INTERVIEW: Trial Kennedy (AUS), January 2009

Not many people gave a shit about Trial Kennedy in the ten years that they were together. This year, people started giving a shit – indirectly, at least. Tim Morrison went on The Voice; and although he didn’t win, he certainly won himself an entirely new fanbase. Funny how things work out like that, isn’t it? Anyway, naturally I was one of the few who gave a resounding shit about TK, particularly around this era; when they’d just dropped one of my favourite albums of 2008 in New Manic Art. This was an email Q&A – admittedly, not ideal at the best of times; but I was fairly happy with the responses given. Worked out alright. Wish I’d properly interviewed them, though. That would have ruled. Ahh well, life goes on.

– DJY, July 2013

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You had a massive year in 2008. What were some of the highlights in retrospect?

A definite highlight for last year was getting our record New Manic Art out, that’s got to be a lifelong dream for any young upstart. But all in all, the real memorable thing about 2008 was spending plenty of time on the road meeting heaps of people who got into the record and starting to get our creative caps back on to pump out the second record. Trial Kennedy are a band that like to keep busy.

How did you spend NYE? Was there a celebration for a great year, or were plans already being made for the next tour?

Two of the lads spent it up the Eureka tower looking down on the fireworks from above, our guitar tech and our drummer spent it down a beach having a laugh and I played a little fill in cover gig in town. Nothing for TK, but we did have a festival on the 3rd of Jan that was a bit of fun.

We’ve got a couple of really key tours left and then we’ve really being trying to get our heads into writing for the next record and keep the ball rolling.

How do you feel long-time fans (people who were listening to Pictureframe etc) have responded to New Manic Art’s success and the subsequent newfound support from radio and television?

I hope Trial Kennedy fans are right behind us in all of our pursuits. We are a band that obviously want to make music and this band our career but we’re going to do it with our musical integrity and creativity well intact so I hope that people that get into Trial Kennedy at any certain stage will see that.

A while ago, you posted a MySpace blog talking about every song on the album and their lyrics. The special edition of NMA also comes with a making-of DVD. Relating this to the old saying “A great magician never gives away his tricks,” do you feel a need to be perfectly honest about your music and what it’s about; or are there parts of the behind-the-scenes creation of Trial Kennedy’s music that is best left unspoken?

Some people like to hold their cards close to their chests and that’s cool, but we aren’t afraid of showing people how we create our music, we’re proud of it and we don’t use any secrets or tricks. I think each band is unique because of the members that make up the band and the way that they write, that’s their own formula and recipe that probably wouldn’t work for other bands.

We also personally love seeing how our heroes write the great music they do – check out the Classic Albums series, it’s amazing.

I have to ask about the sample used in Mississippi Burn. I believe it is Anton Newcombe from the Brian Jonestown Massacre talking, but others beg to differ. Where is the sample from and what is its purpose in the song?

The sample in that song isn’t Anton Newcombe, but that’s a good little rumour to put out there. The actual voice that you hear on that song is a guy called Tom Tapley who was an assistant engineer at Southern Tracks studios in Atlanta where we recorded the record and the words he speaks are words from an interview with Jeff Buckley talking about art. That song is a lyrical and musical sort of ‘pay your respects’ to Jeff Buckley and how he inspired us and so many others on so many levels.

The Not So New Manic Art tour is currently underway; what prompted this tour on so shortly after coming off the road with TBE?

Like I said before, Trial Kennedy are a band that like to keep busy and we really wanted to get back to some of the towns that we stopped off with TBE and get our full set to them. You have the luxury of longer sets on your own headliners so you can play some album songs and play with a few other little musical interims and stuff, keep it fresh and interesting for the punters and us.

We’re out with Birds Of Tokyo in March and then we’ll most definitely be writing our arses off and pump out a 2nd record. It’s all about momentum and capitalizing on that momentum so this all involves hard work and as much touring as possible.

