Violent Soho and the hungry ghosts that still haunt WACO
There's an anger in WACO that carries on themes from Violent Soho's last album.
Header artwork by our new pal Ash Schmitt - check him out on INSTAGRAM.
Following Violent Soho’s announcement their album would be titled WACO I was stumped as to why they named their album after the town of Waco in Texas, famous for the Waco Siege in which 80 people died. The simple question, “why?” lead me to the core of who Violent Soho are on their latest album.
Guitarist James Tidswell explains: “It’s not about the actual event but rather it’s the easiest way to grab the feeling behind the album… I think it best describes how we feel in this make-believe culture of our own. They [the community at Waco] replicated an idea which they fully believed; Jesus and the Second Coming, to the point where they died believing it.”
The Waco Siege, which occurred between February 28 to April 19, 1993 and the people Tidswell are referring to are called Branch Davidians, a splinter group of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Tidswell explains what really captures him and the band is this: “Why is it that these people did that, what happened to them to believe in that and what is happening to us to believe in society? I feel like we live in a world of cultural make believe.”
This idea of ‘cultural make believe’ is something Violent Soho have been pushing for a while says Tidswell. “There’s a similar meaning in our last album, Hungry Ghost, that we’re spiritually malnourished individuals because nothing actually truly pleases the spirit - we’re skeletons in short. Now it’s about what is being said to the skeleton that makes us believe in this existence. Why is society operating like a McDonalds? We’re lead to believe something is fantastic but in the process it turns out to be fake and pretty much inedible.”
The similarities between Hungry Ghost and WACO are numerous and as Tidswell explains, “…it’s us looking at the issues in Hungry Ghost just three years and half years later.” WACO is an album that doesn’t stretch sonically much beyond Hungry Ghost, rather excels at everything Hungry Ghost further. And as frontman Luke Boedram outlined in an interview with us around the time Hungry Ghost came out, “We sit around on couches, buying what we think makes us who we are, like a hungry ghost.” It was something that resonated with him and the rest of the band when writing the record that really established the four-piece as a cornerstone in Australian rock'n'roll history.
And now, according to Tidswell, WACO takes those questions further. “…What are we trying to buy to please us?” But where did these ideas come from? Tidswell explains their views are influenced by the anti-consumerist, not-for-profit Canadian magazine Adbusters that criticises, much like Violent Soho in WACO, how corporations push individuals to consume to be happy. Tidswell owns every copy and the band’s interest in these views come into their music.
“We just try to be us [because] it seems like everyone else in the music industry at times, when we were growing up, was trying to put something across that was bigger than what they really were,” explains Tidswell.
In the case of Tidswell another book he cites as a key influence on his views is A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen; which explores the idea of civilisation as having an abusive influence upon humanity. Throughout this discussion of ideas Tidswell was careful to emphasise, “All that sort of stuff is important but we’re not trying to come across like we have answers or promoting what these people are promoting. We are just saying what we are interested in…”
Throughout the interview it became clearer why the band respected what the people at Waco achieved; a separation from a society that sickened them, instead of just talking about it. Tidswell sums up his anguish stating, “So if we all have an understanding that we’re living in a cultural make believe, that we’re not okay, that we’re not fulfilled, that everyone around us has depression and anxiety, that people are dying of diseases around us, then what the fuck are we buying into? What is it? What is it that is killing us that we are so okay with?”
And as Tidswell explains, there is no answer from Violent Soho. But at least it's a discussion they are having. Whether or not it continues when they hit the road is another story, because it's set to be a hectic run of shows with three of Australia's loosest rock bands - Violent Soho, DZ Deathrays, and Dune Rats.
It’s a line-up often talked about but no one ever imagined it would happen. “We’ve been trying to make this tour happen since 2011,” exclaims Tidswell, who says their shows together began when they first started playing house parties across the east coast. “Now we’re going to take the exact same house party format into theatres around the country,” says Tidswell before exclaiming, “We’re so stoked that we get to walk out on stage each night and basically look at each other and say, “How the fuck did this happen?”
WACO is out March 18, and get around that ever-expanding run of tour dates below: