- [To breath she said] The Earthmen Interview,
- by Susan Fitzgerald, October 1996
while back I was privledged enough to interview the band. It was with my (rather dodgy)
recorder in hand, that I trekked down to The Evelyn Hotel in Melbourne to uncover all the
details. When I entered the building, The Earthmen had actually just started their set for
the night [pre-interview], which was to include Arm's Reach, Come To My Senses, Last Train
To Splitsville (or is that Spotswood?!), Whoever's Been Using This Bed and Cruel To Be
Kind. As usual, the band hit the right spot at (almost) all the right times. There were a
lot of fabulous and moody organ sounds, a little bit of indecipherable in-between-song
banter and some huskiness (bloody cigarettes and alcohol, the curse of the pop
singer), but the crowd seemed pleased enough. The interview occured in the back room after
their set, over the top of a great performance by Ripe. It was a long interview, but
that's because there's a lot of Earthmen history to discuss: the Overseas tour of
mid-1994, the Record label change of late 1995, the whole Britpop thing, the new line-up
(which at the time, had only been together for 3 months), the debut album that had just
been recorded, and the future. Of course there was heaps more to discuss (the Australian
national tour with Alanis what's-her-name [which they seem very proud of indeed!], the
recent national tour with Australia's own The Church, the Johnny Menswear [hey, where's
the @?] connection, and the fabulous Ernie Sigley), but there just wasn't the time.
Anyway, many thanks go to the band (Scott
[Stevens] the singer; Nick
B [Batterham], who plays
guitar; Nick M [Murray} the second guitarist/occasional bassist; Matt [Sigley] bass and organ player; and Craig [Mitchell] the drummer) for giving me their time, and to their
then-manager Jeff, for organising the whole thing. What more can I say, but thank you
kindly, and happy reading : )
- OK, could you tell me a little about
the history of the band?
- Nick B : The band started in about 1991, and re-invented
itself through several line up changes. Basically, the premise for each lineup change was
to try and get more attractive to the point where we might support Alanis Morrissette.
- Matt : and it worked! (laughs)
- Nick B : And then in 1993 we went overseas...
- Scott : It was 1994! - Nick was drunk from 1991 until 1995.
- Nick B : Yes, and very recently we recorded an album after
signing to Warners.
- How did you begin, who was in the
- Scott : OK, I began the band. I was at one of those Sunday
barbecue things at the Tote and I turned to an individual (Aaron Goldberg) who is no
longer in the band, and said 'Hey, buddy, lets start a band because we really don't like
rock' (laughs). Then we won that Triple J thing, J Sessions, and so we got a (proper) band
together and that was basically it. Actually, we've set up the band so I can go out with
Nina from the Cardigans. The entire reason for the band existing is so I will marry her,
and these guys are all happy for me
- Matt : She married KD, didn't you know?
- Scott : Shut up!
- Matt : Oh, what you given up on Alanis have you, didn't
she return your calls?
- Scott : She was a bit, show-jumpesque... (laughs)
- So Nick joined after you won the J
- Scott : Nick joined about a month after that.
- How do you think the sound has
changed since then?
- Scott : The initial premise was to be a pop band - it was
really noisey, with perhaps a bit more American stuff going on. I think the premise has
remained the same (using songs as vehicles to engage the pop sound). Initially that sound
was white noise, then it was a bit more pop-punky...
- Nick B : Early on we'd play something, and naturally we'd
play it very loud. It was the extent of our abilitiy as musicians to play two chords very
- Scott : brown cords! (laughs)
- Nick B : ...but we gradually discovered music (laughs from
Scott), and found that music is based around the song. Naturally after a few years of
writing music based on songs, we realised that we would need musicans to perform these
songs. So we got a few musicians who weren't too picky and yeah, they seem to be happy
enough playing bad music for not much money (laughs)
- Scott : It's a weird question because we've been around for
a while, and for us nothing's really changed - it's only when someone else says 'Oh, you
sound strange' that we're actually aware that something's going on.
- So how would you describe your
- Craig : fantastic!!
- Scott : Idiot boy! Um, it's one of those things, we can
think what we sound like...
