For the longest time it seemed the only words one would hear about You Am I were hard luck stories that started with a few drinks and ended in tears.
Much has been made of the so-called annus horribilis that singer Tim Rogers had in 2005, suffice to say that other than mentioning scenarios such as Mark Holden, New Year's Eve 2005, the Falls Festival, Missy Higgins, public drunkenness, divorce and a generally mediocre turn of events is all the description we require here. Even so he released a double album, Ghost Songs/Dirty Ron, with The Temperance Union and toured it throughout the year, never sitting back and sulking.
Rogers also managed to write the new You Am I record, Convicts, which was recorded in late 2005. It's a whipsmart, rough and ready return to league form and probably the best Australian rock album to be released this year. You can hear the hard times in the songs as they are performed with ferocious sincerity and a genuine love for being in a rock'n'roll band.
Presented by X-Press Magazine, You Am I (supported by The Drones) perform at Metropolis Fremantle on June 23 and 3 Bears Dunsborough on June 24.
This interview was conducted the morning after The Beasts Of Bourbon performed at Metropolis Fremantle a few weeks ago. It began with a relayed message from Rogers' new best friend.
By BOB GORDON
Tex Perkins sends his regards, but he said not to
mention the football, or North Melbourne.
Oh dear, never get drunk and text. I messaged (North Melbourne defender) Glenn Archer last night, which is a dreadful abuse of the privilege of getting your hero's phone number. I needed to tell him that I loved him (laughs).
And did you get a reply?
I did, he said ‘let's go out for a beer next week’. I couldn't believe it.
Before the game?
Well, anything will work at this point.
Speaking of which, how does it feel to have the team
back out on the paddock?
It feels wonderful, actually. It's made me think about the past couple of years and why life is so much enjoyable now than it was then. It's just really visceral and energetic. I guess it's just the songs, they've just have hit a real thing with us, and we're so energised to be playing them.
It's just that... and any kind of tour. We head off to New Zealand in a couple of days, and I'm really just biding my time, I can't wait. I'm kind of bashing my head against the wall, waiting until we can turn up, and create the racket.
There seems to be a celebratory feeling around You Am I. Lots of bands start saying `we're back' somewhere along the way, and this has that thing about it. But there's a lot of general happiness as well.
I think it's more desperation (laughs) you know? I know and I know that with young David (Lane, guitar). We were out carousing last night, we just know that we need it more than ever. When you feel something kind of slipping out of your grasp, you realise a lot of the anger at things you've felt, because it really did feel like things were out of our control and now we've kind of wrestled them back.
It's not necessarily anyone in particular who took it away, we just lost sight of it and weren't in each other's pockets as much. I mean, we'd get together and go out drinking and fighting and things would be fine, but in retrospect we weren't as tight as were now. It's odd that you have to go through rather dull, bad periods to rekindle the relationships.
It seems, from the outside, that you didn't rush to
get it back together or try to force the issue...
Well we did, then everything got derailed, and we were ready to make a record as of January 2 last year and then everything sorta fell apart quite spectacularly. That was the only reason why the record wasn't made then. We're not good at pondering, we definitely wanted to get in there and make the record as quickly as possible. Thank God we didn't `cause it's better now that we've waited. We're not good at this patience business at all.
I guess it would have been easy, after January last
year, to think `we have to do this' and force the issue and
that may have not been good in the long run.
That's a good point, I understand that, but I think they didn't want to see me. Especially Andy (Kent, bass) in particular (laughs). He admits the same, you know he didn't want to be in the same room as me. And that's you know, I'm bitter about it, he is, but now we love each other.
And the songs that we had then they just weren't as good and weren't as vital. I was maybe trying to copy everyone else and not discover if I had anthing artistic in me, and over the course of the year I discovered that I actually do. It's not always going to happen, but not slavishly copy things piece of things and put them together. You just wait till you stomach explodes and hope that you get all the entrails on tape or a piece of paper or something.
I guess you don't court desperation but if it comes
along that's were a lot of the best musical things can come
from. Certainly you sing the way the words sound, the
emotions would convey the feeling if the words did not
I just don't edit myself very well. Then it comes out and it's like `shit that's bit close to the bone isn't it?' I've thrown it all out there. I don't revisit songs, and think how they can be structured better. It's just large projectile vomit.
I know the words matter, but the sound of your voice,
(Laughs) Out of tune?
No, the inclusion of a word is one thing, the way you
sing it another. In the song Sweet Life, after the chorus
when you say `damn', its not like the laconic way I said it
then, but it comes with smoke and exclamation marks.
Yeah, well... I don't know what to say about that (laughs). Damn!
I've noticed in reading recent articles about You Am
I, not only a celebratory feeling but a certain amount of
amateur psychology by journalists. Has it been an eternal
Yeah well... maybe I'm just trying to work out that myself. I mean the album didn't resolve anything and things are still kinda fucked, and you know, wonderful in other ways. I guess I invite that and it's my fault. I can't complain about it, I should just write things that are not as open to amateur psychology. It's my own damn fault, really.