Do any of you have a Colour Day Tours story of your own (ie wife, children, family, etc) when it comes to touring?

No one in Trial Kennedy is married or have any kids yet but touring is a time that you spend away from your loved ones and you do miss them but we’re lucky in that they all understand that we’re following something that we’re passionate about and maybe one day we can make a career out of it.

After experiencing so many different places on tour throughout the country, would you say you’ve located a most dedicated fanbase somewhere? I know Melbourne may seem an obvious choice, but perhaps there’s somewhere else?

Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but Newcastle and Adelaide always give us plenty of love. Sydney and Perth are close behind and we’ve got Brissy tonight so we’ll see if that changes anything in our favourites.
I’ll keep you posted

Weirdest gig (ie unfitting support slot, drunk crowd)?
We played a gig this year up at Mt Hotham that was a Rock, Skate and Pole party. Young kids skating and stuff, us playing in the middle and then a beautiful pole dancer. Funny stuff!!!

What’s the next step for the band? More shows, or maybe recording? Perhaps even a well deserved break?

No rest for the wicked. As soon as we finish the Not So New Manic Art tour we’re doing Melbourne Big Day Out and a big show out the front of Parliament House on Australia Day, then writing all Feb, out with Birds Of Tokyo in March then write April and hopefully get in the studio as soon as we can to pump out a killer second album.

2012 – A Year in the Front Row. Part One: Jan/Feb/March

So, here’s an idea I had. I go to so many damn shows, why not do a retrospective? Especially considering 2012 was easily my busiest year of gigs ever. So, here is part one of four. It’s a very brief recount of the year that was, but one I was compelled to share. Enjoy! – DJY

JANUARY

With a slew of bands still staying over from the New Year’s festivals, as well as some perfectly timed tours, my first few weeks of January 2012 were insanely busy. Within the first week alone, I’d seen old favourites Bluejuice, Italian skramz band Raein, U.S. hip-hopper Jean Grae, U.K. movers-and-shakers The Jim Jones Revue, pop-punk heroes Tonight Alive (the first of four times I’d see them this year) and mid-teen heroes The Dresden Dolls. An exhausting highlight reel of great, diverse and interesting music hanging around Sydney and Wollongong at the time.

Unfortunately, the only sour note among the lot was Jean – arriving forty minutes late on stage and proceeding to treat her fans like idiots while barely putting any effort into her rapping still ranks highly among my year’s sorest disappointments. Still, you’ve got to take the good with the bad – and, there was so much good to take.

In particular, I point to the Dresden Dolls show at the Enmore Theatre as still one of the best shows I went to this year. For two-and-a-half hours, I partied like it was 2006 and celebrated the reunion of one of my biggest high-school obsessions. Having seen Amanda solo twice before, I already had an idea of what to expect – but bringing drummer Brian Viglione into the mix sent the entire affair to strange new levels. A great one to tick off the bucket list.

Not long after that, I was headed to Melbourne for the first time ever. I had the honour of playing with former A Death in the Family vocalist/guitarist Jamie Hay – eerily enough, on Friday the 13th, the day that AditF had announced their split. He didn’t let the news get in the way of a phenomenal performance, thankfully. The weekend immediately following this show lead to my main purpose of visiting Melbourne – Sugar Mountain.

An awesome initiative from Two Bright Lakes, this night was the first of three times I would see percussive adventurers tUnE-yArDs in this month. Getting to see the delightful Deerhoof and the blistering Thee Oh Sees was the icing on an already delicious cake. The next night at the Corner Hotel, I got to see tUnE-yArDs doing her thing once again. I appreciated a total switch-up of her live set – she even started on the same song that she had closed with the day before, and vice versa! My final time seeing her was a day after returning home, at the Famous Spiegeltent as a part of the 2012 Sydney Festival. I also managed to sneak in a breathtaking set from U.K. chanteuse Beth Orton at City Recital Hall for the Festival, too. Gotta be happy with that.

