November 2018

Simply Red

Red Rider Red Rider Red Rider Red Rider Red Rider Text: Phil Kemball Images: Daniel Boud

There are some bands who’ll do anything for a slice of the limelight, for better or worse. The Red Riders are the antithesis of those bands. For better or worse they’re happy to shy away from what people have got to say about them and go about their business making music. In fact they’re so keen not to know what other people are up to they’ve based their second album, Drown In Colour, around not knowing. Phil Kemball catches up with colleague, mate and frontman of the Red Riders, Alex Grigg to discuss what he’s been up to and why he hasn’t been blogging…

Phil Kemball: So tell me a story Al.

Alex Grigg: My friends ancestry goes all the way back to the convicts and his great-great-great-grandfather was brought out here for a buggering a sheep.

PK: Ha! Anyway, I know you’ve stopped reading music publications. Why do you hate reading them so much?

AG: I stopped reading them firstly because you can’t just read the good things people say and not listen to the bad things people say. You’ve got to take it all and it just fucked with my head too much. I just get too caught up in it basically.

PK: In what way?

AG: I get too tied to that shit emotionally, I don’t really need that shit from someone you don’t know. I just want to make music, I don’t want to have to worry about what other people think.

PK: So this album has been a long time coming. How does this album differ from Replica Replica?

AG: The last album came out into 2006, and it was when that whole indie-dance scene was just getting started. This one is way more introspective, we’ve tried to make something that we really like and forget about what’s going on elsewhere. It’s a way more confident album in that way.

PK: Are you guys maturing then?

AG: Maturing makes things sound boring immediately so I’d say it’s about being confident and comfortable. That’s enough and it doesn’t have to be endorsed by some scene or something. I’m a lot more relaxed about stuff now than I was back then. I just felt that this was better so people would like it and I didn’t get caught up in it.

PK: That’s what people should do when they write music. There are a few tracks on Drown In Colour that are noticeably different…

AG: There are some songs on the new album that I wrote and I loved but I couldn’t conceive how they could be Red Riders songs. We didn’t know how they fitted in to what we do. It took our label, manager and Woody, who produced the album to say these songs are really good and you have to do them. So even though we loved them we didn’t know how to make them work and we were just going to leave them off.

PK: Is it coming from a different place to where you were four years ago?

AG: Yeah. It’s coming from a place where I’m feeling bored and ordinary. I go through real highs and lows of when I feel like everything is great or when everything I do is terrible and I feel untalented and ordinary. It’s like when you’re a kid and you grow up in your little suburb and then you go to the city and there are heaps of kids just like you and you just feel ordinary.

PK: So the new album is an attempt to break away from that?

AG: It wasn’t as conscious as that, it wasn’t like lets not do this. It was more like this is what we want this to be like. I had an idea of what I wanted to do in my head – I wanted to do whimsical yet straight ahead rock music.

PK: Just before you guys recorded Drown In Colour Adrian (Deutsch) left and Brad (Heald) joined the band. How has that changed things for you guys?

AG: I think that having Brad join on the cusp of making that last album means that he’s only been involved in a transitional phase so I’m looking forward to making something with him as a full time member. I was talking to Angie from Circle Pit and she’s like “It’s just me and Jack and we want to have a new backing band the whole time because it keeps things interesting and you get psyched off new people.” I don’t want to have a revolving line up but I can totally understand her point of view because there’s this whole new unknown element in the band and things are exciting.

PK: Considering you’re not really into knowing what people have to say about you guys does it make having an online presence tough?

AG: The whole online thing has been cool in that it’s opened stuff up so much but at the other time it’s annoying having to write a blog and Twitter. I mean sometimes you really feel like writing a blog or something but other times you’re just like “ah I better do this because I’ve got to create some content”.

PK: Do you think some people get involved in bands just so they can do that stuff?

AG: I think that for the younger generations it’s quite natural for them to record and photograph everything they do and put it online. Sometimes our manager will be like “you haven’t done a blog for a while,” and I’ll be thinking that’s because I’ve got nothing to fucking say!

Don’t get me wrong I’m really pleased that people want to read my blog or follow my twitter but I play music. I wonder if there’ll be a backlash against it all one day?

PK: I think for a lot of people it’s all about the live performance and some of the newer bands aren’t doing that as well. When you guys were starting was it more about the live performance?

AG: Yeah I think that it’s funny because when you fast start writing songs it’s just you in your bedroom making music and then you’re really conscious that that’s the only way that the song exists because you haven’t recorded anything and you don’t have an album. So you playing live is the only way the song existed.

With this album, because we only replaced Adrian a month out from recording it hasn’t been honed live.

PK: They don’t have to correlate do they?

AG: Nah, no way. I like that shambolic and crap sound live, I like that it has this different in the moment energy live but on record it can sound a little nicer. I mean I’m a shit guitarist and Matt’s not a great bassist and we’ll happily admit we’re not technically a great band but it’s more about the spirit live I guess.

PK: If you hold the third album up to the first album will it be oceans apart?

AG: I hope so! I hope it’s a lot better! It’s funny though people will come up and say how much they like your first EP more than any of your new releases. It’s funny how people just love different stuff to you.

PK: Well what matters most is that you like it right?

AG: Yeah well it’s so hard to make money that at some point you come to the conclusion that you’re not going to make money so you just do something that you like. Even if you’re a successful band in Australia you’re not going to make that much money, so screw it and make what you love. So that’s where I’m at.

PK: You’re feeling good about that?

AG: Yeah.

PK: Honestly?

AG: Once you resign yourself to that fact, totally.

PK: How long did that take?

AG: About an album or so (laughs)! It’s not like there’s some amazing financial success so you may as well do what you want to. I don’t need a lot of money, it’s nice to make stuff and live a creative life.

We’re such a funny career based generation that we see ourselves as products. Whereas in the ’90s bands were like we’re not going to let the record companies tell us what to do. Nowadays bands are happy to do what they’re told.

But then I’ll probably be this 40-year-old dude talking about our twenty fifth album like it’s the one!

Red Riders

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