[INTERVIEW] THE ANGELS

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They’re undeniably one of Australia’s greatest ever rock ‘n’ roll bands. They’ve toured the world and sold out shows tour after tour. They’ve got some of the biggest and most recognisable hits in Australian music, with easily our favourite chant to yell at pubs and festivals across the country. Now, 42 years later, and THE ANGELS are still gigging, writing and going strong. However there’s a story behind all this, and the two brothers that brought us the music we love are telling that story.

Just getting in from walking the family’s two Cavoodles (that’s a King Charles Cavalier x Poodle), JOHN BREWSTER sits down to discuss life, family, The Angels, The Brewster Brothers, and their new show ‘Angels and Demons’.

My life is fantastic; my musical life and my personal life. The band’s going great and this show we’re doing with my sons – we’ve done a few of them now and it’s amazing! It’s been so well received and there are a few differences now with the show and how it’s being performed.

Originating from Kate Cebrano hiring the Brewster brothers to perform at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the show is a musical show all about the songs; songs from The Angels (also currently touring and performing), and even some rare tunes from the old Moonshine String and Jug Band – Rick even pulls out the old washboard. “He may be ‘the man who stood still’, but what he does on that washboard is ridiculous”, says John. “We go back to the jug band in the show; we do the songs that we wrote for me to sing when Doc left the band, but the show’s essentially about all that – it’s about the music and we have a story to tell.

But what’s so special about the show is band onstage playing these songs. Comprised of the two brothers, John and Rick, the band consists also of John’s THREE sons. “You know I didn’t realise that not only can my sons play but they’re actually brilliant! So we’ve got a band now, which is me and Rick – the two old guys, and my three sons. Tom plays the drums, Eric plays guitar and Sam plays the bass. It just gives the show something special and I just love it actually. At first I had to pinch myself because it doesn’t happen very often that you’ve got three out of three sons that play on stage. It’s kind of almost the Partridge Family, without the bus.

The story behind Australian rock ‘n’ roll’s favourite two brothers is a big one to tell. John’s brother Rick alone has gone from playing the classical piano at the age of 16 in South Australia, to playing washboard in a jug band. The Brewster brothers grew up in music; with a grandfather who was a classically trained pianist, a dad who was involved himself with the symphony and then went on to be the musical director of NBC, the brothers grew up in quite a classical music family.

I was always into rock ‘n’ roll”, says John, “and eventually Rick came over to my side of the fence and obviously you know the story of The Angels. So we’ll talk a bit about that and tell stories; a lot of good stories, but obviously some bad ones as well. But the bad stories aren’t personal ones. We don’t talk about people or put them down. It’s just things that happened, like trucks getting stolen in America, losing guitars – stuff like that. Rick left one (guitar) backstage once in Chicago and it was worth a fortune! We did a quick u-turn and went back but by the time we got there it was gone. I still give him grief about it every few years or so, just to remind him.

All these stories are not just being told by the brothers either; their good friend, and now Master of Ceremonies, ‘The Electronic Swagman’ is on board and “he’s classic!” “He’s very entertaining in his own right. He used to do our lighting and was our Production Manager back in the day when we used to spend weeks and weeks on the road. Ray (Raymond Hawkins) had a light show which was rated by everybody as one of the greatest light shows in the country – it was just amazing! So yeah he’s been around for a long time and knows the ins and outs, so he’ll be telling the story, introduce us and asks questions.

Obviously the stories behind the Brewster brothers and The Angels over the past 42 years and counting are vast, but John and Rick together have been trying to keep the show quite light-hearted. “Certain things that happened or certain personal things that have happened, that could happen to any band, and stuff with individuals – we leave that out. It’s not something we want to talk about. It’s about the incidents more than the relationships, so it doesn’t get that personal.”

Touring at the moment and hitting the East Coast with ‘Angels and Demons’, the Brewster boys are getting quite the reception. “We’ve done it a number of times now and the response has been absolutely amazing. One of the reasons we want to continue doing it as a show and not just playing as The Brewster Brothers is that I find as we get older and as the band gets older, and our audience gets older, people are more and more interested in a story. People are releasing books about their journey and people are buying them. I’m the same; I mean when Bob Dylan released Chronicles, I couldn’t wait to get a hold of it, and I really liked it. I don’t think I slept until I finished it! And Keith Richards’ book, Life – amazing. It doesn’t come that naturally telling a story either, so it’s wonderful to have a guy like Raymond Hawkins who just drags on about us; and it’s not too scripted, there’s a fair amount of spontaneity.”

As for a book on The Angels, John tells us to “watch that space”. It’s certainly a busy time for John and Rick as they also embark on another Angels tour as well. The Angels themselves of course have also faced a number of changes over recent years, and John’s son Sam again has stepped in to not only keep the music alive, but also to keep it in the family.

When Chris Bailey had to have an operation, which very sadly turned out to be his last hurrah, my oldest son Sam, who’s a brilliant guitar player, took over on bass. Sam wasn’t a bass player but he spent some time with Chris and really studied his style. I hate to say his was the best because there’s a lot of great bass players, but he was right up the top of the tree as a bass player, and he was a lovely guy. So my son Sam and Chris got quite close, and I mean it’s hard to say without getting a little choked up, but he basically said ‘I’m passing on the baton to you’. So when Chris passed Sam just continued and he’s now become an amazing bass player. Sam now is just a wonderful player and I love having him onstage with The Angels, and obviously we miss Chris.

The Brewster Brothers’ ‘Angels and Demons’

13/05/2016 – Birds Basement, Melbourne VIC
14/05/2016 – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh VIC
19/05/2016 – Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW
20/05/2016 – Lizottes, Newcastle NSW
21/05/2016 – The Basement, Circular Quay NSW

The Angels’ ‘Hardwired’ tour with special guests, MiSex

1/07/2016 – Rooty Hill RSL, Rooty Hill NSW
2/07/2016 – Revesby Workers, Revesby NSW
4-6/07/2016 – Big Red Dune, Birdsville QLD
8/07/2016 – The Palms At Crown, Southbank VIC
9/07/2016 – Wrest Point Show Room, Sandy Bay TAS
15/07/2016 – Twin Towns, Tweed Heads NSW
16/07/2016 – Aussie World, Palmview QLD
22/07/2016 – The Juniors, Kingsford NSW
23/07/2016 – Doyalson RSL, Doyalson NSW
29/07/2016 – Dunsborough Tavern, Dunsborough WA
30/07/2016 – Charles Hotel, North Perth WA
31/07/2016 – Ravenswood Hotel, Ravenswood WA
5/08/2016 – Waves Nightclub Wollongong, Towradgi NSW
6/08/2016 – Belmont 16s, Belmont NSW
12/08/2016 – The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Hindmarsh SA
13/08/2016 – The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Hindmarsh SA
19/08/2016 – Chelsea Heights Hotel, Chelsea Heights VIC
20/08/2016 – Doncaster Shoppingtown Hotel, Doncaster VIC
26/08/2016 – Dee Why RSL, Dee Why NSW
27/08/2016 – Wenty Leagues, Wentworthville NSW

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