Onto a far-less cultured festival, the one and only Big Day Out. I only managed to get in a single sideshow this time, but it was more than worth it. Battles shook the foundations of the Metro Theatre like nobody’s business. Having now seen these guys 4 times, I can affirm their status as mind-melting musos that you could watch individually for a set’s entirety and not get bored. That said, their MVP is unquestonably Mr. John Stanier. ‘Tis no man! ‘Tis a drumming machine! Onto the BDO itself: Highlights included the bombastic Kanye headlining set, the world-class rock & roll of Soundgarden, Cage the Elephant and My Chemical Romance and the insane celebratory dance party of Girl Talk. Despite relatively poor ticket sales, BDO was a tonne of fun.

The month finished with a quick visit to Wollongong for day 2 of the Stacked Music Festival. Although I attended almost exclusively for Sydney legends Gay Paris, there were also a few treats thrown in for good measure – local champions The Conspiracy Plan, brattish post-punks Chicks Who Love Guns and the always-delightful folk-rockers The Pennys.

TOP 5:

  1. The Dresden Dolls
  2. tUnE-yArDs
  3. Kanye West
  4. Battles
  5. Jamie Hay

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Jean Grae, plus the shitty local band that opened for Tonight Alive whose name escapes me.

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FEBRUARY

I was eased into February quite nicely by one of my favourite events in Blood, Sweat and Beers. This show would mark the first of many times I would see positive-thinking pop-rockers Milhouse, as well as sets from Canberran bong-ripping favourites I Exist, Tassie boys Luca Brasi, country bumpkins Wagons and the brilliant Harmony. With Laneway in town, I caught a sideshow for Canadian sensation Leslie Feist, although admittedly I was going almost exclusively for her support in the delightful Mountain Man. These sweet-singing ladies subsequently wiped the floor with Feist herself, who was half-an-hour late on stage and caught up in her own self indulgences too much to make this show worthwhile.

I then returned to my second home of the Annandale Hotel for three shows headlined by Michigan post-hardcore cult heroes La Dispute. These shows were just as inspiring and engaging as the very first time I saw them back in 2009, but for very different reasons. The 2009 shows were inspiring on account of an American band doing a completely D.I.Y. Australian tour that was done out a pure love for what they do as a band.

These shows were inspiring on account of seeing a relatively little-known band playing a very unfriendly style of music managing to pack out the Annandale for three shows with a huge, hungry and wildly boisterous audience. In other words, they’ve more or less arrived in Australia. We also got some fantastic local supports at these shows: Let Me Down Jungleman, Hira Hira (shout out to Jack Wotton for doing double duty!), Perspectives, Between the Devil and the Deep, Making and the late, great Animal Shapes.

Nearing the end of the month, I got to spend some quality time with some of my songwriting heroes – namely, Dan Mangan and Ben Gibbard. The former played a wondrously joyful set at Notes in Newtown, while the latter lead his band (and one of my all-time favourites), Death Cab for Cutie, into a second headlining show at the Enmore Theatre just up the road. Despite an annoying, iPhone-ready audience, I still had a great time at my third Death Cab show.

Sandwiched in-between Dan and DcfC was SoundDave, a DIY all-day festival held at another one of my Sydney “homes,” Black Wire Records, curated by Milhouse/Between the Devil and the Deep bassist/FBi radio personality/all-round heartthrob Dave Drayton. I was a volunteer for the entire day, and was so happy to be involved. Highlights including decidedly bitchin’ sets from Epics, Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt and Surprise Wasp, fronted by Gay Paris bassist Dean “Slim Pickin’s” Podmore. Top stuff.

Although I gave Soundwave a miss, I still managed to wrap up the month with two great “Sidewaves” at the Metro Theatre. The first was the final Sydney show from Thursday, a band that I will gladly admit meant a hell of a lot more to most people in that room than me. I was a late bloomer for Thursday, only really getting into them later in high school. And I was a War All the Time guy, as opposed to a Full Collapse guy, which was the album they were playing in its entirety. Even so, I came out of that show with a mountain of respect for what they accomplished in their time, and it was an honour to be a part of it. Finally getting to see Circa Survive live was also a treat.

