It’s pretty incredible to think that Violent Soho have been around the Aussie music scene for over a decade now. Attending school together before forming in 2004 in the Brisbane suburb of Mansfield, Soho released their debut EP in 2006, a released which was funded by the sale of guitarist James Tidswell’s car.
Now less than a month out from the hugely-anticipated release of their fourth studio album WACO, Violent Soho are ready to re-affirm their heavyweight status as veterans of Australian music. Two singles from the new record have already been released, with Like Soda coming in at number 15 on last year’s triple j hottest 100, and the boys are preparing to set off on a massive east-coast tour next month. They also dropped an album teaser for WACO just a few days ago.
It hasn’t been a completely smooth ride recently though, with a Facebook post from the band attacking ticket scalpers going viral last week. It’s not the first time that members of the band have spoken out on the topic of commercialisation in the music industry. In 2014 Tidswell appeared in a short documentary directed Dan Graetz (who also directed Violent Soho’s music video for Covered In Chrome). The doco was titled The Truth About Money and Tidswell delved into the idea of ‘selling out’.
We caught up with guitarist and vocalist Luke Boerdam this week to chat about tackling the ever-growing problem of ticket scalpers, the importance of not over-processing instruments in the studio, and why he originally wasn’t even a fan of Like Soda…
Music Feeds: On Monday we got an inside glimpse of your upcoming record WACO via an album trailer. You guys must be pretty excited for the release?
Luke Boerdam: We had a great time on that video; we forgot it was even being made. It was shot in the studio over three days and I completely forgot it being made so when they showed it to us I thought ‘wow that’s awesome’, because you forget about the process and how long it takes, and the work involved. So it’s cool to have those memory snippets of what happened.
We signed off on the master for the record back when we did Singapore Laneway, so that was when the album was actually done. It was mastered, signed off, finished. So now it’s been this long, anxious wait for people to hear it.
It’s quite cool to be doing interviews with people who have heard it, and we’re just excited for people to have another Soho record in their hands and to hear what they think. I’m even more pumped to play it live, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most, adding a whole new selection of songs to the set.
MF: Coming back to the video, there’s a bit in the trailer about your process in the studio; you mention that it’s a bit like mucking around for 13 hours a day until you get something you consider finished. Has the process gotten any smoother over time, and how has it changed?
LB: We really just had a longer time in the studio. Hungry Ghost was six weeks and that was it. And even that, from what I know, that’s a pretty long recording process. With WACO we started in July, had a month and a half off in the middle, and then wrapped up at the beginning of Feb. So with that whole process we just allowed ourselves so much time. I think that’s the part I enjoyed, really not having to stress like crazy about the timeframes.
With Hungry Ghost there were a few phone calls to the label to say ‘I need two more days here’ or ‘can you chuck another couple hundred bucks this way’. So it was a huge benefit just having a little more leeway there to book out more time and really take it slow. Sometimes we spent two days on the bridge of one song, just working on four different guitar parts.
I always think to myself, I wonder if other bands have better guitar players that they can get that stuff done in a few go’s. That’s just how long it takes us; it’s about whether the part is right. The more you can get the guitar sound that’s straight to the mic and straight to the desk and straight onto ProTools or whatever you’re using, the less you have to mix it.
We always really try to get the sound right at the source and I think that’s what makes Soho records so sonically interesting, that the sound arises from the source and isn’t over-processed after the fact. So you get a really natural amp sound and drum sound. So we just take a lot of time in the studio.
MF: How do you know when a track is finished?
LB: It’s literally just waiting until it feels right, in your gut. Ok Cathedral off Hungry Ghost is a good example, it was the same process. We spent three days on guitars, and I kept saying that I’ve got another idea and another idea, and we played around with three ideas and the got rid of two of them.
At one point we played it back just to see where we were, and then the whole thing sounded awesome. That was it. It just didn’t need anything else. I said ‘oh, this is it’. Your gut tells you that is a finished song. Any other element would be messing it up.
MF: Like Soda came in at number 15 in triple j’s hottest 100 last year. What was the band’s reaction and how does it feel to know that thousands of Aussies voted for you?
LB: How does it feel? We feel extremely grateful and appreciative. The first thing I felt was that these people are awesome, these fans. When we first had that song the guys were saying it should be a single and I was not a fan of the idea. I thought it wasn’t a strong enough song, there was no way it would do well. But that’s why you’re in a band, sometimes you need other people to go ‘nah dude its good’.
