Chris Cheney On ’90s Aussie Alt-Rock & Why The Living End Still Have “Something to Prove”

Rising to prominence in the mid to late 1990s alongside several other formative, seminal Australian rock bands, The Living End have spent two decades at the forefront of our music scene’s consciousness. Unlike some of their contemporaries, they don’t merely sustain themselves touring off the back of the hits that first made them popular, instead continuing to release outstanding records, with last year’s LP Shift peaking at #4 on the ARIA charts.

But as they gear up to around Australia for the umpteenth time with 2018’s A Day On The Green alongside Veruca Salt, Spiderbait, The Lemonheads, Tumbleweed and more, don’t be expecting a set jam-packed with newies. As singer Chris Cheney explains to Music Feeds, The Living End know that it’s vital to play what people know at a gig like this, and in his words, to bring the party.

Music Feeds: You’ve recently been announced to play A Day On The Green in 2018 alongside the likes of Spiderbait, Veruca Salt and more mates. Having toured pretty extensively overseas this year, what do you enjoy about coming back and playing to a home crowd?

Chris Cheney: Well this is a different kind of tour, it will be different to doing a regular headline or club tour. Obviously, it’s going to be outdoors so the amphitheatre vibe of these gigs is amazing. It’s such a beautiful setting. The first thing would be that we have more known songs here, that’s the difference between here and playing overseas. For headline shows, you’re still playing to your own audience over the year but for festivals, you’re not. The good thing about coming back to Australia for us and playing shows is that we can play a full set and have people singing every single word from start to finish. It’s an amazing feeling.

MF: When A Day On The Green was pitched to you did you already know who else would be playing?

CC: We’ve done two of them before where we’ve supported other bands both times and it was just a taste of these wildly successful shows that have always gone down really well with the audience. So the opportunity came up to headline the tour, depending also on the bill, because it’s not just about us selling the tickets it’s about having a strong lineup as well. So then we found out who the other bands actually were and thought it was a really great, diverse lineup. It’s also a lineup that’s really appealing to the average rock n’ roll punter. The reaction has been really amazing too, so I can’t wait.

MF: What are your memories of playing the tour previously?

CC: Well we’ve always supported and they’ve just been a lot of fun. We did one with [Cold] Chisel and one with Barnsey, and both were just magic; playing early afternoon and it’s just incredible to look out at a sea of people like that – providing the weather’s okay. There’s just a vibe with those shows, it’s different playing a Soundwave or other festivals like that. It’s a bit more chill I suppose and there’s a really positive, music-loving audience. Everyone is there purely for the music.

MF: We’ve seen festivals at wineries like A Day On The Green expand and begin to showcase musicians outside of the standard rock bands that have traditionally played these sorts of shows. Why do you think venues like this are being embraced more than ever?

CC: I just think it’s great. When they started out it was definitely marketed to an older demographic, but that’s not the case anymore. They’re big, loud, full-on gigs, so I think that’s positive. Especially because there are so many festivals that don’t exist anymore, it’s becoming harder and harder for bands to find somewhere to play. So I think it’s great that these sorts of opportunities are being provided more and more. It still feels like it’s a different kind of gig when you go to A Day On The Green.

MF: Is there anyone that you’re particularly keen to see perform who you mightn’t have seen play in a setting like this before?

CC: Well, maybe Tumbleweed, because I never saw them play when they first came to prominence. I’ve met Richie [Lewis] a couple of times and he’s a really nice guy, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them play. But all the bands really are unique in their own way.

MF: We’ve seen recently an increase in rock bands touring together, especially bands that formed at the back end of the last century. Do you think this is reflective of a revival in interest for rock music from a couple of decades back?

CC: I feel like bands like Hoodoo Gurus and You Am I; they’re timeless and the songs they wrote are just as relevant now as when they were written. By all reports, they’re still just kicking arse when they’re playing live. It’s not watered down at all, it’s not like revival act. It was a great time in music – the mid to late ’90s in Australia – a lot of great bands came out of that. Bands like Regurgitator and Spiderbait are bands that could only have come from Australia, I think. So I feel really proud of the Australian music scene and the diversity that came out, particularly from back then. It was like this alternative scene breaking through to the mainstream for the first time.

MF: It seems like The Living End have still got plenty of creative energy, with the success of Shift last year. Are you still constantly looking forward now or has there been more time for reflection at this point in your careers?

CC: There has been some reflection, what with the retrospective tour, but I do feel it’s dangerous to look back too often. I feel like we’re always very hungry, we’ve always got something to prove in our live shows and on the record. As a songwriter, I still feel like I’ve got a lot to learn. I’m always getting inspired and feeling like there’s still some road ahead. I don’t feel like we’re running out of ideas or getting tired of it at all.

MF: Looking forward to A Day On The Green, how do you go about choosing from your pretty extensive catalogue of music to put together a setlist for an event like this?

CC: Well yeah we haven’t started yet. We’re lucky in the sense that we’ve got seven records to choose from, and with a show like A Day On The Green it’s important to play the songs that people know, and bring the party. We’re not one of these bands who gets too caught up in our own existence and want to play the rare b-side from 1998. We want to keep in interesting for sure and we’re not just going to play the a-typical set, we’re going to mix it up a little bit. But we know what we have to do, you’ve just got to bring it.

The Living End will headline the national A Day On The Green shows in February and March 2018 alongside Spiderbait, Veruca Salt, The Lemonheads, Tumbleweed and The Fauves. This month they play a one-off charity concert to raise funds for a New South Wales animal shelter.

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