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Sound Waves: In Conversation with Springtime’s Gareth Liddiard and Jim White

The Tropical Fuckstorm singer and Dirty Three drummer talk to us about their fantastic new collaboration.

The word legend, like love, hate, and amazing, is bandied about far too often.

However, after careful consideration, trying to come up with a different word other than legend is near impossible when referring to Jim White, Chris Abrahams and Gareth Liddiard. Whether true or not, the fact remains that White, Abrahams, and Liddiard are among the most important voices in the Australian cultural landscape; if that’s not legendary enough, then I’m not sure what is.

In terms of songcraft and polemic discourse, no one spins a yarn better than Liddiard. Having vapourised audiences over the past two decades; firstly with mind-warping hell-raisers, The Drones, and more recently as a part of proto-rock behemoth Tropical Fuck Storm (who earlier this year released their third album, Deep States), Liddiard is one of the most vital creative voices in music today.

Then there is White of the simply glorious Dirty Three. In many ways, White’s drumming has underpinned the beauty and grandeur for one of the most original acts to ever derive from Australian shores.

White and Liddiard are joined by the equally esteemed Chris Abrahams of improv’ jazz luminaries, The Necks. Like White, Abrahams has collaborated with a wide range of artists, most recently releasing the second album with doom jazz ensemble, The Still. Like his compositions with The Necks, Abrahams’ ability to brush across the ivories contains an emotional pull like no other.

Together they form Springtime.

Prior to one of the many state lockdowns that continues to hinder their homeland, Springtime played two shows before it was announced that they would release their self-titled debut album.  

Springtime is exactly what one would expect when merging the sound worlds that these musicians have spent decades creating, inhabiting, and refining.

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With Springtime, White’s butcher-blade percussion slices through Liddiard’s feral diatribes and Abrahams dark polluted keys. It’s a wonderful combination of three original voices, and while the term ‘supergroup’ is sometimes seen as a dirty term, that’s not the case here. It’s one of the finest collaborations since I can remember and one that hits every single target.

The opening stanza and lead single, Will To Power, is a bourgeoning rally cry with the contaminated digital age firmly in Liddiard’s ire. Dragging humanity over the hot coals, there’s no one better to project such a vitriolic sermon.

Later, Abrahams’ keys and White’s fractured percussion pacify Liddiard’s rancorous spirit on the covers of traditional Irish folk song, She Moved Through the Fair, and Palace Music’s West Palm Beach.

Liddiard’s cavalier flourish returns on Jeanie in A Bottle. Featuring TFS counterpart Fiona Kitschin on backing vocals, Jeanie in A Bottle is arguably the shiniest jewel from this crown.

While Abrahams and White continue to produce high-watermark moments (Abrahams’ keys on The Viaduct Love Suicide that forever sway in the shadows; White’s hypnotic, crumpled rhythms during The Island), Liddard spits out one last mouthful of broken glass with The Killing of the Village Idiot.

Like prose that drips off the page, this songs contains the same withering intensity as The DronesWhy Write a Letter That You’ll Never Send and Liddiard’s solo lament, The Radicalisation of D. With Liddiard’s rabid howls and heaving riffs roaring above the maelstrom, he is almost outdone by White’s mutant assault from behind the kit, which draws the curtains on this stunning affair.

Springtime epitomises everything that a collaboration is supposed to be. A boiling surge of musicianship where, individually, each artist produces an equally mesmerising performance.

Initially, Liddiard was the only member of Springtime set for this discussion, but at the eleventh hour, from his temporary Melbourne residence, Jim White – not one to generally frequent interviews – joined us over Zoom, jokingly declaring that he would “take the minutes”.

Springtime

Sun 13: I imagine each of you would have crossed paths over the years, but how exactly did this collaboration materialise?

