Violent Soho, having risen with velocity from relative unknowns to one of the biggest rock acts in Australia, are inching closer to the release of their fourth record WACO. An album faced with the monumental task of topping their previous breakout effort; 2014’s near universally lauded Hungry Ghost.
We had the absolute pleasure of a chat with guitarist James Tidswell about the making of WACO and what’s ahead for Violent Soho.
Morning James, how are you going?
G’day James. How are you going?
Yeah I’m good, just enjoying the lovely rain in Brisbane today. Gotta say thank you for your set at Laneway, I just about died.
Oh dude, were you in the moshpit?
About as far in as you can get.
Is it safe to say that’s one of the biggest and craziest shows you’ve ever played?
Yeah. It was definitely one of the the loudest. I think it was that tent just encapsulated everyone’s voice and they were all singing at full volume. It was crazy. Because you’re onstage with everything so loud and you’d just hear the voice of the crowd come over the top of it all. It was crazy man. It absolutely ruled.
My ears were ringing for what felt like days afterwards. It felt like a really good homecoming show for you all.
No worries, cheers to you for coming dude.
Your next record WACO is out in just a manner of days. How does it feel to be on the verge of releasing another album?
Oh it feels really good man. Really, really lucky. I think grateful and just stoked that we’re gonna get another record out. It rules. Approaching Hungry Ghost I don’t think for even a second that we thought about having a record after it. We just thought, let’s get this record out and we’ll see how everyone’s travelling later and now we’re getting another record out and we’re all just so psyched on it. We’re just stoked.
Touching on Hungry Ghost, you’ve all mentioned that it was a record that was written for yourselves. Do you think you can say the same about WACO?
Yeah. Yeah I reckon. Maybe not necessarily in the exact same way in terms of how it was approached. That’s one difference but I think definitely that the only thing we really tried to do was shut out the outside world and not really buy into the fact that we’d had a successful album for a particular reason. That was the whole thing I think we wanted to sort of protect ourselves from.
And in saying that, it’s kind of like with the self-titled album, we thought that it was as good as Hungry Ghost and so when we released it expectations were really low in terms of what was going to happen next. I think with this one it was like constantly trying to remind ourselves that whatever happens that it’s not because of us in any particular way. We’ve gotta be the ones still listening to it in 10 years and constantly be reminded every day that we made this. And that’s the most pressure you can have: that it’s something you’ve gotta live with.
At the same time, everyone approaches things differently, that was just our approach.
It seemed even despite all of that pressure, just watching the album trailer you put out, it looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun at the same time with a lot of beers and laughs. Was it a much more relaxed process this time around?
We try to always keep it pretty mellow I think. Everyone was sort of a little bit more well-rehearsed because we weren’t going to work during the recording like last time. So everyone was able to play it a bit easier and give back a bit more and just enjoying making the record.
I think this one we enjoyed it more because we didn’t know that we’d be here, so we’re in a place we’d given up on years ago. It’s like when you stop looking for your keys and then you find them. And we’re enjoying every minute of everything that we get to do, whether it be making an album or going on tour, making a video or just hanging out. We really are taking advantage of the time that we’ve been offered to get to do this and we’re just grateful for all the support. Under no circumstances do we take this for granted and when we approached making this album we didn’t approach it taking it for granted. People supported us and we’re going to try and do what’s right.
That fun vibe has certainly come through on everything we’ve heard from the record so far. My housemate has been humming that bassline from Viceroy for actual weeks. Is there a point where you’re playing or writing or jamming and you hear something and are just like evilly grinning to yourselves thinking ‘yep, that’s going to be stuck in some heads for weeks’?
*Laughs* Well in some ways we like to have every song have something like that. I think it comes from growing up listening to catchy music. We grew up in the pop-punk era or the punk rock era where we were always listening to Green Day’s Dookie or Blink-182’s Dude Ranch so it was always very catchy music and we just liked that.
To be honest, I know as soon as Luke (Boerdam, vocals/guitar) sends through the demo. It can be rough or pristine and as soon as I hear it I’m just like, that’s sick. So that’s how quickly I know, I don’t know about the others. That’s my favourite part of when Luke sends through a song.
