Off (Brisbane), 26 February 1997
- The Men Who Fell To Earth,
- by Simon McKenzie
1994, an unknown melodic pop band from Melbourne made ripples around the world with a gem
of a mini-LP called Teen Sensations. The Earthmen's cheekily-named platter earned
them many accolades in America, and saw them notch up a tour of the US in double-quick
time. It was an auspicious beginning for a brilliant pop band. 1995 was a quiet but
pivotal year for The Earthmen, during which they wrote literally hundreds of songs and
signed a recording contract with very definite provisions for world domination.
The brilliant single 'Scene Stealer' came out in
early 96, followed by the fabulous 'Hug Me Tighter'. Now it's really time to
capitalise on their flying start, with a genius single 'Whoever's Been Using This Bed' out
now and a debut full-length album soon to follow. The album has been almost ready'
for quite some time now, due to a fragmented recording schedule and a little bit of
waiting around until the singles sink into a few people's brains.
"We started it in December 95,
but it took a long while to finish, because we were recording it in Sydney and living in
Melbourne", explains guitarist Nick Batterham. "It was very expensive to stay up
there for extended periods of time, so we'd go up to play a show and stay another week, or
whatever. That was more expedient in a financial sense.
"It also worked well, because it meant
we got to take away a tape and think about it for a couple of weeks, then spend a couple
more weeks getting ideas down. Then you'd go into the studio, go away for a couple of
weeks and think about it again, and go back in again".
So that was better than doing four weeks of
"Yeah." says vocalist Scott
Stevens. "Well, you'd have no perspective of where you are if you were there the
entire time. It's like being put in some strange kind of Cold War vault, most record
studios. You never have to go outside, and there's no natural light.
"But Sydney's got some great
second-hand record stores."
Did you find any gems?
"No, it was the first time I hadn't
actually found anything astounding for a long time. There were a couple of Earthmen
records that were there months before they were out," he laughs. "Once I found a
second-hand copy of Scene Stealer before it had even been released."
The album, Love Walked In, is now
complete and due to be released in April. A few advance cassettes were circulated to
journalist types, and it must be said that anyone who'd take it down to the second-hand
store would have to have cloth ears. A few of the good people of Brisbane have heard a
number of these songs, however, because The Earthmen have played coveted support slots for
Alanis Morissette and The Church - the latter of whom they have more in common with, in
case you were wondering. And, of course, the magic shimmer of 'Whoever's Been Using This
Bed' has made its way to the play lists of a few of the more rational radio stations
around the land.
"It's been good for us," says
Stevens, "because we are, like, relatively unknown. We're like that secret cousin
that you find out about....
"And because you don't know them very
well you get a crush on them," interjects Batterham. "And you think NO!
This is wrong! This is wrong'!"
Stevens and Batterham are the songwriting
core of The Earthmen, having been writing and making music together for many years now.
Theirs shows signs of possibly becoming a great songwriting partnership, with some fairly
extraordinary songs emerging from a fairly traditional approach to classic, melodic pop.
"We know our ability as writers,"
Batterham says. "Maybe not now, and maybe not in the next twenty years, but somewhere
down the track, we're going to be able to write something that we know is undeniably good.
Whether that means people like it or not, who knows?"
"I don't think it's a thing where you
actually sit there and go I think I'm really good at it'," says Stevens.
"You like writing something. It sounds wanky, but any sort of arty thing, visual art
or writing or something, you don't actually think about the fact of whether it's good or
bad to anyone else."
Pop isn't necessarily the sort of music
that's associated with the fair city of Melbourne, which is more famed for its avant-garde
and swamp-thing bands. But there is, apparently, a thriving scene of good old jangly
guitar-pop bands in the Victorian capital.
"We've always had some kind of a
following there," says Batterham, "and Melbourne's got one of the best - if not
the best - infrastructure for the airing of music. Its independent radio system, its
independent record store system, its independent street press and fanzine kind of level,
all those things are really good.
"Like any large city, there's a whole
lot of things going on, but the actual structure system, its set up seems to work."