Gareth Liddiard: “Jim came back to Australia from Brooklyn, I think mainly because of COVID, and then he sort of got stuck here, and then we were both in the same boat slowly going broke. So I asked him if he wanted to do any gigs – just me and him – and then he said, ‘Yeah’.

“We’ve been acquaintances for, fuck knows, almost 20 years; just because we used to do a lot of festivals together, Dirty Three and my old band [The Drones] played together a bit. Then, I guess it was my idea to get Chris. I’d played with Chris in… you know, the Triffids?”

S13: Yeah.

GL: “They were doing a lot of reformation gigs, and they’d get me to sing and get Chris to play piano, so I met him there. It was the first time I played with a proper virtuosic piano player. I played with really good piano players that could play fucking Rod Stewart, and The Rolling Stones, and all that Boogie Woogie shit, but never played with a proper jazz player, so I thought that’d be fun. I asked Jim and he was into it, and Jim and me played a few shows just together before that, and then Chris came on board. We didn’t know what was gonna happen. We just did it.”

Jim White: “I knew Chris a little bit for many years, just seeing him play every now and then with The Necks, and knew him from some records before that from the Laughing Clowns and stuff. I just knew him to say hello to after shows. I’d sometimes see him at our shows and didn’t really exchange more than a word or two over the years.

“I knew Gareth’s stuff. Xylouris White and Tropical Fuck Storm did a show together a couple years ago that I really loved. Actually, when COVID came I was on tour with Xylouris White, and then kind of got trapped here and then had some family shit going on, so I stayed over here and ended up locked up.”

S13: How are you finding lockdown, Gaz? Jim said he was in the city but you’re out in Nagambie . I’m guessing you’ve got a lot of open space, which is probably a lot better than being in the metropolitan areas of the country?

GL: “Yeah, it’s heaps better. But still, you know, me and TFS, and The Drones, the last 20 years we just toured and toured and toured. And the only time we weren’t touring was resting from touring. So it’s weird to be back home and stuck. I’ve got habits and those habits are playing all the time, so it’s very odd. It’s just this really novel version of… depression is the wrong word; completely wrong word, but just this sort of a lack of motivation and any kind of get up and go.

“I always hoped that if there was a fuckin’ worldwide apocalypse, it would be more action packed. I’ve always been a fan of World War Two and stuff. I was sort of hoping for something more like that.”

(All Laugh)

GL: “It’s just an extremely bad virus. So yeah, it’s affected me. I mean, look, it’s affected everybody. It’s just been a drag. I mean, Jim’s in the city and, Jim, you’ve lived in New York for fucking how long, like ages?”

JW: “25 years or something.”

GL: “How are you feeling being back in a small town?”

JW: “The first few months was kind of interesting not playing, like not playing at all. That was quite enjoyable.”

GL: “You liked it?”

JW: “Well, yeah, ’cos my dad fell over on the day the show that was cancelled or the shows were cancelled. So I just got busy looking after him; that was up the country, that was nice. But then when that finished, when I didn’t need to do that anymore, I was like, ‘Yeah that’s pretty [good]’. I didn’t play for quite a while until one of the really heavy lockdowns where I got the microphones and thought, ‘I’ll have a go at learning how to record’. And then not playing until we did that show in Castlemaine.”

GL: “Fuck, that’s a long time.”

JW: “Yeah, that’s the longest I haven’t played since playing drums. It’s got some good aspects, but ultimately the lockdowns and everything it’s just become… it’s very boring. It’s like Gareth was saying, the concentration and, like, everyone in the world is feeling it, I guess. There was one where it just felt really… it was like winter and there was a curfew and I sort of got down and did stuff. But then once it wore out that energy, it was kind of difficult. It was obvious. I guess we should have known; it’s being going on a bit longer. I don’t know, Melbourne’s, like, brutalised. “

GL: “It really is.”

JW: “Not COVID, but for mental health.”