- Matt : melodic, as opposed to noisey
- Scott : ... We may think 'Oh, that song's really Motown' or
'That song' s really dadada' but that's our take on it
- Nick M : The sound's dictated basically by the idea of what
the song's supposed to be. And having those couple of songs where we've got keyboards -
they're deemed to be appopriate for a particular idea, so that's gonna determine what the
sound's like, rather than saying 'Oh, it's gotta be white noise cos that's what we're
- You toured the US and UK in 1994.
How did you find that?
- Scott : The ironic thing was that the day we got there,
every one of us was sick for a week and a half. The other weird thing was that until we
got there, we didn't realise that most cities are just like any other city - and that's
the confusing thing. So you're somewhere really groovy and it's like 'Oh, it's not really
as good as Brunswick St., is it?' The only places that were really packed were London and
New York, which were amazing... And all of us got homesick, which none of us thought we'd
get, so we went a bit demented.
- Nick B : For all of us it was the first time we'd been out of
the country. So as young people away from home, more important than the music was...
- Scott : Getting to see great galleries!
- Nick B : ...was the notion that we were somewhere else. And
we just wanted to see everything that each place had to offer, but we only had three days
(in each place). So of course you end up with the sensation that you aren't getting the
most out of the places you go to, and you end up with the notion that ' I couldn't find a
good coffee anywhere and I know where I can get one in Melbourne'...
- Nick M : But that happens in Adelaide
- Matt : That happens in Dimboola!
- Nick B : ...but it was great that we got to travel.
- Scott : And we're gonna go again, we really want to tour as
- Matt : What, as opposed to when we were Wham?!
- Did you get much of a feel for how
the Music Industries in the US and UK operate?
- Nick B : They're exactly the same, just bigger. They have
more to exploit and more people to exploit it to, in the true sense of the word 'exploit'.
The biggest realisation was that the music press in England (is just the same as the music
press in Australia) - it's Beat and In Press (Melbourne's music tabloids). It's really
obvious to say now but it only occured to me when I saw it on the news-stand. But because
(England) is an artistic centre for the world, Beat and In Press have an international
importance that realistically, they shouldn't have. Any shit band that plays to 30 people
and then gets a good review, can suddenly find themselves with a record deal and making,
well, a lot of press at least...
- Scott : ...Mischief!
- Nick B : To us, that seems a little bit of an imbalance.
(These industries) can work it so your first single goes to number 1, and suddenly you're
a big star with a Rolls Royce. In Australia you can't do that, you have to work a really
long rock and roll pub tradition...
- Scott : And then you become the Hoodoo Gurus!
- Nick B : ...to even get recognition.
- Wouldn't you prefer to work your way
- Nick B : Yeah, well in a lot of ways it grooms you - indeed
if we do get to go back overseas and be seen in a pub by 50 people, at least we'll have
the stage show and professionalism, hopefully, of a band that's...
- Scott : that's starved a lot!
- Nick B : ...been playing for ages.
- On to something a bit different now,
what music have you been listening to lately?
- Craig : At the moment, the Bluetones album's really good,
and the really old Verve CD.
- Matt : I listen to ... I think Nick our second guitarist
will say this as well ... more late 70's early 80's stuff like XTC, Squeeze, Elvis
Costello and the Attractions, yeah, a lot of that sort of stuff, and Robert Wyatt who's
- Nick M : I especially like the earlier Elvis Costello,
This Years Model era...
- Matt : Lots of Vox...
- Nick M : Yeah, lots of Steve Nieve Vox keyboards. Shit, what
else, I kind of listen to anything...
- Scott : ..Ace of Base..
- Matt : ..Savage Garden, CDB, Insurge.. (lots of chuckles)
- Scott : Anything on Warners, we like everything on Warners
(lots more chuckles).
- Nick M : I just went and got the new Barry Adamson album, on
the strength of the Jarvis-Barry duet. It's quite a wierd album but I quite like it.
- Scott : The Byrds are my favorite band of all time, what
else can I say? In general I think I am more cyclic - I go through my country rock month,
and then my English month and then my American month. For two months it might be Marvin
Gaye, and then the next month it'll be Tom Petty, then it'll be dance music for six months
- there was that David Holmes record with Sarah Cracknell from St Etienne which was
amazing. My favorite albums from last year were The Verve, The Cardigans. This year it's
been the Einsturzende Neubauten album that Matt got me onto, but it depends. For years it
was Spacemen 3 or My Bloody Valentine or The Pastels...
