Lance Ferguson can hardly believe his luck. He, along with his ever-evolving orchestra The Bamboos, is about to embark on a collaborative, wholly unique tour of Australia with You Am I’s effervescent frontman Tim Rogers. And Lance, for his part, is practically gushing. “He is one of Australia’s great frontmen,” he says, voice brimming with giddy delight. “He’s a legend of Australian music, as far as I’m concerned.”
The collaborative tour, dubbed ‘The Rock N Soul Medicine Show!‘ sees Ferguson’s sprawling funk and soul orchestra joined by one of the most revered throats in modern Australian rock music. And that diversity and juxtaposition of styles is exactly the way that Lance and the Bamboos like it. “I like to work with the best people at what they do,” says Lance.
Far from finding it to be unfamiliar territory, The Bamboos have long been a group driven by collaboration, their recorded output littered with a litany of the country’s best and brightest talent: “I’ve been fortunate enough that these amazing exponents of their respective fields have been willing to come and work with me, which is really cool and very flattering.” This was never more apparent than on their latest release, last year’s triumphant Medicine Man, which was dotted with appearances by Australia’s vocal elite. “When it came to getting, for want of a better term, more of an indie folk vocal sound, I wanted to work with who I considered the best at that, and in that case it was Megan Washington.”
Ferguson’s prior working relationship with Washington not only proved beneficial to The Bamboos’ prospective album, but it opened the door for Lance to meet his eventual tour partner-in-crime, Tim Rogers. “I was playing with Washington on the Big Day Out tour a couple of years ago and we hit it off hanging out backstage talking about old records and sharing a mutual love of being music nerds.” When the time came for The Bamboos to record Medicine Man, Lance knew exactly how to fill the album’s one missing piece. “There was a missing tune that I didn’t have. The album was really missing this thing. I went home one night between sessions and wrote I Got Burned and right away I knew that that track would really suit Tim. I called him in, he was totally up for it, and he came in and smashed it out in a couple of takes.” Rogers’ voice proved to be the ideal fit for the track. “In the case of wanting someone who is a badass rock, soul and blues kind of singer, I think Tim Rogers is the man for me in Australia,” Lance asserts.
Upon release, I Got Burned caught fire, easily becoming The Bamboos’ most successful track to date. What followed was a whirlwind of critical and commercial acclaim, ultimately culminating in a trio of ARIA Award nominations. “I never imagined [that would happen]. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to make a really good album. And it’s great. I’m really happy that people did like the album.”
At the time of writing, The Rock N Soul Medicine Show is setting up to perform a twilight concert at Melbourne Zoo. “With lions roaring in the background, hopefully,” Lance jokes. It’s an ideal setting to kick off a tour that’s unique in both content and itinerary. The tour takes in regional centres, such as Leongatha in Victoria, a first for Lance and The Bamboos. “It’s part of the ubiquitous pulling power that Tim Rogers has, with You Am I being Australian rock and roll legends. It’s enabling us to venture into some of these places where we don’t usually get to play standalone Bamboos shows.” And if facing these bold new frontiers of touring worries Lance, his good spirits and irreverent cheer definitely aren’t letting it show. “The guy who works in the organic fruit shop down at the end of my street, his entire family lives [in Leongatha], including himself. So at least I know my organic fruiterer and his family will be there.”
The preparation period for this tour was not as labourious as some might think. “We just did more of a concentrated lockout thing over several days. We locked ourselves up in a rehearsal room day and night through a week and hammered it out.” It was in conception and planning that more sweat was poured. “It took a while for Tim and I to choose the setlist, because we really wanted to get it right.” It’s this meticulous commitment to hammering out the kinks that’s clearly got Lance excited. “Tim prepared and worked on it. He really wanted to be vocally fit for this show, because Kylie [Auldist] and Ella [Thompson] are really hard-hitting, powerful singers. Tim was aware that he was going to have to come out and sing songs after those two. I wouldn’t want to do that. Not many people would want to do that.”
Rather than playing it completely safe, Lance wants this tour to push everyone to the best of their abilities, Rogers in particular. “He sings a falsetto on I Got Burned. But we’re also doing a bunch of You Am I songs. He can do that. And we’re doing a bunch of really cool cover versions where he gets to sing all across the ranges. He’s doing stuff that’s really low, he’s doing gravelly, rocky stuff, he’s doing bluesy stuff, and then he moves into the falsetto. He’s smashing it.” And it’s that air of unfamiliar terrain and unpredictability that Lance believes will keep people on their toes for the whole show. “[Kylie and Ella] are always out on stage, and they move over to backing vocals at some point. Then Tim comes out and does his thing. It’s slightly sort of revolving chairs. I think it’s cool because the audience never knows exactly what’s coming next. And having three different vocalists on stage definitely keeps it interesting.”
One thing’s for sure: with The Bamboos and Tim Rogers occupying the same stage, absolutely anything is possible.
The Bamboos’ The Rock N Soul Medicine Show! continues its tour this week in Wollongong, Sydney, Newcastle and concludes at Womadelaide this weekend.
Tim Rogers and The Bamboos – The Rock N Soul Medicine Show!
Saturday, February 23rd
Thursday, February 28th
Tickets available http://www.qpac.com.au
Friday, March 1st
Melbourne Zoo Twilights
Saturday, March 2nd
Leongatha, Memorial Hall
Special Guests Money For Rope
Thursday, March 7th
HI FI BAR, Sydney
Friday, March 8th
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Saturday, March 9th
Uni Bar, Wollongong
Sunday, March 10th