I’ve got to admit, when I listen to a band like the Sneaky Weasel Gang, I get jealous. I wish that I’d been as good at anything as they are at playing their unique blend of funk, reggae and rock when I was only twenty one years old.
Hailing from the Peel region of WA, these ambitious young upstarts have already made quite a name for themselves, receiving the WAMI award for “Best Funk Act” in 2009, and establishing a strong reputation for solid live performances. The Weasels have played over three hundred live shows, including several independent tours and festival billings including West and East Coast Blues and Roots, Rollercoaster, Island Vibes and Wave Rock Weekender, among many others.
Daniel Clarke caught up with the refreshingly honest and humble Dan Carroll, guitarist and singer for SWG recently to talk all things Weasel related.
Music Feeds: So let’s start off with an easy one. How did you guys get together? I read that the band was formed shortly after high school… Did you all go to school together? If not, when did you know that the Sneaky Weasel line up was solid?
Dan Carroll: Jason and Bryn went to school together for a year or so. I knew Bryn from the band that he played in locally. The band really only came together when Jay rang me from a pay phone one day after he had heard of me from a mutual friend. We were originally just going to have a play together, but on the day we were due to hook up, he asked me to pick up Bryn. We really gelled on those first few jams I guess and the rest is history.
MF: Now, you’ve said that the sound of the SWG is inspired in part by instrumental groups like Booker T and the MGs. How did you guys get introduced to classic bands like that? I’d imagine not too many people at high school were rockin’ out to Booker T or The Meters… Did the family record collection have anything to do with that?
DC: My parents’ record collection was definitely the source of 90% of the music I grew up listening to and imitating. Old guitar mags that belonged to my dad also got me into lots of groups. Booker T and The Meters came very late into my musical horizon though, and both groups were tip offs from other musos.
MF: If you were trying to convince someone that the SWG rocked, without playing them any of your music, how would you describe your sound?
DC: It’s an exciting live sound, it’s quite interactive between the members in the band and it’s heavily rooted in groove. Sonically it mashes up a lot of genres. At the end of the day it’s fun music.
MF: And is that sound something that’s been changing over time? There’s an allusion in your bio to a bit of a change of style. Do you think you’re still looking for the SWG sound?
DC: The sound has radically developed on the road over the last few years and is definitely continuing to develop all the time. It’s probably fair to say we are still searching for our own true voice, but I think you can’t rush that kind of development. It comes with maturity as writers and musos and that’s an ongoing journey for us at the moment. I think its really important for a band’s sound to tell something about where they are from and it would be great to nurture an Australian element to our sound, which I think has been missing in a lot of local bands for a long time.
MF: You guys have an impressive track record, performance wise, for a relatively young band. What’s been the most memorable touring experience so far? Are festivals or concerts more fun to play?
DC: The first huge tour we did when we were nineteen was probably the biggest turning point for us as a band. It was our first experience really playing night after night, living on the road for a couple of months, doing our own sound, travelling interstate etc. There’s something about the first time you do those things that kind of increases their magnitude. How fun any one particular show is always comes down to the kind of people in the crowd on the given night and the overall atmosphere etc. Any gig can be a ripper, you never really know in our experience.
MF: Does the touring ever get too much? I’ve been reading your Myspace blogs, and it seems a lot of the tours are organised by the good graces of friends who are willing to put you up for the night, stuff like that. Has that helped with the amount of touring you’ve been able to do?
DC: That definitely helps immensely. We certainly go through periods on the road where morale might not be the highest, but I think we’re really lucky as a group that everyone is relatively driven and excited by the fact that we have an opportunity to make a living out of something we love so much. That overall passion is kind of what causes us to rise above the nitty gritty of being on the road so much I guess. We always get humbled by the hospitality people show us when we’re on the road.
MF: As a Sydney-sider, I’m always interested in the music scene in other parts of Australia. Was it hard to get a start back home in WA (especially given that you weren’t in a major city)? What’s it like over that way for live music? Are there a lot of venues, punters?
DC: I think WA has a fantastic scene. Although there aren’t tons of venues or punters, there are definitely some great places to play. We were lucky as a young band that we had a manager who was willing and capable of booking us lots of regional shows. As a general rule I think the economy in WA at the moment allows a lot of venues to pay better money than on the East coast also.
MF: What can punters expect at the upcoming Sneaky Weasel Gang shows? Any zany on-stage antics we should be looking out for? Fancy dress maybe?
DC: Haha. Well, you never know I guess. We’re always looking for ways to improve the show, but I don’t think there will be much in the way of gimmicks for the foreseeable future. We have a pretty old-school approach and will definitely be focusing on better songs and interplay within the band as far as things you can expect for certain. All people can really expect at the moment is to see a young band who are really getting into the music they play and performing with as much emotion and energy as possible.
For the east coast leg of their Bodyslide Blues tour, SWG will be joined onstage by a mysterious keyboard player and frequent collaborator known only as ‘Bones’.
MF: Is Bones going to become an official member of the band? How did you go about working keys into your songs? Did he just show up and start jamming over the top?
DC: It’s hard to pen where we’ll be in the future with regards to our permanent line up, but at this stage were really enjoying having Bones be apart of our on stage musical concoction. I guess only time will tell with future developments. We’ll just have to see how the whole thing unfolds. As far as integrating the keys in, it hasn’t been difficult at all really with this first batch of songs. I had a really clear idea of what would compliment most of the songs, and Bones has had a great ear for the music so far. It’s been a pleasure having him on the road too.
MF: So if he does become an official fourth member, are there any rites of passage or hazing rituals he’ll have to undertake? Crossing the Desert or The Unblinking Eye maybe?
DC: Hahaha. Well, we haven’t really considered that yet. I guess if he can survive a month on the road with us he’ll probably have passed most of the necessary tests to gain Weaselhood, but you never know… We might have to keep you posted on that front!
MF: What’s next? Touring over summer? Are you guys still writing new material as you tour, or do you write in your downtime?
DC: Writing is definitely a downtime thing, but that will be the focus over the next four or five months. Writing and recording. We’ve just gotten some studio gear together so we’ll be exploring producing our own songs for the upcoming release. Our current EP Bodyslide Blues will be out very shortly and you can check out our Myspace for details.
The Sneaky Weasel Gang are currently touring the east coast in support of their new EP, Bodyslide Blues, before returning to WA for their last shows of the year. Click here for full details.