Homegrown punk veterans Bodyjar seemed to fade out from view after the release of their eponymous 2005 album, eventually calling a hiatus in 2009. The Melbourne four-piece have now reunited, releasing killer new album ‘Role Model’ – their first in eight years – and doing a slew of headline dates throughout the country to celebrate. Killyourstereo.com caught up with guitarist Tom Read to get the lowdown.
‘Role Model’ is your first album since 2005, as well as your first since coming out of a hiatus which began in 2009 I believe. What have Bodyjar been up to in the interim?
Working day jobs, having babies. All the exciting stuff. We came back and toured ‘No Touch Red’ when it came out on vinyl, that was a lot of fun. Apart from that, very little.
When you decided to reunite, do another album and start touring again, was that a very conscious decision or did it just come about organically?
It sort of happened organically, but in saying that we also sat down and made the decision. It wasn’t something that we just went into half-arsed, we definitely had a chat. We sat down and talked when we were rehearsing for the Descendents tour back in February and just said if we want to keep playing, it’d be a good idea to put new material out. Grant had a bit of a song so we jammed that and it was good fun, and that ended up being the first track on the record. We wrote a bunch of other songs and it was just good fun.
To me, the album sounds like there’s this kind of maturity there that suggests that you guys have had time off, but at the same time, it almost sounds like the gap didn’t even happen, you know? It sounds very much like a Bodyjar record. I guess I’m curious about how it felt stepping back into the studio and writing songs, did it feel as natural as it did back in the day?
Yeah, totally. We wrote a fair bit at home on our own, so once we hit the studio we were all ready to go. I think we decided on 13 songs and 12 made the album, but yeah, it just felt good again. It felt right. We were writing songs more that I guess we knew how to write. A bit more old school, late 90’s/early 00’s style Bodyjar songs. It came pretty easy I reckon, it just sort of flowed on. It was just a good vibe, everyone was friendly and happy to be there doing it, no one was grumpy or anything. The motto behind the whole thing was ‘if we’re not having fun, then don’t do it.’ When you’re enjoying yourself like that, it just comes easy to you.
Absolutely. As far as the actual recording process itself, what was that like?
Pretty normal. Different producer obviously, we hadn’t worked with Tom Larkin before, that was good. But we did things pretty much the same as we usually did, except Grant broke his hand two weeks before we went into the studio. Usually we do the drums, then bass, then guitars but we did drums and dodgy bass tracks to play along to and then he did his bass parts once his hand was fixed up down the tracks.
You guys are about to kick off a run of national tour dates to support the album. As far as touring, last year you did the ‘No Touch Red’ shows and then earlier this year you did the tour with Descendents. Do these shows feel more like a proper re-introduction to the band?
I suppose it does. It’ll be interesting to see how they go. If it doesn’t sell as well as the ‘No Touch Red’ tour that’d be funny. But yeah, it feels like we’re new again. We’ve cut a new album, we’re cutting our chops again. We’ll just have to see how it goes, getting out there and trying to promote the record. I don’t think it’ll be that hard, to just play half a dozen songs off of it and hopefully people like it. If not, they’ll just have to wait for the other songs in the set [laughs].
My next question ties into that partially. Bodyjar have been a band for something like two decades now, when you look back at what was going on then and fast-forward and compare it to now, what’s changed in your eyes?
I’m older, don’t have any energy, and can’t drink like I used to. No, there seems to be less venues around, I reckon. It’s a bit harder to be able to find the right venue in a town that’s going to suit the numbers. I don’t know what’s happened, but particularly in Sydney there’s just no venues anymore. It’s something we’ll have to re-look, but the problem is we all have day jobs and families so it’s a bit of a juggle doing that. So I think touring will be different in that regard. The other thing is, I don’t know that people are going to see shows like they used to. Back in the day, people would go and see a new band, and I just don’t know if the vibe is like that anymore. It seems to be a lot of trends, the kids tend to follow trends more than just following music that they like.
Beyond this bit of touring, have you guys talked plans beyond that? Do you feel like you’re back for good or is it a one-off kind of thing?
The plan is to try and do it for as long as it’s fun. We’re not trying to take over or anything, we just want to enjoy ourselves. We want to be able to play a couple tours a year, put out a record every couple years and just enjoy ourselves. That’s the gig for now.
I think that’s something that a lot of newer bands probably overlook, that aspect of it being about having fun and not taking it too seriously I guess.
Yeah, that’s it. Until you’ve been through a whole bunch of shit you don’t understand that that’s what you do to start with. A major label’s not going to pick us up and try and make us a big band now at this stage in our career so that’s all we can do. If we want to do it, it’s about being realistic and trying to enjoy ourselves. Have a beer with your mates, and travel around, play rock music. It doesn’t get much better than that. The young bands will work that out for themselves, they’re not silly.
It’s interesting you say that, because the band you’ve got with you for this tour is Luca Brasi from Tasmania, who I think have a very similar kind of ethos and approach as you guys, as far as having fun and not taking things so seriously.
They’re a party band! They could have been playing the Arthouse in the late 90’s with us. They have that sound that’s kind of timeless, and that’s part of the reason why they’re on the tour. But yeah, I hear they like to party, I’ve never met them but I’m sure they’re stand-up dudes. We’ll have a beer and hang out for nine nights, I reckon it’ll be good fun.
Bodyjar are currently touring throughout the country, head here for a full list of dates. ‘Role Model’ is out now through UNFD.