For the better part of 15 + years, Grinspoon have been at the forefront of the Australian music scene – combining their unique blend of rock with infectious pop sensibilities. Never a band to do the same thing twice, the release of ‘Black Rabbits‘ last year saw the band venture into new territory and proving the bands undeniable versatility. With a new set of tour dates announced to round out the year, we spoke with bassist Joe Hansen about the bands sound transition, monogrammed beach towels and the longevity of ‘Chemical Heart‘.
By Meghan Player
The release of ‘Black Rabbits‘ last year was certainly one of our anticipated releases – were you happy with how fans responded to the new material?
It’s been awesome to see fans embrace our new stuff at our live shows – the songs have fitted in pretty much seamlessly. We’ve been slipping them in between some of the more old school stuff, so maybe the crowd hasn’t noticed they’re new. Seriously though, our first couple of singles have been pretty well received on radio so that always helps.
The album was certainly a different direction for the band in regards to sound – with a mix of pop hooks blended into your harder rock vibes. What inspired the transition in sound from your earlier, grungier style to the melodies used in ‘Black Rabbits‘?
Everyone loves a good sing-along and I think it’s important not to go over old ground. We’ve got three people contributing songs in Grinspoon, so there’s never a shortage of material to choose from. There were heaps of songs. Of course we all argued about which songs to choose, but once we’d got the core of the album together we wanted the other songs to fit in to make a cohesive record – so some of the heavier stuff missed out as a result.
As a Grinspoon fan, I’ve always appreciated that you’ve never been a band to make the same album twice. In saying that, would the follow-up to ‘Black Rabbits‘ follow a similar path? Have you thought that far ahead?
We never really think too much about our future direction- like I said before because, we all write separately, we come up with a whole bunch of different stuff that is not influenced by each other’s direction. The trick is to then get a feel for what the strongest material is and go down that path. We’re not clever enough to say ‘let’s do this’ – and then follow that through to the letter. The way we do it is all a bit backwards really! Personally though, I’d like to think we can get a bit heavier sounding musically on the next record, but keep the melodic aspect intact.
Are there any elements/sounds/styles that you haven’t explored in previous albums that you’d like to experiment with in a future release?
Passerby pushed us into some new territory, with the delayed guitar and the four on the floor beat, and of course the 808 drum sound. There’s probably some room for that kind of exploration, but we don’t want it to sound to self-consciously different to what we usually do, and have it stick out like a sore thumb. Stuff like that also makes it real hard to replicate live, and there’s no way we wanna end up playing to backing tapes or any of that nonsense.
You’ve added a bunch of new shows to the touring roster for the second half of the year – are you looking forward to a gig/venue in particular?
Well the Enmore is always a great place to play – and it’s been a while since we did a show there – so that sticks out to me. I’m also looking forward to playing Jindabyne- I’ll try to get there a day or two early and get some snowboarding in beforehand.
The Snowdroppers were recently named as the support act for the tour – funnily enough, my first introduction to the band was when they toured with you previously – are you looking forward to hitting the road with them again?
The Snowdroppers are a great band and we had a lot of fun with them last time. At the end of the last tour we presented them with monogrammed beach towels in recognition of their all-round awesomeness, an honour we have only previously bestowed on one other band- the mighty Front End Loader. I hope they still have them!
Do you have any plans to head back to the UK to tour?
We’d love to get back there, last time we had an amazing time. Touring with our mates Jettblack was great, and playing at places like King Tuts in Glasgow and The Cavern in Exeter was awesome. Our gigs in London were mental! We had our own tour bus and went out and explored whenever we could. We’re in negotiations with a record company to put Black Rabbits out there so hopefully we can do a tour on the back of that.
‘Chemical Heart‘ was recently named in the Hottest 100 of the last 20 years – is it humbling to see that a song released 10 years ago still connects with people?
Definitely. A lot of great songs missed out, so we were all very chuffed to see that sneak in there. I think it just shows that when you connect with a song it can stay with you, and bring you back to that time of your life each time you hear it. Songs are more than just words and music played by musicians; they’re also the memories and feelings of the people who hear them.
Finally, something that we always like to ask bands such as yourselves – if Grinspoon were to call it quits tomorrow, what would you like to be remembered for?
I think it would be arrogant to think too grandly of our “legacy”. We’ve never had a master plan, or even any plan at all!
I think it’s great that people have connected with our songs over the years, but I guess what I’d hope is when people thought of Grinspoon, they’d think of that great night they went out with their friends, had a few drinks, got sweaty on the dance floor and shouted along to the ‘spoon till they were hoarse. That to me is what it’s all about!
Many thanks to Joe for taking the time to chat to us. You can check out the upcoming Grinspoon tour dates at: www.grinspoon.com