After a career spanning two decades as founding member and frontman of The Drones, Gareth Liddiard has built a reputation as a purveyor of dark storytelling through his music, as well as an impressive solo artist in his own rights.
Ahead of his show tomorrow evening at the Byron Theatre (tickets on sale right now at byroncentre.com.au/whats-on/) we took a few minutes to speak with him to chat about his recent experiences in South America, as well as what to expect from seeing him perform solo.
CG – Hey mate, how are you?
GL – Hey man, good thanks
CG – Excellent, so I haven’t spoken to you in a while and I see you’re doing a solo tour this time which is pretty cool. Tell me a little bit about how your last few months have been – you went overseas for a bit?
GL – Yeah, well late last year I did the Mullumbimby music festival, I did two solo shows and that was the first time I’d done that up there. Then I went to South America on holiday which was fun, weird and crazy.
CG – Tell us a little bit about it
GL – Well my partner, Fiona from the drones, her sister’s husband is Argentinian and they were going over to visit his family so we thought we’d visit at the same time. We went to Buenos Aires, went to the Andes and had a look around up there and we went to Patagonia and all around the middle.
Buenos Aires was cool, my Grandmother was born there. Then we went to Rio and had a week there; my dad was born in Rio. That was interesting cause I’d never been there, it was kind of some weird family trip to somewhere I don’t… I don’t know, I don’t feel like I’m from South America but I seem to have some South American in me.
Rio is nuts. Rio’s up there with Baghdad and places like that with equal opportunity to get killed; it’s pretty hectic but it’s good fun.
CG – After visiting, did you feel more of a connection to the country?
GL – Yeah, I did a little bit. I kinda never wanted to own it really; my dad never wanted to own it either, he was born there and went to high school in England, so he always wanted to be known as English. But, everyone in Rio was like- the only people here who are from Brazil are the Indians, everyone else came from slavery or is an immigrant or something else. Everyone I spoke to told me I was half Brazilian in a way so I was a little ‘wow’, and realised yeah I am kind of Brazilian.
It’s funny also because one of my oldest friends Rui who I started the band with, he’d come from Rio. Well, he was born in Mozambique during the war of independence and he’s Portuguese; the Portuguese lost so he was a refugee and ended up in Rio. So, there’s quite a lot of Brazil in my life, it was good to go there and I feel a bit more of a connection to it now.
CG – Are you one of those people that write music very close to your personal experiences? Did you find yourself inspired to write from this experience?
GL – Umm, well not really. Those things also pop up when I start writing anyway. I don’t really feel compelled, they kind of just surface by themselves. It’s weird, even down to the material level – I knew what all the food was, I knew what the cutlery was and the weird paintings – my family had had all that shit, so it was pretty weird going back.
CG – Interesting. Let’s speak about your tour for a second – What can we expect to hear during your solo show?
GL – Well 90% of Drones songs you can play on an acoustic guitar because that’s how they usually start. Then my solo record from –when was that, 2010? – was all written on acoustic, I’ve got a few covers, then there’s some new stuff that I’ll do. I sort of just cherry pick it from anywhere really, there’s about 80-90 songs to choose from and I just see what I’m up for that week and bang it out.
It sounds a bit formal, the whole solo show thing. I don’t know what people think when they see I’m doing a ‘solo show’, but it’s not formal at all. The songs are really kinda heavy and I like to talk a lot of shit between them. It’s generally kinda funny- I wouldn’t say comedy, but half laughs and half tears <laughs> so it’s a lot more fun than it sounds.
CG – So your show and set list is dependant on how you’re feeling on the night?
GL – Totally that, then I just walk out and- it’s kinda stupid, the whole setup is just me facing a bunch of people facing the other way- I’m not sure everybody feels like this but I personally, feel like an idiot getting up there and being that conceited to do that on a Saturday night so I don’t take it that seriously. Depending on what’s happened that day or that week too, I’ll talk to the crowd and yknow, have a back and forth about all sorts of shit- kinda like we’re doing now- and just riff off their heads and end up talking in circles about weird funny shit, then explaining some of the songs. It’s fun, it therapeutic for me in a way and the crowds like it.
A lot of people expect something heavy, and the songs can be very heavy, but the in between shit is like it’s from outer space sometimes.
CG – Well you’re playing in the theatre here, so you’ll definitely have everyone’s full attention. Sounds like we can expect a casual evening.
GL – Yeah it’s chilled; there’ll be lots of adult themes and bad language so you can bring your kids… I dunno. Last time I played up in Mullumbimby I was horrified that someone had brought their kids but it was Bernard Fanning I think, so he was ready; he was ready for the filth. <laughter> There’s just a parental warning.
CG – Looking forward to it!