Interview: Tumbleweed embrace the beauty
Twenty years after the original release of album ‘Galactaphonic’, Australian rockers Tumbleweed have reissued it as ‘SuperGalactaphonic’, which collects the original 13 track album and expands it to a sprawling 34 track celebration. They’re also hitting the road to celebrate. We find out more from vocalist Richie Lewis:
Hi and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Something You Said. 20 years has elapsed since the release of Galactaphonic. Over those two decades, is your view of the album the same now as it was then?
20 years has given me time to listen to it again with fresh ears and realise how cool an album it is. I had not listened to it since it came out, there were a handful of songs that were regulars in our live set that have always been familiar but listening to them in context with the album has been a really cool experience, I have a new appreciation for it and I find myself liking the songs that we never played. They seem new. The album has a great energy to it, it’s loud and fuzzy and fast.
With 20/20 hindsight do you feel that with Galactaphonic you crystallised a time and a sound in the Australian musical landscape?
I don’t think there is another record that sounds like it, it is a unique sound, big muff pedals on 10, wahwah on 10, distorted vocals, rumbling bottom end and drums swinging and pounding, yet it’s melodic, full of hooks, is sweet and electrically charged, we consciously went into it with a reactionary approach, we wanted to make our record, an Australian record, something that reflected our live sound and not the sound that had been manufactured on our first album, we chose Trafalgar because it was the home of two of our favourite classic Aussie albums, Radios Appear by Radio Birdman and Stoneage Romeos by Hoodoo Gurus,we picked Paul McKercher to produce it because he was young, had a great energy, was Australian and knew our sound better than anyone. We were at our peak, we had just had a few very productive years and there was a lot of attention on us, but at the time, I think for us it was more about taking back control of our creation.
During your career you would have witnessed many changes in the music industry and one of those being rise and fall of small venues supporting local music. How important was a strong following and loyal fan base to your success?
Very important, our success was based on playing the suburbs and regional Australia, especially coastal towns, we built it up by playing as often as we could, we would play places like Liverpool and Fairfield and Penrith and Parramatta, Taree, The Entrance, anywhere that would have us. Wonthaggi, Warnambool wherever! when we played city shows people would travel from the suburbs into the city and pack the place out. It gave us a good national audience and many of them have stuck by us and for that we are very grateful.
Seeing you play many times at the Annandale in Sydney, they were always electric shows but for you what has been one of the most memorable gigs and why?
I tend not to remember too much about shows, at the time I am usually right in the moment, I kind of disappear. It’s weird. I usually remember little things like Paul and I carrying on with funny stage banter or whatever, but there are some big moments that I remember, like at Livid Festival in 92 or 93 I think, when we played in the Big Top, the crowd were chanting our name before we came on and when we started it went absolutely berserk, people were climbing the big tops tent poles and climbing through the hole in the top and sliding down the outside of the tent, one of the main poles started to shift and lean, we had to stop the show, I got the crowd to work together to lift it up and set it straight and they did, then we continued playing, that was pretty wild. Also an early show at the Hopetoun, I think it was an afternoon show, in summer, it was really hot, it was packed, It was just a great show.
Meeting so many different musicians and interesting characters throughout the years, were there any words of wisdom spoken to you that really resonated with you and altered the way you approach your music?
Kram said once to “embrace the beautiful stuff”. It’s too easy for a rock band of boys to always try to be tough, I know so many people that are trapped into the way of thinking that it all has to be heavy and fast and brutal, because otherwise you are less of a man or something!? I think that’s total bullshit, something that we have always done is had a bit of quiet beauty mixed into our music, ever since “acid rain” it gives more depth to the music.
I remember speaking with Money Mark, his association with the Beastie Boys and the passing of founding member MCA. He spoke of the legacy of his music and contribution to music globally. With the recent passing of Jay [Curley – bassist], do you feel that the 20th anniversary of Galactaphonic is perhaps one of the most fitting ways to remember his work, contribution to the Australian music scene and celebration of a great friend?
Jays spirit is entwined into Galactaphonic, weaved into the bassline on every song.
How has the band dynamic changed with Luke taking over bass duties?
Luke is a very solid bass player, he learns quickly and has an amazing bass sound, as well as being an all round top bloke. He is already a part of the family, he grew up playing music in the Curley jam room in Tarrawanna like I did, he has always been in bands with Mick Curley (Lenny and Jay’s little brother). Jay actually gave him a few lessons when he was a whipper snapper, replacing Jay is not really an option we want to consider right now, as for Luke taking on the duties, he’s perfect for it. Luke still has Bruce and HyTest and other projects as well, so we are fitting things in around everyone’s commitments. Its been fun getting back into the practice room relearning Galactaphonic, it’s sounding great and we love catching up with each other, we don’t see each other too often outside of band stuff anymore, so getting back together for practice is a great way to catch up.
When first starting out in a band it is all consuming and nothing else really matters but as you get older you tend to have more in your life and other equally rewarding distractions. Do you find what you all do outside of the band helps continue to shape Tumbleweeds ethos and direction?
Life becomes busy, the band is a timeless distraction.
What does music give you that nothing else does?
Was it a difficult process accumulating the additional songs and B-sides for SuperGalactaphonic, as records companies can be notoriously cagey when relinquishing ownership/copyrights.
No it was easy, once we passed the idea passed Universal and discovered they were into the idea, the project just snowballed, the people at Universal, particularly Liam, made it all a very easy and enjoyable experience.
You are about to embark on a national tour, will you be supported by any bands that you played with back in the day?
Yeah Smudge are playing the Sydney show at Manning Bar, that will be so awesome! And Hoss played at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne with us.
Thanks for your time, all the best for the tour and I look forward to some crowd surfing.
Friday 11th September 2015
Manning Bar, SYDNEY NSW
Friday 18th September 2015
Rosemount Hotel, PERTH WA
Saturday 19th September 2015
Fowlers Live, ADELAIDE SA
Saturday 26th September 2015
Waves, WOLLONGONG NSW
SuperGalactaphonic can be ordered here.
Interview by Courtney Dabb.