Spiderbait - Have A Bourbon Spider
Author: Jane Stabler
Friday, 9 November 2007
Outdoor festivals are often associated with beer, but Jim Beam has taken a stand to change all that. Shifting the focus to bourbon is the aptly named ‘The Bourbon Fest’. Love or hate the stuff, you have to like that Mr Beam has put together a rocking festival line-up in his own honour. Headlining the frivolities are Spiderbait, who are equally excited about checking out the other live acts at the festival as they are about playing there themselves.
“Festivals are definitely a lot of fun,” Spiderbait guitarist Whitt says, “but I also love playing club shows because the atmosphere is much more intense. You also have more control at your own shows, you can experiment a lot more and you can play stuff that you wouldn’t normally play at a festival set. A festival set is a tight set of songs.”
After a few years of crazy touring schedules, Spiderbait’s presence in the mainstream scene has been on the quiet side lately. Their appearance at The Bourbon Fest will be the first time in a while that many local fans will see the group, and possibly the first time many newer fans will see the band live. “It’s interesting that with the success of Black Betty, we gained a lot of new audience members,” Whitt says. “We didn’t even intend releasing it as a single, and after we recorded it, we were so happy with it we decided to release it.”
That release of Black Betty over four years ago pushed Spiderbait to their mainstream peak, and in the year that followed the band played over two hundred shows. With that kind of tour record, and having spent such a long time in the industry, Spiderbait are Aussie rock veterans, and an Australian home crowd is still their favourite type of audience. The Bourbon Fest fits this ideal perfectly, providing a crowd that is most definitely there to rock, many of whom will have been Spiderbait fans from day one.
“18 years!” Whitt marvels with slight disbelief. “I definitely feel happy to have been involved with it for so long and I’m so grateful for the circumstances that have let us stay together for that long. When we toured that much, those two hundred shows in the year, we got to be playing as good as, if not better, than we ever have. I am proud of what we’ve achieved and to be a part of it, and to have been able to contribute to the Aussie rock scene. I’m fucking stoked actually that we’ve been a part of it. We haven’t done that much overseas touring, we’ve been to Japan twice and to England and the States but Australia is definitely our home audience and we love playing here. The Japanese are very polite, no one talks through shows, there are no conversations in the crowds, and they just clap at the end. It’s about knowing how to interpret it. But Australians love their live music, and I love my band, I love the music, I love touring and playing live.”
It’s fairly safe to say there will not be silence and polite clapping at the Bourbon Fest. With promises of a Jim Beam bus complete with hot tub and a great line-up of Australian bands, Spiderbait will be in the right place to resurrect their fan base, and confirm that Aussies most certainly do love their live music. Having stuck it out as a live band for so long, Spiderbait have surpassed the tall poppy syndrome that Australians are famous for, but Whitt admits that’s partially due to their willingness to experience a hard slog.
“The backlash!” Whitt laughs. “I think initially we experienced it a bit, but Australians seem to really respect that we’ve hung around for a long time. Doing those two hundred shows from 2004-2005, audiences have been really loyal. The nature of bands is a really wonderful thing, and there’s a lot of chemistry involved. I think [Australian audiences] can see that we’re doing it for the right reasons. We’re still doing it because we like it, and I think people respect that.”
The Bourbon Fest is the first time for a while that the band have worked on a group project, and the last year has seen each of the members focusing on solo endeavours. “Kram has done a solo record,” Whitt comments, “and I’ve been doing a lot of soundtracks this year. I worked on Ghost Rider, and I’m looking at doing more soundtracks. I love touring, but generally in the last 18 months I’ve enjoyed studio work.”
With each of the members working on solo projects, including parenthood for Kram and Janet, Whitt acknowledges how hard it can be to juggle everything when you’re part of one of Australia’s most recognised bands. The guitarist has also thought about how life may change when he takes the Daddy plunge himself. “It can be done,” he considers, “but you don’t imagine yourself doing it! I think I’ll still be touring so much, but I have no reason to assume I’d be any different from any old rocker, and you just have to take a bit of humility because you love doing it. When it gets to the point you’d be unhappy if you didn’t do it, it just means you love what you do!”
WHAT: Play The Bourbon Fest at Brookvale Oval
WHEN: Saturday 17 November