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S13: You’ve all collaborated over the years. Jim, especially with artists like Marisa Anderson, and obviously Xylouris White. Chris did an album earlier this year with The Still. Does your approach differ when you collaborate with different artists?

JW: “I always think… to really get to that question, you’d probably have to say [that] it’s different. I feel like we were starting the band from scratch, you know what I mean? Like, ‘Let’s try this out and see what it is’. But yeah, some collaborations have a real… I did a record with Nina Nastasia which had a definite… we’d worked together before, and this is going to be like, ‘This is our method’. I presented it as a methodology, and we did it and carried it out and completed it. But that was kind of a known quantity, in a way.

“With Marisa, we just went in the studio and we improvised, and then we made a record out of the improvisations. We didn’t try to learn the piece and then repeat it. We didn’t do shows because of COVID, so we were actually about to start working out how that meant live, because we didn’t want to go and play the record. Like, we could have said, ‘They are songs we made up, now we’re going to learn them and to redo them’. But we didn’t, that wasn’t the approach. So each one’s different. It’s always different, I think.

“This one, I don’t know what you thought, but I thought it was pretty wide open. I thought it’d be really fun to find out what we were going to do, but I didn’t go in there with an agenda of how the music should be. Did you, Gareth?”

GL: “Yeah, neither did I. As three people, we couldn’t even decide where to go for dinner.”

(All laugh)

GL: “We’re were like, ‘What do we feel like tonight? I don’t know, what do you feel like? I don’t know what do you feel like?’ And the music is very similar, so it was a good idea that we rehearsed for five days together. Then we planned ahead and booked two shows in Melbourne, which actually, in hindsight, was a great idea because it forces you to make decisions. So we played two gigs before we recorded and that really helped, because everyone’s had a lot of experience playing music and no one’s trying to win a prize or fucking win the race, you know?”

S13: Yeah.

GL: “No one’s got anything to prove, so everyone’s pretty much doing the right thing. We’re not like young tackers who are.. I’m not trying to play a fucking shredding guitar solo to impress anybody, and neither is Jim and Chris.

“It’s surprising, some of the songs really kind of sound a lot like you would have imagined because we’re kind of democratic. It does sound a lot like if you got The Necks, and Dirty Three, and The Drones, or Tropical Fuck Storm. It was just a real fucking casual thing and we just let it happen and it seemed to happen.”

Springtime

S13: It’s funny you mention democratic. I hate using the term supergroup, but this is the most democratic kind of record that I’ve heard in a collaboration sense for a long time. In saying that the track that jumped out at me was She Moved Through the Fair and I feel like Chris and Jim’s influence really drew that one out of you, Gareth. On the flipside, I would say that The Killing of the Village Idiot is one that you lead and push Jim and Chris into. I guess that’s probably going happen with a collaboration like this?

GL: “Yeah, it swings back and forwards. She Moved Through the Fair. That’s a really old song that’s like, fuck knows, 150 years old, or something. It’s an old Irish song. I like to, you know, get like a Lead Belly song, or a flamenco song and I’ll try and learn it and you can never learn it right. You always come out with an interesting result. I’m not a flamenco guitar player or a blues guitar player. When I tried to learn She Moved Through the Fair, just on an acoustic guitar, and came up with a few weird ways to position the chords and voice ’em. And it’s great with Chris… it’s tech talk, but it’s like, you can have an E minor chord, say, and there’s a million ways to voice it. Chris is great at making it into a million different things. So yeah, it worked really well, and I thought that was really good. And then Jim’s always had the classic… you know, there’s that great Dirty Three thing from years back with Low.”

S13: In The Fish Tank?

