May 2020

Do It Yourself

The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail Text: Gabriel Knowles Images: Violent Soho

When Violent Soho left for the USA towards the end of 2009 to say they didn’t have much of a profile at home was an understatement. Their first release was capped at just 1000 pressings because money was tight, probably because they’d spent it all traversing the east coast of Australia playing shows. Their resolute refusal to sign with a local label probably didn’t help either, but then they didn’t feel like being backed into a corner by a label only interested in making a quick buck.

“The reason we never signed in Australia is because we never found anyone at that time who was going to give us the support we needed to get to another level,” guitarist and singer James Tidswell admits of their lack of representation down under before Primary vocalist and guitarist Luke Boerdam picks up the thread. “We met so many labels, and we said no but not out of arrogance, but we weren’t going to work with someone that has no idea. What this shows is it’s actually possible for bands to be bands and just put their heads down and write music and tour.”

Now based in Brooklyn, the Brisbane raised four piece noise/grunge/punk band are going from strength to strength. Comparisons to the Pixies and Nirvana probably help but it has been the involvement of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore that’s taken them to prominence in northern hemisphere.

“We had a period of time where everyone in the UK and the USA started sending us messages asking why we weren’t signed. People in the industry over here where checking us out and nobody in the Australian industry was checking us out.”Boerdam explains from the bands temporary home. “So we came over here but Thurston had contacted our management already and offered us a deal before we got here. We did a whole bunch of showcases and we got offered lots of deals but obviously we went with Thurston. It didn’t matter who offered deals after that.” Considering that one label arranged for them to spend time with Rick Rubin the lure to still go with Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label must have been pretty strong.

“We love Sonic Youth and Thurston’s general involvement in the arts is really great. All the bands we love he was connected with.” Tidswell elaborates. The DIY aspects of those types of bands have also obviously had an impact on how the band operates. “We’ve always done everything as a DIY thing.” Bassist Luke Henery says. “There might be some people in Brisbane who don’t like what we’re doing. When we first started it was all about doing things local and the music community. There are going to be some people who don’t like the idea of us being on a label.”

If that’s a real concern for some fans, it needn’t be. As a band who spent a good five years on the road touring Australia in between full-time work commitments, including 70 hour road trips to play just three shows, they don’t seem too fussed to actually have some money at their disposal. In fact apart from the late model van they’ve bought to cross the States over and over you’d never that Universal fronted Ecstatic Peace a bunch of cash to get them going. And at a time when the manner in which so many bands are styled is as, if not more, important than their output it’s nice to see an act just being themselves.

Luckily for Violent Soho that’s just what their new label want them to keep doing, they even hooked them up with legendary producer Gil Norton to help on the bands recently released, self titled album. If first opinions are anything to go by it should be alright.

“Thurston said that ‘it sounds like making out with the devils daughter, all in all, good times,” drummer Michael Richards laughs.

Violent Soho is out now.

Violent Soho

Next story: The Pilgrimage – Lisa Dempster