Grinspoon’s Pat Davern On The Origin Stories Behind Some Of The Band’s Biggest Songs

Grinspoon fans rejoice, for the band are hitting the road again this year, and this time they’ll be revisiting a bunch of tracks they haven’t played in a while.

The four-piece have announced their Chemical Hearts national tour, which will see them showcasing a variety of songs from across their 24-year career. A Chemical Hearts vinyl will be released in conjunction with the tour, available for purchase only at the shows, and featuring some of Grinspoon’s biggest hits.

The band formed in Lismore, NSW, back in 1995. Since then they’ve released seven albums (each of which has peaked in the top 10 on the ARIA charts, with three going platinum and one double platinum), played festivals like Big Day Out, Splendour in the Grass, and Homebake, and had 13 ARIA nominations, winning two awards.

Grinspoon have also appeared countless times on the triple j Hottest 100, often with multiple songs in the one year. For example, 1998 saw ‘Just Ace’,’Black Friday’ and ‘Don’t Go Away’ take out the 18th , 22nd and 79th spot, respectively, while 2002 saw ‘Chemical Heart’ come in 2nd , ‘Lost Control’ 14th , ‘No Reason’ 15th and ‘1000 Miles’ in 47th place.

We recently caught up with guitarist Pat Davern to chat about the origin stories behind some of the band’s most popular hits, and what fans can expect on Grinspoon’s upcoming Chemical Hearts tour.

Music Feeds: Where were you guys at when you were writing and recording ‘Chemical Heart’?

Pat Davern: That track actually came together in Stage Door Studios in Sydney, which I don’t think actually is there anymore. We’d been through a long writing process for New Detention, which was our third album, and myself and Phil had decided that we needed some more… we needed something a little different from the rock songs that we normally do. So, we went in there, just him and I, [I] think we smoked a bunch of weed, and ‘Chemical Heart’ was one of the songs that came out of that session. I think ‘Lost Control’ came out of that session too.

When it came to recording it, we recorded it initially at Festival Studios in… Was it Festival? Part of it was done at Festival, part of it was done at Mangrove Mountain Studios, which was owned by Garry Beers from INXS at the time – I’m not sure if it’s still there anymore. And then I think all the overdubs were done at Power Station, maybe. So, it took a while to get that song together. It was something we laboured over for a long time, just because we wanted to get it right, ’cause we knew in the back of our minds that it was something different for the band, but we had a feeling that it was going to be a popular song.

MF: So, ‘Just Ace’ was from your first album…

PD: ‘Just Ace’ was from our first album, so that song was born in Lismore, where we first started our career. We used to rehearse in like, a back-alley studio called Sound Solutions, which was a pretty horrible kind of set-up. But Phil had these chords… We were living with a guy who used to be in a semi-successful Sydney rock band and it was a little bit of an ode to him ’cause he was a little bit frustrated because his career didn’t work out the way he wanted it to. And so, Phil had these chords and then I thought of the melody, that [sings guitar riff], so I kind of came with that melody and we worked on an arrangement and yeah, that song was born out of there.

We did a great video for that one. We went down to… I think it was Museum train station in Sydney, that was closed off for overnight, kind of, train travel, and we got a bunch of kids down there and recorded a great video for that song. So yeah, once again, one of our more successful singles. Not a song that we thought was ever gonna be released to the general public, apart from being on an album, but the head of Universal at the time – or, it was MCA Records back then –  really believed that it was gonna be a big song for us and so he wanted it released, so we did it.

MF: Oh, cool! That little riff is so catchy, by the way, like, it always gets stuck in my head.

PD: Thank you, I do appreciate you saying that.

MF: What was the process to create a slower song like ‘Better Off Alone’? ‘Cause you guys seem to have a lot of upbeat, punky music, but with ‘Better Off Alone’ it’s kind of more stripped back…

PD: Yeah, that was another one of mine. I had the chords. It wasn’t the melody that I envisioned Phil was gonna sing, to be honest with you, I thought it was gonna go a bit of a different direction. I’d written the music for that song in the lead-up to making… we went to LA to record Thrills, and I’m pretty sure that song was on Thrills. We were rehearsing… we rented out a house on the Central Coast, actually on the lake, and we kind of got that one together slowly, but that really came together in the studio. Scott Russo from Unwritten Law came in and helped us with the bridge part on that song. And yeah, once again it was something different that we just felt we needed to shine a light on, that we weren’t just a kind of, meat and potatoes rock band. We shot a pretty cool video for that too. We went over to Auckland, South Auckland, the middle of winter in a car yard and shot a video for that song, which was a cold experience.

MF: Yeah, I’ll bet it was! Just jumping back a little bit, ‘Lost Control’… or was it ‘No Reason’ that you were saying was written at the same time as ‘Chemical Heart’?

PD: No, ‘Lost Control’ was. We went into the studio for just a couple of days and we wrote those two songs, and one other one that I don’t think ever saw the light of day. So, ‘Lost Control’ was written around the same time, exactly the same time. And funnily enough, our drummer Kristian had put his hand through a plate glass window, like, an early morning accident. And so, we had another drummer named Lee Moloney, who actually played for… plays for Diesel, I believe these days, and has for a long time. We got him to come into the studio because we needed some rhythm to try and get the songs together. So, he came into the studio and he actually played on the original versions of ‘Chemical Heart’ and ‘Lost Control’ with us.

MF: What was the process behind writing and recording ‘No Reason’?

