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The John Steel Singers

Written by Daniel Clarke on December 1, 2008

Talking to mates who are in independent bands I get the feeling that it’s not always easy to book gigs in Sydney, let alone around Australia. This is obviously not a problem for Brisbane band the John Steel Singers, as the past couple of months have seen them touring with the likes of the Polyphonic Spree and The Grates. When I called to talk to guitarist and singer Luke McDonald, the band had just arrived home from the latter’s national tour.

“We only got back yesterday after finishing the Grates tour and so I’m still waiting for my sleeping patterns to return to normal. It’s been a really busy month, busy couple of months, really.”

Reclining on his front porch, “just chillin”, Luke confides that hitting the road for such long stretches is not always easy, but the band takes it in their stride.

“We’ve just been offered these amazing opportunities which are just too hard to pass up. It’s costing us a fuckload of money yet the experience we get and the fun we have is totally worth it. It’s definitely worth giving up a month of work to go out on tour with the Grates because you can just party for a full month and come back and you’re absolutely fucked and just get back into normal life for about a week and then go out again.”

Playing with such high-profile bands has also given the boys a chance to establish a bit of a reputation for themselves, as well as solidifying contacts within the music industry.

“We’ve met a lot of people, especially with this Grates tour. Just because they’re pretty high profile, we’ve had a lot of attention and it’s done wonders for us. The exposure that we got from touring with those guys was… uh, you can’t put a monetary value on it. But yeah, it’s definitely starting to get a lot more momentum for the band and we just can hopefully capitalise on it, with the EP and our own tour and make the most of it and keep on movin’ on.”

Their new EP, ‘In Colour’, is slated for November release but it’s not the first release for the band. Luke explains that they’ve previously recorded a “mini-LP” called ‘The Beagle and The Dove’.

“We call it a mini-LP ‘cause it’s like 8 tracks and 31 minutes and I think you need 32 minutes to call it an LP or something so we just missed the mark. We recorded that up in White Rooms studios, which is up in Mount Leebo near Brisbane, secluded in rainforest pretty much. It was a really fuckin’ cool environment to record songs and for our first experience of recording it was amazing.”

“[For the Ep] We went down to Sydney for a week and stayed in an awesome house in Darlinghurst and just recorded and then partied on the weekends, often partying like on the nights after finishing recordings. I love getting out to new cities. We’ve been to Sydney a heap now and have a heap of good friends and just party on like motherfuckers, it’s great.”

The John Steel Singers will once again be loading up the van and hitting the road, this time on headlining a tour in support of the new Ep soon. Once that’s all wrapped up, Luke says the boys are keen to do some more recording.

“After this tour we’re going to have to get down, busy and start demo-ing some tracks for an album which is just in planning stages. We’ve got songs that we’d like to record but other than that it’s just a plan. We’ll have an album out some time early next year hopefully, if everything goes according to plan which most often with us it doesn’t, but eventually we’ll have an album out next year. We’ll be able to tour that and hopefully get overseas for a few shows and just spread. Spread the love.”

Spread the love. I like it. One last thing springs to mind, though. There’s no one in the band called John Steel, so I wonder out loud where the inspiration came from.

“Trim, Scott and I used to work at an undisclosed family restaurant back in 2004, 2005. John Steel was a kid’s toy that was left there by the previous owner and was adopted by the service staff as some sort of mascot. I don’t know where the name John Steel came from, I can’t remember for the life of me. The Singers aspect is well, there’s four people who can sing in the band so it has some sort of merit.”

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