Dave McCormack interview

Faster Louder, September 2005

It’s past everybody’s bedtime on a school night on a cold April night. Yet the Northcote Social Club is full of devotees out in force to see David McCormack and the Polaroids. Towards the end of the set, McCormack and Polaroids' guitarist/percussion obsessive Andrew Lancaster leap into the crowd which in turn forms a circle around them, and encourage people to not only dance, but to break dance. In front of everybody. “Come on!” McCormack urges, his polyester suit clinging to him from the sheer amount of sweat he is exuding. And then something strange begins to happen. The generally too-cool-for-school Melbourne crowd unfold their arms from their collective chest and start to move. Several of them get into the middle of the circle and display some moves to rapturous applause. This isn’t a normal Thursday night in Latte City. “It [break dancing] happens very rarely,” explains McCormack. “I am not sure whether it was something in the stars that night or something in the beer, but it certainly felt like the right thing to do. Andy [Lancaster] has always been interested in movement, particularly break dancing. He was a state champion in his youth. This all ties in quite nicely with our music – lots of beats and yelling.”

Head along to a Polaroids gig and you never quite know what you’ll get. Aside from the occasional break dancing outbreak, you may get McCormack wandering through the crowd screaming in unsuspecting victims’ faces, or Lancaster taking his ever-handy cowbell for a wander (in some cases – such as during the gig captured on the Save Dave live DVD – even down the street outside). The spontaneity is something which McCormack loves. “I have never been interested in replicating an album live. I much prefer the madness and the sense of surreal that envelopes a band after a few weeks on tour. I like to lose myself and just go with it.”

Formed out of the ashes of former McCormack projects Custard and The Titanics, the Polaroids’ 2002 debut Candy was full of the sort of quirky guitar pop that he is renowned for while 2004’s sophomore effort The Truth About Love appeared to have a darker side. While McCormack’s laconic sense of humour – about as Aussie as getting sunstroke at the Big Day Out – was intact with titles like I’m Going To Execute Yr Ex-Boyfriend and If You Leave Me (I Will Hunt You Down And Kill You), the album seemed to delve just a bit deeper into the mind and soul than any McCormack album had previously. Not necessarily so, says the man. “Over the past few years I have been interested in obsession and how that can screw with your mind. Candy was a sort of knee-jerk reaction to that, where as The Truth About Love was more a long, slow session of self abuse.”

The prolific McCormack, who says that a handful of new Polaroids tracks for a third album have already been recorded, also manages to find time to play the odd solo gig. 2001 solo release The Matterhorn represented a different, more experimental side to him that he says he’s not through with yet. “Every three of four years I like to purge myself of tunes that for whatever reason don’t suit the Polaroids by releasing an album of the stuff. It could be time for another one. In the mean time I have been playing some tunes with my dear friend Peter Fenton. These seem to be going off on a course all their own. It is a good time to be alive”

But not before the next Polaroids tour. The band is gearing up to hit the road in support of a vinyl release of The Truth About Love, released on Laughing Outlaw Records. While McCormack admits that he is not a vinyl nerd, “alas I do not even have a record player,” he is excited that this represents the first album of his to ever be released on vinyl. “I love the crackly sound of an LP record. It looks bigger than a CD as well, and you know bigger is best.” For those of you grumbling about already owning the CD release, the deal is sweetened by the record’s inclusion of four bonus tracks not previously available, including the band’s famous cover of White Town’s Your Woman. “It is a great song, very under-rated,” McCormack says of the 1996 commercial dance hit. “Whenever we play it, eyes roll back in people’s heads and they dance wildly and salivate a little too much for my liking. The version on the LP is a nice battle between confused humans and aggressive drum machines – it sounds like it was recorded using a pump action shot gun.”

The tour will feature the talents of bassist Dylan 'The Kid' McCormack and keyboardist Cameron Bruce, both of whom juggle their Polaroids commitments with other gigs. While Dylan moonlights with Gentle Ben and his Sensitive Side, Cameron tours the country as a part of musical comedy trio GUD alongside Paul McDermott and Mick Moriaty. It has led to some slight problems with the Polaroids tour schedule, but McCormack says it always seems to work out. “There have been occasions where Cameron has not been able to make a show, and the band heads in a new direction. If Andrew can’t make it, there’s a new angle there as well.”

So where does this leave drummer Shane Melder? Never fear, McCormack has a story. The drummer sustained a nasty injury recently on tour in Geelong. Was it through backstage rock and roll antics? The spontaneous combustion of drummers, as brought to our attention in This Is Spinal Tap? No, explains McCormack, it was simply the result of a run-in with an angry canine. “We were attacked by a rabid dog.. Shane leapt forward to save the day but only proceeded to get bitten on the leg and we spent the next six hours in an emergency room while he had all the injections known to humanity.” The result? “They had to shave his leg and he had to wear shorts for the next few weeks. I found it amusing. He found it humiliating.”

McCormack is being kept busy with impending Polaroids tours, both here and abroad (the band is planning to head to Britain and America within the next year following a string of good reviews overseas – “I was particularly chuffed about the blurb in Mojo magazine”) but he also has some Custard activities on the mind. A DVD with live footage, film clips – including the ARIA-award winning Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us) – and even commentaries will be released in the next couple of months. It’s bringing up some nostalgic feelings for the singer. “I was fascinated to see some of that stuff again, but at the same time I’m a little self conscious about the whole thing.”

And as for a Custard reunion, well, drag out your well-worn copy of Wisenheimer right about now. “Let me state on the public record that I would definitely be into it, enough time has passed. The main hurdle would be getting everyone together in the same place and at the same time. Also, there is the question of what lineup to use. There were a lot of people through that band over the years.” While McCormack may recall his Custard highlight as “just little memories of all the great times we had together and the things we did,” he also hasn’t let a certain Latin crooner slip his mind. The band met the man your nana loves, Julio Iglesias, after a performance on Hey Hey, It’s Saturday. “To meet him was a wonderful experience. I am convinced he was completely drunk. Somewhere there’s a photo of us and him. Good times."