boldly challenged the political environment of Australia. In particular they concentrated on the disadvantages faced by the indigenous population and challenged the apathy of the country’s mainstream. Beds are Burning, White Skin Black Heart and The Dead Heart all focus on the plight of Australia’s aboriginals. Midnight Oil were the biggest Australian rock band of their time.
More latterly Powderfinger, current owners of the tag “biggest Australian rock band” also raise a voice condemning the disadvantages and persecution faced by Australia’s first residents. Like a Dog with its catchy riff and featuring Anthony Mundine in the film clip states “if you treat me like a dog/and keep me locked in a cage/I’m not relaxed or comfortable/I’m aggravation and rage”. Black Tears also asks the question of Australia “how can it fail to grab your attention?”.
Australian Rock – Powderfinger sing of ‘Black Tears on a Red Rock’
Musicians are often left of centre in their politics and raise a voice of protest challenging the status quo. However what have protest songs actually achieved? So many songs are simply recognized for their catchy beats rather than the message they are trying to convey. I was stunned to hear John Lennon’s Imagine described as “a song about world peace” on national television when it is clearly a pro-Marxist ode. Offspring’s Gotta Keep Em Separated condemns schoolyard violence but I think few people noticed – particularly the drunken teens who moshed themselves stupid to it.
It would appear that more attention is paid to the guitar hook and the kick drum rather than the message a song is trying to convey. Next time you hear a song by all means love the music but also listen to what precisely the messages within the lyrics are.
Speaking of catchy music and songs with a message, click here to check out the Yellow Stallions MySpace.
Bursting on to the Aussie rock scene in the early nineties as a group of long haired Nirvana fans, Australian rock band Silverchair have gone from strength-to-strength. At one stage it looked like the end had come, the band going on an extended hiatus in 2003 but the release of smash hit Straight Lines and the Young Modern album in 2006 thrust the Silverchair name back into the limelight.
An album recorded in 9 days by 14 year olds doesn’t normally get very far, however the Chair’s debut album Frogstomp achieved widespread success in Australia and the all important American market. Evolving out of the grunge sound that was popular at the time, the album still stands up to scrutiny today with songs like Pure Massacre and Tomorrow providing a great punch line.
An immature band attaining a runaway success with their debut there was a potential for a severe case of the second album blues. If anything their second up effort Freakshow was superior to their first. The maturing band released four successful singles: Freak, Cemetry, Abuse Me More and The Door. Followed with solid third and fourth albums Diorama and Neon Ballroom Evangelica the boys continued to release songs with a mass appeal maintaining their unique sound.
I was worried when the band took a break that it was all over for this Australian rock band; I thought Daniel Johns’ battle with illness and the Gary Coleman syndrome had conspired to see the band burn out with its members not yet in their thirties. The release of Young Modern allayed all my fears. Straight Lines was obviously the flagship song but I definitely see it as one of those albums you can put in the player and not have to hit skip (if you’re still old fashioned like me and use a CD player instead of an iPod that is).
- Australian Rock Band Silverchair carve it up on stage
Daniel John’s ability to write and perform a melody makes Silverchair one of the exceptional Australian rock bands and given their early start I can look forward to decades more of decadence.For more great Aussie rock click here to check out the up and coming Yellow Stallions.
Australian Rock Band Jet’s Nick Cester
I don’t care what you say: Australian rock band Jet’s first album Get Born will go down as one of the classic Aussie Rock releases. I’m sure those who don’t like something simply because everyone else does will be falling over themselves to downplay Are You Gonna Be My Girl as a contrived piece of chartbusting cliché but I bet secretly their toes are tapping and they’ll be thinking “damn! I wish I’d written that”.
With such a distinctive song as their first mega hit the chance existed that Jet would become a one hit wonder however Get Born was such a solid album with other hits like Roll Over DJ, Cold Hard Bitch and Look What You’ve Done there was no chance the boys weren’t destined to thrust their name into the Aussie rock scene. I think that some of the B-sides are mighty fine songs too, with Move On being my favourite track off the album.
Jet’s sound is simple, it’s raw and it suits Nick Cester’s gravelly vocals down to the ground. They play a brand of rock n roll influenced by the greats such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and You Am I. The fact that Are You Gonna Be My Girl was such a hit shows that it’s not necessarily technical brilliance that will gain you a hit but an understanding of how to use a catchy hook and get people’s toes tapping.
Their second and third albums have not quite swept people away like the first however they still rock live. I loved their set at the Big Day Out 2010, where they were surprisingly relegated to the Green Stage (which they shared with Grinspoon, Fear Factory and The Decemberists). Despite what your average music student who likes to listen to experimental instruments playing weird inventive scales may say, I’m happy to huddle with the masses on this one and keep bobbing my head to this Australian rock band’s mainstream beats.
Click here to check out another great live act that sports some catch hooks: The Yellow Stallions .
Writing is an enigmatic mistress. Some days it can smile upon you as you smash away at the computer keys with inspiration flowing so that 100 words per minute is not quick enough to commit it all to paper. Other days you stare morosely at a blank computer screen with intermittent periods of pounding your forehead in the hope of jarring some ideas loose.
