The Living End’s Andy Strachan on Shift and life on the road

As a long-time fan of The Living End it was with great delight that I had the chance to have a chat with drummer-extraordinaire, Andy Strachan, about their seventh album, Shift, life on the road, and the fear of Meatloafing.

Firstly, congratulations on the latest album; it’s a killer, I think.

Thank you, that’s good news.

It seems like a bit of a departure from the previous TLE sound – is that a fair comment?

I just think it’s us continuing to make music. Everything is going to sound a little different as we evolve and our tastes change and all those sort of things but it’s from the heart, that’s for sure. It’s one of those records that we only made because we wanted to, and we loved what we were doing. There was no outside pressure or anything. It just sort of happened when it happened.

There was a big gap between this and the previous album. Did you think that The Living End was not going to happen again or was it a much needed break?

There was that faint sort of question mark above everything but I think that deep down we all knew that we had another record or two in us for sure, it was just the way things worked, I suppose. We sort of took some time off but at the same time we were still playing select shows so we were still dipping our toes in every now and again and saying that we still loved it, so…we did a big Euro tour somewhere along the line and that reignited all the essential flames and things and then from there we started getting excited again about new music and getting back out on the road again.

Chris is in LA full-time, is that right?

Yeah, I think he’s been there for maybe five or six years now and up until just recently, Scott was up in Byron, so there was a lot of distance in between us which is a healthy thing as well but also makes it hard. You can’t just say, “Hey, come and check out this idea”. It’s not quite as spontaneous, but it worked well that we were doing everything in blocks and when we were together we were pretty much 100% focused on the task at hand. It’s the best way to be.

You guys have been around a fair while, I saw you referred to as a ‘veteran’, which can’t be the most flattering of terms…

(Laughs) I reckon it’s more of an achievement than anything else. To be considered a veteran means we have got through a fair bit of murky water and all those sort of things…not too many bands make it past their first record.

Valid point. What sort of changes have you noticed in the industry since starting out?

It’s enormous and it’s continually changing, I mean even the way you do interviews nowadays. Everything’s changed, but I think the internet is the main contributing factor; you know, that’s the thing that’s really turned things on its ear. There’s definitely good in it…and there’s definitely bad; you’ve just got to navigate your way through the shitty stuff and hopefully use the good stuff.

I guess the main change would be the power of the internet, which changes everything from the reasons you need a record company to the reasons you don’t need a record company. I guess it’s made it a much easier thing for certain bands to get their stuff out to a massive audience just by putting a clip on YouTube or something, but with that comes a whole lot of traffic that people have to…it takes a lot of time and effort to sift through all the shit to get to the good stuff.

With that, do you think that it opens you up to a new audience, perhaps, or is it pretty much the people that have been with you since the beginning that are more likely to be at your shows?

I think we’re incredibly lucky in that we’ve got such a great, very loyal fan-base and without those guys…they’re the reason we’re still here, no doubt. We just did a couple of runs in America, just over the last six months, and the same people, the same faces from ten years ago, it was great to see all of these familiar faces again.

We’re just so fortunate we’ve got such loyal fans but yes, I guess it does open you up to new people, when you’re sitting around with mates and you might have a couple of naughty waters or a glass of red or two and the YouTube channel comes out and everyone says “Check this out!”. It’s such an instant thing to say, “You have to see my favourite band” and there it is, at the touch of a button, which is huge. Through your loyal fans, they can expose you to a much wider audience at the click of a button, which is pretty awesome.

You’ve got a national regional tour coming up…

Yeah, we haven’t done one of those for so long! It’ll be old school touring again.

It’s mostly small venues, is that right?

Yeah, pretty small. Just off the top of my head, I think we’re doing The Great Northern in Byron Bay which is such a classic old rock and roll room, pretty much everyone has played there, but it’s quite a small room at the same time – only 600 people or something – it’s kind of exciting in that sense for us to get back and do those long drives and the stupidity comes out pretty quickly in the band. Dad jokes. Dad jokes fly freely around the Tarago.