A few days later, on a rare February 29th, I got a triple-horned hardcore treat with Enter Shikari, letlive. and Your Demise. Each put on a great set with their own style and energy, but I’d be kidding myself if I wasn’t there to get properly mental to letlive. After discovering them in mid-2011, I vowed that I’d be front row centre as soon as they toured. And so it was – I screamed, I jumped, I climbed on things and I essentially acted all of the ways a 21-year-old really, really shouldn’t. And it was GLORIOUS.

TOP 5:

  1. La Dispute
  2. Dan Mangan
  3. letlive.
  4. Death Cab for Cutie
  5. I Exist

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Feist. Sorry, babe. Maybe next time.

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MARCH

A pinch, a punch and some motherfucking MASTODON for the first of the month! Don’t mind if I do, thanks. With French destroyers Gojira and Norwegian warriors Kvelertak in tow, my brother Chris and I were treated to one of the most brutal shows I’ve seen all year. This was also the first of three shows at new Sydney venue The Hi-Fi I would attend this month, and all within a few days of one another. The very next day, I saw the delightful Ben Kweller doing his thing, while on the Sunday I’d finally get to see Manchester Orchestra live. Along with my ridiculously similar appearance to Andy Hull, I love all of their albums, especially Mean Everything to Nothing. Watching the band play “Everything to Nothing” live is one of the few gig moments from 2012 where I’ve actually teared up. Truly incredible stuff.

With Future Music Festival in town, I had yet another chance to see Die Antwoord after catching them at both the 2011 Big Day Out and at their show with M.I.A. the very next day, at which they completely blew her off the stage. Here, I found them in the illustrious surrounds of the Enmore, which was decidedly packed full of people from the Zef Side of Sydney. Despite going on late, they put on a truly fantastic show – bounding energy and a seemingly endless supply of bangers.

Next up was a return to Black Wire, to see the hilarious Battle Pope get rowdy along with Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt, The Reverend Jesse Custer and Jesus Christ Posse. Right there is four of my favourite heavy bands in the country, so that was more or less a dream come true. Another festival in March was Golden Plains, and from the cool streets of Portland came the femme-fatale quartet of Wild Flag. Lots of dancing to be had at their show at the Manning Bar with Love of Diagrams and impressive upstarts Unity Floors.

I’ve had the chance to do multiple shows on tours a few times this year, as evidenced back in February with La Dispute. These next two shows would be the first of two times I’d double up on some Children Collide action this year, bringing my grand total to nine times of seeing them live. For what it’s worth, they never let me down. Although the turnout for their Metro Theatre show was abysmal, they packed out the Patch in Wollongong and put on a truly hectic show for all involved.

During the final song, I decided to flip myself off the foldback and into the crowd. Half-expecting to fall to the ground, I ended up being carried all the way to the back of the venue, eventually toppling downward in-front of my bug-eyed sister, who could not believe her baby brother had just crowdsurfed like an absolute champion. Good times. Shout out to the killer supports, Deep Sea Arcade and Palms.

Nearing the end of the month, I was back at Black Wire to see two of my favourite Australian musicians, and people that I’m honoured to count as friends – Jamie Hay and Jen Buxton. I also had the pleasure of meeting Jen’s little dude, Eli. He has the biggest cheeks I’ve ever seen. I showed a world of restraint for not just sinking my teeth directly into them. Don’t tell her I said that, of course.

Oh yeah, I also saw Evanescence. The less said about that, the better. At least Blaqk Audio were pretty good.

TOP 5:

  1. Manchester Orchestra
  2. Mastodon
  3. Die Antwoord
  4. Children Collide
  5. Jamie Hay and Jen Buxton

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Evanescence. Childhood memories tainted forever by this soulless display of mediocrity.