GL: “Yeah, yeah. I mean, when I was little, after high school, when Dirty Three emerged, I was bang onto it, you know? So I’ve always listened to Jim. And it’s really handy to have Chris. My whole thing with the project, my only concern was, ‘How am I going to sing over two really great instrumental bands?’ Dirty Three are a huge influence on my lyrics, weirdly enough, because fucking… when I heard that, I was always into Bob Dylan and… I don’t know, any old good songwriting. With Dirty Three you just went, ‘Well you don’t need to sing, do you? You don’t need to have words’. So if you’re going do it, you might as well make it good and sort of weaponize it the way Hendrix weaponized guitar, or otherwise why fucking bother? So that was my only concern with the whole thing. ‘How am I going to sing over this shit?’

“But it worked out really good. Jim and Chris have played with enough people who do sing and they know how to play behind a singer, which is harder than it sounds. You’ve got to bounce around with the vocals. You know, like those subtitles with the bouncing ball when you’ve got a song. You know the old videos?”

JW: (Laughs) “Yeah.”

GL: “That’s Jim’s job, to be that bouncing ball.”

S13: It’s funny you mention Low there because She Moved Through the Fair kind of has that Low vibe. They could maybe do this in their own sort of way. It’s occupied in that same world.  

GL: “Yeah, yeah. I love Low or Bill Callahan, Silver Jews, Palace Music. That was when I was late teens and early ’20s. I’m usually down with all that shit.”

S13: Talking about Palace Music. West Palm Beach is recorded so well that if it wasn’t for the crowd prior to and after the song, you wouldn’t know it was a live recording. Did you guys ever think of actually recording that, or was it a conscious decision early on to run with this?

JW: (Laughs)

GL: “Why are you laughing, what’s that about? Well, I just thought my vocals were lacklustre in the studio. Sometimes it’s hard to sing. I just felt like I had a rod up my arse when I sang that one.”

JW: “We recorded the show, and we liked how it sounded.”

GL: “Sometimes, singing in the studio, you’re meant to be singing with feeling and sometimes you can’t, you know? I don’t think I quite nailed it in the studio. You guys were great when we recorded it here, but I just… when you’re trying to do a fucking Will Oldham song… Will sings like he’s laughing or crying, it never sounds fake, it’s always genuine, so I needed to step up to that. The live version sounds like that. I felt like… it was this spirited performance as something like Will would do.”

JW: “I think the time we had limited the way we did it all. [It] really worked well in terms of choice and getting somewhere quickly and that was it. I mean, I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been bad if we had more time, but I like how it is. I always try to not play like myself. I’m trying to get rid of a bunch of the shit, but then when you’ve got to talk about time you just have to get somewhere. You’ve got to play the show, you’ve got to make the record.”

S13: So it’s like first thought best thought in many respects?

GL: “Yeah. And that doesn’t work with all musicians, either. Some musicians, you need to work ’em like a borrowed horse, until they get it right. But not with Jim and Chris. If you’re talking about a first take band, they are the guys I’d choose.”

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S13: I saw The Necks at Primavera in 2019. They were the first act we saw at the whole festival and it was almost like we didn’t need to see anyone else. It was just this utopian 45 minute composition. The virtuoso was next level.

GL: “Yeah, it’s very different. His world is very different to the one I come from. It’s so amazing. It’s fascinating to do one thing and that’s it. It’s like, ‘Wow, okay’. It’s a completely different psychology. It’s really cool.”

JW: “Like I was saying before, you really wouldn’t want to make… like Gareth was saying, it sounds like Dirty Three, The Necks, The Drones, or Tropical Fuck Storm. You wouldn’t really think that would work. I don’t know if it does or not, to be honest, but that probably would have happened, because we might have got rid of that, but you’re just trying to move on with it.”

GL: “Yeah. But I mean at the same time, if you think about anyone you like, musically, they always have their voice. Whether it’s an actual human voice or a trumpet or drum kit. All the interesting people, all the interesting bands, they’re all very singular.”

JW: “Yeah. They’re all themselves. I mean, I’m trying to get rid of all this lyrical drumming shit going on in phases. Still, even when I try to get rid of it, it still sounds like me, or whatever.”

GL: “Too late, man. Just embrace it.”

