Grinspoon never say never (Music Insight)
If you were a young adult in 1990s Australia, there was the rave culture, the end of the Soviet Union, the rise of the World Wide Web, and, above all, there was grunge. Leading the Australian movement of grunge was a band now engrained into Australia’s music psyche, Grinspoon.
From the moment they released their 1997 debut record, Guide to Better Living, Grinspoon became a staple of the Australian music scene. They have had one of the most consistent forms of critical and commercial success of recent years, with their popularity extending well into the Noughties. While they have been on hiatus for most of this decade, they have come back together to release a deluxe edition of their debut, celebrating it’s twentieth birthday.
This edition contains a monstrous forty-nine tracks, including previously unreleased material and bonus live performances at CBGBs in New York and the Falls Festival. Grinspoon will also be accompanying this release with their first tour in five years. Music Insight sat down with guitarist Pat Davern, to chat about the upcoming release.
“It feels like it was released a long time ago,” Davern says.
“If that’s what twenty years feels like, then that’s what it is. We haven’t been on the road for five years, the last tour we did was in 2012. I can’t quite believe it, but it does feel like that album was released twenty years ago.
“Oh man, that record took us a long way. It was off the back of that record that we got signed to Universal. Any debut album is a big album for any band. It was hugely influential on the band’s career path from that point onwards.”
For many lovers of grunge, Grinspoon was an important band for Aussie music at the time. Their debut, along with their 2004 record Thrills, Kills and Sunday Pills were watershed moments in Aussie music.
“Well let me tell you about that, son,” Davern laughs.
“I’ve met so many twenty-five year olds who are into [Thrills]. I guess, because it was part of the nineties Australian music vernacular. It was a great time for Australian music and it was a time that a lot of people look back on with great fondness.
“That album was definitely part of a soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives, a lot of those people now have got kids who they play that album to now.”
It may surprise many, but in the early days grunge was not Davern’s focus musically.
“I wasn’t a huge grunge fan. I was a rock and roll fan, but I wasn’t one of those kids who got into Nirvana before they happened. But, because it permeated most parts of your life when you grew up in the nineties, it was always going to be an influence of some sort, you know what I mean?
“It was just everywhere! It was on the radio, the television, it was a creative highlight for rock ’n roll. Rock ’n roll really hasn’t been the same since, even though a lot of great records have been made since then. As a whole scene, it was a huge cultural moment. If you were young, like a teenager in your early twenties it was hard not to be swept up in it.”
Many artists often deliberately choose not to revisit their older material, but the timing seemed appropriate for Grinspoon. For Davern, listening to the record was an incredibly nostalgic experience.
“It brought up lots of memories, both good and bad. When I listen to that record, I pick holes in it. I mean, the record as a whole has a good vibe to it. But the older you get, sometimes you look back at it and you view it differently. I think, overall it stands up pretty well. It sounds pretty good. It’s all analog, the timing wavers in and out, it’s very live.
“There’s some beauty in that you don’t hear in a lot of records these days. It was pretty raw. I love a bit of nostalgia mate, to be honest with you. For me, there was definitely some joy. There’s something that is still nice about something that is raw and live and unique.”
It felt even more nostalgic for Davern when the band began to compile the deluxe edition. Upon travelling to Universal in New York, the band discovered many of their early live performances that they hadn’t even heard before. It was a weird experience for all the members.
“It just all came out of the woodwork. There was a song that we had recorded in the Guide to Better Living sessions that we’d never released, it was really just trolling through everything. We didn’t want to cover too much ground that we’d covered before. It’d be a bit of a pisstake if we just put out Guide to Better Living and didn’t release anything new with it. There’s a lot of stuff there that people haven’t heard before. It was a great thing to do.
“It’s definitely brought us back together. We weren’t spending a lot of time hanging out with each other up until this point. Now, it’s basically business as usual. It’s the same four guys, we’ve been a band for almost twenty-five years. So, same jokes, same bullshit.”
Being back together is one of the most exciting prospects for Davern, as the band prepares to head out on their 26-date national tour. Davern himself has a family now, so a chance to immerse himself again in the world of touring is one that he is looking forward to the most.
The deluxe edition itself is a throwback to those times, and in itself is a reminder of how great the Nineties was, both for music and as a time to be alive. For Davern, it really is a thank you to all the fans who stuck with the band during that time.
“I mean, for the fans, it’s the stuff like the live CBGBs performance, they can listen back and here what it was like to be in one of those shows; we were a young band, really starting out, then you’ll get a real kick out of this release.
“But also, it may have been something that you might have forgotten about. You might have the CD in your car, then somewhere along the line it might’ve got lost and then, and then you’ll put it on and it’ll bring back a lot of great memories. That’s what I really hope for.”
And as for a brand new Grinspoon record down the line?
“The stars would all have to align. We’d have to be writing some really good songs. We wouldn’t want to do an album of filler.
“Never say never,” Davern chuckles.
Guide to Better Living is out today.