Friday, December 7, 2007

Australian rockers make a kingly comeback

Silverchair is trying to get you to forget who they were in 1995. Yes, they're the same three Australians that took the grunge world by storm as teenagers with their debut album Frogstomp and its ubiquitous single, "Tomorrow." But they're all grown up these days, and have new release Young Modern to show for it. The record, their first in nearly five years, has garnered heaps of critical acclaim (even in the states) for its glam pop styling and made them kings again back in their homeland. Lead singer Daniel Johns talks about how the band is still perceived in the U.S. and Young Modern's diverse influences.-Jeremy Schnitker

How have the last two U.S. tours you guys have been on gone? Are crowds over here as enthusiastic as they are back in Australia?

We were actually talking about it the other day, in Australia the audiences are bigger, but it's really bizarre the level of enthusiasm people have for the band over here cause we haven't been here very often in the last five years or so.

Your first two shows over here in support of Young Modern sold out very quickly in New York and L.A. Were you guys at all surprised in just how quickly people embraced you again?

And that was before the record was even out. We were genuinely shocked. Then the record came out and, it's not like we were top ten in the charts or anything, but we never really expected that people would embrace it like they did, playing it on the radio and everything. Our whole goal was to have a record that made people reevaluate their perceptions of Silverchair. The public at large still thinks we're Australian teenagers playing grunge music.

Do you still have to deal with that a lot? People still thinking you're the same band from 1995?

We don't really get it anywhere else, only in America. Occasionally you do an interview from somebody in small-town America and they'll be like 'So … Frogstomp, what have you been doing since then?' I used to get mildly offended by it, but now I just think it's funny. It's like the last ten years [of our careers] didn't even happen over here.

You're getting a lot of attention critically over here, perhaps more than anything since Frogstomp. Has that been a surprise?

No, not really. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but if your perception of us is that we're still playing grunge, then Young Modern is going to come as a surprise to people. I think that's why we've gotten so many average to good reviews.

You guys took almost five years off between the making of Diorama and Young Modern. What did you learn as a band in the time off?

That break was indefinite, we didn't know if we would do another record again, we didn't know if we'd feel inspired enough to write another Silverchair record. We hadn't played in about three years and we did a show in Australia called WaveAid, a tsunami benefit, and we had to quickly run through two or three rehearsals and get out and play in front of 50,000 people, and I think that made us really appreciate each other as musicians and as friends. We put the band together when we were 12 years old and we really didn't know anything other than Silverchair until we took a break away from it and that gave us some clarity. The next day I called the guys up and said that I wanted to record a record.

What would you say were some influences on Young Modern? I hear a lot of different styles on this album?

Definitely a lot of psychedelic stuff. Brian Eno was big influence. Remain in Light by the Talking Heads. Lots of eclectic stuff and electronic music. We've been listening to the White Album about eight million times. Kraftwerk, . There's so many its kind of hard to pin it down.

Have you been mostly influenced by U.K. and American acts?

I first started listening to all of our parents music, stuff like Deep Purple, the Doors. At the time of Frogstomp our influences were obviously pretty American at that stage. Then over the next four records there's been a dramatic shift, and the main reason that occurred was when we left school at 18 and I stopped just listening to the music all my friends were listening to and started trying to be cool and starting trying to find something on my own. Since then I think our music has taken a different direction.

You've personally been through so much, with all the health issues and whatnot (Johns fought a bout with depression and anorexia in the late nineties and then was diagnosed with a severe case of reactive arthritis in 2002 that prevented him from playing guitar). Has it been extra gratifying to have this sort of rebirth?

We definitely feel grateful that we can look back and see the change and see what's happened over the course of 15 years, but I don't think we're content yet. We still want to achieve more.

Has your health been fine? Does the touring get to you?

The only health issues have been pretty consistent hangovers [laughing].

Do you have a timetable for when you're going to start recording next?

We're planning on coming back to the states for more touring after the new year, then we'll be working on music for a film the next year. After that we'll probably start writing another record.

Wednesday, Dec. 12
Q101 Twisted 14 Alternative Voodoo featuring Silverchair, Silversun Pickups and Strata
Tickets: Sold out
Door: 5:30 p.m./Show: 6:30 p.m.