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INTERVIEW – Luke Boerdam, VIOLENT SOHO – June 2014

| 31 July 2014 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Luke Boerdam, VIOLENT SOHO – June 2014
By Shane Pinnegar

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I recently interviewed Violent Soho’s Luke Boerdam in advance of their July National tour for Perth’s X-Press Magazine. Here is the full transcript of that interview.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Thanks for your time today, man – where are you calling in from, at home in Brisbane?

Boerdam: Ah yeah, yeah in Brisbane, at the record shop a block away, just hangin’ out here for a little bit [laughs]

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So you have this big tour coming up, man – headlining around the country. That’s pretty cool.

Boerdam: Yeah, yeah – it’s awesome! We definitely didn’t expect it to be as big as it’s become – so that’s interesting… last time we were in Melbourne we did The Corner Hotel – and I was really happy with that, playing The Corner, we were used to doing 200-300 capacity rooms, and now we’re doing The Hi Fi Bar [capacity approx 650] – and the Hi Fi show sold out in ten minutes, the second show sold out in 15 minutes, and I was like, ‘Holy shit – where are these people coming from!’ So, couldn’t be more stoked – really pumped.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: It must be really gratifying considering that a couple of years ago you guys were pretty close to down & out?

Boerdam: Yeah, yeah, it is. It’s been a pretty long and slow crawl back… you know, we never even played shows like this in Australia before, so I say ‘crawl back…’ but… yeah you’re right, we came back from America and it was a pretty gruelling experience to go through the washing machine of the music industry! From touring America, which was absolutely awesome – and we got to tour with some of our very favourite bands like Dinosaur Jr & The Bronx and then kind’ve got spat out the other end, [ended up] back in Australia – which, well we were kinda getting desperate to get back home anyway – but it was a big kind of ‘what’s next’ question lingering over the band.

It was difficult to go out and get work again, and do the band at nights – it was getting tough to get [into] a rehearsal room and get the drive that we used to have to get excited again, we were just absolutely tired to be honest and we needed a break. Yeah, so I guess just slowly, through writing another record, and getting in the room again practising that, it kind’ve just fell into place over a long period. We just absolutely refused to put out shit – we just said ‘if we don’t come up with a record that we’re proud of and we WANT to put out, then let’s just leave it, you know – fuck it!’ [laughs] But if we do, and if we’re gonna try to crack it and actually enjoy it again, then let’s do it.

You know, I think we owe it to ourselves – and we didn’t want to leave it with that one record that was a culmination of a lot of earlier songs… so it’s been a long trip, but yeah, it IS gratifying… well it’s more than gratifying because I didn’t realise there was so many people listening to bands with guitars in them [laughs] Seriously – listening to Triple J, how many bands do you hear that have distorted guitars and loud amps?` I mean, there’s heaps of bands out there – I know of them, you know of them, but I didn’t realise there was a general public out there wanting this kind of music to this degree…

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100% ROCK MAGAZINE: It’s funny isn’t it – the older bands who are still touring still have that hardcore following, but newer bands coming up are all just doof doof or synth stuff, so it’s really good to see a newer band coming up playing guitar rock

Boerdam: Yeah – i know exactly what you mean. Mind you, we toured with those bands – we did a national tour with Jebediah, I think it was back in 2011, and you know, that’s what was left of those types of bands – the sort of honest, 3 or 4 chord rock songs, sort of loud quiet loud like The Pixies – that’s what was left of it, Jebediah, You Am I, Grinspoon – they tour and you see them every year. So it’s awesome to see not only that people are coming to our shows, but you’ve got DZ Deathrays, and that band out of Adelaide – Bad Dreams, all these other bands up and coming that are loud and are honest and have really raw music – it’s fucking awesome to watch. It’s really exciting!

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: In addition to your own headlining show over here, you’re also headlining the Circo Festival here in Perth, which is a really eclectic line-up, so it’s great to see some guitars at the top of the bill. Wake the kids up, man!

Boerdam: There’s a band called DMA who are about the same level we’re at, I think they’re playing. Yeah we’re really pumped, and that guy from Bloc Party – Kelle – so it’s pretty diverse – I think it’s gonna be a good one. We actually booked in our tour before that, so we’re starting the tour the following Wednesday so, [laughs] we gotta fly in for Circo, then fly back to Brisbane, then fly back to Perth again!

