When The Living End strike up the band for the forthcoming A Day On The Green series, they’ll be on fire having returned from a momentous run of shows in the US.
“This was the second US tour that we’ve done in the space of six months, but we hadn’t been to the US for eight years before that,” the group's vocalist-guitarist Chris Cheney says.
“It was probably too long between drinks, but both these tours were really great. We just spent five weeks there, going right from the east to the west coast and we played a lot of great shows and saw a lot of cool things. We’ve got a great following over there, a really loyal fan base.”
Chris says there’s been no major change in the band’s fan strongholds in their eight-year US absence, but it does seem the major cities do love the rockabilly trio. “We’ve spent so long in Los Angeles that we’ve got a really strong fan base there,” he explains.
“But in New York, for example, we played with Midnight Oil which was really good. It was great to get on to their shows and play to their audience and try and win them over.
“Our bass player Scott, it’s his favourite band of all time. So to be playing shows with Midnight Oil in the USA was really quite a surreal experience. And they’re playing like they never stopped playing. There’s so much energy in that band it’s ridiculous.”
"I like to think that every time we release an album… we’ve still got our finger on the pulse [and we're] not putting out something that’s just a pile of crap."
At the time of the release of their last album, 'Shift', Chris stated in interviews that he’d dug more personally in terms of lyrics than ever before.
Taking an album out on the road that continues the band’s trademark energy with a little more darkness on the side has proven to be interesting. “Yeah, the songs translate really well live,” Chris says.
“I’m more proud of this record than any of our records. I really poured everything I had into it. The reaction’s been really great and people who come to our shows they want to hear that stuff. They don’t need to hear 'Prisoner Of Society' again, they’ve heard it enough times,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s really great to be in a position where we’ve got an album that actually does translate live, so we’re trying to mix it up and play different songs from it.
“It’s a bit different with A Day On The Green because that’s more about playing to a diverse audience, but for our own, little club shows we can really mix it up.”
Many bands who reach the milestone that is a two-decade career find their newer albums may be regarded with, at best, token interest.
The Living End’s album releases, however, are always of the moment. There’s an intensity about both the releases themselves and the interest shown towards them.
'Shift' was, after all, the band’s seventh album to debut in the ARIA Top 10. “I guess we’re lucky to have that but I feel we wouldn’t put a record out if we thought it was purely a vehicle to tour,” Chris says.
“'Okay, here’s ten songs, whatever… a couple of good ones but the rest are crap.' We really spend a lot of time writing and a lot of time demoing and I think that kind of shows.
“We have had a lot of amazing success beyond what we expected; we’ve had a lot of support from radio. I like to think that every time we release an album we’re still strong and we’ve still got our finger on the pulse, not putting out something that’s just a pile of crap. We’re very lucky to have that kind of response.”
By way of stretching his creative arms, Chris portrayed St Jimmy in the opening shows of the Australian tour of the Green Day musical, 'American Idiot'
. “It was so much better than I was probably expecting it to be,” he enthuses.
“I was pretty nervous going into it but I decided to set myself a challenge and do something completely different and step outside the concert zone – which it was – and I got a real buzz out of it.
“It was a really inspiring, exciting thing to do. It’s a different level of nerves,” he says with a laugh. “I’m really glad I did it.”
It seems Chris relished the chance, as a seasoned performer, to step onstage in a manner that was challenging and offered so much new to learn. “Yeah and I think you’ve got to do that these days more than ever,” he adds.
“You’ve got to branch out. I’ve always been into the theatre, especially musical theatre. I thought I was capable of bringing something to the role and felt, again, that it’s important to not just be a one-trick pony. I want to be a songwriter and a guitar player and a performer… just be a bit more rounded, I guess.”
Australian audiences will next have a chance to see The Living End when they step out on A Day On The Green run with Spiderbait, Veruca Salt, The Lemonheads, The Fauves and Tumbleweed. That’s some line-up. “It’ll be great,” Chris says.
“It’s just diverse enough. For a fan of rock & roll music it’s gonna be perfect. We’ve known The Fauves guys and Spiderbait for a long time and I’m really looking forward to seeing The Lemonheads and Veruca Salt.
“And Tumbleweed are Oz rock legends as far as I’m concerned. It’s a really good line-up, I think. Not just your typical festival thing.”
Good company, good venues, good wine. It certainly sounds like a lovely way to do it. “For sure. It’s just a fun thing to be a part of. Hopefully we can play some music as well,” he says with a laugh.
The Living End A Day On The Green 2018 Shows
Sat 24 Feb - Bimbadgen (NSW)Sun 25 Feb - Sirromet Wines (QLD)Sat 10 Mar - Josef Chromy Wines (TAS)Sun 11 Mar - Mt Duneed Estate (VIC)Sat 17 Mar - Leconfield Wines (SA)