When The Living End strike up the band for the forthcoming A Day On The Green series (which now includes recently-announced extra WA date at Red Hill Auditorium on March 3), they’ll be on fire, having just returned from a momentous run of shows in the US.
“This was the second US tour that we’ve done in the space of six months but we hadn’t been to the US for eight years before that,” vocalist/guitarist, Chris Cheney, says. “It was probably too long between drinks, but both these tours were really great. We just spent five weeks there, going right from the east to the west coast and we played a lot of great shows and saw a lot of cool things. We’ve got a great following over there, a really loyal fanbase.”
Cheney says that there’s no been a major change in the band’s fan strongholds in their eight-year US absence, but it does seem that the major cities do love the rock’n’rollabilly trio.
“We’ve spent so long in Los Angeles that we’ve got a really strong fanbase there,” he explains. “But in New York, for example, we played with Midnight Oil which was really good. It was great to get on to their shows and play to their audience and try and win them over.
“Our bass player Scott, it’s his favourite band of all time, so to be laying shows with Midnight Oil in the USA was really quite a surreal experience. And they’re playing like they never stopped playing. There’s so much energy in that band it’s ridiculous.”
At the time of the release of the last album, Shift, Cheney stated in interviews that he’d dug more personally in terms of lyrics than ever before. Taking an album out on the road that continues the band’s trademark energy with a little more darkness on the side has proven to be interesting.
“Yeah, the songs translate really well live,” Cheney says. “I’m more proud of this record than any of our records. I really poured everything I had into it. The reaction’s been really great and people who come to our shows they want to hear that stuff. They don’t need to hear Prisoner Of Society again, they’ve heard it enough times (laughs). It’s really great to be in a position where we’ve got an album that actually does translate live, so we’re trying to mix it up and play different songs from it.
“It’s a bit different with A Day On The Green because that’s more about playing to a diverse audience, but for our own little club shows we can really mix it up.”
Many bands who reach the milestone that is a two-decade career find that their newer albums may be regarded with, at best, token interest. The Living End’s album releases, however, are always of the moment. There’s an intensity about both the releases themselves and the interest shown towards them. Shift was, after all, the band’s seventh album to debut in the ARIA Top 10.
“I guess we’re lucky to have that but I feel we wouldn’t put a record out if we thought it was purely a vehicle to tour,” Cheney posits. “‘Okay, here’s 10 songs, whatever… a couple of good ones but the rest are crap’. We really spend a lot of time writing and a lot of time demo-ing and I think that kind of shows.
“We have had a lot of amazing success beyond what we expected; we’ve had a lot of support from radio. I like to think that every time we release an album we’re still strong and we’ve still got our finger on the pulse, not putting out something that’s just a pile of crap. We’re very lucky to have that kind of response.”
By way of stretching his creative arms, Cheney Six portrayed St Jimmy in the opening shows in the Australian of the Green Day musical, American Idiot.
“It was so much better than I was probably expecting it to be,” he enthuses. “I was pretty nervous going into it but I decided to set myself a challenge and do something completely different and step outside the concert zone – which it was – and I got a real buzz out of it.
“It was a really inspiring, exciting thing to do. It’s a different level of nerves (laughs). I’m really glad I did it.”
Indeed it seems that Cheney relished the chance, as a seasoned performer, to step onstage in a manner that was so challenging and offered so much new to learn.
“Yeah and I think you’ve got to do that these days more than ever,” he adds. “You’ve got to branch out. I’ve always been into the theatre, especially musical theatre. I thought I was capable of bringing something to the role and felt, again, that it’s important to not just be a one trick pony. I want to be a songwriter and a guitar player and a performer… just be a bit more rounded, I guess.”
Australia audience will next have a chance to see The Living End when they step out on a national run with Spiderbait, Veruca Salt, Lemonheads, Fauves and Tumbleweed. That’s some line-up.
“It’ll be great,” Cheney says, “it’s just diverse enough. For a fan of rock’n’roll music it’s gonna be perfect. We’ve known The Fauves guys and Spiderbait for a long time and I’m really looking forward to seeing The Lemonheads and Veruca Salt.
“And Tumbleweed are Oz Rock legends as far as I’m concerned. It’s a really good line-up, I think. Not just your typical festival thing.”
Good company, good venues, good wine. It certainly sounds like a lovely way to do it…
“For sure. It’s just a fun thing to be a part of. Hopefully we can play some music as well (laughs).”