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: I was wondering if you were gonna hang out for a few days, maybe go down South or something

Boerdam: Oh we WANT to, we want to – but the way it all came together logistically we… well the way it all came together was – I hope I’m not gonna get us in trouble here, but originally we said nah, because of the Perth show, we just wanted to focus on the tour… and then going back to it we thought, nah we should do that festival. Then we thought oh shit, with the plane flights and obviously flights to Perth ain’t cheap… so it’s just worked out that way – frustratingly because we’d love to spend four days… we love West Australia – Best. Beaches. EVER!! We played down at Southbound – like, we played Groovin’ The Moo too, but before that Southbound – and we literally played and had a pretty early slot, then got in the van and went straight to the beach and lazed all afternoon. Our tour manager is from Perth, so he knows all the good spots, and it was just incredible! It was kind of humiliating in a way – we’re from Queensland, so we’re used to some pretty good beaches… we came back and said ‘well, they’ve definitely got one up on us there – they’re incredible’…

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So look, having had that experience with the Ecstatic Peace label, 18 months touring The States, then things fell apart a bit wobbly there and you came back home… Holy Ghost was a real rebirth for the band. You’ve already said you went in there determined to make it really good or just not bother, but was there a different attitude you took into the studio in terms of what you were prepared to do musically?

Boerdam: Yeah, I think there was, and that was key to, I think in hindsight – hindsight’s a funny thing, you don’t realise ‘til you look back on the six weeks in the studio how much it all nicely fell into place, because we just went in and did it. But in hindsight, I think we made really good decisions leading up to recording that did work out really well for us. Especially… like, when we recorded that album for the American label we flew over to Wales and recorded in this studio called Rockfield – you know, that’s where Queen, Black Sabbath recorded, it’s a really old school place. It was fucking beautiful, it was awesome – however this time around… we didn’t really get the chance to unravel the songs and rebuild them, which is what we like to do in the studio – we like to go in with, we’ve got the songs, we’ve got the melodies, got the lyrics, but we really wanna strip them back and start again and experiment. We could’ve gone to some really good studios and bashed it out in three weeks, but we really need that time to experiment, to try out different amps, to try out a fuckload of really terrible sounding pedals to see what happens.

That song Okay Cathedral, we spent three days just layering guitars. Some of those ideas were already there but 60% of them weren’t: they were just on the spot, plugged in an old analog delay and an old sounding reverb from a 60’s Twin or something, and just played the song over and kept experimenting and trying different guitar lines out. Then after three days, I was like, shit we’re kinda losing time here and not getting anywhere, but three days turned around and once we just chopped out some pieces, I was like, actually that’s fucking perfect – awesome! And that was something we just didn’t get to do in other recording sessions, just being rushed. And we wanted to do it at home, we didn’t wanna fly anywhere. So rather than spend 5 grand on plane tickets just going back and forth to Melbourne – and it’s horribly cold down there as well – why the fuck would you wanna record down there anyway? So you know – we wanted to record at home! We recorded the album here at Albion, just a shed that’s run by this dude. I think that really helped as well – just not giving a shit, not having perfect equipment, and just focussing on the right elements of the songs we wanted to nail.

These days [home] recording’s getting better and better. You know, I’m doing demos on my iPad now, and the idea of a song will still get through just from an iPad, and you just take it a step up and go into a local studio – I know tons of bands in Brisbane who will send their mixes over to The States, and get them back in three weeks and they sound absolutely awesome, ‘cos they’re put through a really nice studio and mixed in 2 weeks. It’s kinda like, well, if the technology is there these days for bands to take advantage of the same way of recording, then they should really. It sucks to some degree ‘cos obviously they’re going out of business, I know people who work for studios now and can’t afford it any more, so there’s pluses and negatives, but in our case there’s a real good plus, ‘cos we got to focus on the good stuff rather than worrying about running out of time, because the studio was cheaper than down the road.

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100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So having had that bad experience, I believe there was a time – was it you who was going to McDonalds for a job interview and found out by text that you’d been nominated for an Aria Award?!?!

Boerdam: [Laughs] That was James – that story cuts straight to the point!

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: I know – it’s CRAZY!

