Violent Soho: Hell Fuck Yeah

As the Big Days Out start their national junket for 2014, The Dwarf chatted with James Tidswell from Violent Soho to get to heart of the band’s ethos: talking festivals, band life and Triple J.

They say that good things come to those who wait, but the reality is more often good things come to those who get off their arse and work for it, as Violent Soho have proved. Having experienced the dizzying highs of living in the US, touring with international superstars and signing to “prestigious” labels, the band made a conscious decision not to become industry knobs, and instead to return to Brisbane and live the good life. A kind of karmic palindrome that guitarist James Tidswell knows personally.

“When I was 16 I went to my first Big Day Out, which was in the year 2000 and I got to see Blink 182. It’s pretty exciting to get to be on the other side of what was quite literally a life changing moment. I never thought at 16 I’d ever be playing Big Day Out.”

He probably never thought he would have been cancelling one festival appearance for another either; one of the curses of juggling a packed national festival calendar for a band that’s in demand. For those punters who were hoping to see Violent Soho at the Big Pineapple, take heart from what Tidswell had to say:

“It sucks! It would have been our first show up the Sunshine Coast in ages. It’s really hard to get shows up there. We’re definitely going to get up there. We’re arranging a tour at the moment which will hopefully happen mid year. I think all the dudes on the sunshine coast would probably be stoked on us doing our own show anyway.”

The heartbreak at cancelling a local gig is genuine. Violent Soho wear their local pride on their sleeve with 4122 (the postcode of Mansfield, the town where they grew up) appearing all over their merch, social media and fans. The lads grew up seeing the Hard Ons put Punchbowl on everything, never forgetting where they came from, and that struck a chord.

“When we first started playing in the city we weren’t one of the cool hipster kids that went to the private schools so it was kinda hard to break in so we just started putting Mansfield on everything. It’s us saying we know we’re not cool and we’re definitely not going to try to be.”

“From then on we stuck with it because part of the essence of the band may not always be to live in Mansfield by any means, but it’s definitely not to pretend to be anything more than who you are. As a band if there’s a message we have it’s ‘this is who we are, and this is what we do, and there’s nothing more to it than that’.”

Hungry Ghost, their third full-length release, hit shelves in late 2013, and has been mentioned by critics both local and international as one of the most underrated albums of last year.

“Underrated is a very nice thing to say considering it’s gone way beyond our expectations. I mean, we don’t look at it like that, and I hope we never do, we’re so grateful for anyone that listen to our music. As far as critics go, we’re obviously not a band that writes music for critics.”

“If people are saying that, all I can say is that it’s incredibly nice because we’ve really felt quite a warm reception to it. There’s more people at our festival shows and radio seems to have played us more than what they have in the past, and we’ve made a couple of those top ten lists and stuff like that. We’re so grateful for the response it has had, so if people consider that underrated then fuck that’s so sick!”

This particular catch up happened to be on the day the boys were in the Triple J studio 'taking five' with Zan Rowe. In attempting to set up a question for their Take Five Skate Park Anthems, I promised I wasn’t going to ask about the recent Triple J debate playing out in the media. Tidswell was clueless, and asked to know more about the debate. After a brief recap of some of the criticisms being levelled at the station and their response, he was keen to have his say. It was so eloquent that it’s presented for you in full and verbatim:

“I’m more than happy to comment on this, in fact I’ve got heaps to say. I think that any form of critiquing a Government funded organisation is a good thing, but it sucks for the people that work there that are putting in all the hard work and effort."

“I don’t think you have to change your sound at all. We certainly haven’t and we get played more now than what we ever have. We definitely didn’t make a conscious effort to change our sound, if anything we went further into doing things ourselves and even more low-fi recordings and doing things even cheaper with not much self promotion and Triple J have supported us. That’s thanks obviously to people requesting our song which is really good.”

“I think that any band that thinks that their life is going to change by playing on Triple J is probably in a band for the wrong reasons to begin with. Getting played on Triple J is the cream on top. I don’t understand where a band’s mentality is if they’re that concerned with Triple J anyway. I’m grateful for the support that we’ve got from them, we certainly haven’t changed our sound and we haven’t even met than many people from Triple J and they’ve still supported us.”

“Any bands that are saying it should keep their heads down and their bums up and write music that people want to request. And don't complain because, fuck, we’ve got enough people doing that. I’ll just like to finish on that though, that I wish kids chose the music that kids get to listen to and that’s all I’ll say.”

Exactly the sort of response you’d expect from a band that have their feet on the ground, their heads not up their arses, and no desire to cash in. Violent Soho just want to make great music that other people want to listen to, and they’re going to do that the same way they always have. So you can expect extensive tours with lots of laughs and great shows, but don’t expect them to pump out another new album in 2014.

“You can see from the gaps between our last records, we’re not trying to keep the ball rolling or anything like that. We go about it pretty much the same way we always have. When we do get a chance to get together and try a few songs we do, but apart form that we’re just stoked that we’re going on all these tours and enjoying our summer. We’re stocked that everyone is turning out to the shows and screaming Hell Fuck Yeah.”

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