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Catching Up With Augie March

Written by Thomas Mitchell on April 3, 2009

For those of you who’ve heard Augie March’s lyrics you would know they read like the most splendid of academic footnotes. I had the time to study them as my interview with bassist Edmondo Amendola was pushed back from two o’clock to three o’clock.

I also had time to have a shave (which doesn’t take long because my hair grows only in patches sporadically across my face), and make a sandwich. It was indeed One Crowded Hour. (I also had time to craft that amazing joke!).

But things go from crowded to packed when he appears, jumping straight on in with all the enthusiasm of a newborn child to the milky teat of their mother.

“We’re just in the middle of the On the Quiet tour. I’m really enjoying it. It’s kind of halfway between a bunch of blokes standing around with some guitars and the full-blown band experience, so I like that. There is a little bit of strange stuff; some spooky stuff and the backing vocals are pretty prominent. It’s kind of like a hybrid between two styles.”

He is puffing as he speaks, perhaps because he has been running away from Joe Chicarelli, the producer of the band’s latest record Watch Me Disappear. They didn’t see eye to eye on everything, and the band has been vocal in their criticism of him.

“It was a shit experience” Ed sighs. “The press is littered about so many bad stories about our experience with Joe, and look the only thing I can say is that if we didn’t learn from it we’re dumber than I thought.”

Perhaps the sour experience recording brought the band closer. Unity in a time of struggle?

“No actually it tore us to bits, it worked the other way. It was really really shit, we’re slowly patching up now.” No dice there either.

I can tell Ed is getting antsy, he’s spoken about Joe more times than he probably cares to, and here he goes again. But I gotta know, what’s so bad about Joe?

“We just had different ideas,” says Ed, but I can tell he isn’t done.

“I mean there was a lot of personal shit going on with the band when we were making that record too, so it was a combination of a whole lot of factors that ended up making it so shit.”

We talk some more about the prominence of Ed’s bass on the record, and how Joe ripped out guitars but it’s time to move on both for the band and the interview.

So what is the final verdict on Watch Me Disappear? Is it kind of like having an ugly baby? It’s not what you expected but you love it anyway?

“It’s a strange one, I don’t know, it is still Augie March, I mean there is still some dogged messiness about it but it’s a new direction and I’ve welcomed that new direction, whatever form it might take. Like with Lupus, that song rocks hard live, that’s how we wanted it to be on the record.”
The musical marriage of Augie March has been a rocky one indeed. The tension during Watch Me Disappear wasn’t the first time the band had experienced trouble. But like passionate lovers they managed to make it work. But what is the secret to this longevity?

“Oh fuck dude I have no idea,” he replies, tired laugh behind his words. Damn it Ed.

“No matter how much we try to hate each other we’re still around but it’s just a whole mixture of things. People are fearful of change, people are fearful of getting out of their comfort zone, scared of starting new musical relationships. Although for Glenn that would be exciting and he is going to do that, he is going to do a solo record.”

I smile, knowing Glenn’s solo work will be like an audio version of War & Peace, filled with musical prose good enough to make you explode. Ed continues, comparing music to stationery.

“But when it comes down to it the music is the glue. The problem is when the music becomes unstuck then so do we. It sounds a bit hippy, but it is true, it’s the common goal.”

I can sense the fear in Ed’s voice throughout the interview, something is freaking him out. Is it the pressure to match the heights of Moo, You Bloody Choir? “Not at all mate.” So what is it, this hidden concern I can detect?

“ Well Glenn brought this beautiful thing to the table and I still don’t know if we’ve fucked it up for him. It’s hard to tell, you listen to some songs, you read the lyrics and you think sorry dude, we fucked it up.”

It’s Ed’s job to be plagued by unnecessary guilt (anyone who listened to Watch Me Disappear knows the band didn’t fuck it up), but it is my job to report the facts! And the facts are that despite their tumultuous history Augie March are still able to waltz into Sydney and play a few tunes for our appreciative ears.

“We’re playing The Basement, which I’ve never played at before, but I hear it is quite intimate, which is pretty much why we’re playing there, People will have a chance to hear the songs in a very different way. One Crowded Hour sounds nothing like it normally does, its shocking people and we start playing it and we just see these blank stares. Eventually they cotton on, but at the start they’re tricked.”

It seems Augie March are happy to trick people. Their greatest trick will be convincing people they can make the transition from good band to great, where so many people, including us here at Music Feeds, believe they belong. Here’s hoping.

Catch the band at The Basement on 3rd and 4th April
Watch Me Disappear is out now!

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