JW: “Get rid of what you can.”

S13: But on the flipside to that, when you hear your drums, you actually know it’s your drumming. So I guess that could be the greatest compliment?

JW: “Sure. But even if I’ll get rid of that stuff. I mean, unfortunately, I will still sound like me. It might have been better or worse, you know?” (laughs)

GL: “Yeah. I think that’s why Dirty Three… having seen him live fucking 50 times… I mean, that’s one thing. And it’s like Tim Pittman said, Jim. I think he said something like, ‘I didn’t see Fugazi or Hendrix but I saw Dirty Three‘. That’s really true, but then like, with Dirty Three there’s Mick [Turner], Warren [Ellis], and you, [who] are all really singular. It’s a three piece and I can’t think of any other bands where everyone is that idiosyncratic. You know, there’s Jimi Hendrix Experience, but the fucking bass player is the bass player; it doesn’t matter who that fucking guy is.”

JW: (Laughs)

GL: “You know what I mean? There’s, like, The Birthday Party. Mick Harvey’s great, but he’s not idiosyncratic like Mick Turner. That’s what makes really good bands. Suicide’s perfect; there’s only two of them, but Marty Rev and Alan Vega, they’re just the two most original sounding fuckers you’ll ever hear, but that’s what makes it cool.”

Springtime - Springtime

S13: Reading about the inspiration behind Will To Power and people’s constant need to want to do more in such a short space of time. How much do you think social media has to do with the cause of people changing with this attitude? People just wanting everything now without having to work for it, basically.

GL: “That’s a good point. I mean, that’s the context that that kind of concept is put into; that will to power. It’s one thing. If you want to build a fucking steam powered locomotive, that’s cool. But with this fucking technology, and everything’s really fast and that will the power has gone into overdrive, and it’s just ridiculous. There’s a Nietzschean element to it, but I’m not big into philosophy, or any shit like that. It’s just everyone’s doing, doing, doing and no one’s stopping.

“I’ve got dogs and I just watch them eat, play and then relax and they don’t have any anxiety when they relax. They have their own anxieties, but if they have a nap at 11am or if they have a nap at fucking 3pm, they’re not sitting there thinking, ‘Fuck, should be doing something?’ They’re not getting emails from cunts giving them guilt trips about not replying.”

JW: (Laughs)

GL: “Do you get that feeling, Jim? My friend Dan calls it leisure panic – where you’re trying to relax, but then you get this anxiety? I hate it, I get it all the time. In that song, there’s a litany of fuckwits in the choruses, I guess. Like, deadbeat hell spawn riding coattails, like, Trump’s kids or anyone else in power who got it via nepotism. I think that was the first song we made up when we were rehearsing.”

S13: Ian Duhig collaborated on Viaduct Love Suicide and Jeanie In A Bottle. I didn’t know he was your uncle, Gareth. Has he worked on songs with you before?

GL: “Never. I mean, he’s come to shows, every time we’re in Leeds, where he lives, we visit him. I’ve known him since I can remember. He’s very intimidating in a intellectual sense, even though he’s really funny. I think he’s one of the only capital G geniuses I’ve met. This particular thing with Springtime, because of the pandemic, there was a window where we could get Chris down to work with us, and I just finished the TFS record, so I didn’t have a huge amount of lyrics in the spare parts department. So I thought, ‘Fuck, what am I gonna do? Oh yeah, my uncle’. So I just asked him if he’s got anything that would work lyrically.

“He does poetry that’s almost beyond recognition where you just go, ‘What the fuck are you on about?’ You know, Seamus Heaney type stuff. Really heavy. I said, ‘Have you got anything that is lyrical, anything that rolls out in any kind of musical scale?’ And he sent a few things and they wound up on there. He sent a lot more, [but] I didn’t get through trawling them all. So it was basically because I just didn’t have enough time to write a ton of words, and then I just went, ‘Shit. I got this great uncle, great resource’.