- Nick B : I don't have very many records and not much of an
income to buy them, so I tend to listen to the same things a lot. I listen to The Byrds
and Glen Campbell and things that you're not allowed to like. I must say, Scott lent me
the new Tom Petty record and it's very good, I've been listening to that non stop for a
couple of days.
- You supported Buffalo Tom when they
toured here in 1992, did you listen to their music before that?
- Scott : I did buy their first album, but I don't know if
they were a particular influence. We used to get name checked with them and The Boo
Radleys when we started, but I think (the connection between us and them) was just
complimentary bands that we all liked. We did like both of those bands, but at that stage
we were probably more into Big Star, mid Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth.
- You also supported Teenage Fanclub
when they toured here in 1995. Would you cite them as an influence?
- Scott : I was much more into The Pastels than Teenage
Fanclub. I can see a bit of an influence, but then Teenage Fanclub like The Byrds and Gene
Clark and Big Star... Recently we've got the Britpop Oasis thing. We've got no problem
with people telling us that (they think) we sound like some British bands, but I'm not
sure if they've got the right British bands. As far as I'm concerned, one of the best
bands of all time was Love, but no one's gonna know that we're big Love fans, they're
gonna say 'Oh, Oasis'. But then as far as I'm concerned Oasis sound like ... Slide Away
sounds like Neil Young, and we're much more into Neil Young than Oasis. Yeah, it's cool
what anyone else thinks, but it's not necessarily where we're coming from...
- You recently signed to a major
record company (Warners) after being with an independent (Melbourne's Summershine
Records). How do the two compare?
- Scott : Summershine was great while we were on it. We got to
have our 7"s and 10"s and CDs, but we couldn't realise what we wanted to
realise. The thing about being on Warners, about being on a major, is that you actually
get to make the records you want to make (because you have the financial support).
- Nick B : When we were on Summershine we were doing things
that excited us incredibly - it was great just getting to make a record and see it
released. Then we got the Slumberland release and it was great thinking "wow, we've
had a release in America and look, it's on white vinyl", because at that point in
time, that was the most exciting thing that could have happened to us. But you move on,
and now there's a new agenda.
- Which is what?
- Nick B : Well, now that we've made this record that has been
giving us ulcers for a very long time, the next step is "Gee, wouldn't it be nice to
make some money out of those ulcers?". Then there's international releases of that
record, then there's the next record - now that we've got this live band that we think is
really really good, we're thinking 'gee, wouldn't it be good to do it all again, but do it
differently this time because we're in a different situation...
- Nick M : I think the one ambition we all share is that
hopefully we'll all be able to spend our lives playing music, and I think we all realise
that we're in the position where that can happen. Whether it does or not is another thing.
- So what can we expect from you next?
- Scott : OK, so Whoever's Been Using This Bed is coming out
as a single in January, then the album is coming out in March, and so I suppose we'll
actually tour for a change, and become less lazy...
- Craig : I think you'll find you'll see us playing live a
hell of a lot over the next 6-12 months. And Nick Batterham has been putting together a
fanzine for the band.
- Where do you want to go from now?
- Craig : Everywhere!
- Scott : Sweden, I'd really like to go to Sweden.
- Where do you see yourself...
- Scott : Sweden
- What's your ultimate...
- Scott : Sweden
- Matt : Swedish domination! We want to own Sweden...
- It was at this point that the interview
ended, for Ripe had finished their set and were about to invade the interview room. I
think the guys had also had enough of life with a tape recorder, and without beer. Oh,
there actually is a little more - just an extra, left-over quote, which has to do with
musically inspirational events (hmm, sounds interesting...):
- Nick M : I remember when I first saw the live clip for
This Charming Man, thinking "Oh, I want to go and buy a guitar"...
- Matt : Yeah, the first time I wanted to play keyboards was
when I saw Talk Talk on sounds, that was pretty special...
- Scott : When I saw Just like Honey on Rock Arena, Bobby
Gillespie with that amazing Byrds haircut...
- Nick B : I've got no story like that. I just started playing
guitar when Scott asked me to join The Earthmen, I though 'Oh shit, he thinks I can play
guitar!' (many laughs).
- The End