Grinspoon Focused On Their Individual Strengths As They Recorded Their First Album In 12 Years

Jade has been working as a freelance music journalist from the wilds of Far North Queensland since 2001 and loves nothing more than uncovering the human side of every stage persona. You can usually find her slinging merch with a touring band somewhere between Mackay and Cairns, or holed up with her pets in Townsville watching Haunt TV.

Maybe we can call this a comeback? Once a mainstay of almost every Australian music festival in the late 1990s to early 2000s, Grinspoon is here to prove that while the music festival as we knew it may be dead, rock is most certainly not.

The inaugural triple j Unearthed winners (in 1995, which was almost 30 years ago for those playing at home) have released lead single 'Unknown Pretenders' from their forthcoming album 'Whatever, Whatever' – their eighth studio album and first since 2012's 'Black Rabbits' – after dropping hints across social media for almost a week.

Vocalist Phil Jamieson confesses he still isn't entirely certain how the band landed on 'Unknown Pretenders' as the lead track, admitting he didn't even see 'Chemical Heart' as a single back in the day.

"But this is one of the first songs we wrote for 'Whatever'; I guess it's got a detuned Drop D riff and a pretty happy little two minutes forty of rollicking around in the surf type of fun time show," he says, explaining one of the people he played the track to pre-release commented that it made her want to go surfing.

"I was like, 'well, that's what it's meant to do!'," he laughs. "So I think it's got propulsion. I think [producer] Oscar [Dawson] has done a fantastic job on twiddling the knobs and making it sound like it does."

Jamieson notes that older fans will notice some of the new material – most notably 'Unknown Pretenders' – does harken back to some of the band's earlier work.

However, funnily enough, it's not even a true indicator of the rest of the album. "'Unknown' is probably the only Drop D song on the whole record," Jamieson says. "So that's why it sort of sounds a little like, I guess, older Grinspoon in some ways. . . all we did in Lismore was get stoned and tune our guitars to Drop D.

"I'm being facetious a little bit there," he adds, laughing. "The record's called 'Whatever' for a various number of reasons. So don't think that's what you're going to get on the record because it's really quite varied and, as usual, we do whatever we want."

Jamieson won the naming rights for this album over bandmates Pat Davern, Joe Hansen and Kristian Hopes, after naming the interlude that starts the album, 'Whatever, Whatever' based off – of all things – something he heard on a podcast with Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC fame.

"He'd go like, 'Yo, Run-DMC, first to go gold, first to go platinum, first on the cover of Rolling Stone, whatever whatever.' And so I kind of took that," Jamieson recounts.

The phrase 'Whatever, Whatever' felt right for the album, reflecting both a sense of flippant confidence and the band's collaborative, do-what-they-want approach to music.

"We weren't in the past, there's always been elbows out about who gets this song here, which is good. Don't get me wrong. We all care. But in this instance, it's probably been the most collaborative, kind of creative, kind of nice way that we've all sort of gone, 'okay, everyone has their strengths in this band; let's celebrate the strengths rather than focus on stuff that is completely irrelevant in our eighth record'."

This wasn't so much the case when the band originally began the process of laying down the bones for this album in an Adelaide studio in early 2020, when the country was on fire and the tension within the studio was somewhat reflective of the temperature outside.

Jamieson recalls the session about a week before the band performed to 75,000 people at ANZ Stadium for the Fire Fight charity concert.

"We weren't particularly seeing eye to eye as a creative piece, creative friends, and there was a bit of storming out and people were pretty frustrated actually with the whole process," Jamieson explains, "and that's not just me, we've been in this band for 29 years or something, so everyone has very strong opinions about what we should do next and if we should do a record or one song, or just an EP or put a song on a movie soundtrack or some sh.t.

"But ultimately Joe suggested that all three songwriters – Joe, Pat and myself – we put down four of our favourite songs each, whether they be pop songs or punk songs or 13-minute operas or whatever, and we don't argue about it. We just record those."

The result is an album that will appeal to the full spectrum of Grinspoon fans, with tracks like the opener '(ilysm)', which is a short, sharp slap in the face, much like 'Pressure Tested 1984' on 1997 debut album 'Guide To Better Living'; as well tracks like '4, 5 & 7' which is bound to appeal to the more mainstream, 'Chemical Heart' fans.

With Holy Holy's Oscar Dawson on production – who also worked on Jamieson's 2022 solo record 'Somebody Else' – there is a fresh, modern element that is bound to appeal to first-time listeners.

