Honest, affable and entertaining, locals Super Best Friends have made 2015 an important period. Releasing their well-received album, ‘Status Updates’, earlier in the year, the band now embarks on a run of shows this August/September. Killyourstereo.com caught up with the boys to discuss their music, the life of a working musician, and the band’s new video.
First off, great work with the new video – always good to see a change of pace. How important is it to maintain a sense of humour in this genre of music? To outsiders, they hear loud guitars and distortion and think everything has to be serious and downcast.
Cheers. Yeah, the director, Jimmy Logue, did an awesome job with that one. I really like it when bands have a good sense of humour and don’t take themselves too seriously, so it’s important to me. Australia’s in a good place with music right now, where there’s a lot of bands injecting the fun back into rock’n’roll, particularly punk or grungey music. I liked the synth-pop-16th-beat vibe of the indy naughties, and also the new hardcore thing, but there was no humour – you had to look like a serious mod from London or a depressed misunderstood kid from white suburban USA. I find that hard to buy, when Australian culture is so sarcastic and self-deprecating. I think it’s important too for the music. If it’s just three chords, you probably need some jokes to boot. My favourite NOFX albums, for example, are probably their two live ones. I love Frenzal Rhomb’s live recording ‘Mongrel’ for the same reason. People probably think we’re super serious though, because we sing about governments, maaaaaan.
We haven’t caught up with you guys since the album came out. How has 2015 been for the band?
Pretty big for us, really. Putting out a solid political-rock album with a few social jibes in there as well (like ‘All My Friends Are Leaving Town’) has been a goal of mine for a long time, and to have that on wax, and actually nearly sold out, is a great feeling. I think we surprised ourselves on the ‘Status Updates Tour’. Good crews of people were at all the shows, they were buying stuff, we made lots of mates along the way and got invited to support Peep Tempel in Sydney at the end of it, so it went better than we expected. FBi recorded us (unbeknownst to us) and we were surprised again by how well it turned out. Apparently touring makes your performance less shit.
Your points, in your open letter, on the average musician’s income were considered and quite accurate. Do the misguided observations of politicians extend further? Do family friends and casual acquaintances, not familiar with performing bands, seem to also think you’re living the high life when you tell them you play in a band?
Well, on one hand that might have just been some public servant with a deadline, trying to get the publication out. They slapped in the photo of “Stephanie” from iStockland and hit save without much thought. But on the other, it was a great opportunity to highlight how out of touch the current government is when it comes to artists and musicians. Arts funding has been gutted for one and then this comeback from the ATO on Twitter, admitting that the Stephanie example was an exaggeration, before going on to say that there was more than 80 “music professionals” earning six figure salaries. Do you mean the ‘5 Seconds Of Summer’ manager there, or???
For me, you can’t really lump bands and musicians into a generic category, or treat them the same as a normal business, in the eyes of governments and taxation, but clearly, they do. What you produce in a band is totally subjective. If you sell fish’n’chips and they’re terrible, people are at least going to pay for those fish’n’chips before they know they suck. With music, you can be the best band out, but that doesn’t guarantee people will want to buy your album or even pay to see you play. So, it was just a great opportunity to take the piss. I probably could have been funnier, but I turned it around pretty quick. As for people thinking bands live the high life, well I’m happy for them to think that. A lot of people also question why you do it, if you’re not a teenager anymore and don’t make money from it. I tried to make it clear in the article, that playing in bands is super fun, so losing money, claiming losses, and never getting a return is okay with me. Someday I’ll do a collab with ‘5 Seconds Of Summer’ and earn it all back .
How important is to operate the band like a business? I guess you have to always be mindful of managing finances to ensure you can tour and record.
(laughs) – well yeah, I guess you should do your sums. I never let a bunch of debt get in the way of a good tour though… can’t do it forever, right? You want some things to look back on, like that album we made, the funny stories from the road (usually the worst moments become the best memories later). I’m not fussed about buying a house and it’s not the government’s fault I play in a band, so I don’t expect any special treatment. Still, I do think the income threshold to get a tax return on what you put into a band could be lowered, if bands meet a certain criteria. Like are you touring; are you recording; are you active? Not just if you jam in the garage and do a gig a year. I’m a weekend warrior, so as long as I’ve got a job, I know I’ll be able to pay the music thing off eventually. I’m okay with not being able to do music fulltime. Bands tend to start sucking when that happens anyway. Staying working class, keeps your music working class.
On that point, what’s the current balance like managing band and outside commitments?
All three of us in the band have full time jobs, and it’s been like that for a long time. We’re weekend warriors and school night samurais (is that even a thing?). So I’m up late now doing this, because I didn’t want to do it on someone else’s time. We earn what we can at work, pay our own way with the band and use our leave on touring and recording. Playing the music we do, with the messages we project, you could never expect to be able to do that for a living though or have a major label pay our way, so we understand that. Work tends to take a toll on your energies and gets in the way of writing and rehearsing. You sometimes have to miss an opportunity because someone couldn’t get time off. Work detracts from the band, the band detracts from your income/holiday time. But like I said, we’re working class, baby. Rock’n’roll is a holiday.
You’re playing Big Sound this year. How important is something like this event for local independent artists? Particularly those in the heavier genres.
There’s a tasty heavy rock contingent going this year. Grenadiers, Born Lion, High Tension, Cosmic Psychos – all bands we really like. We’d never claim to be as cool as any of those cats, but it’s a bit of an honour to be lumped in with that cohort. I haven’t been to a Big Sound before, so I’ll have to let you know how important it is later. As for heavy bands, at least it seems to be different to the ARIAs, where the awards or nominees for heavy rock, don’t seem to be thrust much into the public eye, despite it being an excellent chance to educate people that “The Voice” isn’t actually the respected way to get to the top. Our last Brisbane shows were ace. The 4ZZZ carpark show organised by Crowbar and Release The Hounds was just a heaving sea of Brisbanites. People who really cared about music. That is going to be hard to beat. But Big Sound should be a sick week. Especially the Deathproof pre-party on the Tuesday before it all! We’re going to start the thing so hungover.
What’s the timeline looking like for a follow-up to ‘Status Updates’?
Well, we have that live recording from FBi. There could be something in a release there. But yeah, we should be demoing another album in 2016. For now, we’ll do this tour for ‘All My Friends Are Leaving Town’ and see what happens afterwards.
Favourite album(s) of 2015 so far?
Summer by Grenadiers was the standout, but Born Lion’s newbie, Final Words, is giving it a run for its money. Biomass by Batpiss is great. Keen to hear what Gay Paris, Captives and The Sinking Teeth will come out with too – but that might spill into next year. I’m also hanging to hear an Ecca Vandal album. She’s dynamite and her band are rad dudes too.
Thanks for the interview. Appreciate it.