“He’s showed me so much over the years. Great writers, great books. He’s stopped me wasting time looking for certain things. When I was early ’20s he said, ‘What are you into? Just tell me? What dumb shit are you into?’ and I said, ‘Bla bla bla bla’, and then he just gave me all this stuff that I inevitably would have found, but it would’ve taken decades. So yeah, he’s fuckin’ awesome. Just sitting down watching TV with him, it’s intense. He’s so funny and brilliantly insightful.

“He’s an Irish immigrant, or first generation Irish immigrant. He had about, like, thirteen siblings. He’s always worked in the NHS. He met my aunt because she was getting mugged by a couple of junkies in a rehab joint and he came in and beat the shit out of ’em. That’s how they met. It’s amazing, like, he’s met the Queen, the Queen wanted to meet him because of his poetry. He’s been around, man. He writes to The Irish Times.

JW: “Columns of poetry?”

GL: “No. He writes about anything, really. I mean, he would write what they now call opinion pieces; guys like Flann O’Brien, who’s just one of the greatest of all time, was writing for The Irish Times. So now Ian does that occasionally. And you know, poets aren’t very famous these days; obviously because of Wu Tang Clan.”

JW: “Have you seen Road?”

GL: “The movie?

JW: “It was a play. It was like one of those Sunday afternoon plays. In England they call it, like, a kitchen sink drama. I saw it a few years ago and really love it. It’s something like Alan Clark directed. Anyway, I don’t know, he probably would like it. It sort of reminded me a little something like that. It’s a guy going through some town in the Midlands just doing a monologue in these fucking burnt out buildings and it’s fucking amazing. Written by Jim Cartwright.”

GL: “Ian knows all people like that. Seamus Heaney. He saw, not Saul Bellow. I think Ian went to Trinity or at least went to the dole office near there, and saw Samuel Beckett in a dole queue. He’s been around. He would know what you’re talking about because he knows everything.

“He showed me a human skull when I was like, fucking four. I can remember it. When we were in England, in the Midlands, we visited him and my aunt in their farmhouse, and he’d just been out in the field that day and dug up this human skull, and was like, ‘Check this shit out’. I think he had to hand into the cops later.”

S13: How much does Nagambie and the landscape that surrounds you influence your work?

GL: “I’ve lived in the country for 15 years, so I don’t know. It’s a nice place to record, for… when you’re talking pragmatic stuff. It’s a good place to hang out and record and Jim’s dad lives nearby. I don’t know, I just work, work, work, to write, write, write. I haven’t been to a real recording studio for fucking 15 years or so. Jim, you’re always in ’em. If you look up there [pointing behind], we scored a Steinway grand piano off a neighbour who was moving house and needed somewhere to store in the interim. He’s a rich guy and we would never be able to have that, so Chris played that. We’re very lucky. It’s all serendipity.”

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S13: Do you remember your main creative challenges when you started writing music and have those creative challenges from the beginning changed as you’ve got older and made more records?

GL: “Jim, I hear that you used to go to People With Chairs Up Their Noses gigs and just pick up shit on the side of the road and then play that onstage. Is that true?”

JW: “Yeah. It got formalised after a while. I had a favourite ironing board and had this nice little drum that someone picked up, like a little tin can drum kit and a letterbox. It was really bad and really hurt your hands, it was so fucking metal – it jarred your hands every time you hit it. But yeah, different challenges (laughs).

“I don’t know, I’m thinking maybe the first band, Venom P. Stinger, it was pretty different. We probably had a lot of stuff, like coming in with an idea and really wanting to get that across more deliberately rather than letting it all sort of melt. Starting with that and then knowing when to move on and let it develop, you know what I mean?”

S13: Yeah.

JW: “Then after a time it’s probably like… what I was saying before, trying to get rid of all that shit, trying to get rid of some of your characteristics and stuff.” (laughs)

S13: What about you, Gareth?