I was blown away when it got #15; I had no expectation of it getting top 50. Because it didn’t even have an album, so my thoughts were why would you vote for it there’s not even an album, it’s just a single. Then the video ended up being way better than we thought it was going to be, so that helped it along. I was just so grateful that there are these awesome people out there who like this time of music in this day and age, and a lot of them are kids as well which is just awesome.
We just got good vibes from knowing there’s a lot of people out there appreciating our music, and this little idea that starts in your head in your bedroom when you’re playing guitar, which then goes out to thousands of people and they can relate to it.
MF: I’ve got to ask you about the video clip for Like Soda (above). It’s like some sort of version of Crackerjack on steroids with ride-on scooters and hoverboards. Tell us how it came together?
LB: There was actually a bowls club across the road from the studio. James (Tidswell) and (Luke) Henery had beers there with lunch just because it was close, and they said we’ve got this idea for a film clip. We can actually just do it at the bowls club, as Soho in the future at a bowls club. We just laughed our heads off because we had spent weeks watching this bowls club with these old people going about their day as we recorded. And considering the song kind of had that vibe already it just suited perfectly.
When we pitched it we thought that this might be overdoing it, it might come out just so bad. I remember when myself and James were getting our old person makeup put on and just laughing going ‘what the fuck are we doing’. This might be a disaster, what if we just look stupid, and when we first saw it we immediately knew it was going to be awesome. We were just really stoked that it worked out.
MF: I guess having such a successful video would’ve increased the amount of people actually listening to the song as well, given that it has almost 300 thousand views now…
LB: Yeah, that’s the sign of a good video. I wasn’t even a big fan of the song before, and it’s great to get a video out there that gets shared so much like that just to really pump the song up. Just to give the song more grounding and context, so it was great how it all turned out.
MF: You guys have a huge tour coming up next month, tickets for the first lot of shows sold out in a couple of days, were you surprised at how positive the response was?
LB: I was surprised at the speed of it. I was hoping that due to the reaction to Like Soda that it would sell well so I wasn’t thinking it was going to fail or anything, but I was surprised at how fast the tickets went straight up. And then there’s the whole scalping thing, you’ve got people selling the same tickets for hugely jacked up prices…
MF: So how did that come to your attention in the first place?
LB: Our manager found all these tickets on the resale pages and just said to us ‘this sucks that there are all these people missing out on tickets because of these scalpers’. Just by looking at the resale page on Ticketmaster we could see, so it’s legal, so someone saw it and tipped off our manager. So we began to see that this was an issue, there were a lot of these overpriced tickets.
When the tickets were selling that quickly we kind of knew then as well, that there’ll either be people with 12 tickets in a cart and they’re filling out their information so others buying two will miss out if they don’t get through quickly enough. It’s so frustrating knowing there are people who aren’t even coming to the show, knowing that the tickets will be popular, who just jump on there to turn it into a money-making exercise.
It’s infuriating because we put so much effort into keeping our price down, because the bigger the rooms get the more expensive the shows get with more people needed to run a room. We’re trying to keep it affordable for people and others miss out because some dickhead got there first. We tried to avoid the same thing with the next round of shows; we limited tickets to four per person, per sale. So hopefully that might have curbed it a bit. But we’d just never run into this problem before.
The Hungry Ghost tour sold pretty quick but it wasn’t much of an issue because there were more venues and cheaper tickets anyway. So it probably didn’t attract the scalpers because they weren’t going to make heaps of money from it because the tickets were $30 not $55.
MF: When you guys made a Facebook post about the whole scalping issue it went viral in a matter of days and was covered by a huge range of news outlets. You seem to have become a bit of an example of standing up for this issue…
LB: We were just doing that in an effort to do something, and stick up for the people who missed out on tickets. We didn’t expect the response, the Herald and News.com.au ran the story the next day and it got picked up. They actually wrote about how it was highlighting an issue in legislation and that more bands should do this, more bands should complain in an effort to bring it to the attention of someone who can actually do something about it.
I understand that people have a right to sell tickets. I’ve bought a ticket before and I forgot, then I had to work or something so sold it to a mate for the same price. People should still have a legal right to do that, but how do you draw the line with scalpers, and that’s where it gets tricky with the law. Or maybe they should just flat out not allow resale, and if you don’t go to the show it’s your problem, I don’t know.