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ARCHIVE INTERVIEW – Richie Lewis, Tumbleweed, 2013

| 29 August 2014 | Reply

ARCHIVE INTERVIEW – Richie Lewis, Tumbleweed, 2013
By Shane Pinnegar

In honour of the sad passing of Tumbleweed bassist Jay Curley this week.

Tumbleweed Jay Curley 01
Shane: Hey, Richie, thanks for your time today, dude.

Richie: No worries.

Shane: Sounds From The Other Side sounds like a modern version of classic Tumbleweed. You must be pretty stoked with it?

Richie: Yeah, we’re pretty happy with it. It was a record that was a long time in the coming, and a long time in the making but, I suppose, the last three years or something, we’ve put more time in, I’ve got songs together and, in the end, yeah, it’s something we’re really happy with, so there’s a sort of sitting at that spot where everything’s done and just waiting for it to come out now, so it’s the exciting little moment.

Tumbleweed 01

Shane: Absolutely. Was the album an easy birth or a hard road for you? I mean, once you’d committed to the idea of making it, as opposed to re-building all those bridges [between the band members] and all that sort of thing… we can get to that stuff later on…

Richie: It was pretty easy I suppose, it just took a fair amount of time. What we did was… there were some songs that we drew from old demos, back [around] ’94. Oh, well, one that I can think of. Other songs came along the way. Paul had a bunch up his sleeve; Lenny had some up his sleeve; we put them all together in the jam room as a band, and slowly nutted them out. I don’t think it was really a hard process, just one that took time. We had about 17 songs, I think it was, [that] we demoed. I suppose, once we’d demoed them in Wollongong at 313 with Al Wright, once they were down, we could work it out pretty easily from there. It took a while to get to that point, but once the demos were down, it’s pretty simple after that.

Shane: After the reformation around about 2010, I think it was, you said that you’d only release new music if it was good as, or better than, previous records. You must be pretty stoked that you lived up to this? You set the bar pretty high, didn’t you?

Richie: You know, it had been so much time between records that it really was THAT important to try to be as good as or better; we didn’t want to damage anything that we’ve created in the past, or put out something that didn’t hit the mark. There was no real need to release a record anyway; it was something that we purely did because we’d got to this crossroads, where we were playing the Tumbleweed nostalgia act for long enough – we’d done the Big Day Outs and all that sort of stuff – and I remember sitting backstage during this corporate gig, for a beer, and we were just going ‘what are we doing? Are we going to keep on playing, or make music?’ and it’s just like, ‘yeah, if we’re going to continue on, we want to be a creative unit.’ That’s what bands do. We have to be relevant.

Also, there was a little bit of unfinished business as well. We didn’t feel like we’d really made the record that we wanted to make back in the day, so it was a matter of giving it another shot of making that record that we always wanted to make, but also, giving the band a vitality, and being a creative unit again. It was something that we all missed, as a band. That was the main impetus behind it. We’re really, really happy with the result. I think everything that we set out to achieve, we nailed it and, there were just certain few things that I really wanted to do with this record: I wanted it to be an analogue recording; record to 2-inch tape; wanted to pretty much do all the things we did right before, but leave out all the things we did wrong before.

We wanted to get Paul McKircher in, because he was the one who was really so important in getting the definitive Tumbleweed sound, and trying to get the closest that we ever got to getting the sound that we love. He was a must. We wanted it to not be too far removed from what Tumbleweed was about and our past but, at the same time, sped up and so, yeah… [we] did those sorts of things and wanted it to be organic and free and natural, and didn’t really want to force things too much but just, you know… we had a pretty clear idea about what we wanted to do. The only thing that’s different to that, or worked out to be a little bit more of a pleasant surprise is, we didn’t really imagine the variety [of songs] that we would be getting, so it’s quite a diverse record, really; no two songs are alike, and I really like that aspect of it.

Tumbleweed - Sounds From The Other Side cover

Shane: Yeah, I really noticed that – it’s a really diverse album. It’s also an album that’s really hard to pigeonhole.

Richie: Yeah, I think one thing that is special about the five members that are in Tumbleweed: Paul, Steve, Lenny and myself and Jay. Collectively, we bring together this mash of different influence and styles and, together, it comes out in a really easy way. We’ve all been in other bands, and tried to play with other musicians, and really tried hard to make it sound as good as Tumbleweed, and never could and tried so hard.

There’s just something so effortless about our line-up and about the chemistry between us. Paul brings in some songs … his sort of style is a little bit more epic – he wrote Fountain and things like that – and he’s really in to big guitar journeys and stuff like that, so he brings that sort of element to it. Lenny’s a bit more frantic and he brings a little bit more of that frantic punk rock edge to it, and then there’s a couple of songs that I’ve brought to it that are a little bit more vocal-orientated, just because the way that I would construct a song around a vocal melody, or a turn of phrase or whatever. Where we bring all those three different elements together, and Jay and Steve get a hold of it, that sort of thing that gives them the Tumbleweed sound, you know.

Shane: Back in the day you were variously called grunge or stoner rock. How do you classify the band?

Richie: I classify us as an Australian rock ‘n’ roll band, really. We’ve got influence in a lot of punk rock, a lot of Australian punk rock. Our influence goes back to The Beatles or maybe Black Sabbath. We’ve got so many things that we love, and we try and were inspired by, and it influences our music. It’s hard for me to really… I really need a broad term, like, just rock ‘n’ roll, because that’s what we are: a loud rock ‘n’ roll band.