GL: “Well, a bit like Jim. For want of a better word, I didn’t do any formal stuff at the start – I didn’t expect to be a musician. I didn’t have any plans, and so I didn’t learn any kind of classic things like song structure, or even chords or any shit. You’d get stoned, and music sounds amazing, whether it’s Pink Floyd or something you’ve got in your house, like Jim, you know, hitting a tin can, or something.

“So I was just curious about music, and then you get this weird… like a decade of re-wiring keyboards, and just doing everything wrong with equipment before I ever came across anyone who taught me how to put that into a song structure and taught me the importance of a song structure, which is kind of what Jim was getting at. You’ve learned your language, and you’ve got your vocabulary, but now it’s time to form sentences. Then paragraphs, obviously. It’s weird, like an alchemy, you know? In that sense, the way I would approach it, I think the way Jim would approach, too, where it’s more intuitive. Experience teaches you whether something’s working or not, and you learn that.

“Music is essentially this thing you do with sound waves through the air, and they hit people in a room and you learn. You learn the hard way, whether or not those sound waves are kind of moving those people. Again blokes like Jim with Dirty Three, when you really hit it, you were like, 30, or 32?

JW: “Yeah.”

GL: “When we finally got good, with The Drones, when we got good at what we were doing, I would have been around the same age, like maybe 29. So in a sense, you would say, ‘Well, slow learners’. We’re not the fucking MC5 that broke up when everyone was 21, but at same time, we’ve done so much weird experimentation and learning our own language prior to that, and finally someone would tell you, ‘Well no, do this there and do that there, then shut the fuck up in that bit, then crescendo there’. And then you go, ‘Okay, well, I can do all that. I just never knew I had to do it in that order’. So it’s like that. I’ve never had any formal training. I don’t think Jim’s had much formal training. That’s something he and I have in common.”

Springtime (photo credit: Jamie Wdziekonski)

S13: I was reading a Dirty Three interview from the 90s and it sounded like you were just having a great time, loading the car every Friday night, going to a gig and then there was the carnage in between.

JW: “Yeah Dirty Three just worked from the start, Mick and I had been playing for years already.”

S13: Was Mick involved in a Busload Of Faith?

JW: “No, Venom P. Stinger. Warren and I were in Busload Of Faith. When I first met Warren we were in, like, five bands together but then we started Dirty Three and it just worked. Just go down the pub and play and get drunk, you know? And then I realised that it was pretty good. It was good fun and was sounding really good. Then [it was] sort of like, ‘Don’t try and fuck with that too directly’. If you look at your music over your whole life, a lot of it’s having an intention and then getting rid of it. Then it comes back in again. But if you didn’t have it in the first place, then it wouldn’t have been the same when you let it go.”

S13: Yeah, I remember seeing The Drones around 2005 or 2006, and they were pretty much doing the same. It seemed like they were just having fun. Whilst different eras, both bands just launched into a wider sphere, where touring around the world became a regular thing.

JW: “You sort of knew that if you travelled around, you’d get good because you’re playing all the time. The whole day is spent just fucking getting somewhere, so you better go for it, which we did.

“There’s another whole thing just talking about shit. You know, it’s so weird to talk about stuff. You might be good at creating some space to play some music and whatever, but then you’ve got to talk about it. I mean, fucking hell, it’s dangerous. And so for years, I wouldn’t interview, because Warren’s outgoing, gregarious, and charming. He can talk about whatever, and not just make up this stuff.

“At some point it’s good to engage and try and think about it in different ways and talk about it. But you know, I’m just saying, the conscious deliberation about the things is interesting, but it’s a different activity.”