"Essentially, believe it or not, this record's really for us," Jamieson says. "I'm glad that people are excited about it, but man, we are really excited to play new songs in our set list.

"To use a sporting analogy, it's like when you score a try or you score a point, it gives your whole team enthusiasm and it's like releasing a new song gives us a new lease on life."

This enthusiasm is evident in the way the band plans to integrate the new tracks into their set list on their expansive, almost 50-date Australian tour, combining fan favourites with fresh offerings from 'Whatever, Whatever'. Jamieson is optimistic about the new songs' live reception, despite the challenges some might present.

"I'm hoping to do upwards of five or six of the new material," he says, admitting that some of the new tracks may require a call to Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall to figure out how to not completely wreck his vocal cords in the process. "But that's totally my problem. I'll figure that out and I'll work it out when we get there."

Despite the inherent challenges, Jamieson is looking forward to revisiting some of the more regional areas on this tour. "Instead of making Australia come to us, we're taking it to them," he emphasises, recalling how impactful it was as a teen himself seeing Fugazi play in Lismore in 1996.

"That's not lost on me either," Jamieson says, "but for new material, we want to bring the party to you. We don't want to have to make you drive from Bundaberg to Brisbane to listen to new material you might hate.

"I dunno whether we'll ever do this tour again, like this size. They are difficult. They're very hard to logistically plan, but ultimately it makes you feel alive – and that's what rock & roll is all about."

'Whatever, Whatever' will be released 9 August. Pre-order it.

Grinspoon 2024 Tour Dates

Tue 17 Sep - Ballina RSL (Northern Rivers)
Wed 18 Sep - Southport RSL (Gold Coast)
Fri 20 Sep - The Tivoli (Brisbane)
Sat 21 Sep - The Powerhouse (Toowoomba)
Sun 22 Sep - Miami Marketta (Gold Coast)
Tue 24 Sep - The Dag Pub (D'aguilar)
Wed 25 Sep - Brothers Sports Club (Bundaberg)
Fri 27 Sep - Harvey Rd Tavern (Gladstone)
Sat 28 Sep - Great Western Hotel (Rockhampton)
Tue 1 Oct - Seabreeze Hotel (Mackay)
Wed 2 Oct - Magnums Hotel (Airlie Beach)
Fri 4 Oct - Queens Beach Hotel (Bowen)
Sat 5 Oct - Dalrymple Hotel (Townsville)
Mon 7 Oct - Hinchinbrook Shire Hall (Ingham)
Fri 11 Oct - Burdekin Memorial Hall (Ayr)
Sat 12 Oct - Brothers Sports Club (Cairns)
Wed 16 Oct - The Station (Sunshine Coast)
Fri 18 Oct - Racehorse Hotel (Ipswich)
Sat 19 Oct - The Princess Theatre (Brisbane)
Sun 20 Oct - Distillery Rd (Brisbane)
Tue 22 Oct - Metro Theatre (Sydney)
Fri 25 Oct - Sawtell RSL (Coffs Harbour)
Sat 26 Oct - West Tamworth Leagues Club
Sun 27 Oct - Finnian's Tavern (Port Macquarie)
Tue 29 Oct - Bar On The Hill (Newcastle)
Wed 30 Oct - Drifters Wharf (Central Coast)
Fri 1 Nov - Sydney Coliseum
Sat 2 Nov - The Cube (Sydney)
Sun 3 Nov - Waves Towradgi Beach Hotel (Wollongong)
Tue 5 Nov - 170 Russell St (Melbourne)
Fri 8 Nov - Bridgeway Hotel (Adelaide)
Sat 9 Nov - The Gov (Adelaide)
Sun 10 Nov - Northern Sound System Event Centre (Elizabeth)
Tue 12 Nov - Commercial Hotel (Melbourne)
Wed 13 Nov - Village Green (Melbourne)
Fri 15 Nov - Pier Bandroom (Frankston)
Sat 16 Nov - All Seasons (Bendigo)
Sun 17 Nov - Barwon Heads Hotel (Surf Coast)
Thu 21 Nov - Discovery (Darwin)
Fri 22 Nov - Noonamah Tavern (Darwin)
Tue 26 Nov - Astor Theatre (Perth)
Fri 29 Nov - Mundaring Weir Hotel (Perth)
Tue 5 Nov - Country Club Tasmania (Launceston)
Wed 4 Dec - Frankie J's (Devonport)
Fri 6 Dec - Odeon Theatre (Hobart)

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