The Living End returned with their first album in five years in 2016 – ‘The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating and Shift’ – a solid effort from the Aussie trio, to be sure. After all, this is a band that makes no qualms about playing simple yet effective rock music, and that’s perhaps why they’ve been able to stick around for as long as they have.
As The Living End’s drummer Andy Strachan was watching some waves and drinking coffee over in Adelaide last month, he and I jumped on the phone together and talk about their extensive touring schedule for the first half of 2017, his approach to drumming in the band, and the work and time that went into ‘The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating and Shift’. Check it out below!
The band’s regional Australian tour in March has an extensive of dates to it, with the band also taking in Tasmania, ACT, and other less than travelled areas for the touring circuit. With The Living End having such an extensive career, I’m wondering if there are any key places left in Australia that you haven’t played yet?
I think there are but nothing springs to my mind right away. I think we’ve covered most regional towns in our time. I will say that we’ll be playing in Cain’s and we haven’t been there in six or seven years. The majority of this tour is us getting back to those places and finally saying ‘hi’ again. It’ll be very fresh and we haven’t toured that way in a long time; getting in the van, buying road stop food and telling bad jokes for six or seven hours
So this tour is a more DIY approach to touring for the band?
Yeah! Touring isn’t the same anymore. You used to spend weeks and weeks on the road, doing four or five shows in each state, and get out to those places that are starved for live rock music. My understanding of those places for this tour is that they’ll be keen for some rock n’ roll.
Right on. I always think that those smaller rural areas can get a grassroots community happening when larger bands – rock, metal or other – tour through their area. If you can bring it to them, it can make a hot bed
Totally. All of those bands and festivals and the like are great for that. Hopefully, people out there still want to see these intimate shows and we’re bringing The Bennies with us so it’ll be sick.
With The Bennies supporting you, those guys are a great live act. Do you think they’ll maybe even out-perform you three?
Well, that’s what we like! If you’re playing in a rock band, that’s the attitude that you gotta bring. We’re excited about getting to know them and seeing them play over these few weeks on the road. I imagine they’ll be plenty of fun tales and a fair few hangovers.
Nice. With the two Zoo shows The Living End is playing in Melbourne and Taronga, those crowd and that general environment can be a lot more restrained than the usual rock show and punters. Do you have a different mindset when approaching shows like this and have you played at either of these zoos before?
That’s just it – we haven’t played these kinds of shows before. It’ll be a different thing for us. So, we’re going to have to feel it but we’ll play with as much gusto as we can.
Of course. Will you be trying to see some animals too?
Well, my little girl, who is seven and a half, is desperate to come along. So I think I’ll be doing a few laps around the zoo [laughs].
Aww, cute. I hope you get to see some cool animals; it comes with the territory with playing those shows. Anyway. There was five years between ‘The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating and ‘Shift’, the longest gap between records in the band’s history. What would you say are the biggest differences between the two albums, whether it be their overall vision, the headspace of the band when recording, etc.?
…All of the above! ‘…Shift’ was done very DIY in a small Melbourne studio, all done in chunks. The main reason for the lengthy break between records was that Chris [Cheney, vocals/guitar] was and still lives in LA. I lived down the south coast of Victoria and Scotty [Owen, bass] was in Byron. For us, to get together, there was a lot of logistics involved. When Chris came out, we’d keep him here for a couple weeks and work away on the album. There were times when we wouldn’t see each other for a couple months. The album evolved over 18 months to two years and despite the lengthy gap, we were working away behind the scenes.
Our front of house guy was our producer as we wanted to capture what we do live and not go over the nitty-gritty of perfect drum sounds. It took a long time, kept within the family so to speak, but it was just a very different approach to recording a record for us.
You mention how it took 18 months to two years to finish. Do you think that the record is for the better due to that added amount of time spent on it?
Yes and no. That time was just purely circumstantial. We thought to not rush it and release it when we’re happy with it. A lot of songs didn’t make it and many songs got changed along the way.
Well, the record debuted at #4 on the ARIA’s so you did something right.
Would have been nice if it got #1, we’d have gotten one of those cool mantelpieces you can put in your living room. But we didn’t get one [laughs.] 4 is very good.
Better than 40! I’m a drummer myself and with a lot of The Living End’s music, I’m wondering if you maybe ever feel… unchallenged as a drummer? That’s not a knock against the band at all – I’m just curious how you view your own playing in the band.
I hear what you’re saying, but I tend to simplify things quite a lot. Cause at the end of the day, it’s not about the drum parts but how the song flows. We keep things rather simple when we play. It’s the Phil Rudd school of thought; ‘Back In Black’ has so much space to it and when the kick lands on the 1 and the 3 and the snare on the 2 and the 4, it’s just so undeniable. He could’ve been playing plenty of ghost notes and fancy kick patterns but it wouldn’t suit that song. I think it’s a challenge to challenge yourself to play simple. Not sure if that answers your question or not…
No, I get that man. It can be annoying seeing the same eighteen-note triplet fill every sixteen beat bars. Also, the Phil Rudd school of thought is fine as long as you don’t try to kill people.
[Laughs.] But yeah…the drumming should be about what works for the song.
For sure. Now, you’ve been in the band for fourteen years now and is there anything left on the bucket list for you and the band?
I think that we’ve still got a reasonably fresh record and that we can still tour and play festivals. But I suppose that the AFL Grand Final was a real kick. That was so ridiculous and so big. Great things are still coming our way, and that’s the energy we need to maintain.
So it’s more a matter of longevity for yourself and the band then?
Well, I don’t see any reason to stop yet. Not until we stop enjoying making records and playing live together. If that excitement dissipates then yeah, you gotta question whether you keep doing it. But this doesn’t feel like a job just yet which is weird, considering it’s been almost 15 years since I joined. Cause if we stopped, we’d have to get real jobs.
What would be your real job, if you the band stopped and you got to choose?
Oh man! I like cooking and making coffee, I could probably do that. But I’d rather play rock instead; I do enough cooking at home. Professional surfer would be nice, but that wouldn’t happen as I’ve maybe missed the boat.
Maybe! I mean, if you became a barista, you can just blast Living End tunes all day!
Well, thank you for your time today, Andy. Sorry to take up your lovely coffee drinking and wave watching arvo [laughs].
Oh no, not at all Alex. My pleasure!
‘The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating and Shift’ is out now. Check out the full list of The Living End’s 2017 tour dates here. Find tickets to their two Zoo shows in Melbourne and Taronga respectively here and here.