Gareth Liddiard's Wisdom: "if you're not gonna get rich, you might as well have fun"

Gareth Liddiard's Wisdom: "if you're not gonna get rich, you might as well have fun"

The former The Drones and now Tropical Fuck Storm and Springtime frontman talks changes in the music industry, creativity, the pain and boredom of postponing, and naming a band “because the guy from Fugazi said”

A lot has changed in the independent music scene over the last two decades. Obviously. It’s always changing, as is everything. But in particular, the rapid increase in technology coupled with ever-evolving (devolving?) social and political climates has affected not only listener's tastes and the ways they consume music, but also artist’s inspiration and appetite for pushing boundaries.

Someone who's been keeping it real that whole time is one Gareth Liddiard, who shot to prominence with the now iconic The Drones, who released six incredible albums from 2002 to 2016 before going on hiatus. Liddiard and The Drones bassist Fiona Kitchsin went on to form the incredibly named and cult faves Tropical Fuck Storm in 2017, forging their own identity as a band across three LPs, most recently 2021’s Deep States.

2020 and 2021 were years were people may have found themselves out of work and with more time on their hands, and Liddiard was seemingly no different, forming a new “supergroup” of sorts, teaming up with Jim White (Dirty Three, Xylouris White) and Chris Abrahams (The Necks) to form the avantgarde experimentalists Springtime

Finally getting to play shows again, including some long and repeatedly postponed gigs in support of the latest TFS album in Liddiard’s hometown of Perth, we caught up with the man himself to see what’s been going on.

So you've been releasing music for a little while now and I'm curious - with everything currently going on in the world, from a technological, social, political etc point of view, and how that's all changed in the time you've been releasing music, has this had an impact for you as an artist?

Well, when The Drones was started in the 2000s, it was bad because the internet kind of came along and really, obviously, it shook up the music industry. And no one really knew what to do. And in times of uncertainty, people get sort of conservative. So the music wasn't - there wasn't much exciting music. It wasn't a time where anyone was sort of going out on a limb and experimenting and sort of using their imagination very much. It was more about just toeing the line and wearing a leather jacket, but not making very exciting music.

Like, yeah, so there was a low level of rebellious stuff. But now it's different. I think it's, especially, you know, people like King Giz, you know, and they had a different thing because the internet was starting to work as far as getting music out there. So being more helpful. I mean, as far as, you know, something like Spotify doesn't pay very well, but it's actually by every other way, it's quite good. It gets you out there. So that's good. And you don't have to be, you can do something like, you know, King Giz who are like a kind of, I wouldn't say pop, but they're quite popular. They're huge. They're quite weird for their popularity, you know, that wouldn't have gotten that popular in the 2000s, they would have been ignored.

So I think it's good in that sense. But then you look at shit like Coachella and just want to kill yourself because it's, you know, even hip hop, hip hop’s shit now, it's like, it lost its rebellious kind of exciting element. It's all just boring as.

Yeah I didn’t even realise Coachella was on til someone mentioned this morning and the lineup is just… yeah. And also I suppose it depends on what circles you’re in and whatever cos I can’t help but think there’s plenty of toeing the line and wearing leather jackets going on - but that’s always gonna be the case?

Yeah, I mean, there's always going to be the you know, say the higher level pop music is always going to be, generally it's going to be crap. But you know, that's why the shit like Beyonce is always amazing and you know, there's great producers out there who are doing exciting stuff, but generally that Coachella-ery, you know, kind of fucking halftime at the Super Bowl stuff is a bit shit. Then there's indie music, you know, like, which, you know, sort of more independent guitar stuff, which is - I mean generally, most music’s shit, but you know, there are things like, there are good bands. 

And Giz is a good example of that, like, fuck whenever I'm talking about stuff, I just forget everything. But yeah, yeah, so it's not so bad. It's not so bad. The good shit is in the minority. But that's always the case. Yeah, it's just how, how rebellious and how kind of how imaginative is the good shit? Are people really using their imagination? Because that's all it is. It's just - It should be fun. It should be playful even If it's really heavy and evil and shit, it's still, there should be a sort of element of going out on a limb to get a thrill. And, yeah, that's happening at the moment too.

I can’t help but think that almost sums up TFS as well?

Yeah, I mean, yeah, that's what it is. But you know, it's the same if you're doing something like Mayhem, like the death metal band, or if you're Kraftwerk or, you know, those people were enjoying themselves, really, and they're using their imagination to try and invent something that hasn't been done yet. That's what we do. It makes it fun. Because if you're not gonna get rich, you might as well have fun.

And when did you come to that realisation? 

Straightaway. I’m not interested in - I just have to be interested, and the only way to do that is to, like, keep reinventing the wheel. And so you know, the balancing act between I mean, just the same old shit, and trying to freshen up, you know what I mean? Like, there's plenty of other examples of it, whether it's Psychic TV or Deerhoof, or Suicide, or, you know what I mean? So, if you're running out of ideas, just keep looking around and something else’ll be out there. Spy.

