The return of Descendents to Australian shores has been one fans have been hanging out for, and that’s an understatement. When the legendary group released their Hypercaffium Spazzinate album last year, there was a sense of reinvigoration felt off the first few playbacks.
Speaking with drummer Bill Stevenson ahead of the Australian tour, this rush of inspiration and ultimately, comfort in the creative space Descendents have now found themselves in has definitely shown itself not only in the new songs, but in their performance.
“I think the dynamic within the band really took a big turn for the better when many years ago, we dismissed the idea of having to [have music] be our job or our career.” he explains. “We just returned to a thing where we’d only do it when we wanted to, for fun. That’s made it, when it’s not work or it’s not a job, the best. That’s how we started the band – just for fun.”
“I think at some point, we started taking it really, really seriously.” he adds. “I don’t know whether it was because we were doing too many shows or too many tours, all crammed in together in a small van, but that’s when I think [being in] the band started to become a bummer. We’re not doing that now; we’re doing it enough to where we really enjoy it and to where, when we’re seeing each other, we’re happy to be seeing each other.”
Ready to reconnect with Australian fans and the shared beach culture Stevenson notes he grew up with, the drummer is also hitting the stage following on from a serious knee injury. Though he assures me he’s almost 100% back to normal, he opens up about the band’s current tour schedule and how it’s compared to the chaos of the early days of Descendents.
“This year, I think we’re going to do about 50 shows total.” he says. “Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot but what we’ve been doing for the last six years has been maybe 20 shows per year. Every couple of weeks, we’d fly out and do a couple. We’re doing a little bit more than what we’ve been doing, but still not doing it how we did back in the early days, where we’d do 150 shows in one year. That’s not so fun for me anymore, at least.”
“In some respects though, it’s a very daily thing.” he furthers. “I mean, when we’re working and we’ve got shows coming up, Karl [Alvarez] comes over almost every morning and we practice. That ongoing dialogue is still there. It’s not like we take these big breaks and then just get together and phone it in. For Karl and I, since he still lives here in Fort Collins, he comes over quite often. We keep that tightness and the genuine sound.”
As for how Hypercaffium Spazzinate has been resonating with fans live since the album’s July release, Stevenson has been relishing the opportunity the band has had to throw more new material into the set and see how they land.
“We’ve always been a band who tries to play a fair amount of songs from each album,” he says. “We’ve never really been the band who just goes out and plays 90% of the new album and only play a few old songs. I’ve noticed that, with this album, we’ve been playing more of the songs live.”
“There’s 16 on the album and there’s 11 of them that we’ve been playing in and out of rotation live; that’s pretty cool, because I don’t know if we’ve ever had a new album and played 11 songs off it except for maybe in the very beginning, where we only had one or two albums. Not recently, though. It’s cool. I’m not saying the material is stronger than the other albums, but we feel comfortable playing a whole bunch of them. We’ll probably play the other five live [too], we just haven’t gotten to them yet!”
DESCENDENTS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
February 16th | The Gov, ADELAIDE
February 17th | Capitol, PERTH
February 20th | 170 Russell, MELBOURNE
February 22nd | Eatons Hill, BRISBANE
February 24th | Enmore Theatre, SYDNEY