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 Two: April/May/June

Jan // Feb // Mar
Jul // Aug // Sep

APRIL

It’s somewhat fitting that I saw Hands Like Houses play a show on April Fool’s Day. Despite international acclaim and touring, they proved to be one of the most lifeless and uninspired bands I’ve seen live this year. What a joke. Still, at least I got to see Sound of Seasons tear it up at that show. Great live act, those kids. Onto the gorgeous surrounds of the Enmore, where I was fortunate enough to see ska legends The Specials tear the joint a new one. This was honestly one of the most energetic shows I went to in all of 2012 – I had no idea things would get this wild! For nearly two hours a solid crowd of roughly 1500, the band tore through their classics with all the energy and vitality that came with their release some thirty years ago. What a treat, what an honour. Definitely a major year highlight.

Milhouse launched their debut seven-inch in style, with a show at the venue they’re practically the house band of now: Black Wire Records. A very fun night indeed. The very next day, I had the chance of doubling up on a tour yet again – this time, twice in one day. Brisbane brats Bleeding Knees Club were playing in the afternoon in Sydney before playing that night in Wollongong. While it was fun to watch some kids going completely mental at what was quite possibly their first gig, the Gong show was something else entirely. Shit got decidedly loose, especially when local legend Jack Reilly got on stage with the boys to tear through a blink-182 cover. Oh, what a night!

With the Dig It Up! Festival in town, I had the chance to see the legendary Redd Kross play their cracking debut album, Born Innocent, in its entirety. While the Oxford Art Factory isn’t usually a great rock venue, this was the perfect room for these guys to thrash through the album and bring to life their wild younger years. Getting to press the flesh with the legendary Steve McDonald was also a total honour. A few days later, I was back at the same venue to see Brissie ex-pats An Horse play a rare Sydney show. A great audience and some top-shelf songs – wish these guys came back more often. Finally, I wrapped up the month with a show at Yours & Owls, which you’ll be hearing plenty more of later in the year. Here, I got to check out the frighteningly good Adelaide crew Night Hag grind to their heart’s content, with ample support from The Reverend Jesse Custer and Endeavours. Good times.

TOP 5:

  1. The Specials
  2. Redd Kross
  3. An Horse
  4. Bleeding Knees Club
  5. Night Hag

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Hands Like Houses. For all the hype, potentially the blandest band in all the land.

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MAY

Holy fuck. What a heavyweight month this was! Aside from maybe November, I can’t think of another period where I saw such incredible music being performed at such a consistent rate. An exhausting, exhilarating and life-affirming time in 2012. I kicked things off by farewelling The Butterfly Effect‘s vocalist, Clint Boge, with their final Sydney show with him at the UNSW Roundhouse. I’ll be the first to admit how daggy this lot can be, but I decided early on that I’d get there early, get the barrier and party like it was 2006. What a fun show this was, a complete nostalgia trip and a great send-off to a band that genuinely meant the world to me back in my mid-teens. Excellent fun, probably more than I should be admitting.

The next night saw me regain some of my “cred” by attending a packed-out show from the wonderful Frank Turner. In support was folk-punk’s first lady Jen Buxton, your new favourite punks The Smith Street Band and the jolly travelling bluesman William Elliott Whitmore. All four acts put on sets that superlatives simply cannot do justice to. It was a night to celebrate the arrival, if you will, of Frank. After selling out Wembley, he came to Australia with high spirits and an arsenal of anthems spanning all four of his albums. This man is honestly one of the reasons why I make music, so it truly was an honour to watch him bring his fervent folk-punk energy to the Manning Bar. You had to be there to get it.

Groovin’ the Moo – bit of a rubbish festival, but they bring the goods every now and then. Case in point: City and Colour & Wavves, who both put on great shows in Sydney. Having never seen C&C as a live band, it was quite fulfilling to hear so many tracks that I’ve loved over the years come to life so classily. Dallas is a great performer, understated and charming. I really appreciated the fact he asked everyone to put away their camera phones – one of my biggest vices at shows, so it was nice to get a break from it, however momentary. Although a totally different style of performer, Nathan Williams (aka Wavves) put on a cracking hour set at the Oxford Art Factory. All the best tracks from his own arsenal, plus a Sonic Youth cover (100%) and some gut-bustingly funny inside jokes made this a super-fun show.

Nearing the end of the month meant shit got increasingly more real. And it doesn’t get more freakin’ real than Prince. Holy shit, this was a spectacle and a half. To walk in and see the Allphones turned into a house of purple – complete with a stage shaped like Prince’s symbol – was breathtaking enough. Then, he decides to make things even more insane by OPENING with a fifteen-minute version of Purple Rain. Read again: OPENING with that. Where do you go from there, exactly? Pretty simple: Hit after hit after hit. This was a joyous, funky thing to be a part of; and I’m so glad I got that chance. Truly memorable stuff right there.