Have you heard the album yet?
Yeah I’ve had a listen.
Alright, there’s a song called No Shade, have you heard that?
Yeah, well in that song he sings ‘say what you want but I don’t have a problem’ and when I first heard that I was just like, fucking oath!
What a line.
Yeah it just gets stuck in your head. And I get to be a fan first 100%. It’s kind of like if you were a fan of something and you get to just go and do it. Because when Luke sends through songs I’m such a fan of his songwriting and I get to be one of the first people to hear it and it’s like holy shit. And then I get to just go and do it.
I’m really looking forward to hearing how it goes live. Speaking of, you guys are about to embark on the mother of all tours supporting this record. If you’re a fan of music in general but especially if you’re a fan of Brisbane’s music scene, to have Violent Soho go on tour with Dune Rats and DZ Deathrays is like the Holy Grail, it’s just insane. How excited are you to be touring as part of that big group of mates.
I don’t think I could be any more excited dude. We are literally taking the house party into theatres around Australia. I don’t think we can actually believe what we’re getting away with and we couldn’t be more excited. And just with mates as well; it’s gonna rule.
Your tour mates in Dunies and DZ’s are well-regarded as being fond of a party. Is there any trepidation or nerves about keeping up with them?
*Laughs* No dude, not at all, because not only am I not going to try and keep up at all, I’m just used to them being that way.
What will happen is exactly the same thing. We’ll hang out if we’re on the road playing shows or festivals. Everyone will get over-excited the first couple of nights and we’ll be reining it in just trying to get through the tour after that.
BC (Michaels, Dune Rats drummer) does not understand the meaning of reining it in though and DZ can drink forever. I mean for-ev-er. So that’s why I’m not really thinking about keeping up because there’s just no way *laughs*.
Calling it early, good call. How much of WACO are we looking to hear on tour? Have you gotten a feel for them live as well?
I hope so. I would love if we could do at least six tracks but at the same time you don’t want to… we know going to shows that sometimes you don’t want to hear just the new record. At the same time though, we’re really itching on this one but yeah, we don’t want to overload people with too much new stuff.
It’s going to be the hardest setlist we ever had to write though, that’s for sure. Just because I don’t know what we can cut.
You’ve certainly got a pile of tracks that have become live favourites so I can understand how difficult a process that would be.
Yeah, but I think obviously we’ll play the two singles and then the fun ones on the new record. I’m sure we’ll play Evergreen because that’s so fun to play and I’m sure we’ll play How To Taste as well.
Oh nice, you couldn’t have asked for a better opener on the album if I may say so.
Looking at your situation now where you’re worrying about what setlist to write because there’s so much material to choose from, do you ever look back? The first time I ever saw Violent Soho live was at this mini Sailor Jerry festival I can’t remember the name of in the Valley back in about 2011 or 2012. You guys played upstairs in what would have been Woodlands then I think to maybe about 100 people. I know obviously that playing festivals and huge headline tours is a goal but is there any part of you that misses playing a lot of those old songs in those cramped venues?
That’s so awesome that you were there dude. I think it was called Blurst Of Times.
That was it!
Yeah. Henery (Luke Henery, bass guitar) was so wasted that he had someone holding him up to play and it just went so late. I remember he smashed himself in the face with his bass and I remember him walking offstage just fucked and he smeared blood all over my guitar case and just looked at me and laughed and I was just like ‘YOU DICK!’.
I remember that show, I was totally wasted as well and I’m sure it was terrible. Obviously because there was free Sailor Jerry’s. Always a bad combination isn’t it, if it’s free: beware.
I don’t really miss it though. Not really. And I don’t mean that badly, because not only do we still sort of do them but we approach those bigger shows pretty much the exact same way. We were playing those smaller shows as if they were the same. It’s the only way we’ve ever played. We never cared if we were playing to 30 people, to us that was a success. We were keen to play to 30 people so it’s almost like we’ve been preparing to play to this many people forever because that’s just the way that we play shows.
So I don’t miss it because of that but I also don’t miss it because at the beginning of last year we played the 4ZZZ carpark opening for our mates Dick Nasty’s anniversary show. So we still do those sort of shows. Even the night after we’d played Riverstage supporting Arctic Monkeys we opened for our mates at Fat Louie’s in the city. We always make sure we do shows like that because it’s a part of us.