Boerdam: That’s right – that’s why it cuts straight to the point of where we were when we came back from America. James was – I remember the day, like, I was job hunting myself, actually, I think we all were – James was driving down the road to Maccas and his friend messages him saying ‘Have you heard about your nomination?’ ‘oh, for what?’ ‘Arias!’ ‘Oh fuck, I’m going for an interview at Maccas!!’ You know, that’s the reality…

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: That pretty much makes you over qualified for Maccas! [he laughs] So having done that, you’ve recorded the new album, you’re out there doing Groovin’ The Moo, Southbound, Big Day Out and now your own headlining tour around the country. i guess that not only leaves you feeling gratified but also realising you can do it a bit more independently and make it work on that level?

Boerdam: Yeah definitely. We’ve always… It’s funny really, ‘cos we went to the Australian Independant Music Awards, and I find that word a little bit more meaningless these days. Like, I don’t even know what that is? We went to [these awards] and they were like, sponsored by Carlton, and every label was there, and… our label is independent? It’s under the Mushroom Group, so because it’s not owned by one of the Big Four companies in America, that’s kind’ve the qualifications!

When we started as a garage band, we’d play pool halls and house parties… and we’re standing at the Independent Music Awards going ‘what does independent mean any more’ and I don’t know any more, ‘cos this has really confused me – this just looks like a music industry label roadshow. I didn’t realise we were on an independent label! These days, I think bands can obviously do it more independently, but we’ve always thought it’s handy to have a label ‘cos they give you money [laughs] and you make something and the downside is, yeah they take all the money from those sales, and we do things pretty hard, but I don’t know – if you do it right, and you work with someone who gives you the control you want, then you’re okay.

We’ve never compromised on the music, on the artwork, on anything actually that I can think of – on single choices, the whole lot. Our label’s been really awesome at letting us run with it. They’ll pitch in their comments and questions when they want, like Johan will pitch in sometimes, but if we stamp our feet down and say ‘fuck off’ then he does. And that’s what you want – put the suits back in the cage and go around there and ask for money! I remember there was one time I had to call Johan and request money, and that was an interesting conversation [laughs] ‘Cos we’d said ‘it’s okay, you’re giving us so much time, we’ll get it done,’ then when it was time it was ‘hey, you know that last track… I need two more days, and I wanna try out all this equipment…’ and you know, you can do that and go get more money to do it.

We like that working relationship – other bands probably hate it, or their label guys are absolute dickheads and tell them what to do, and don’t have enough faith in the band to know that their choices are right. I think labels are so… they have no money these days anyway, and back in the day they used to have something called artist development, and they just don’t… that’s pretty much non-existent any more from what I’ve seen. Like, labels will go out and sign bands that already have 30,000 Facebook fans – they’ve already done that themselves. So how are a label supposed to help you develop if they’re signing you on the basis of popularity you’ve already garnered by yourself? You obviously know what you’re doing, if you’re going out there and selling 10,000 records by yourself: you don’t need a label!

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100% ROCK MAGAZINE: It’s an interesting industry and I don’t think anyone has cracked the ddefinitive answer yet. i think every band has to find out which approach works for themselves, and it looks like you guys are doing it really well.

Boerdam: Yeah, I think that as long as you can stand by your decisions, that’s the main thing. But we don’t know what other bands are doing anyway. Like, we did set up our own label imprint, we put our record out ourselves. At the end of the day, do you want to be sitting at the computer doing your company’s paperwork – like, the distribution, you’ve got to go organise that yourself. In the end we did get our completely independent EP in record stores – but I wanna be writing songs, I don’t wanna be [doing the paperwork]. It’s just a matter of finding a label and setting the right ground rules for how you’re wanting it to work. Considering we had been through all that stuff and been through America – the positive was that we came back with a very clear idea of how we wanted it to work, and if you weren’t gonna be part of that picture then you can fuck off. At the end of the day, if a label spits you out and sends you back home, and you say ‘what do I do now?’ and they say ‘I dunno, go write some songs, go get a job’ then it’s a pretty hard lesson that this is a business transaction, so if I’m gonna do this and put all this work in, I’d better fucking own it and do it the right way – if you don’t wanna do it my way, then you can go and piss off! I wish more bands had that mentality straight up, but it took us years and years of experience [laughs]

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: That’s it – young bands, everyone wants to fly the planes and record in the Bahamas, but it just doesn’t work like that any more – it’s not practical!

Boerdam: Yeah, it’s not the 80’s – there’s no money any more!

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Good luck with the tour mate. Have a good day


This story was originally published in edited form in the 17 June 2014 issue of X-Press Magazine

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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