Following on from that, I got to see two long-time live favourites across two consecutive nights at the Patch – Dead Letter Circus and Tonight Alive. The former brought a meaty, volatile crowd with them; which was to be expected, really. Thankfully, I had myself a nice spot on the corner of the front row, tucked away and just enjoying their groovy tunes. Great live act, only getting better. As for Tonight Alive, this was the start of a pretty special run of shows with those guys – one show in Wollongong and two shows in Sydney, as a part of their final Australian tour for the year.

I always love these shows, if anything just for the company that comes with them and the incredible circle of people I’ve met through the band and its fans. It gets better, however: My boys in Totally Unicorn were the opening act, which meant that they got to terrorise a bunch of unsuspecting pop-punk kids and blow their freakin’ minds. All three shows had their good points, but the highlight of the bunch was easily the all-ages show at the Factory Theatre. There’s just something about AA Tonight Alive shows that have such an unshakable energy to them. The crowd is always mental, the kids up the front know the score and we can all go mental in unison. I usually have a pretty low tolerance level of AA crowds, but this was totally fine. In fact, it enhanced the experience.

May ended with not so much a bang as an absolute freak explosion. Two words: Janelle. Monae. Friends from across the country came out for this one, as the petite dynamo turned the Opera House concert hall into a next-level party. I can’t begin to tell you how much I needed this fucking show. After admiring Janelle for over two years, it was a complete thrill to finally get the chance to see her and her electric band do their thing, playing songs that still meant the absolute world to me like they did when they first came out. All roads truly felt like they lead to this very show. I can’t really give you much more detail than that. It was out of this world. Amazing. Life-changing. Pretty damn sure this was the one. As awesome as the rest of the year was, nothing quite compared to this night, these songs and this moment in time.

TOP 5:

  1. Janelle Monae
  2. Prince
  3. Frank Turner
  4. The Butterfly Effect
  5. Tonight Alive

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Young Guns, the main support for Tonight Alive. Sorry, lads; you seemed lovely but you were trying to do an arena show to an audience of about 50 people and it really didn’t work in your favour.

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JUNE

By contast, June was actually one of my quietest gig months. Not that it was a barren wasteland or anything, but I felt like a senior citizen compared to my frequent travels of the month prior. Even so, I probably needed the break more than I was willing to admit. I eased back into gigging post-Janelle (or PJ, as I so measure my life these days) with a small gig at Goodgod, one of my favourite new Sydney venues. My chums in Mrs. Bishop were launching a new single, and it was great to catch up with them and bask in their cooing harmonies. The week after, I bid farewell to an old mate in Trial Kennedy, who decided to notch up the nostalgia factor a little extra by adding After the Fall to the line-up. Getting in one last sing-along to Damage on Parade was a year highlight, as was the chance to FINALLY hear Mississippi Burn live; which is my all-time favourite TK song.

After having a ball (pardon the pun) at her last show in 2010, there was no way I was going to miss Lady Gaga on her Born This Way Ball tour. Although I wasn’t as big a fan of BTW as I was of her previous efforts, this was still an absolutely awesome show, full of wonder and big pop sing-alongs – which, if you know me well enough, are pretty much my bread and butter. The thing I love about big-arse pop shows like this one are that, even if it’s only for just a couple of hours, you can escape from whatever’s going on in your life and dive headfirst into a whole new world, Aladdin style. Gaga is a great entertainer and someone who can keep up energy levels like few others can. It’s truly a sight to see. Put aside your doubts and try it out sometime.

The end of the month came quickly, with two more shows before it was done. First was a trip all the way out to Epping, where I ended up at a cafe called Pablo’s in order to see my dear buddies in Collarbones and Fishing; as well as Dappled Cities side-project Swimwear. This was put on by The Gate, aka Joe Hardy, who puts in great efforts to bring great original live music to unconventional places. The show was an absolute treat for the senses, squishing in with a stack of other music lovers to soak up some glitchy goodness. You KNOW a show’s gone well when it ends with an en-masse sing-along to Jenny From the Block. Finally, there was my dear old buddy Jonathan Boulet, hitting the big time with his largest hometown show ever at the Metro Theatre. Having followed his work for years across all of his projects, to see this show go so well was a big thing for me. Jono continues to amaze and inspire with his work, and his live shows (starring his remarkably handsome band) are no exception. Good times!

TOP 5:

  1. Lady Gaga
  2. Trial Kennedy
  3. Jonathan Boulet
  4. Fishing
  5. Mrs Bishop

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: None! Everyone ruled! How good is that?