Now I just wanna listen to all those bands you mentioned… and yeah I didn’t think you were like writing the tracks on Bong Odyssey thinking you were gonna win a Grammy *laughs* That would have been cool though. So Springtime - when I saw that got announced and saw your name alongside Jim and Chris, I was just like “woah, fuck yeah!”, such a combo, so how did you three get together?

Well, Jim came over at the start of the pandemic, because Jim lives in New York, mostly. He came here at the beginning of the pandemic with George Xylouris to do some Xylouris White gigs, and then yeah, the pandemic hit and George went back to Crete, and Jim stayed here because he figured that you know, it's like a fucking it's a Warren in New York and a fuckin pandemics just gonna, it's gonna spread, so quick, and then he was right. 

So he stayed here, it was the safe thing to do. And, and then because we were just bored, and we weren't working, so we needed money every now and again, we would just whenever there was a chance, I'd book a gig. And then he'd join me for the gig. And then we would do other stuff. And then we just sort of thought it'd be fun to add an extra person. It was just so we don't have to do all the heavy lifting, you know, because when it's just a duo you've really got to hold it down.

But, yeah, and I played with Chris in The Triffids and stuff like when we’d done Triffids like… re-getogethery shows *laughs* and yeah, so that was fun. And Jim hadn’t - I think he’d met him but hadn't really hung out with him. And then yeah he thought, “wow, that sounds good”.  I mean, it is a pretty good little combo. It's a good mix of people.

I think that’s a bit of an understatement to be honest… so with Chris in the mix, being a big fan of The Necks, I’m wondering if improvisation is a big part of the Springtime process?

Yeah, yeah, I mean, Chris is all about improvising. But I mean, he can play, obviously, you know, more traditional and friendly stuff, because he's been in a lot of bands. I mean, he was in the Laughing Clowns and, you know, he's been like a touring musician with Midnight Oil. And so he can do all that, like with The Necks it's just, they don't even talk about what they can do. They do it. They just make it up on the spot. And we're - me and Jim are a bit less like that. But we both come from bands that you know, there is room to move quite a lot compared to most bands, like there is room for improvisation.

So yeah, it's just, you know, everyone's good at improvising. I find it easier to improvise than by normal shit, and I think the guys would agree, it's just easier to come up with stuff. You don't have the pressure of remembering what you’re meant to be doing and all that. So yeah, it's fun and it's something to come up with stuff. It's quicker than with TFS. You know, we just, I just say, well, “I've got a few words”, and then Chris will go “let’s try these chords”. And we'll play it three times. And there it is. We've got a song. It's really, really easy.

That sounds like a dream.

Oh yeah, yeah it is. I mean, I've always played with, you know, sort of, generally rock and roll musicians who are quite good at what they do, but that's a different thing. When you've got like, jazz guys. They're just next level I mean Chris is just - he can do anything. So it's really fun. Yeah.

Yeah sick, and the name “Springtime” - that’s not a reference to the Mel Brooks play “The Producers” at all is it? All I can think of *laughs*

*laughs* The funny thing about that was, Jim's best friend is Guy, who was the singer for Fugazi and all that. And whenever Jim wants someone's opinion, he asks Guy and so he sent Guy a list of names that we’d come up - because we did everything in a rush with Springtime, we rushed, rushed, rushed. And then we had came up with a list of names, send em to Guy and Guy went “that one” and then that's why we went with it. Because the guy from Fugazi said, that works for me. I'm not going to question it.

Yeah what an endorsement. So you’re playing shows and you’re finally getting to come back to Perth this weekend - what’s it like for you these days coming back and playing shows in Perth?

Well I haven't been able to get there for a year, or maybe a year and a half. So it’s been difficult, it’s been difficult to get there *laughs* But I'm looking forward to it, I mean, I haven't seen family and friends for so long. It's a weird feeling where it feels like it's ages, but at the same time, the last two years have been such a write off. It doesn't feel like any time at all, you know? Yes, on one hand, I'm sort of really, really looking forward  to getting over there and the other part of me just feels like the normal thing to do is to jump on an airplane and fang over. 

But yeah, as far as playing goes, can't wait because we haven't been there for a long time and we feel like, we feel terrible - we booked the gig, we've had to postpone, and you know it's inevitable in a pandemic, but at the same time you do… it does make you feel guilty and make you feel like let people down. Yeah.

Which yeah, on my end, I can't even imagine because, you know, I think everyone kind of gets it but, as an artist you must just be like “euggh… again?”

Yeah. I mean, before the pandemic, I've never thought about, you know, some people, they've got to plan their evening the way you know, so if you've got 500 or 1000 people, there's so much effort that everyone's made to get to the venue on time, whether it's babysitters or public transport or leaving work early, you know, just organizing with other friends just coming in from rural areas and cities sometimes, so when you’re fucking people around, it's a drag because everyone's making almost as much of an effort to get there as we are, and then postponing is the most demoralizing, boring tedious way to run a small business it's just shit.

Well dude touch all the fucking wood - it’s only a few days away.

I’ll believe it when I see it, when I’m there.

Tropical Fuck Storm - WA “Deep States” Shows

Fri 22 April - The Charles, North Perth

Sat 23 April - Freo Social, Fremantle

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