Latest release: Sounds From the Other Side (Shock)
Band site: www.facebook.com/pages/Tumbleweed/66646031819
Well in excess of a decade since the release of their previous studio album, Wollongong stoner rockers Tumbleweed have unleashed new groove-soaked riff-o-rama Sounds From the Other Side. To borrow a line from our very own editor Brian Giffin, during their absence many things have changed – but the fuzzed-out quintet have not. Not working according to anyone’s schedule but their own, since reconvening they’ve spent a few years intermittently playing live and slowly completing the new batch of songs. Ahead of a series of shows in support of the new record, Loud got vocalist Richie Lewis on the phone to discuss its creation, their unique chemistry and playing for hipsters.
Q: The band reformed in 2009 and has been playing live on-and-off since, but it must be refreshing to have a slew of new material to select from now.
A: Yeah, it’s a relief really. Being the nostalgia trip act doesn’t sit really well with us. We did it for a while. I mean, the thing is when we broke up in the late 90s, we broke up for good; we didn’t ever want to get back together really. For a long time we didn’t even talk to each other. When we did finally did get back together 15 years later, it was a real surreal moment, and that joy of just playing our music together again lasted a certain amount of time. We were able to play enough gigs, but we got to a point, to a crossroads where we thought, ‘what do we do? We can’t keep playing this nostalgia card. While it was fun when we first got together, it’s not going to be fun for much longer’. We want to be a band, we want to write songs and we want to record songs, so it’s very good to be at the tail-end of that decision now.
Q: The record has been in the works for a while, but was that drawn-out process necessary?
A: Well, we wanted to get it right. We’ve got a lot of dudes that have stuck by us for like 20 years; they have certain expectations and we didn’t really want to damage any of the, whatever it is we’ve built up over those 20 years from those previous records. So we wanted to make a good record, make it better than what we’ve done in the past, or not do it at all. At the same time as that, there was a lot of unfinished business as well between the five band members. Like a lot of demos that we did back in 95 that we had on tape, and there were certain songs there that we thought were worthy, so we worked them up.
So with the songwriting on this record, some of it goes back that 15, 20 years, back to the day. Others are more recent, some we were writing still in the studio when we were recording it. Others I might have had up my sleeve for a while. Paul (Hausmeister, guitars) had a couple up his sleeve for a while, and Lenny (Curley, guitars) as well. So when it came time to put it together, we did it the same way we’ve always done it; the same old jam room, same gear. Either myself, Paul or Lenny would have a riff, or a song, or part of a song, and we’d just all nut it out together until it was a Tumbleweed song.
Q: That must create an interesting dichotomy though – contrasting material you’ve written recently with ideas that were created during what must seem like another lifetime ago, and attempting to recapture that vibe. Do you think it captures both that youthful spirit of the early years and where you are now, as more seasoned songwriters?
A: Yeah, I was amazed at how little it had changed really. The overall feel of it is… The one thing we’ve always been is we’ve been ourselves. With this record, we wanted to approach it in exactly the same way as what we approached our second record, (1995’s) Galactaphonic. We had two weeks in the studio, and didn’t over-think it too much. We tried to let what happened happen. We had enough songs to kind of filter out the shit ones and then we just kind of let it happen. I really do think that it didn’t change that much. The overall vibe of what we’re about is the same. The equipment we used is the same, and the sound we were after is the same.
Basically, the difference is we were never really happy with any of our past recordings, and our past albums always sort of fell short. They were always like these 90 per cent-ers, and some less, where you go, ‘hey, where’s that sound that we remember playing live, when we were completely immersed in it on-stage?’ And we’d never managed to capture that. But one time we got close and that was with Paul McKercher on (1993 single) ‘Daddy Longlegs’. So we wanted to get him again. We wanted to use the things that did work from the past, but do away with the things that didn’t work. I think that was the only difference; we were smarter this time. We’ve lived longer, and we’ve had more experience, so we did what we knew would work and left out those iffy things that we experimented with when we were younger. That’s the only difference.