Tumbleweed 02

Shane: I remember back in the day, there was always a picture of you with the long hair everywhere, just standing on a stage doing that early Ozzy Osborne sort of thing, where you’re just holding on to the microphone, and then everyone was saying ‘oh yeah, stoner band, stoner band.’ I never really narrowed you down to that small of a pigeonhole; I always thought there was more to Tumbleweed; there was a lot more of that classic rock sound in there, rather than just a stoner sort of a sound.

Richie: Thanks for that; I agree. I think that both genres, grunge and stoner… I just don’t get either one, really. Before the word grunge was really coined, all those bands were still around, and they were just independent punk rock bands. People are always going to try and marginalise and come up with a name for something, because it makes it easy to swallow but, I’ve never really got it either. A lot of stoner bands do like us, and a lot of stoner fans like us, so I think there’s a bit of crossover there. We have some songs that are long and journey-like, and I think those ones sort of fall in to that category.

I’m not really in to the idea of being just one sort of style of band, but I am in to the idea maybe of doing a record like that. Like, just doing one stoner rock record and really going to town on it as a project… But, I find those kinds of things limiting so, yeah… we just sort of do [our thing] and just let it happen naturally.

Shane: There’s a an element of that stoner sound to what Tumbleweed does but it’s just an element; it’s not the definition of the band, I think…

Richie: Yes, definitely. Agreed! I concur.

Shane: The band originally broke up due to business and personal pressure but 15 years on, apparently, all the grudges were dropped – are you confident that those niggles aren’t going to resurface?

Richie: Yeah, I am. When we did get back together it’s something that we never thought would ever happen, so acrimonious was our split. We’d avoid each other on the street, really… just a horrible time. It’s something that I know that Lenny, Jay and myself have always regretted; it was a horrible thing to do to our friends and founding members and, frankly, the band was never the same. In the later line-ups, whilst we gave it a good go, we just lost interest. It had lost its taste. We couldn’t live with it anymore. When we did get back together it was so good; it was like you’re letting go of a lot of really negative energy that we’ve been holding on to, and it was a release of so much, I suppose, pain and regret.

Getting back together was a really good thing and, ever since then, the dynamic of the band has changed – we’re older now, we’re wiser, we’ve let a lot of things go; it’s water under the bridge. Now we’re in the band, it’s not our life – we all have jobs and families – and we use the band really as an opportunity to escape reality these days. It isn’t our full-time reality and we are really enjoying it because of that. There’s less pressure than there once was in having to do anything that we don’t want to do. We manage ourselves and we paid for our own recordings, so there’s no outside pressure.

Although, what happened originally, it was pressure because we weren’t seeing things clearly; we started seeing divisions where there was none, within the ranks. We won’t get to that stage again, because we’re not in that sort of world and also, you know, once bitten… we won’t go back again. Yeah, I think we’ve learnt from our mistakes. Now we just appreciate each other, and appreciate each other’s contribution to the music, and actually enjoy being with each other and playing again so, as long as it’s like that, and rosy and feeling great, we’re going to continue on.

Tumbleweed 03

Shane: Awesome. You reconnected with Paul by going in to a restaurant and the only seat available was next to him at the bar, or something random like that?

Richie: That’s exactly right.

Shane: Do you think the universe was pulling strings that day?

Richie: Totally, totally. And just for the timing as well; the weekend before there was an article in the [local] newspaper, and they were sort of making out that I was the one holding out on doing the reunion. So when Paul got up to… I didn’t talk to him; we both ate our dinner and just tried not to look at each other – that’s what it was like – and when he got up to go to the toilet, I said to his girlfriend ‘hey, it’s not me; I’m not holding out,’ and she goes, ‘well, maybe you should tell Paul about that then!’

Shane: Oh, you kids.

Richie: Yeah, it was like that. So when he came back we started talking and that’s the start of it. A few red wines later we had all our shit sorted out. It was great.

Shane: Wow, that easy! What does analogue versus digital mean to Tumbleweed?

Richie: It’s very important. It’s weird… when we’re in the studio and hearing it back off 2-inch tape – I swear this is true – isn’t it amazing how quickly your ears attune themselves to poor quality audio, such as Mp3s? Everyone’s listening to stuff on their computers, and through headphones and off their phone and whatever, and you really do get used to it. Hearing it back off tape, through a beautiful analogue desk… man, it’s just something that is so special. It’s like this velvet, as opposed to Lycra; it’s warm and smooth and round, and what it tends to do with rock ‘n’ roll, and especially with us, is, the bass and the drums, they saturate a little bit and they blend together a little bit, and they become one.

There’s this thing I think with digital that, just the bitrate, that’s creating a wave, you can subconsciously hear that sort of step and the cold, harsh edges and I don’t think … and everything sort of has a separation, and I think that analogue is conducive to our sound because, also, we use valve amps and old gear and just the whole sonic nature of it deserves to be listened to and recorded in analogue.

Shane: Excellent. Look, thanks so much for your time. I think all these beeps mean they want me to go.

Richie: Okay, mate, fantastic. Thanks, Shane.

Tumbleweed Jay Curley 02

RIP Jay Curley


Category: Interviews

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