Saturday, 16 February 2008

Augie March 2004

From Bucketfull Of Brains 66
One of the most magical bands to emerge this year are Australian combo Augie March a unique and complex five piece whose sound and scope defies easy categorising. Chockfull of melodic charm and musical adventure, lyrically and musically they are literate and profound, the type of rare combo that like “Game Theory/Loud Family”, you will either not get at all or adore beyond measure. Their two albums so far, 2000’s “Sunset Studies” and last year’s “Strange Bird” are both staggering creations, musical adventures that make the heart soar and the mind smile. Formed at music college in Melbourne in 1996, when three childhood friends, guitarist, Adam Donovan, singer/songwriter Glenn Richards and drummer David Williams, all originally from the small town of Shepparton in county Victoria, met up once more. Recruiting fellow student and Melbourne native, Edmond Ammendola on base, they set about gaining a live reputation before signing to Ra Records and recording their debut mini album, “Thanks For The Memes” in early ’98. This excellent six tracker has all the signs of a live band captured in the studio and it wasn't until the “Waltz” e.p. recorded at the end of that year, that the band found the studio detail and complex arrangements that are an unmistakable part of their charm. From then on they never looked back, adding a fifth member Kienan Box on all manner of keyboard devices. Now signed to BMG their two albums so far have garnered a whole mountain of critical praise and a fanatical fan base. Now the rest of the world will get to see what all the fuss is about with a wider release of “Strange Bird” and the chance to catch the band live. Last November they played a showcase gig at the Garage in London and blew the audience away with a set every bit as great as you could ever hope. We had a chat with the genius at the heart of this wonderful combo, Glenn Richards a few days later, he of the silvery voice, wistful melody lines and oh so clever lyrics.

How did you first get into music and at what point did you change from being a listener to a creator?

GR. Perhaps unfortunately my cousin left a tape behind with Motley Crue's Too Fast For Love on one side and Out of the Cellar by Ratt on the other, so it was this stuff I was first getting into around age 11. Prior to that there was Split Enz who I had a second, later epiphany with when I got my uncle's vinyl collection. Some people get the Velvet Underground, I got hair metal and New Zealand art rock, though I’m not complaining. As for starting to write, well that didn't happen till I was close to leaving the womb of my degree, I was about 22 and a fucking hack. Still am.

What was the first song you wrote and what bands, if any were, you in before Augie March?
GR. Augie is the first and thus far the only. My first song was probably "The Wind From A Burning Woman" and that title comes from a sci/fi collection. As if I wasn't sounding cool already.

So how did Augie March germinate?

GR. Our first gig came very soon after I'd passed my first demos on to the others at a pub in 1995. It was four of our own and a couple of covers at my friend's art exhibition opening. Since then we haven't stopped with this ridiculous business.

When did you first feel that you were a proper band?

GR. I think the rhythm section has always thought of itself as a proper band and it's only now that they're beginning to appreciate how much I've drilled out of them. If that hadn't happened we'd sound like Fishbone fronted by that cock from Creed.

Strange Bird is more concise, less expansive than the first album without sacrificing anything in the way of music adventure.

GR. Well I remember living near the beach when I wrote most of Sunset, and demoing to eight track for the first time. I'm fond of it but, as ever, underwhelmed by the end result. It sounds like what it is - four inexperienced people trying to make a ten week album in the space of two. It's scrappy and intimate and it found a really devoted audience, and I don't think anyone expected it. When it came to “Strange Bird” as you would expect, we went into it with a more concise vision and were able to execute it skills wise. Shame of it is we only had the same amount of time to finish it. Budgets here are tiny unless you sound like an American or English band. Nothing got left off, and we're reasonably happy with it - but you know how it is once a thing's done? It's in the past.

Your songs are at the heart of the band. How easy do you find song writing?

GR. I don't find it easy at all, but like any habit, you don't enjoy it all the time. I work pretty hard when I'm writing, mostly kicking things around in my head. The greater part of what I do is outside of actual hands on. I don't have any favourites except the one I happen to be making at the time. It's a very temporary thrill associated with song writing, you can't even grow laurels, let alone rest on them. You can use that if you like. I suppose I try for a degree of uniqueness that the listener will identify as imagination, not musical deftness or cleverness, not regurgitation. Despite alienating the music press we've managed to keep a pretty rabid and interesting fanbase.

You’ve played a lot of gigs, what memories do you have of playing live?

GR. We've done plenty of stupid gigs where our good naturedness has led us to doing favours where we should have been bastards. Best gig for Sunset was the launch at the Atheneum Theatre in Melbourne with a now five piece line-up with the exclusion of our late friend Rob Dawson on a grand piano. The worst gig, was at our manager's rather large festival, when two members were still awake from the night before, let's say 'keeping tabs' on things in the camping area, and our mixer left the foldback mic on, so all I could hear were a couple of girls talking about how shit this band is.

What's the Melbourne music scene like?

GR. Melbourne's still healthier than just about anywhere because it's concentrated and it won't go away despite the best efforts of the new Yuppy. We've got plenty of friends there but I'd say if you want some music that couldn't have come from anywhere else than Australia try most Nick Cave stuff, the Triffids, Go-Betweens, Crow. Newer bands like Dallas Crane, Deloris, The Drones, The Sleepy Jackson and plenty more.BOB. Future plans? GR. Well, I'm in Edinburgh at the moment and I wish I had some plans for this evening, but it's cold and lonely for a guy like me. When I get home I'll just keep writing the new one, and I suppose we'll plan our conquest of more puny nations. Tremble England, quiver America, your time is somewhere, reasonably, afoot.

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