If you're looking for a "new" name for 1996 then look no
further than Melbourne's The Earthmen. They've been together for more than four years with
literally dozens of line-up changes. But now with a major label recording contract and a
punchy new single blaring out from your nearest radio, The Earthmen seem likely to blast
off sometime this year.
The revolves around the songwriting
partnership of Scott Stevens and Nick Batterham who have been writing together since the
start of 1992. Having just signed to Warner Music, their new single is the upbeat Scene
Stealer which, with its delightful pop feel, has already gained prominent attention on
Triple J. Nick agrees that their quick success has seemed like a long time in the making.
"It's been a growing up period for
discovering our musical tastes and reading the dictionary of music and gaining a
vocabulary - just learning all the long words we want to say," he says with a touch
of humour. "It hasn't been very productive as far as output goes, but it's been
pretty much a steep learning curve."
Surprisingly, the single's bonus tracks reveal
a band with plenty of promise. The delectable Call My Name (featuring some fine guitar
playing from Steve Moffat, formerly of The Plums) is a good indication of how well they
perform with a more melancholy sound. With an album being worked on at the moment and
scheduled for release later this year, Nick promises it won't be a pop album. Considering
their early material, the new songs mark a change in their approach. When I mentioned
hearing a radio programmer criticising the swing towards the current trend of bouncy pop
music, it definitely struck a nerve.
"I really find that fucking annoying to
be honest. Four years ago we were playing pop music but everyone saw us a being a Boo
Radleys kind of rip off band. And then we got parceled in with this Buffalo Tom thing and
I don't know who we're gonna be parceled in with now. Anyone who does that can go get
"There's a lot of musicians who've been
playing music for years and obviously you go through your "noise" fetish because
it's fun and then there's teen angst you've got to get rid of. But you realise it's all
about writing songs and that to express what you want to express is to write a really good
song. There are plenty of bands that are writing a-tonal crap because they're reacting
against the fact that other people are writing songs that are actually good.
"Obviously we've developed how we want to
sound and for us it's finally what we want to do."
This is their first release in two years and
yet they still haven't nailed down a permanent line-up. Derek John Yuen, who played drums
on the single (as well as the rest of the album) plays drums first and foremost with his
band The Underground Lovers and hence has other commitments. Over the last four-and-a-half
years, Nick estimates that 15 or 16 members have passed through their ranks.
"Four-and-a-half years is quite a long
time," he says. "We're about to embark on our third proper incarnation. We had a
full five-piece for the first few years and then it became four, and now our old drummer
and bass player aren't in the band, so it's just Scott and myself. The two of us have had
various people around us for shows and recording but now, because we've got a rather large
musical commitment to