Australia’s Violent Soho Talk ’90s Nostalgia, Nirvana vs. Pumpkins + New Album ‘Hungry Ghost’
America and Australia aren't so different. There, as here, dudes from ho-hum towns assemble in foursomes, united by a love of loud guitars and cheap beer and singing about their lives at the top of their lungs. One such quartet is called Violent Soho, and next month, they release their excellent sophomore effort, 'Hungry Ghost,' an album of candied angst sure to draw comparisons to Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, along with other '90s faves.
The neo-grunge tag is unavoidable -- their first record came out on Thurston Moore's label, and they've toured with Dinosaur Jr. and Alice in Chains -- but as singer Luke Boerdam explains in an email interview with Diffuser.fm, he and his Brisbane bandmates aren't stuck in the '90s. Read on to find out what modern bands influenced the new material, as well as how specific concerns about god and politics factor into Boerdam's songwriting. (Spoiler alert: They don't.) Lastly, check out their hilarious video for 'In the Aisle,' which updates Blink-182's 'What's My Age Again' with bicycles and more cellulite.
After three years, are you excited for people to finally hear 'Hungry Ghost?' Nervous?
Definitely pumped for people to hear the new record. It's been too long! Not nervous -- just keen to get and touring the new songs, really.
Why the long delay between albums? Were you writing the whole time?
We didn't want to jump in and make second record just because it was expected. We had to play through a lot of demos and rehearsals to find our feet and direction.
We don't like releasing anything unless we are 100 percent happy with each track. I guess we're perfectionists -- bit silly when it's just three-chord pop songs --- but in the end, you have to live with the music you put out, and we don't want to look back thinking it could have been better.
You guys all came of age in the '90s -- what was the first song or album you really remember making a personal impact?
For me it was 'Paranoid Android' by Radiohead. Always loved that lyric "God loves his children" in the bridge. I just hadn't heard anything like it before when I was 12, an eight-minute epic track that made you feel like you read novel before it's finished.
Obviously, a lot of talk these days centers on '90s nostalgia, but for you guys, is it more about playing what you've always known?
Yep, and its not necessarily '90s stuff. It's just whatever we like, really. Basically, on this record, I think the influences are more recent bands like Cloud Nothings and the Bronx more than anything else.
Is there something about '90s alt-rock -- grunge, if you like -- that makes it timeless? Loud, distorted guitars and a bit of angst always seem to go down smooth...
I don't think its necessarily '90s alt rock or grunge that's timeless -- its good music that's timeless. Bands that write honest songs people can relate to.
Who's better, the Pumpkins or Nirvana? (Side question: Is that going to become the new Stones vs. Beatles?)
Sonic Youth beats both of them.
Speaking of Nirvana, who you've cited as an influence, Kurt Cobain's songs can be pretty abstract and open to interpretation. By contrast, parts of 'Hungry Ghost' seem to be about very specific things, such as social status, commercialism, the government, etc. And yet the songs aren't didactic tirades. Is it tough to strike a balance between being topical and maintaining some degree of ambiguity and artistry?
I never write lyrics politically -- well, I don't try to. Most my lyrics are just randomly pulled from childhood memories, historical accounts from wikipedia pages, weird characters in our neighbourhood and a bunch of made-up situations. This music isn't high art. I don't think it's about analyzing the world's problem at large. It's just saying, "This is f---ed up, and I can't explain why, but this is what it feels like." Good music takes you somewhere. It doesn't have to make sense; you just got to be able to relate to it.
You all come from conservative and religious families, and Brisbane is described as the "bible belt" of Australia. Does Christianity -- or the rejection thereof -- play any role in this new record?
Violent Soho has no problem with Christianity or religion for that matter. If you want to believe in a fairy-tale god and dismiss science, I don't really care. What we do have a problem with is certain "organizations" playing with people's hopes and personal lives while profiteering from them. They completely commercialize a concept that should be based purely on charity and goodwill. And no, the new record doesn't focus purely on this at all.
In the '90s, Silverchair were huge in America, but we're guessing there were better Australian bands around at the time. Name five great Aussie groups we should all go back and rediscover right now.
How 'bout I give you five current artists you should check out right now:
DZ Deathrays, Dune RAts, White Walls, No Anchor and Straight Arrows. Cosmic Psychos would probably be what you're after, though.
You've met a lot of '90s alt-rock heroes -- Thurston, Dino Jr., etc. Is there anyone from that era you'd love to have a beer (or better yet, write a song) with?
Yep, Stephen Malkmus from Pavement. Awesome lyricist -- my favourite.
Any plans to tour the states this year? Are you itching to play here again, given the positive reaction you've gotten here in the past?
Absolutely itching to play that States again. I miss PBR's and buffalo wings and rad bars!!!! We want Violent Soho to tour the states, but we gotta take care of our home country first, then we'll try and get over there ASAP.
Watch Violent Soho's 'In the Aisle' Video