Much like the delightful Tim Tam, a packet of which are being munched happily by this humble writer, Something For Kate are an Aussie icon. And excitingly, the undefinable Melbourne outfit have been billed alongside a stellar lineup of fellow Aussie icons at Newcastle’s Scene & Heard festival this November.
“I guess the bands on there — most of them are active bands,” says bassist Stephanie Ashworth, “Bands that have never stopped playing and never stopped putting out music, so you know, it’s great in that way, because sometimes when I look back in the archives at old articles — we’ve been putting together a book for our 20th anniversary and I had to look at articles and press – and it’s interesting to see who was in all those articles and ads back in that time who are still going today.
“It’s not many, but it’s really good when you can go, ‘Oh! Spiderbait, still going. Living End, still going,” she continues. “There are still quite a few bands we played with back then who are active and have always been active.”
Scene & Heard seems like it’s going to be a celebration of days gone by, but it’s also shaping up to be a celebration for the bands playing; of their longevity and commitment. And Ashworth says it’s difficult to pinpoint the element that’s solidified Something For Kate’s enduring popularity over the decades.
“I think it’s a whole lot of factors. It’s if you write songs that are meaningful to you and within a band context, and they connect with people, then I don’t think that suddenly stops,” she says.
“If you’re writing songs people can relate to and it means something to you and to an audience, then I don’t think time has much of an impact on that. A song is a song, it doesn’t matter if you’re 19 or 39 [years old], if you’re still writing songs that are personal and meaningful then there’s still that exchange between the writer and the listener. In that way, what could go wrong?
“The short answer is, I think it’s the songs. At the end of the day as long as you’re writing songs that are meaningful, that you’re not writing as a vehicle for something else, that might not have as pure an intent.”
It’s a colloquial outlook but it’s one that fits the band well, and indeed, fits the massive range of styles set for the festival. “It’s very eclectic, isn’t it?” Ashworth agrees. “There’s something for everyone there. If you’re into kind of music for the hips then Spiderbait might be your thing. If you’re into more of a rockabilly sound then The Living End would be your thing.
“Maybe it’s [because] they wanted to cover different styles of music that are being popular over time in this country, or just wanted to make something for everyone,” she continues.
“At these festivals, often the audience changes, the front 30 rows or whatever, change. Some people might really be into Killing Heidi and race to the front of the stage for that, then they’ll go and have a drink or whatever. Then people who are more into music for the head but come to the front to see us, then they might step back for something more intense. I think it’s clever to have such a good range.”
Something For Kate have been active for 20 years, a pretty long time, and Ashworth giggles by way of agreement. And in that time, she’s both ~seen and heard~ Australian music change.
“It has and it hasn’t,” she explains. “Audiences are still there for the same reason they always were, they want to get caught up in something and be taken away somewhere and escape in that moment with you, and that’s really exciting, it never stops being exciting.
“Our audience has changed – we still have, I guess, a lot of the same people but then there’s all these new people who discover it through something else, like Pal’s solo stuff. You get this whole new generation of younger people or you get entire families coming. You have these people who came to see us in 1999 and now they’ve had kids and their kids are coming too.
“In terms of the Australian music industry and the bands, I think styles change but sentiment and ideas, solid good ideas people can relate to, are still there, they’re just presented in different ways.”
Ashworth mentions the band’s work on a new album and with some luck, and a whole lot of practice, she’s hoping Something For Kate will have something new to try out on their festival audience.
“I’d like to think we’ll do something new at the festival,” she dishes.
“We have a problem committing to things, I think that’s what I’m trying to say! We have a problem committing to song structures and that’s why our albums take such a long time! If there’s one [song] we were really happy with and could commit to it then we would play it for sure.
“We like to provide [nostalgia] but we’re really cautious about being too much on this nostalgia ship. We never stop writing new songs, trying to write better songs with every album, so we always play new stuff as well and I suppose we don’t feel like we want to rest on our laurels. We feel vital, like we’re still pushing the envelope for ourselves musically.”
Catch Something For Kate performing live at Newcastle’s Scene & Heard Festival on Sunday, 4th November. Full lineup here.