banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW – Duane Smith, The Chevelles – February 2014

| 28 February 2014 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Duane Smith, The Chevelles – February 2014
By Shane Pinnegar

The Chevelles 01

As they approach their 25th anniversary as a band, Perth Garagey power-pop genre-defying rockers The Chevelles are again venturing further afield with a visit to Austin, Texas for South By Southwest’s music festival, and then on to Spain for some shows. First though, they say ‘ciao’ to Perth with a gig to celebrate The Rocket Room’s rebirth of live music – TONIGHT, Friday 28 February 2014, with The Volcanics, Custom Royal and The Killer Hipsters in support.
Shane: The Chevelles are all busy again! The band seems to have ebbed and flowed somewhat over 25 years.

Duane: Yes, that’s what’s fun about being in rock n’ roll, we’ve always been active, [but] we don’t play every week. But we’ll go through those spurts where we’ll record and we’ll do all sorts of other stuff and then we’ll bang it out and go touring and do a lot of shows and all that sort of stuff and then we’ll sort of sit back down again after we finished and work out what we’re doing next year. So we’re 25 years old this year in November, as a band.

Shane: Yes, which is kind of crazy! Are you doing anything special for that?

Duane: Yeah, we’re going to. We might try and do a 2 hour special where we go through and play a couple of albums back to back all the way through or something special – we’ll do something special anyway.

Shane: You’re off to South by Southwest next week…

Duane: Yeah, I head off on Tuesday next week and the boys arrive on the weekend and we’re doing 4 or 5 shows in Austin. We’re doing some really cool shows. I’ve got a motorcycle shop called 66 Motorcycles, [for] custom, old school, rocker motorcycles, down in Fremantle. So, I’m actually going over there and meeting up with some guys and there’s this big motorcycle festival in California and we’re playing that gig as well. And then we’re jumping on a plane over to Spain and doing a quick 4 shows over there and then back home. So just a quick 2 weeks, a bit of a blast – we haven’t been back to Spain for about, I think it’s 3 or 4 years now, so we sort of need to get back there and we’re pretty stoked with the response we’ve had from the promoter about it all. Ticket sales are starting this week and are already strong. We usually go and sell out venues, so it looks like we’ll probably do the same again, which is great, considering we haven’t gone over there for about 4 years and it’s been over 12 months since our last release!

Shane: There was a time when you were heading to Spain for a month or so almost every year.

Duane: Yeah, yeah. I think this is probably about our 15th tour over there to Spain and it will be our, let’s see, 1, 2, I think our 5th tour of the US or trip to the US to play some shows. We’ve been to Brazil as well, about 4 times and Europe obviously. When we go to Spain we usually do some shows in Europe as well so we fly to every country there as well. So, it’s good, mate, that we’re almost 25 years old and we’re still rocking. We have a new album that we’re recording and a new single that’s going to come out, things are great. We’re really blessed as a band, you know, considering we’re not flavour of the month anymore and haven’t been for a while. We’re still flavour of the month in some sort of far off lands and that’s what keeps us ticking.

The Chevelles 02

Shane: Well, that’s the interesting thing, isn’t it? Like you said, 25 years, you’ve done all of these tours overseas and everything. Do you feel under-appreciated in Perth?

Duane: Ohhhh, you know, we’ve been in rock n’ roll for long enough to know the sweet success that you do get is short and fleeting. I think it’s a testimony to a band that stays together a long period of time and plays rock n’ roll because they love it. And you know, that’s sort of where we are. We’ve been doing it for such a long time now, it’s ingrained in everything that we do. Jeff [Halley] works in the industry [Monster Management] and I have a rock n’ roll motorcycle company [66 Motorcycles], it all sort of fits in, you know? It’s all part of the thing that we do.

It’s been our love and passion for a long time and continues to be and the fact that we are appreciated – that we have our loyal fans… and you know, we’re almost now, with 25 years under our belt we’re seen as this cult garage, rock, power pop band carrying on the torch from great Australian music that started way back in The Saints era. It’s that sort of thing overseas, and overseas you’re always gonna be seen as something more than in your home town. So, can’t complain mate.

Shane: Why do you think the Latins – the Brazilians and the Spanish – connect so much with The Chevelles’ music?

Duane: Well, I think it’s the melody. A lot of ‘bop bop ahhs’ and a lot of harmonies going on there in our songs and we mix it up with some heavy guitars. Also, we’re known in Brazil as a surf band so that’s how they see Australians, sort of rock, garage, is seen as surf music over there. There’s been a lot of tracks on a lot of surf movies and compilations over there. So that’s probably why. We’ve always pondered that, I can’t really answer the question why the Latin connection, but, they’re just really into their music and they just love Australian rock n’ roll. So we continue to play that and we don’t step too far off the genre, you know? We’re not about to put out a hip-hop album [laughs] 25 years on! So we’ll continue to do what we do. You know, I’m even surprised with all the social media stuff that well over 60% of our fans that are buying our MP3’s on iTunes and attached to our social media are under 25. That’s a huge thing for us – that there is a new, younger generation that’s starting to get into the garage rock n’ roll.