GL: “Yeah, sometimes it’s pointless, because once you get up to do your thing all that doesn’t fucking matter in the heat of the moment. The best thing you can do is find people who are like-minded, the same kind of species. That’s the best thing you can do. It’s like with Tropical Fuck Storm, the girls, Erica [Dunn TFS guitarist/synths/ vocalist] and Lauren [HammelTFS drummer/vocalist] are the same species. That was the only idea of getting them on board. They’re just into anything that’s good; they know the difference between fake shit and real shit, but then they needed to be saved. Like they needed to be vetted by us, in a sense, me and Fi [KitschinTFS bassist/vocalist] who are a bit older.

“But then with Jim and Chris, they don’t need to vet in that sense, because it’s in the music. I’m way more versed on what you do, Jim, than vice versa, because I’m the younger guy, and I grew up with you and with everything you did. I can tell – I mean, fuck, we come from the same space, because, in a lot of sense, I’m copying a lot of shit that you’ve done. It’s not just being the same species. And talk is great, it can be something you do when you’ve got a quiet time, and it’s nice to talk about your favourite fucking new record, or whatever, but it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It’s how you’re going to respond to each other onstage. And onstage is the best.

“It becomes so sharp, you become so attuned to each other’s thing, and for about listening as much as you’re playing. That thing where you can listen and play simultaneously, and the people who don’t know that just aren’t very fucking good, and they could be people who have been taught at Juilliard or not, it doesn’t matter. People I know who’ve come from Newcastle playing in some grimy little punk band like Lauren who’s just incredibly intuitive and a great listener and knows how music works and how alchemy works.

“With Jim and Chris it’s that, because they’ve got fucking years on me with experience, and they’ve got years on me with instinct and stuff. If you’re not born with it, if it’s not congenital, not generic and yet in the first three years of your life, somebody somewhere put the right record on, or something happened to you that opened up an emotional door that helped with that and then off you go. Music’s pretty fucking weird. It’s weird how sound waves can do what they do because they don’t do it to my dogs, you know I mean? But it does it to humans.”

Smoke Bellow interview: “Making music is primarily a vehicle to allow us to engage in the conversation”

S13: In a similar context, I guess it’s just like looking at a piece of art?

GL: “Yeah. With art, a dog can lick its balls and that’s why it licks its balls, you know? With art, we know about sentience, existential stuff, we know all that shit. And that’s why we do art, because we can.

“What do you reckon, Jim? Why are you not just the drummer in the cover band than an actual artist? I’m going to interview Jim now.”

S13: Cool!

JW: “Why do I play the drums? I just play the drums, right?”

GL: “Why is that? No, no. But you’re an actual artist that drums. Like, Jimi Hendrix, or Karen Dalton; why are you more like that than Eric Clapton or some shit singer? What made you what you are? Why is it your full time job and a very artistic one?”

(All laugh)

JW: “I’m not into the whole artistic/non-artistic divide. Maybe that’s wrong? I don’t know.”

GL: “Yeah, I know why, but is that humility saying that? It’s the alchemy of the whole fucking thing. It’s like I was talking about Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown’s drummer. He just plays by himself and it’s enough, he doesn’t need a band”

JW: “Yeah, it’s so beautiful.”

GL: “Yeah, it’s more than just the sum of its parts. It’s more than just maths. It’s where you go, ‘Holy shit, that’s an artist!’ Like the way Picasso does it.”

JW: “We don’t know why things move, you know?”

GL: “Yeah, the alchemy, suddenly it works.”

JW: “Yeah, definitely. It’s definitely mysterious. I mean, maybe I’m just being functional, like, what’s the point of talking about that stuff? I just figured that I liked music. When I was a kid, I found it really mysterious and I loved it, but didn’t understand anything about it. So that got me interested and I wanted to spend time with it. And I still feel the same way. Self chosen, and luckily enough to have the circumstances that worked out where I would survive with it.”

Springtime is out tomorrow via Joyful Noise Recordings. Purchase from Bandcamp.

4 replies on “Sound Waves: In Conversation with Springtime’s Gareth Liddiard and Jim White”

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