That’s the way we used to tour and, going back to that previous question about how things have changed, touring’s changed a lot. You used to be able to play five or six nights a week and get in the van and travel around Australia and you’d spend up to eight or nine weeks doing it. Now to do a national tour is three or four weekends. You fly into capital cities and fly out and that’s considered ‘touring’, but there’s nothing quite like getting in the van and you’ve got your crew; it becomes a really tight-knit family. They’re the sort of memories that I’ve hung onto – pretty great memories are made on the road.

Does the intimacy of the small venues…you’ve played some big shows, including the AFL Grand Final and stuff like that…is it more confronting playing a large crowd or a small venue?

That’s such a hard question to answer. It can be, depending upon who is in the crowd. We played the most enormous festival…it wasn’t actually a festival, we’re fortunate enough to know an incredibly large band in Germany called Die Toten Hosen and they invited us out to do a tour with them and we were opening up for them to you know, ridiculous crowds…they play to sixty or seventy thousand.

We’ve played those size venues before, but it’s all a part of a big festival and they’re just general music lovers, but these guys were hardcore Die Toten Hosen fans and if they don’t like the support band they’re not afraid to say it. (Laughs) That was incredibly nerve-wracking but luckily we had a great show and their fans are pretty accepting of us, but that was incredibly scary. As you mentioned, the AFL Grand Final was the most scary thing we’ve ever done.

Really?

Yeah, it was just massive, and just the power of the internet, right? If you did a Meatloaf or whatever. Every interviewer said “Hey, don’t do a Meatloaf” – obviously we’re going to try not to…poor old Meatloaf.

Poor old Meat.

The humiliation that he must have felt through that…so there was a lot of pressure and that was a really big gig. Then you can do little clubs in, anywhere really, but that intimacy where you can see their eyes and you can see their emotion and you just want to make their night the best possible so you don’t want to let them down. I can speak for the other boys, we get nervous whether it’s ten people or ten thousand, it doesn’t matter.

We still have the same attitude towards the show – it has to be the best show that we can play. If we don’t feel like we’ve done a great job we get really upset. We feel like we haven’t done our job.

You’ve got the Zoo Twilights gigs coming up in Sydney and Melbourne with two shows in each city, having sold out the first show in both places…stripped back, acoustic vibe, is it?

We’ve got a whole lot of ideas to try out. We’re going to try to do some different things and certainly make it different but until we get into the room and bash these ideas into shape we’re not going to know exactly how it’s going to turn out. I think it’s going to be really fun. Just to do it in such a different environment and from all reports – I’ve never been to a zoo show – but other people that have been before…some great bands have done it and the reports have been amazing so I’m excited. It’s a really different thing for us. It’ll be fun for sure, and so cool that the first shows have sold out so at least we know someone will be there to watch us.

Grab your tickets to the Zoo Twilight shows below:
Melbourne Zoo – Zoo Twilights Melbourne Zoo
Taronga Zoo – Twilight at Taronga
Buy tickets for The Living End regional tour via their website – The Living End

THE LIVING END AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES

March 3rd | Zoo Twilights, MELBOURNE ZOO
March 4th | Twilight at Taronga, TARONGA ZOO
March 8th | ANU Bar, CANBERRA
March 9th | Waves, WOLLONGONG
March 10th | Cambridge Hotel, NEWCASTLE
March 11th | Entrance Leagues Club, GOSFORD
March 15th | Laurieton United Services Club, LAURIETON
March 16th | C.ex, COFFS HARBOUR
March 17th | Racecourse Hotel, IPSWICH
March 18th | Nightquarter Night Markets, GOLD COAST
March 19th | The Northern, BYRON BAY
March 23rd | Tanks Arts Centre, CAIRNS
March 24th | Dalrymple Hotel, TOWNSVILLE
March 25th | Magnum’s Hotel, AIRLIE BEACH
March 30th | Wool Exchange, GEELONG
March 31st | Kay Street Entertainment Complex, TRARALGON
April 1st | Pier Live, FRANKSTON
April 7th | The Odeon Theatre, HOBART