Violent Soho are having one hell of a year.
Their critically acclaimed third album Hungry Ghost went gold, they headlined Triple J’s One Night Stand, they had a stand-out set at Splendour in the Grass, they’re currently on tour around Australia, and they’re playing Festival of the Sun before wrapping up the tour in their hometown of Mansfield. I caught up with lead singer and guitarist Luke Boerdam to get inside Violent Soho’s head.
Turns out, the rockers from Queensland are pretty chilled out. And they love their green. But you probably already knew that.
1. You guys have had a monster year. What has been the highlight?
For me, it was playing Splendour, really. We’ve been to the festival so many times… It was a pretty big moment for us, playing at sunset. Last year we played at 1pm, and then this year you’ve got this massive amphitheatre.
Watching [earlier sets] from the hill, I thought it would be pretty empty. And then we got up on stage, and I thought, holy shit, there’s a wall of people in front of me. It was weird and surreal.
2. You’ve called your current tour “No Sleep Till Mansfield”, which ends after FOTS in your hometown of Mansfield. Do you still have that strong connection to the place you grew up in?
Yeah! Our school, where we all started, is 100m down the road from where we’re playing. James [Tidswell, guitar / vocals] lives down the road. We always joked that one day we’ll put a set at the local tavern… We wanted to do something different. What better way to end the tour?
My parents live down the road, and it’s the first show they’ll ever see.
What, they haven’t seen your show before??
Nah, we avoided it. We’re smoking weed, and I come from a pretty Christian family, so…
3. Now let’s talk about the No Sleep part of that… what’s the tour been like when you haven’t been playing? Any back stage shenanigans?
Yeah [laughs]. Our tours are pretty crazy. They’re really fast. Our first Melbourne show, I was supposed to have lunch with my in-laws, and suddenly it was like, oh, you’ve got to do an interview with Rolling Stone. For an hour? Wait, what?
When we first started touring, we had hours of spare time. I remember we flew to Adelaide and got there at 6am, because it was a cheaper flight. We didn’t play till 10pm, we had no accommodation, we were sleeping in cars in carparks. Now we have no time to do anything.
So no crazy stories?
Ha, we’ve got them. [Thinks for printable shenanigans.] James once smoked a cigarette out of butt hole.
[I’m laughing too much to take consistent notes at this point, but yes, smoke did go in and out, and no, that video has never seen the light of day.]
4. What’s your pre-gig ritual?
[Luke gets uncomfortable saying what he wants to, because he's in the middle of a heavy police presence for the G20 Summit.]
There’s a lot of security around, and they look pretty high strung so maybe I’ll say green [laughs]. Bit of green, yeah. And we usually get together and put our hands in, dedicate the show to something.
[Last year at Groovin’ the Moo] we went on stage at 4:20pm. That was pretty sweet.
5. You’ve spoken before about the bromance between you guys and DZ Deathrays. How did you guys meet? Is the friendship still going strong?
Yeah, of course! We went to the same high school.
Me and Michael [Richards, drummer] were in the same grade as those guys. James is two years older. I was actually going out with his younger sister at the time.
We’re a pretty tight unit when it comes to the band. When you hear of tension in other bands, we look at each other and go, that’s so weird, they fight, they have issues. We have a pretty strong bond. We have our moments, but there’s no such thing as another drummer or something. That’s family. That’s it.
6. You’ve been a regular on the Aussie festival scene for a while now. Have you guys changed up how you approach them?
It hasn’t really changed. You still have a 20 minute change. You still gotta rush on and hope the amps work. I love festivals. You don’t have these hours of soundchecks, it’s really fun. You always get to play a short set, so you don’t have to pace yourself.
When we first walked out to a tent that had 20,000 people…. this was Falls Festival in Lorne. We’d played there at about 3pm, three or four years before. Back then we had a few hundred people in the crowd. That year, we were playing at 1pm. So we figured we’d have even less people. Play, go home, get high. We went out, and there were thousands of people. We were just looking at each other with our mouths open. Is this really happening?
7. What’s the story behind the name Hungry Ghost?
It’s from a book book called Culture Jam, by Kelle Lasn. I hope I haven’t gotten the name wrong! I was reading it at the time – it’s really counter culture. Really leftist, really anti-consumerism… these guys starting Occupying in New York!
Anyway, there was a line in it that said we sit around on couches and consume everything, like a fat Buddha, like a hungry ghost. There was this idea that there was another reality [to that] that really hit home, and summed up a lot of what the album was about. It’s a Buddhist term. It’s something you keep consuming that doesn’t fill you up.
8. Have you started writing the next album already? What can we expect and WHEN can we expect it?
Yeah, I’m in some of the early writing stages. Once this tour’s over, I’m going to hit it pretty hard. It’s a bit too early to really know the whole direction at this stage – but it’s in the works.
9. What’s your writing process like?
It’s a continual process. With each album I like to experiment more: more sounds, more textures. You write things, throw it out, write more things, throw it out. I think the best ideas come daily, when you’re not trying to write. You always scramble to write them down.
I record my stuff in Notes [the iPhone app]. It’s all in bits and pieces. It would look so weird if some stranger picked it up, like what is this guy writing? Sometimes you look at stuff later and go, that’s shit, why did I think that was good?
[Once it's all written] then we take it to the band. So many times I thought the song was going to sound good, but then everyone does their thing, and then you think, it’s not going to work for us, it doesn’t feel right. So you throw it out.
Is that hard? To throw out a song like that?
It’s frustrating, because it’s time consuming. But when you have that finished set of songs, you want every one to be a single. Otherwise, what’s the purpose of that track? We don’t want the album to be okay because its got that one really good song.
One good thing now is that we’ve got time to focus on the band. Before we were working [other jobs], then doing it at night. Now we’ve got time. We keep hitting the ground running.
10. What’s something that Violent Soho fans would be surprised to know about you?
This could take many directions…. [laughs]. One thing people always find surprising is that we’re all married. I mean, people that know us aren’t surprised. But people that don’t are like, aren’t you getting all the groupies?
Apparently when Rush and Kiss were touring together, Jean Simmons would have a line up of girls outside. He’d look at the guys from Rush and be like, you want one of these chicks? And Rush would be like, nah, we’re going in to call our wives. We’re like Rush.
Violent Soho are playing Festival of the Sun on 12–13 December. Sadly, it’s already sold out. Better get in quick next time, suckers. Here, watch their interview with Rolling Stone from Splendour in the Grass. Best line: No, no, we’re not sober.