Music tastes go through cycles, you know what I mean? And it’s definitely time for a little rock n’ roll resurgence, I think! You know, my son’s 15 now and he’s right into his rock. He came home the other day and he’d got the Sex Pistols and Ramones albums on CD – and he’s right into Green Day – which is quite different for a 15 year old these days, they usually listen to a lot of crap – and, maybe it’s his Dad’s influence and whatever, but even a few of his mates are right into that old school punk stuff. So I took him downstairs and said, you know that album you just got, I have it here on vinyl! [laughs] and so I pulled them all out and showed him all the stuff I was listening to when I was 17. There’s a cycle going on mate, and that’s a good thing.

Shane: Excellent. So look, if there was financial backing, you’ve got all this appeal around the world, would you be making records and touring constantly?

Duane: Oh look, I don’t know about constantly, we all have families these days, I think it’d be selfish for us to bail out totally, but we’d probably tour more if we could. We’ve got a great label, Wicked Cool, Little Steven’s record label in New York that’s been fantastic for us. We get played quite a lot in his Underground Garage Show, syndicated to about 3 million listeners a week around the world. We get some really good support from our label and from Steven and that’s been helpful for us. But they’re an indie label too – we never thought we’d ever be Top 10 you know – we hit the Top 30 in Europe once, around Aerosmith and Slade days way, way back in the rock charts – but the big thing, Shane, I think for us is that we do what we do and we love doing it. We put an album out every 2 or 3 years and a single out every year. We get to go over and play places around the world and cover our costs and get holidays for free. I mean, we are extremely blessed as a band and that’s the reason we continue to do it, not that we think there is fame and stardom around the corner. [laughs]

Shane: Going back to the early mid-90s, you had a lot of trouble time and again with several record labels, deals falling to pieces. Is it easier to be a band, from a business perspective, nowadays when things are a bit more independent?

Duane: We did. Oh, big time. Back when we first started off, we were faxing in pidgeon Spanish to labels and trying to organise tours by fax. We’re talking back in 1990, 1991, we’re trying to be in contact with people and have someone translate it for us and going back. These days, this was back before internet and email, it was very, very difficult back then. It was the big label [time] and we got courted by a few but it never came to fruition.

The Chevelles 03

These days, I think so much stuff can be done at home and so much stuff can be … A lot of labels these days won’t touch you unless you’ve got a massive fan base on social media already, so. I think we’ve grown with the times and started to exploit social media, but I think it’s a lot easier these days to put your music out and play rock n’ roll and tour than it was back in the ’90s and back in the ’80s, and there are some great bands out there doing a lot of good stuff by themselves. You don’t need a massive record label. The whole idea is to play rock n’ roll and have fun with your mates, and get to tour and play in front of different crowds. It’s easily accessible these days. Easily accesible.

Shane: Definitely. You mentioned Little Steven, who was in town recently with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Did you catch up with him then?

Duane: Yeah, yeah, he got us front row tickets for us and all our partners, for the Springsteen concert, which was fantastic, and we got to catch up with him before the show. And then we ended up drinking most of the night away at Amplifier afterwards, not with Stevie, but with all the crew and all the guys we met on the tour. It was great to catch up with him, we see him every now and then.

I co-wrote with him about 18 months ago – I started a song called Bettie Page, which was our last single. That was a great experience for me, he was absolutely fantastic. I’d send him MP3s and they’d translate it for him and he’d do stuff on a tape deck. He’d use a tape deck and a microphone and he’d say, ‘hey how about this little bridge Duane?’ then we’d talk on the phone and then I’d put something together and send him over demos. It was a fantastic experience for me, one of my highlights of writing over the years. I’ve written over well over 300 songs now because I do a lot of television and also film soundtrack stuff. It was great to actually co-write with someone other than Adrian [Allen] [laughs] He’s a super dude, a very cool character.

The Chevelles - Bettie Page

Shane: Excellent. Well, I was going to say, most of The Chevelles stuff is written by either you, or Adrian or jointly, yet it all very distinctively sound like The Chevelles. Do you both just naturally write in that style or is that sound overlaid by the band in the studio?

Duane: Adrian and I, we’ve known each other since we were kids so, I think that we’re writing the same sort of music and it comes through in the songwriting. I think Adrian probably tends to write a little bit more sort of pop ballad numbers than I do, and I tend to write some of the heavier sort of tracks.

We write in the same keys all the time and we sing each others songs and play lead guitar and solos so it’s sort of a collaborative effort. We’re sharing the writing duties and when you throw Jeff and the drummer into it, we end up sounding like The Chevelles.

It’s a funny process, because we don’t sound all that different. Sometimes people go, ‘did you write that or is that Adrian’s song?’ He’s definitely got a little bit more of a softer, sweeter voice than me. I’m starting to get a little gravel in mine – it might be smoking cigarettes over the last 10 years. [laughs] But it’s all good. We’ve got a ton of songs for the next album. We’ve got demos galore. We’re really looking forward to getting a full length album out which is something that you really don’t do these days.

Shane: Yeah, great. That would be really good. Is that likely to come out this year in your 25th anniversary?

Duane: Yeah, we’re hoping to have at least an EP done by then and if not a full album by the end of the year. So in the 25th anniversary year. That’s the go, anyway!

Shane: We’ll be looking forward to it man.



Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad