Silverchair, Kids No More

By Winston Cummings (Hit Parader)

Two years ago, when silverchair were just beginning to reach the height of their commercial powers following the release of their debut disc, frogstomp, teen-aged girls everywhere found themselves panting madly and giggling uncontrollably at the mere sight of then-16 year old Daniel Johns. His flowing blond hair, crystal clear blue eyes and cute-as-a-button Australian accent were apparently more then enough to make teenyboppers swoon from Sydney to Secaucus.

Now, as silverchair again enjoys the heady feeling of living in the hard rock stratosphere thanks to the success of their sophomore release, Freak Show, young Mr. Johns finds himself confronting an even more intimidating adversary -- the full-grown women of the world!

It's a "problem" any redblooded male would sell his soul to have, but as-of-yet the shy, surprisingly soft-spoken Johns remains somewhat unsure of exactly how to best handle his new-found role as a pin-up boy and the international sex symbol. But at the same time, bandmates Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies -- who themselves haven't exactly been lacking for their share of female attention in recent days -- find their long-time friend's growing uneasiness with his hot-shot image nothing short of hysterical.

"We try not to tease him about it," Gillies said. "But sometimes it's hard not to. It's not like he's done anything to try and make this all happen. He's still just Daniel, the same guy we've known for years. Nothing has really changed. But I must admit that it's nice to get off the tour bus after a long ride and have a bunch of fans there to greet us. It's even nicer that there are a lot of girls in the crowd."

It seems as if silverchair have been attracting both their male and female fans in near-records numbers in recent days. While Freak Show might never reach the quadruple platinum sales status enjoyed by frogstomp, the band's drawing power on the road, as well as their appeal to radio, TV and print has never been stronger. After all, these are not longer just three young boys from the eastern Australian town of Newcastle who are out to see the world. This time around this Thunder From Down Under is out to conquer their hard-edged, metal-cum-alternative sound.

Daniel, Chris, and Ben have done a lot of growing up since their arrival on the rock scene in 1995, but at heart they remain the same wide-eyed, slightly awe-struck rockers they were when they first set foot on foreign soil two years ago.

"We know what to expect a little better now," Johns said. "We're not quite as amazed by everything we see. When we first went to a place like New York last time, we couldn't help but act like tourists -- it was a little overwhelming! But, we'd also like to take the chance to see a little bit more of where we are this time. On our first American tour, people were so worried about keeping an eye on us all the time that sometimes it seemed as if all we saw were the insides of our tour bus, our hotel rooms and our dressing rooms. It really go a little frustrating. We want to get out a bit more this time. We want to see the world this time- not just pass through it."

silverchair's more "worldly" approach to life these days is certainly reflected in the musical content of their latest album. While the somewhat vacuous lyrical noodlings that comprised such songs as Israel's Son and Tomorrow on their debut disc may be quickly dismissed as the over-ambitious efforts of still developing artistic minds, such new efforts as Petrol and Chlorine and Learn To Hate display a more finely honed musical sensibility. Johns, in particular, is extremely proud of the group's rock and roll maturation, believing that the songs contained on Freak Show stand head and shoulders above their earlier output. While some of the band's supporters may disagree with Johns' somewhat self-conscious assessment, there seems little doubt that silverchair's true musical destiny -- as well as their eventual place in the rock and roll history books -- still remains to be determined.

"I'd hate to think that our greatest moment has already happened," Gillies said with a laugh. "I don't like the idea of peaking at 16! One of the reasons we're very happy with this album is that we know that it is much stronger and our playing is much tighter. It's nice that there are people who bought our first album and think that this one may not be as good. That's okay. It's also nice to know that a lot of people realize that we've taken a big step ahead."

Ironically, many of those same folks who've happly noted silverchair's artistic growth on their second disc, are the same ones who still find it difficult to accept the band's apparent overreliance on mimicking their influences. On their debut album that influence was clearly Nirvana, and even a casual mention of that band's name can't help but now draw looks bordering on outright contempt from the silverboys. This time around, while the overbearing Hand Of Cobain has still quite obviously reached out to touch these lads' creative souls, it's the immortal strains of Led Zeppelin that have seemingly served to stir silverchair's musical passions. Undeniably there is a heavier, bluesier feel to many of the songs contained on Freak Show, and the band members show little aversion (at least for the time being) about discussing their unyielding passions for Zeppelin's music.

"I think there is much more Zeppelin influence on this album than there was on the last one," Gillies said. "I don't know if you could even hear any Zepplin influence on the last one -- though I know it was there. But I've always been a big Zeppelin fan. I still have millions of their posters on my walls, and I have all their albums. How can you be a rock and roll band and not be influenced by Led Zeppelin? But we do want to get away from this thing of us always being compared to other bands. It does grow a bit tiring, no matter how much you admire the bands your being compared to. We don't want them to say, 'That sounds like Nirvana' or 'That sounds like Zeppelin!' We'd much prefer it if they'd hear one of those songs and go, 'Ahh, that sounds like silverchair.'"

[Thanks to Amanda for the transcript!]