INTERVIEW: Red Riders (AUS), November 2009

I love Alex Grigg. I call him Sydney’s Oldest Teenager – even in his early 30s, he’s living the twentysomething dream of kicking around in bands, working part-time at a cool shop and hanging out with mates all over the joint. We first met several years ago at a Living End show, at which the Riders opened. I was just excited to meet a real-life rock musician; but it wasn’t until a few years later that we got properly acquainted. This was the start of that friendship.

Although it was simply an interview to promote the new album and tour, we went off-track for a bit to talk about what a piece of shit Sam de Brito is. Hey, Sam, if you’re reading – you’re still a piece of shit. Anyway, these guys are sadly no more – you can catch Al and drummer Tom as one half of Palms; and guitarist Brad is off doing a bunch of stuff in the Shire where he’s from. I still keep in pretty regular contact with these guys, and it’s always a treat to catch up with them. For now, let’s cast our minds back to the tail-end of the 2000s and see what happens…

– DJY, April 2014

***

Sometimes, an artist can misrepresent themselves through their music. Take Red Riders’ Alex Grigg, for instance. In the latest single Ordinary from his band’s second album, Drown in Colour, he sings: “Nothing I do ever seems to go my way/Everything I do is ordinary.” Yet when asked about his day, Grigg casually talks about some extraordinary things.

“I had to go do a thing for Cleo magazine today,” he says on a late Friday afternoon with a chuckle. “It sounds a really bizarre thing to say it out loud, but I had to go and pretty much dress a girl, and tell them what to wear. There was a lifesaver, a comedian, a corporate guy, a rowing guy…it was just some funny thing to do. ” If that’s ordinary, who knows what’s different for him?

2009’s been a busy year for Grigg and his band. Drown in Colour, their first record since the departure of guitarist Adrian Deutsch, was released in July. It’s only now, however, that the band has been performing their own headline shows in support of the record in a variety of places up and down the east coast. According to Grigg, this delay was an initially intentional move to bring more singing mouths than scratched heads to shows.

“Our booking agent told us that you don’t want to tour straight after your album’s been released – it needs time so that people have heard it, so they know the songs when they come to the shows,” he explains. “The Little Birdy tour came along when we might have done an album tour, anyway; so that happened and now we’re out on our own tour.”

With them for most stops of the shows is Brisbane quartet The Boat People, who have just released the first single from their upcoming third album, entitled Echo Stick Guitars. “We met those guys at SXSW in February of this year,” Grigg says of the indie-pop collective. “We got to hanging out and got on really well, and our releases coincided to tour so it all worked out!”

Conversation moves to the creation of the record itself – and just how much of a challenge it was for Grigg to write on his own. The last RR album, 2007’s Replica Replica, was a 50/50 collaboration of music, lyrics and vocals between Alex and Adrian. This time around, however, it was entirely up to Grigg to get new material happening.

“While it was a little more stressful to create something and put my stamp on it,” he contemplates, “it also became a lot more personal. I think a lot of the time with me and Adrian, we were so worried about trying to keep it distinct that there were times where we had to kinda tone it down a bit.” So there’s no need to restrain anymore? “I think I don’t have to contain myself,” Grigg affirms. “I feel like I can let my personality out a lot more.”

In Deutsch’s place is Brad Heald, whom many will recognise as the bassist of The Vines. Don’t perceive him as a generic fill-in, though – as Alex explains, he is bringing something quite different to Red Riders.

“They’re such different guitarists,” he muses. “Whereas Adrian would always be filling in every last gap, Brad’s playing is kind of effect-heavy and reverb-laden, with a kind of washy sound. He even plays the old songs differently!”

Rather than lament on the departure of a member who contributed so much, Grigg chooses instead to remain optimistic about the band’s new line-up. Heald’s arrival into the fold, he believes, has injected a new dose of excitement into the band, with everything seeming new once again. With that said, is the mindset any different between the release of Replica Replica and the release of Drown in Colour?

“With the last album,” muses Grigg, “it was one where I was proud of a lot of it; but at the same time there’s a lot of it that I’m kind of undecided about.” And with this record? “I’m really proud of this one,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to make something that you really like, and getting closer and closer to creating something that even I would like even if I wasn’t in the band.”

Of course, going to see the Red Riders on tour in a small pub or club means a lot more in our current live music situation than it has in quite some time. Last month, Grigg angrily posted on Twitter against Sun Herald columnist Sam de Brito and his article commenting on the live music situation that the city of Sydney has found itself in.”

De Brito wrote: “If we are serious about saving live music in Sydney, promoters and venue owners need do only one thing” – please note: FasterLouder is NOT making this up – “get hotter chicks to gigs.” Reacting to this, Grigg slammed de Brito, calling him “a useless wanker” and “everything that sucks about Sydney” when replying to Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson.

“I think everyone I knew felt like punching him in the face,” he notes as we dissect the gaping flaws of the article. “I mean, the guy has just completely missed the point. He should just stick to what he understands, like doing coke in the Ivy or something. Leave us to our world and he can stay in his.”

Grigg also sees de Brito’s depiction of women in his column as despicable. “It was mainly offensive to women and girls that go to shows, y’know?” he says. “That it’s somehow bad to want to go to gigs. And that all the women in Sydney want to be like the ones off Sex and the City. I mean, it’s just ridiculous.”

In response to news of events such as the closing of the Hopetoun and the Annandale Hotel being in trouble, Alex turns our discussion to what should really be done, instead of listening to de Brito’s oblivious and glaringly sexist advice. Getting hot chicks to gigs is not the answer – simply going to them is.

“If all the people that got really worked up that the Hopetoun was closing actually went to shows all the time, maybe it wouldn’t have closed,” he ponders. “Yes, it’s about the licensing laws and the council and all these things, but it’s also about actually going out and supporting these young bands. It’s the same with what happened with FBi – it’s as much about the people as it is about the laws and what have you.”

Lack of interest isn’t the only thing to blame – people new to the area, in Alex’s humble opinion, may well have something to do with it. “The thing that gets me,” he says, “is that the Annandale’s been there forever. It’s just people that are moving into the area after the venue’s already been there for so many years – why would you move into an area where there’s a live music venue nearby if you didn’t like noise and just wanted a quiet suburban life?”

Whatever the solution may be, Grigg and the Red Riders are more than willing to contribute and support as much as they can. With a strong album to support and a fresh new energetic live show to accompany it, it will be well worth your time and effort to catch the band in action on this tour.

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.

+++

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.

+++

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.