That’s one of Phil’s songs, and that came together actually at Sound Level in Ultimo, which was another Sydney rehearsal studio, doesn’t exist anymore. They had an abandoned recording studio out the back and it had a big live room, so we set up in there for like, a week, and I think our A&R guy had come to us… we’d written a couple of songs. We had this song called ‘Pine Gap’, and I think that was kind of around the same time. That song was the catalyst for ‘No Reason’, something poppy, with a big guitar hook, that was also again something a little bit different for us. And I think that was the fifth single off New Detention. That album had a LOT of singles [laughs].

MF: Your upcoming Chemical Hearts tour will see you showcasing songs that you maybe haven’t played for a while. Which songs are you most excited to revisit and play live?

PD: I always liked opening our shows with ‘Ready 1’. That was always a good call to arms, kind of, a bit of a hero song for me. I remember back in… I think it was 2008, we did a Big Day Out, and it was on the Gold Coast. We’d been used to playing the Main Stage, but they put us in the Big Top for some reason, and so it was kind of like, dark when we walked on stage and the opening bass riff to that song kind of purred out – you can see it, it’s on YouTube – and it was just huge! So, I’m looking forward to playing that. I don’t know if we’re gonna play it first, but that’s always a great song to play.

The Chemical Hearts tour, it’s a retrospective tour. We did the Guide To Better Living tour in 2017, where we played that album in its entirety, and so I guess this time it’s giving us an opportunity to play a lot of songs from early on in our career and mid-way through out career that people haven’t heard for a while. The whole show’s gonna be a banger, I reckon.

MF: Are there any non-single songs or B-sides that you’re going to be throwing into your set that people might not expect?

PD: There are! We are going to do a section of the show where we’re gonna play some songs that mean a lot to us. But, to be honest with you, once we get into the rehearsal room… we’ve only got a shortlist of what they’re going to be… but we’re definitely going to do some different stuff, I think we’re going to pack it into a certain part of the show. It might be possibly doing some acoustic stuff. There’s gonna be peaks and valleys, but we’re definitely going to be doing some stuff that isn’t on the album, that people probably may not have heard us play live before.

MF: What inspires you to continue creating music after being in the music industry for so long?

Well, unfortunately we’re not creating any music at the moment. We’re doing this kind of retrospective tour, I think this is probably going to be the last time you see Grinspoon doing a tour like this. I think that if we go out again, it will be on the back of having some new music. I mean, I’m sitting in my studio now, I’m in the control room, I’m looking through to the live room. Kristian Hopes from Grinspoon, his drumkit is set up in there, I had him down a couple of weekends ago, doing some demos of some of my songs. He’s coming back in another couple of weeks. I think that you can have a break from being creative with a certain band, and that’s okay, but I think it probably inspires you more when you get back in the studio. So, hopefully, there’ll be some new music on the horizon for Grinspoon. Hopefully there’ll be a number one album, Maybe we can get Tom Gleeson behind us to start a campaign to get Grinspoon to have a number one album for the first time ever!

MF: Do you have any other creative endeavours that you’re doing, separate from Grinspoon?

PD: I’m working on a children’s book and soundtrack called The Winter of the White Bear, which is basically trying to shine a light on modern day slavery. I’ve done children’s books before with the partner that I do this stuff with, his name’s Martin Chatterton and he’s an Englishman. He’s written a children’s book and illustrated this beautiful book [which is] called The Winter of the White Bear. I’ve written some music that’s going to go along with the story and hopefully we can make that into a short film and maybe even a TV show or something like that. So, that’s the other stuff that I’m working on at the moment.

MF: And finally, what are you most looking forward to about the upcoming Chemical Hearts tour?

PD: I’m really looking forward to playing at the Hordern Pavilion. I haven’t done it for a long time and I’m absolutely blown away that it looks like we’re going to sell out Hordern Pavilion in Sydney, and that’s something that I’m really, really excited about doing! I’m excited about going everywhere, but the Hordern is a special venue for me, growing up in Sydney and seeing a lot of bands there, and I can’t wait to get back there and play there again.

Gisborne’s favourite sons Grinspoon are hitting the road to illuminate their beloved discography on stages right around the country this October and November. Dates below.

Grinspoon ‘Chemical Hearts’ Australian Tour

Supported by The Hard Aches, The Gooch Palms, Bugs

Friday, 11th October

Metropolis, Fremantle

Tickets: Official Website

Saturday, 12th October

Metro City, Perth

Tickets: Official Website

Tuesday, 15th October – NEW SHOW

The Forum, Melbourne

Tickets: Official Website

Wednesday, 16th OctoberSOLD OUT

The Forum, Melbourne

Tickets: Official Website

Friday, 18th October

UC Refectory, Canberra

Tickets: Official Website

Saturday, 19th October – NEW SHOW

Waves, Wollongong

Tickets: Official Website

Wednesday, 23rd October

Odeon Theatre, Hobart

Tickets: Official Website

Saturday, 26th October

Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide

Tickets: Official Website

Thursday, 31st October SOLD OUT

Waves, Wollongong

Tickets: Official Website

Friday, 1st November

Entertainment Centre, Newcastle

Tickets: Official Website

Saturday, 2nd November

Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Tickets: Official Website

Thursday, 7th November

The Star Broadbeach, Gold Coast

Tickets: Official Website

Friday, 8th November

The Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane

Tickets: Official Website

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