Song writing is much the same with yet another variable thrown in: music. What comes first; music or the lyrics? Some songwriters follow a specific structure such as Sir Elton John and Bernard Taupin. Taupin would send lyrics to Sir Elton who would then apply lyrics to them. ‘The Presidents of the USA’ pretty much made them up as they rehearsed them. There are dozens of ways of coming up with the next great Aussie rock song.
If you start with the music you must tailor lyrics that are appropriate to the innate feel of the song. The Yellow Stallions song Real Dream sprang from drummer Mark Lloyd using the chords of C major, Cadd9 and A minor in an interesting progression that gave off a somnolent feel. It was then up to lead singer Luke Shavak to fit lyrics into the tone of the song. The heart warming ballad that was produced is in my opinion as good as any that has been written in Aussie rock.
Going the other way, I have come up with many song lyrics while on public transport, sitting at my desk when I worked an office job or at times when I would much rather be sleeping – the perils of playing in an Australian rock band I’m afraid. It is the same thing but in reverse. What s the tone of the lyrics? Are they angry? Melancholic? Is it a love song? The challenge then is to come up with an appropriate melody and a chord progression that fits.
- Australian Rock Band thanks Wikipedia for the pic
Once the song is written the labour does not end there: now you have to play it in front of people. This can be very confronting, particularly when the song is of a deeply personal nature. I remember hearing Aussie rock star Katy Steele of ‘Little Birdy’ saying that playing their hit song Brother live was like being naked in front of people – you are revealing so much of yourself. These are the songs though that most people love.
So these are all the things one has to consider when writing the next hit for an Australian rock band.
To hear some of The Yellow Stallions truly original Aussie rock CLICK HERE
Luke Shavak fronting an Australian Rock Band
Founded in late 2008 by Luke Shavak the Yellow Stallions put on a great show. It was far away from the vast arena of the great Australian rock bands such as AC/DC and Jet but it was a start. I remember how nervous I was leading up to the appearance and being thankful that we had no roadies so I could distract myself with setting up the stage. Putting yourself on the line in front of a crowd is one of the most nerve wracking, and therefore rewarding experiences a human can put themselves through.
We walk toward the stage amongst the audience where the lights are low, the crowd murmuring in anticipation of the independent, unsigned Australian rock band they are about to hear. Mounting the stage and picking up my bass guitar my heart is pounding, the stage lights glare down on me – what am I doing here? I am going to look such a fool. Luke strums the first notes of ‘I Feel My Time Has Come’, the crowd applauds, Mark’s drums kick in simultaneously with my bass guitar. The rock n roll begins and my butterflies disappear as we make the music come alive.
I now realise why I am up here, this is fun. To be performing, producing a truly original sound on stage and the crowd lapping it up is like nothing else on Earth; I feel free. The first song is over in a burst of speed and aggression that sees the crowd on its feet calling for more. By the end of the set I am dripping in sweat and exhausted but I could play for hours more.
Playing original compositions and connecting with the audience is an unbelievable experience, to be enjoying it with your good friends up on stage along side you makes it all the better. We finish with a cover of AC/DC’s all time rock classic ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. The crowd love it and roar their approval. We come off stage exhilarated and ready to take on the world. There is no doubt about it: this is what I want to be doing.
CLICK HERE to check out some of the orginal rock n roll we played that night at our MySpace.
I was at my day job busily perusing the MySpace page of up and coming Melbourne rockers Tantulum; a co-worker happened past “Are you looking at porn?” he inquired. Conclusion: when a guy sees a group of women on the internet they think porn, not Australian rock bands (before you race to their MySpace fellas, the shots on there couldn’t be described as anywhere near pornographic).
So, my last entry was about the great Australian Rock Band frontmen. But where have all the girls gone? There’s certainly no shortage of females at rock gigs, quite often swooning over the very front men I spoke about last week. Surely though that isn’t the only role they have to play in rock n roll. Much like our culture in general it seems that women are designated to fill the role of subservience and demurely sit back as the men take centre stage.
But rock n roll has always been an anti-culture, so why the lack of all female Australian rock bands? I couldn’t help but notice the male domination amongst the bands in the Emergenza music festival we played in last year (what a sausage fest!). Is it that rock n roll bands are primarily filled with blokes sanguinely looking for a way to get laid? Is it the phallic nature of guitars that discourage women from picking them up and shredding? Even though there is nothing sexier to me than a woman letting fly on an electric guitar, observe:
- Is this what a girl has to do to get into an Australian Rock Band?
It seems that to be a front woman – unlike Peter Garret and co – you need to conform to the ideals of what is physically attractive. From Suzie Quatro to Gwen Stefani you’ve had to be a hottie to get airplay (and from an Australian point of view think Magic Dirt, Baby Animals and Little Birdy). The Spice Girls, and more recently the Pussy Cat Dolls, don’t even play instruments but nobody buying their records (or more to the point watching their film clips) seems to care.
