According to Nancy Vandal’s website, the millennium bug destroyed the band’s mojo, how’d you get it back to make ‘Flogging A Dead Phoenix’?
Well it took a while, as you may realise, looking at that timeline on our website, for several years there’s no recorded information there. It took the best part of eight years before we did a tour with Frenzal Rhomb which kinda helped assemble it and then another five years there before complete reengagement.
Did you decide to record a new album now because this year is the 20th anniversary of the band, or is that just a coincidence?
That was definitely the starting point, it was looming and we felt we should do something, and kinda said well ‘if we’re going to do something, let’s not do it half-arsed’. So we decided to do a new album and then we organised our own little tour and then through some weird stroke of fate we got on Soundwave Festival. It’s kind of, started off small to middle sized, and then it kind of got big.
Did you have a plan to do a full national tour before being included on the Soundwave line up?
We just booked our East Coast tour, so that was all organised. We didn’t think we could financially make it to Perth and Adelaide, so that’s one of the awesome things about doing Soundwave, is we now can.
Besides not having to play at 8am, how do you think Soundwave Festival will be different to when you played Warped in 1999?
[Laughs] There might be some similarities there! We don’t know what time we’re playing at this stage!
I don’t think it starts until around 11am, so you should be alright.
Oh really? Ok so we can have a bit more wake up time. That was pretty early and pretty raw. Having said that, now with our years of experience playing, we really don’t mind playing so early in the day, especially at a festival like Soundwave where there are lots of bands we want to see. So we’ll get our set over and done with and have a few drinks and have a wander around. Sounds pretty good to me!
Soundwave tends to have a pretty young audience compared to the likes of Big Day Out. Do you think they’ll “get” the band, or just think ‘what the hell’s going on?’
Oh there’s a fair chance of the latter! I don’t know what we can do between now and then to ease them into it. Nancy Vandal is quite a hard band to explain to people who have never seen it before or heard of us. So I don’t know, I don’t know what the youngsters these days will make of it. Hopefully they’ll see we’re there for a good time.
Yeah the reaction’s been really awesome! All the fans of the band are really stoked, so are our friends, so it’s been more than we’ve expected. The reaction’s been cool, we feel like sort of a little underdog that’s unexpectedly kicked a goal in soccer or something and everyone’s patting him on the back saying ‘well done, little feller!’
I know you’ve only played a handful of shows in the past few years but is there anything that really stands out to you as a highlight of your music career?
Back in the 90s seems like a life-time ago. The tour we did recently with Frenzal Rhomb was pretty great, we all sort of probably thought that was the full stop. It was just a great time, and we got to go to Adelaide too. I also think back fondly on playing in the very early days which was playing to 50 people in pretty small pubs back when you were excited just to be playing, so I have fond memories of that.
Do you still get that kind of excitement playing to the bigger crowds now?
I think we will this time because, well when you’re doing it all the time you get sort of relaxed, but we are super psyched for this upcoming stuff because we haven’t done it for a while.
Do you’ll change up your stage show for the upcoming run? Back in the 90s it was pretty crazy.
Na, we only do it one way! It’s not like we have different gear or anything, it’ll be pretty similar I would guess, but we haven’t done it yet so, who knows? We have a set way of doing things, so we’ll probably do it that way.
Since the band started 20 years ago, what do you think has happened to punk music, especially in Australia? Is it better or worse than it was back then?
Um, that’s a good question, well it’s kind of gone back a bit I guess to, back in the 90s it had a bit of a fad element to it, I guess. It was kinda peaking in its popularity. But it’s still pretty good now, I mean the bands I loved back then are still around like Frenzal and The Hard Ons. I guess you’re kinda asking about the bands that came after, and I probably don’t know them as well as the older ones, but I mean, there’s still good punk bands kicking around.
There’s certainly less though, I think back then there was a sort of a “wave” of punk music in the 90s. It’s kinda going back to being sort of an underground thing. I know it’s more of a metal festival, but Soundwave is a testament to the fact that there’s still interest, even though there’s not a lot of Australian bands on that.
I know in Sydney there’s a bit of an issue with live venues closing down so that doesn’t help either. There are still bands out there, I’m always finding bands I’ve never heard of which is good.
Regarding live venues being closed down, what impact do you think that’s going to have on up and coming bands?
Well, it doesn’t help, does it? I guess there’s two sides to it. There’s the nostalgia slash cultural knock that you receive when an established venue goes up and it sort of has that built in history to it, but I mean, whenever that happens it opens the door for something to start somewhere else. But having said that, obviously you need the interest in the bands and the venues in order for them to succeed. I’m really not sure what the answer to it is.
Do you think your band would have had the same success if you were just starting out now as opposed to in the 90s?
I do know that I envy bands starting out today with all the stuff, the internet related stuff that they have at their disposal. We were always really fanatical self-promoters, like we’d do mail outs and fanzines, and always sending out tapes and stuff, and we were really active, and now I see all the stuff you have at your disposal and I think ‘wow, that would have been really useful!’ But I guess since everyone has access to that stuff now you have to be super good at it to gain any advantage. It’s hard to say, you’d think the kind of music we play, right now would be hard. But, it’s easier to reach a wide audience these days.
Do you have any expectations for the Soundwave tour or are you just going to jump in and see how it goes?
Not to embarrass ourselves! That’s the main aim we’re focusing on. It’s good we’re doing our own little tour before that, so we’re not just going in after however many years. Not really any expectations though, it’s not like we’re viewing it as catapult into the stadium rock world, we’re viewing it as a fun thing, but we’re also hoping we just play well and can hold our own.
Like you said it’s a more of a metal-focused festival, but are there any bands you’re interested in seeing?
Yeah, lots! A lot of us really like Rocket From The Crypt, so that’s who we’re most happy about. Also, Clutch, I kinda like the stoner end of the metal spectrum. There’s lots of bands I’ve never heard of so I’ll just go through the list the day before and check out all of those. There’s another kinda glam band, Crashdiet, I don’t know if they’re in the first announcement, or just heavily rumoured, but they look interesting, but I don’t know much about them, just the name and their photo. I’ll have to check them out.
What do you think about the ratio of Australian vs international bands on Australian festivals?
I think they’ve just got a model that they use, it obviously works for them. I guess having more international bands creates more intrigue and exclusivity. As an advocate for Australian music I’d like to see more Australian bands in festivals, but I can kinda see where they’re coming from.
Maybe they should do something like the radio stations do, have a certain percentage of music that has to be Australian.
Oh like a quota, yeah that could work. There are festivals that have exclusively, or mostly Australian line-ups. I guess what we need is a punk or metal festival that’s ‘Australia only’, I know there’s a couple kicking around, so hopefully one of those will leap up.
What I say to punters is go out and see as many Australian bands as you can and support them, and that will lead to more of that stuff happening.
Do you have any plans for the band beyond Soundwave Festival?
Not really. It’s already kinda become bigger than we thought. Nothing we’re doing immediately after that, it might be the last thing we do for a while, or ever! We’ll just see how we go as we head into uncharted territory.
Interview by Sofie Marsden