We like all aspects of bands: playing live ourselves and going to see other bands. We love going to see bands play at the 4ZZZ carpark as much as we love seeing bands headline Splendour In The Grass. To us we’re just fans of it all and we hope that comes across. We’ll always maintain that approach because it’s who we are.
I’ve definitely got fond memories of your gigs of all sizes. I have to ask, and I’m sure you’re getting asked it a lot in interviews: given that Violent Soho are one of the more prominent bands to come out of Queensland in the past 10 years, what’s your take on the new lockout laws we’re about to get give.
Oh dude. That’s a really, really hard one. No one’s asked me.
I don’t know if everyone in the band has the same viewpoints so it’s hard to talk on behalf of everyone and we may think differently about this. Long story short: I don’t really care, which is so hardcore to say because I have friends that own Crowbar or The Zoo, so I totally understand and I love the idea of small independent bars and businesses in general and wanting them to survive, that’s why this is such a tough question to answer.
That is a really, really good thing for our culture here in Brisbane and it continuing to grow and to have people open up these types of businesses and establishments that are like us and have a clue and treat people with respect and put on good bands and all that sort of stuff and of course I want all of that to still exist.
I don’t know about the business aspect of this when I answer this but I’m pretty sure it’s the same in Los Angeles and I’ve always had a really good time there. I think they lockout at 1:30, someone told me it’s 11:30 but I’ve been to bars later than that so I’m not sure. That’s a big city that seems to do okay with these laws.
Now, how do I feel about the laws? It’s absolute bullshit. If the casino is the only one that’s allowed to stay open. So now for them to attract investors and ensure that the money comes back to them, they get to say to them ‘we can close the whole city and everyone has to go to the casino if they want to drink’. I’m not answering for Sydney or Melbourne when I say this by the way, just what’s happening in Brisbane.
So they get to do that and offer investors a guarantee that this is how the laws are going to change to earn money and help Brisbane boom. At the end of the day though, the lawmakers don’t stand for the people quite clearly. It’s not what any of us want and anyone who isn’t at rallies or whatever, it’s just because they can’t be fucked or because they don’t go out that time anyway. They don’t necessarily believe that these laws should be in place.
The people who push these laws through that none of us want or agree with and to promote big business; they constantly do it in so many other aspects of our lives so I don’t see what the big deal is. Let them close it. Take it back to the suburbs. Take it back to your house. The drinks are cheaper, it’s going to be safer and it’s your friends who are going to be there. Put on house shows.
This is what we did anyway, we put on house shows. Fuck ‘em. Get the cops to come and shut it down, constantly cause every party to be shut down. Fuck ‘em. They continue to do this in every aspect of our lives so I kind of just roll over you know, ‘here we are being fucked again’.
To me it’s just not as big a deal because there’s so much going on where it’s like, fucking hell. And everyone’s just like ‘nah we want to go out and get fucked up and it’s like alright, well, how’s about everything that’s fucked.
I don’t want to be too negative and please understand that the laws are bullshit and I don’t stand for them or condone them or want them in any way but at the same time, they’re pushing it through whether we like it or not so fuck ‘em. It’s different in Sydney or Melbourne where people fight for these things but we’re from the city that just doesn’t give a fuck, so what are we gonna do? Big businesses just make the way here, it’s bullshit.
It’s unfortunate. Just to wrap it up, what’s the plan for you after releasing WACO and the tour?
Do you mean my personal time or the band’s time?
I think we’re going to try and get overseas. We’ll come back from the tour here, probably have a bit of a break to try and come down from the hectic-ness of it and work out what’s next after that.
Well-earned. James we are looking forward to seeing you guys and trying to somehow survive the tour as well as WACO finally being released. Can’t wait to see you boys out on the road, best of luck.
You’re a legend, thanks heaps for the support.
WACO is out Friday , March 18th via I Oh You. Pre-order it at www.violentsoho.com
Catch Violent Soho, DZ Deathrays and Dune Rats on the WACO Tour this May.