In some ways the songs are so raw to the bone that it
almost excludes the need for it to be asked about.
I thought it might be that rather than cloak things in mystery and have to talk about them, if they're made so blatantly obvious you hope you never have to talk about them again. But I guess people are just looking for an angle. Maybe more so over here than other places, it becomes a bit of a human-interest story. It's quite pathetic really.
What kind of shows have you done for the album so far?
There was the Hyde Park Barracks show the other week, has it
mainly been geared to album preview shows?
Absolutely. And that's fine, though I'm glad we only did two of them. And we'll get back into the real deal now. We're actually rehearsing a bit, more than half an hour before the first show and not just playing older songs so that people go nuts, but thinking `do we actually like playing this?' And if we don't get something out of it, we just aren't going to do it. There's not a lot of automatic pilot going on, which unfortunately maybe we have done. Maybe we haven't. I hope not.
How much of the new album will make the set list? It
seems all there to go...
We have been doing a fucking lot of it. And once again, as long as they feel vital and enjoyable to play... and at the moment they all are.
Hopefully that doesn't go away, and I just really look forward to playing those songs. It'd be nice to chop and change... but we say that, and then it's the greatest laid plans...
I guess you get people screaming at you for the old
songs no matter what you do?
(Drunkenly) Beerrlin Chair! The odd thing is that I love playing that song. There was a period when I didn't but now I do. That's cool. But while people are shouting out there's someone trying to buy their girlfriend or boyfriend a drink. Pay more attention to the important things, like your loved ones. Don't scream at Timmy, he's not listening.
I was talking to someone the other day about the 1997
tour, when the show was based around a soul revue...
Oh yeah (laughs), our retarded version of it.
It must have been exhausting. I remember the banter
was really staccato and there were these syncopated drum
things happening in measure with what you were saying. It
seemed a really good way to break with what had been done
Sure. It was really enjoyable to do. Russell (Hopkinson, drums) is tops for us and he can do it all, but I'd hate to do that all the time. Now, on a particular night we might go do a bit of that but it's not our whole thing. I rapidly tire of that. We were touring with bands like Rocket From The Crypt and Blues Explosion at the time, they do a lot of theatre and I dearly love both of those acts. But I wouldn't want to do that every night.
With You Am I one night can be an angry night and the next can be all about fun. However I'm feeling or how we're feeling collectively as a band. That kind of freedom is good. You don't have to think `Oh God, I've gotta be Mr Dynamite tonight'.
How did you feel in the end about the Tim & Tex show
Still getting over it, I think. Really. It was extraordinary. What the fuck happened? It was just wild.
We're doing it with Sydney and Melbourne now. I met my girlfriend's parents, a bunch of old schoolfriends came. It was really extraordinary and I'm still trying to get a handle on it. It was very intense
It was amazing with Perko and I, we just supported each other, and sorta looked after each other and did our best to damage each other. It meant a lot to our friendship that we did that together.
I interviewed Tex the other week and this came up. I
joked that you hold each other up in many ways, but it is
true. It's like the T'n'T Club - Membership: 2, Population:
That's the why I like to look at it, for sure. We've got some compadres, but we kick them out of the room at certain times (laughs).
We're making a record together at the moment. We didn't grow up together or anything, but the friendship has come on quite recently, even though we've been aware of each other for some time and have run into each other. The funny thing about making music is that you can just is that you can strike up with people and have a friendship. It's not like the thing when you hit to a certain age these are your friends and they're the ones who are going to be with you until the day you die. There's more opportunities for close relationships. It's an extraordinary life.
And with that in mind, the relationships between the guys in You Am I particularly in the last few years has changed so much. That's what happens when you spend days on benders with people and see them go through their worst and their best.
Remember the TV Series called Thirtysomething?
Oh, I loved it!
One day in my 30's I suddenly realised why they got so
many episodes out of that show...
Absolutely. Well, when I turn 30 I will let you know how it's going. Okay?
O-kay. I believe you're doing a T'nT' tour of Europe
And a bit of the States as well. You Am I are touring there either just after or just before it.
There's a lot of unfinished business as overseas things go. It's really to just play shows and do things on our terms. The way we're doing things in Australia at the moment, we're self-managed, we licence out records and things. It's the way we should have done it years ago, but look, we've learnt now and onward we roll to far more gratifying experiences I'm sure.
And we're a better fucking band. Hourly Daily? Never fucking heard of it!
I loved that record... the new one's good too. I first
put it on and thought, `oh yes'...
I get that feeling when I listen to it as well and I listen to it a lot. Really. I'm all over this fucking record, I've listened to it a whole bunch when I'm out walking.
Yeah... it's an extraordinary feeling. Watch out when we fuckin' over to come to play, we're gonna rip out your heart and steal a couple as well.