Hole had brief success internationally as an all girl rock band and on the sunny shores of Australia Lash recorded a hit with ‘Take Me Away’ but it is hard to think of an all girl rock band that has had enduring success. Seeing as though I play in an all male group I shouldn’t be that worried but it is an interesting anomaly that is probably a reflection on broader society – I’ll leave a more in depth analysis to a sociology professor.
Cue smooth segue to the very all male group I mentioned: the Yellow Stallions. CLICK HERE to hear their music. ROCK ON LADIES!!
What makes a really good front man? Obviously they have to be able to hold a note. However, it’s not necessarily the most talented vocalist that makes someone the sort of icon that propels an Australian rock band to the forefront of national or international stardom. A singer who wows in the studio may not be the type that brings people back to watch their band again and again.
There’s something that sets the great front men of Australian rock bands apart from the myriad of lead singers on the rock scene. They have their own unique hook; their own way of doing things that makes them stand out and brings their band fame and/or notoriety.
Take the original Australian rock band bad boy, Bon Scott. He led ACDC on their early climb to the top of the rock mountain – somewhere they have been able to stay. His brash attitude and lyrics to match made women want him and men want to be him.
Aussie Rock’s iconic front man
And let’s just forget for a minute that Garret is now a government minister and try to dismiss from your mind your political views (NO PULP MILL!! …ahem, sorry) and remember that Peter Garret and his idiosyncratic dance moves gave Midnight Oil their unique hook.
Then there is Aussie rock’s answer to Jim Morrison – Michael Hutchence; a man who defined the word cool. The passion and raw sexual energy in his performances made INXS one of the hottest bands in the world during their heyday.
To be a successful rock band no doubt you need talent and a willingness to work hard, to be an icon you need a front man who captures the crowd at every live performance.
Speaking of great live performers CLICK HERE to check out the Yellow Stallions.
P.S. What’s that I hear? What about great rock front women? Watch this space glass ceiling smashers…
How else would you get tickets for an Australian rock band’s show than to waltz up, find out their sold out and simply lurk outside the Prince of Wales with a beer in hand expecting that things will turn out. Sure enough after a couple of pots an individual with two spare tickets happened past and we were in.
This blog has previously stated that Little Red are my favourite Australian rock band and they certainly didn’t disappoint live. The fact they have four members of the band able to sing lead vocals mean they have a versatility greater than that of any of their contemporaries. The vocal harmonies they generate hark back to the roots of rock n roll. Their self described doo-op punk combines a very old school rock n roll sound with some more modern influences. They recall the likes of Dion and the Belmonts and the Coasters with flavours of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and of course the Beatles thrown into the mix.
Australian Rock Band Little Red
Their set combined the music from their first album ‘Listen to Little Red’ that got them where they are as well as their more expansive sounding new songs. This was underlined beautifully by going from old school sounding ‘Jackie Cooper’ into the more cosmic ‘Get a Life’. Complete with a horn section for some songs their set rocked and their high energy performance had the crowd pumping from go to woe. My only complaint was that they played around a little with the killer guitar riff on Witch Doctor. With some extra notes thrown in and with a horn section it just seemed to lose a little bit. Less is more in this instance.
It was great to see that my favourite Australian rock band were ready to keep up the high standard they set for themselves. The infectious enthusiasm they displayed on stage meant I’ll be coming back for more.
Another great, versatile live band with a harder edge is the Yellow Stallions. Click here to check them out.
There is something special about performances that support a cause that lifts them above your average concert performance. Anyone at the MCG or SCG for the Sound Relief Concerts following the Black Saturday bushfires to see legendary Australian rock bands such as Midnight Oil and Hunters & Collectors could tell you the same. There is something that unites the artist and the audience and makes the performance more intimate for all involved. Everyone there knows they are achieving something beyond the catharsis that usually occurs at a concert. You don’t get Australian rock bands such as Jet, Augie March, Wolfmother, Split Enz, Little Birdy and Eskimo Joe on the same bill (along with Coldplay) unless there is something to unite them that goes beyond mere profit.
Some of the Yellow Stallions most special concerts have been supporting a cause. As a fledgling Australian rock band it is easy to aspire to the glitz and glamour of rock stardom, fame, fortune, lavish parties and cosmetically enhanced women. However artists must understand that they can have a positive impact on the society that places them on such a pedestal.
For me there is an added something to a benefit performance. In particular I remember performing at the East Brunswick Club at the H20 Water Awareness Concert where we raised funds for Environment Victoria as well as raising awareness about the importance of water conservation for residents of Melbourne.
Coming off stage after a performance and being amongst the audience who were a group of individuals all united by a common cause, to know that I wasn’t the only one concerned about the state of the environment, these things really made the night a special one for me. Music is so intrinsic in all of us and it can be used to bring us together for causes that go far beyond the scope of musicality.
To check out The Yellow Stallions brand of rock n’ roll CLICK HERE!
The Yellow Stallions at the H20 Water Awareness Concert