It’s been 20 years since the release of their debut album Sound As Ever, and the iconic collective that is YOU AM I are rolling out the red carpet to all to help celebrate. Remastered releases of three classic albums, a retrospective national tour (with many dates sold out) and even a specially brewed amber refreshment are all on offer. PAUL FROST spoke to guitarist DAVEY LANE about past glories and the fire that remains inside the band.
You are about to set out on a national tour playing two of your seminal albums (Hi-Fi Way and Hourly, Daily) in their entirety – who started the idea of getting these shows together?
The idea has come up a few times. Over the last few years it’s been the kind of thing where someone’s putting on a festival and they wanted us to play those albums. The offers always seemed to come at a time where we’ve just finished a new record or about to make a new one so the instinct was to say “we’ve got a new album ready, why the fuck would we be looking to the past when we’ve got something new ready to roll.” The idea for the tour came from the four of us – Andy (Kent, bass player and manager) suggested it a while ago and we thought “Fuck it, why not?” It gives us the opportunity to play in theatres as well and bring along a little something extra. I liked the idea that there wasn’t somebody else breathing down our necks going “this is what you should be doing” – it came from within the family.
Will you have an extended on-stage lineup to replicate some of the feel of Hourly, Daily?
I’ve actually just spent the day working out some keyboard parts that I am going to play. We’ve got a cellist and violinist, and a horn section for the tour. There’s a song on Hourly, Daily called ‘Heavy Comfort’ that we are working out at the moment – going through and nutting out all that stuff has been fantastic. There are a few songs in there that the band has never played live before.
The last few You Am I tours have focused on later releases – I remember seeing you a few years ago when only one song was played from Hourly, Daily – was this a decision to move on from the early albums?
There has never really been a conscious decision made to not play the songs of those records. Before a tour we talk about what we may like to play, and me being the nerd who loved those records when they came out usually suggests something off the beaten track. It’s nice to go out and dig up some of these songs like ‘Dead Letter Chorus’ that the guys haven’t played live before. Most of Hi Fi Way has been played in some shape or form over the last few years but it’s nice to go back to the songs we’ve played a trillion times like ‘Good Mornin’ and ‘Mr Milk’ and compare them to the recorded versions – the arrangements have changed slightly over the years to suit our whims.
Because you weren’t involved in either of these albums (Lane joined the band in 1999), how do you feel about them from a fan’s perspective?
I’m super lucky in that regard because I’ve been able to enjoy these songs playing with my band, and going back through the albums again recently I was getting the same giddy rush that I felt as a kid when I first heard them. I can look at the albums from an outsider’s perspective because this is the band that I grew up with and had a great respect for, although now it’s my mates Tim, Andy and Rusty and we’ve been playing together for almost 15 years.
I read an interview with you years ago when after you joined the band you had second thoughts – that you didn’t want to fuck up your favourite band by playing in it – I guess it took a while to really stake your place in the band ?
It was an opportunity that I took at the time that I still don’t take for granted. I love the band as much now as back when I was writing guitar tabs for all their songs as a fan…
Ah, the days of the Punkarella emailing list. I recall when you joined the band there were emails flying around within the group “Is that the same D. Lane that has sent in all the guitar tabs?”
Yeah…ha ha. I get reminded about that every now and again. I guess that was my introduction to the band, and looking back it wasn’t a bad way to do it!
What can we expect from the reissues of the first three albums….will there be anything to surprise those completists out there?
Andy sent me down a box of tapes to go through and I found a tape that was full of rough mixes from Hourly, Daily. There’s a song on there called ‘Up Against It’ that I had no idea existed. Being in a rough mix form, you could tell it was something that they were going to return to at a later date to finish off. I sent a copy to Tim (Rogers, vocalist and songwriter) who said he had no recollection of writing or recording that song! So that’ll be on one of the bonus discs – alongside a lot of other live stuff, some covers and b-sides that we think are pretty cool. We’ve got some great pictures from the time, and some great liner notes from Rusty (Hopkinson, drummer), Paul McKercher and Lee Ranaldo.
I guess the other release you have coming up is Brew Am I, your very own beer. Has it been personally sampled and approved by the band?
When the idea of this came up it of course became an excuse for us to go to Young Henry’s Brewery and sample copious amounts of different kinds of beer, and although our individual tastes in the frosty brew vary a lot, we found a middle ground.
And you can buy it by the keg!
I know!!! It sounds thoroughly inviting and slightly dangerous at the same time.
Is the band working on any new material, or any plans for that in the future.
Tim and I have been throwing some ideas at each other, and this next record is looking like it’s going to be a collaborative kind of thing. We’ll probably take our time with it and make sure we get a crankin’ record, and at the moment we are realistically looking towards the end of the year for that one.
All members of the band are very busy with a range of other projects – has there been a time between albums and tours where you’ve thought that might be it for You Am I
I don’t think there’s ever been any real question of that because we don’t rely on You Am I solely for our existence, so having these other projects that we do kind of keeps everything fresh and exciting for us. We all get along so well, and I see the band carrying on as long as our audience wants us.
You Am I have helped foster a number of young bands as support acts over the years – I remember a bunch of young upstarts called The Strokes – do you think it’s getting harder for young bands today to get their foot in the door and get heard?
I think there may be less of a community of like-minded bands now then there was a while ago. Having said that, I still go out and see bands – you watch a bunch of 20 year old kids playing fucking awesome punk rock music and that’s still a thrill. I guess because the landscape has changed so vastly in the last few years that it can be more difficult. I’m about to put a record of my own out soon – I’m actually going to set up my own label and get some help with distribution – and it has been a long process.
Finally, why do you think Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily have formed such a lasting connection with your fans.
It’s difficult to categorize, but I know what you mean. I think those two records are just great concise statements, full of three minute classic pop songs and rock and roll. Production-wise the songs haven’t really dated which also helps. I can personally say that those albums were a big part of my life and I know they have affected others too. The songs seem to track moments of our lives – ‘How Much Is Enough’ is one of those songs for the audience and also the band that means a lot. There is something so heartbreaking about it yet so beautiful at the same time. That’s a great connection to have!
You Am I performs at Newcastle Panthers on Friday August 2, 2013.