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The Fumes - Bourbon Fumes

Author: 3D
Monday, 5 November 2007
The Jim Beam Bourbon Fest is setting out to usurp Jack Daniels of its ‘rock grog’ title, with a celebration of maize liquor, scantily clad women and quality rock from the likes of Spiderbait and diesel-powered garage blues duo The Fumes. 3d spoke to the fumes’ appropriately named skinsman Joel Battersby.

Your sound is kick arse dirty garage blues – did you grow up on the sounds of Robert Johnson or more a Derek and the Dominos vibe-
Steve (Merry – guitarist and vocalist) is the blues influence on the band, he’s definitely a fan of Robert Johnson but I’m not sure about Eric Clapton... I’ll ask him tomorrow. Old blues isn’t the only thing he’s into though, we both had similar taste growing up - Primus, Kyuss, Beasts of Bourbon, Ween, AC/DC, blah, blah, blah - but one of my favourite drummers is Rob Hirst from Midnight Oil so we’re all over the shop really.

Steve’s voice has that essential rough bluesy edge – is that natural or the result of hard work with tobacco, late nights and strong drinks-
He was born with that voice, I remember when he rang my house when he was seven and mum came and told me that Steve’s dad was on the phone.

Do you feel a friendly rivalry with fellow blues-rock duos like the Black Keys and Mess Hall-
Not at all, we get asked this a lot but I think the comparisons between us stop at having two members. Think about this - if one of our bands were to get a bass player our songs would be played exactly the same way but there would be an extra member on stage - would we still get the comparisons- I bet we wouldn’t.
It’s just like saying that The Living End are like Nirvana because they’re a three piece. Anyway, I think Mess Hall and The Black Keys are great bands but we’re not trying to compete with anyone.

When you decided to call yourselves The Fumes, what sort of fumes did you have in mind-
I used to have this old, smoke-blowing Valiant station wagon and we used to play a lot of parties but we never had a name. Anyway, I used to have to warm this old thing up before we could go anywhere and people started asking who the band were that left the fumes…

You’ve been touring your debut Guns of Gold all around the country recently, what’s the most back-of-Bourke place you’ve played so far-
Well, it’s not “back-of-Bourke” status at all but a few years ago we played in Coffs Harbour on a rainy Wednesday night in the middle of winter and there were about 15 people in a 1200 capacity room... Ten of them were gang bikies and when we finished our set they demanded we play some more but we told them we’d already played all the songs we knew. Their reply (with gritted teeth and angry stares) was “Well, f@#$*n play ‘em again!” Luckily, the manager of the pub calmed them down and we ended up having a few nervous drinks with them - that’s what I imagine a “back-of-Bourke” show to be like anyway.

You’re playing Bourbon Fest with Spiderbait and bunch of other bands – have you already got your rider requests in- Plenty of Jim Beam, I imagine-
Ha ha ha... Smart-ass. I was thinking the exact same thing today. We always ask for heaps more than we need but really we’ll just drink whatever they wanna give us.

WHO: The Fumes
WHAT: Play Bourbon Fest at Brookvale Oval
WHEN: Saturday 17 November