A three-year hiatus might be just what Grinspoon needed. Having taken a breather and collectively regrouped, they’re ready for round seven, and just quietly, so are the rest of us.
Grinspoon have recently returned from the States with a brand new album in tow, and drummer Kris Hopes is confident they’ve once again concocted a winning formula.
“This is our seventh album and you can kind of lose your way as you come through as a band and I think every couple of albums you need a refresher. I think this is the one for us,” he says.
The last 12 months of their sojourn has been spent perfecting ‘Black Rabbits’, an album which Hopes says is more “produced” than any of Grinspoon’s previous works.
Sonically, they’ve taken us on a bit of a ride in the past, with tunes like ‘Chemical Heart’ exposing Grinspoon’s musical vulnerability, while their last album, ‘Six To Midnight’, channelled rock in its purest form. This time, when the record is released in September, they’ll reveal something a little different once again.
“There’s definitely been a lot more time and thought put into the songs and into the production. The last album we did, the songs weren’t styled or suited to be produced, it was more a raw rock record, and we recorded that one all live and that’s kind of what suited the songs, but this one we’ve gone a bit more produced. We did it in Hollywood with a sort of big producer called Dave Schiffman, and he’s done a lot with the Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine, and that was the kind of producer we were after for these songs.”
In true Grinspoon fashion, ‘Black Rabbits’ peels back another layer of the band’s enigmatic songwriting approach.
“We’ve just changed again, we’ve morphed a little bit. Back in the day when we released ‘Chemical Heart’, that was a change for us, and our fans, and I think we’ve turned another corner again. We try to evolve and stay cool as a band, and I think we’ve achieved that, and everyone’s heart’s in it, which is the main thing.
“Pat [Davern, guitarist] has written most of this album. He sort of locked himself away and came out with a bunch of tunes that all kind of fit together, so we kind of ran with most of them.”
Surely with an enviable back catalogue of records, there’s just a bit of pressure for Grinspoon to punch out another successful studio album?
“I think there always is,” Hopes says. “We release an album and that either works for us or not, and we go back and usually write a rock record and then we come out with another kind of good album. It just seems to be our track record so far. It’s kind of weird, I think a lot of bands kind of do that. You try and reinvent yourself so that you are still current and out there for a good time.”
While they’re still out for a “good time”, Grinspoon have ridden a public wave of ups and downs over their illustrious music career. Who can blame them after 17 years? Hopes admits their group dynamics have certainly evolved as the band has matured, but after so long together, Grinspoon have had time to iron out any indifferences.
“It’s definitely shifted for the good,” Hopes says. “Back in the day with the first couple of albums, everyone’s kind of fighting to find their own personality on the road, on stage and being a band member, and that was all nutted out with us within the first five to ten years. Now we all have a good relationship with each other and it makes it so much easier to be in a band together when you like what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it with.”
While Grinspoon’s longevity is an obvious reflection of their work ethic and commitment to the craft, many bands haven’t had such luck. But Grinspoon aren’t ones to take their privileged position within the Australian music scene for granted.
“A lot of bands that we’ve seen break up along the way, and even bands that are still together, there’s not a lot of harmony in some of them, but it’s just stages of life that you have to go through and work out yourself and work out your position in the band. Some people never end up happy with what they work out, but lucky for us it’s just panned out that we are still all friends and we like being in this band, and doing our thing.”
With a career spanning almost two decades, Grinspoon know better than most how much the Australian music landscape has transformed. Despite being amongst it all, they’ve never really felt compelled to conform to society’s expectations, and even now, don’t feel the pinch to be a “cool” rock band.
“We’ve never been a fashionable band, I think if we were a fashionable band we would have not had the career that we’ve had so far. We just do what we do and we hope people like it. We’re obviously out making music and touring so people buy it and people enjoy it. So we do want people to like our music and come to our shows but we do it for us and we put it out there and just hope for the best.”
The break has seen Grinspoon finetune their live gigs, and Hopes says when they hit the road again, expect a “change up” from the last three years. Fans will have a chance to decipher what that means when Grinspoon join Spiderbait at the Monster Energy Festival, a high octane event which sees motocross and rock n roll join forces for a night in Brisbane’s ‘burbs.
Hopes is especially thrilled to be apart of the Eatons Hill Hotel gig, mainly because it’s on his doorstep, but also because it means they get to play to a diverse crowd.
“The funny thing is, it’s just up the road from my house, which is great! I only live five minutes away, so that’s pretty cool for me. There’s gonna be motorbikes and all sorts of action sports going on, it’s just going to be one of those rock out kind of days.
“We play to different crowds all the time, you go to the inner suburbs of Sydney and are playing to all the cool hipsters and whatever and you go to the suburbs where I live and you’re playing to some metal bogans sometimes,” Hopes jokes, “but we love them all and we hope they love us because we’ve always played everywhere and the more people who can relate to our music the better.”
Grinspoon play the Monster Energy FMX Show at Eatons Hill Hotel Saturday August 25. ‘Black Rabbits’ is set for release in September.