As far as what we wanted to do, we got closer to achieving what we wanted to do than we’d ever got before. So we’re really, really happy with it. It’s a record that we’re really proud of. It’s something that’s taken us 20 years to get in the can, but out of that 20 years there’s been a lot of time between drinks. Like, every time we get back together it’s as if time hasn’t passed. The first time we got back together in the jam room, after 15 years, it was like it was a week later. It’s just this weird timelessness of us five individuals together. We’ve all played with other people, and it’s something that we’ve never had with anybody else. No matter how hard we try to get that with other people, it’s just with us five. So we don’t know what that is, but we trust in it, just let it go, the results are down now, and we’re really happy with it.
Q: Where do you feel this album “fits” within the current rock landscape? Or doesn’t fit at all? (laughs)
A: I don’t care, I really don’t care. It was more for us; I want people to like it, obviously. But I don’t know whether it does fit in. There’s not many bands doing what we do, and we have some very loyal fans. It was evident recently, when a lot of people travelled down from Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands to come see us in Wollongong. And you know, they’re all sort of around our experience and vintage, around 40 (laughs). We were playing to a lot of young hipsters that had never heard us before, and it was weird. And I didn’t think we fitted in; we’re a loud band, people don’t play loud anymore. But I like being, we are what we are, we’re Tumbleweed, and there’s no other one. I mean, there’s other Tumbleweeds, but no one sounds exactly like us. Musical landscapes are a weird thing; it’s changing all the time. It’s hard to know.
Q: Do you see your sound not really translating to a younger audience these days?
A: No, I think there’s always room for really loud rock ‘n’ roll. I think there’s room for it, ‘cause nobody’s doing it, and there’s a real sort of void in the kind of music that we’re playing. At the same time too, it’s almost kind of fashionable; it’s coming around again for 90s music to be popular. They’ve done the 80s thing for the last, what, like six years? Surely we’re up to the 90s rotation, if you look at music and the trends as being in a cyclical nature, which it really is. It’s due for the 90s re-influence.
Q: (Laughs) Here’s hoping. Beyond the series of shows you have booked, what does the band have planned? Or are you not looking too far ahead?
A: We’re looking at summer really, that’s as far ahead as we’re planning. Getting this record out, we’ll be touring this for a while. We want to do some music videos, coming out to support it, doing some shows around the country, and then around summer we’re looking at maybe doing more shows. But then, I don’t know. We’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun. There’s a few more songs up the sleeve that didn’t get recorded, we’ll just have to wait and see… We’re managing ourselves, and just doing it ourselves so it’s not like we think about it too far as a business. We’ve all got jobs, we’ve all got families, we’ve all got lives and the band is an escape from the everyday in our lives, rather than it sort of being our lives. So it’s not like we have this big business plan for the future. It’s been our life now for 20-something years; I can’t see it not being a part of our lives. So wherever it’ll go, it’ll go.
Q: What do you do for a living then?
A: I’m a television producer, and I produce a television show called Alive and Cooking, which is broadcast nationally on the WIN network.
Q: That schedule probably doesn’t allow you much time to play rock star then (laughs).
A: Oh, you know, it’s a day job. Everybody’s got their day jobs in our band. We’ve ridden the highs, got through the lows, we’ve sort of found out what our comfortable plateau is, and we’re on it. It’s a way of enjoying music, instead of being a slave to it.
Q: Well said. Any famous last words?
A: (Laughs) No, famous last words always put me on the spot. I’m not going to come up with any famous last words, because they’ll be plenty more to say. To be continued, let’s just say.
Brendan is Loud’s contributing editor and also writes for themusic.com.au
Catch Tumbleweed on tour on the following dates:
21/11: Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA (+ Kadavar + Blues Pills + The Devil Rides Out)
22/11: Mojo’s, Fremantle WA (+ Kadavar + Blues Pills + Legs Electric)
23/11: Adelaide Uni Bar, Adelaide SA (+ Kadavar + Blues Pills + Before the Aftermath + Hydromedusa)
29/11: Central Club, Melbourne VIC
5/12: Tempo, Brisbane QLD
6/12: Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
7/12: Waves, Wollongong NSW