Violent Soho

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If you’re a Brisbane resident and have ever been to the Step Inn, chances are you’ve been enlightened to the ways of Violent Soho. They’re a pretty persistent bunch of guys originating from Brisbane’s token Bible belt, who from the start have been willing to take any gig they were offered. Their persistence has paid off, with the boys signing to Thurston Moore’s (of Sonic Youth) label Ecstatic Peace just over six months ago before heading off overseas to record their second album. But they’ve returned to Aussie shores for a tour along the East Coast before heading to New York to mix their record due for release early next year. So in anticipation of their pending worldwide fame, I chatted to singer and guitarist Luke Boerdam about their travels, signing to Ecstatic Peace and smashing guitars.

Zed: I get the impression that you guys are pretty dedicated to your Mansfield roots so it seems like this move will be a pretty big deal for the band. How do you think you’ll go over in the states?

Luke: We went over at the end of last year to do showcases and that’s how we got the deal. That was pretty exciting, I hadn’t been overseas. I think the only person who had been overseas was our drummer and he got back from his honeymoon in Japan two days before we left. Going over there for three weeks was a big deal for us but its definitely a big deal for any band to pick up and completely tour another country.

Z: So what do you prefer – recording or touring?

L: I think recording can be a bit tedious. It’s a bit less fun sitting in a room and playing the same thing over and over again. As a song writer I always like sitting down with a guitar and writing songs, but I think as a band touring’s always on the top of the list

Z: So this deal is pretty significant. I assume you guy’s are pretty stoked?

L: Fuck yes. We went to the showcases and there’s a lot of douchebags over there [but] then you get Thurston Moore, and he actually really gets the music we’re playing. I think Universal and Ecstatic Peace really got where we were coming from. They were the only guys who weren’t douchebags so the choice was pretty easy who to work with. We’re pretty excited to get the deal over there, [and] on top of it to be working with people that would be our top pick anyway.

Z: Do you worry that on such a big label you’re going to have to lean to their priorities and hand some control over?

L: I was [worried] at first. The contract’s like the size of the Bible, it’s freaking huge. Because they own the music you write for the next seven years… you end up thinking ‘what’s going to happen?’ But it’s been the opposite, it’s been exactly what we wanted it to be. We have complete choice with producers, we’ve been heavily involved with absolutely all the decisions. We made it quite clear to them before signing who we were and what music we play and the only thing the label can control anyway is who’s in the studio. I’m pretty confident that with the producer we picked, we’re gonna end up with what we want and what they want in terms of sound and in terms of how everything is promoted. We’re pretty willing to take a stand if any weird shit happens and they do stuff we don’t want to do. So far we’ve had control of [everything] and I’m pretty confident it’s gonna stay that way in the future.

Z: Does the premise of a worldwide release in the near future freak you out at all?

L: No, we’ve been playing four or five years together with the same members. We’re just excited more than anything because we just want people to hear the music. We’re definitely not scared of promoting the band, just getting up there and doing it… I’m excited about the concept of some company spending however much on a marketing budget for our release. I’m happy and I’m surprised because I didn’t think we’d end up on any type of label where they could spend that much money on us and hopefully we don’t get fucked around. I was talking to a friend and we were talking about how in the nineties this term sell-out was created. I don’t know where it came from, but all of a sudden it became really lame to just get out and tour and play shows with your band. And I think there’s still a hangover of this idea… WHY? I think bands need to get over that mentality. Touring’s great – I like people hearing our music. It’s really funny a picture of us appeared in Dolly magazine. I don’t know how, we [and everyone else] were like ‘what the fuck?’ We were like look, James is chopping weed up in the corner. We’re probably the first band to get in Dolly with someone chopping weed up. So that is promotion… but we didn’t do anything, we didn’t go and put make up on and change clothes. It was just a photo taken on tour. I think that’s a good thing, I’d rather 14 year old girls read about our band than High School musical.

Z: So, what’s your opinion of the Brisbane music scene?

L: I think it’s pretty awesome [that] there are some bands doing really well [like] The In-laws and Yves Klein Blue. There’s still heaps of bands getting out there and they show that they’re not afraid to work and they’re not afraid of touring. I think being in Brisbane and being a bit isolated from the South has made these bands work harder – you can see a work ethic in them. I do think it’s great for emerging artists, the valley’s always been a hub. In Brisbane you’re either playing in front of people who write for local street press or write zines or play in other bands, so you have to meet a certain level of being unique and authentic and writing good music, because you’re in front of the same people every week. There’s a really strong community of local music here and I hope Brisbane never looses that.

Z: So a couple of years ago you guys supported The Grates. They have a very different sound and I imagine the crowds rocking up to their gigs would be very different from what you’re used to. How did that tour go down?

L: Their band and our band were in different positions. Our band was on the brink, we just weren’t getting anywhere. We just kept playing local shows and we randomly got offered this Grates tour. We ended up doing the National support. It was the first time we played in Sydney and we ended up playing at the Enmore Theatre – it was like two and a half thousand people, so it was great. From our point of view we’ve played with so many HORRIBLE bands, like Hip-hop acts. We’ve rocked up at the Tivoli [to] the hip-hop scene to the max, and we’re four kids with shaggy hair and cardigans playing our music and they didn’t know what fucking hit them. That was weird. So we’ve done far worse than the Grates. Being from Brisbane you’ve got to get on tours. When we first hit Sydney people hadn’t heard of us. We are isolated, some people in Sydney couldn’t give a shit about Brisbane, and they still look at it as a country town and they still don’t care about bands unless your down there touring in their space. So we did the Faker tour and said fuck it. There were kids who’d never heard distorted guitar before at those shows and I was happy to show them what a distorted guitar sounds like. If heavy bands or bands from Brisbane aren’t willing to get up and tour how is anyone going to hear their music. You could stay in the underground and just keep playing there and that’s good, but it’s kind of pussy. Get out there and fucking play to people who don’t like it.

Z: So obviously your not afraid of a bit of bad reception.

L: No. We never have been. For the first two years, we’d hang out with a few bands that we got along with and if we’d never met these other local bands we wouldn’t still be around. They were awesome, they taught us all about good music… [about] the real seed of the alternative underground, the real seed of the stuff we all like. They kind of converted us. Our policy was take any gig – we played a Christian Festival Band competition at Maryborough,we played the indie temple when ever we could. There was a place out at Sandgate, it was so funny. It was a Wednesday night out at this bar, pokies everywhere and there was two dudes with bandannas and sunglasses in there. They started spitting on us and wanted to beat us up. We learnt that if you get a bad reception just use it, and we just get louder and meaner and start throwing guitars. That’s when we get more energised.

Z: On that note, what are your thoughts on smashing instruments. I know there’s a whole theatrical aspect to it but do you think it’s a bit counterproductive for struggling local bands to be smashing expensive instruments?

L: I love smashing guitars. When we started out we didn’t realise how much money it cost – we smashed guitars at practice, it was just nuts. After a while we realised you couldn’t just always get them fixed so we were a little more careful. I know what you mean about theatrics because sometimes I’ve seen people smash guitars and I’ve thought that was lame and stupid. All I can say is when we smash guitars there’s definitely no pre-conceived plan to smash a guitar. We just really put our all into when we play and every time I’ve smashed a guitar I’ve felt like I fucking really had to because I wasn’t getting enough out of the song. I know people see it and think its lame, but fuck it, it’s a personal choice. I think when band’s perform they should give it all to the song and all to the performance and that’s what we do so we end up smashing equipment all the time. Z: Do you get the impression that a lot of Brissy band’s are having to go overseas to get a record deal? L: All I can say is that I don’t know of any band that’s actually moving overseas besides the ones that have done a lot of work. So I think no… I don’t think Brisbane is forcing bands to move overseas, I think Australia is a harder place to tour because there’s less cities and there’s a big fucking distance between them. So it’s like a twelve hour drive to Sydney and another twelve to Melbourne. That’s how we had to do it when we started out and it’s hard and it costs a lot of money. If there’s any reason bands go overseas its because they can actually tour more. They want to play shows they want to tour and you can only do so much of that in Australia – you can live off touring overseas. I have heard of a lot of shit bands in Brisbane and even they get heaps of gigs and that’s because they work their butts off. And if they really want to get somewhere it will never be the city they live in that stops them. The Deets: Violent Soho play The Del Plaza Hotel (Gold Coast) with Talons and The Sips Thursday (3rd September) 8pm. The Woombye Pub (Sunshine Coast) with Talons and The Sips Friday (4th September) 8pm. The Hive (all-ages show, above the Valley PCYC) with Talons, Hy-Test and Dirtybird Saturday (5th September) 2pm. The Step Inn with Talons and Hy-Test Saturday (5th September) 8pm.

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One Response to “Violent Soho”

  1. Andrew McMillen Says:

    Great interview, thanks very much!

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