Silverchair: Life at 18

By Bryan Harper (Hit Parader)

Silverchair's Daniel Johns is convinced things are going to be different for his band the second time around. After their sophomore album is released, these Australian teen aces hope they won't be incessantly compared to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, as they were following the appearance of their chart-topping debut, frogstomp. They hope that they won't again be continually bombarded by media queries about their tender age. And they hope they won't have to tour with their mothers in tow.

Of course, there are plenty of other things that Johns and his bandmates Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies hope are exactly the same the second time around. They want their new album to sell just as well as their triple-platinum first disc. They want MTV to love them just as much in 1997 as they did in 1995 when such songs as Israel's Son and Pure Massacre were network staples. And they want thousands of girls from Sydney to Syracuse to keep thinking they're just the cutest thing on God's green earth.

"We've grown up a little...I think," Johns said. "When we wrote and recorded the first album we had just turned 16. Now, we're all close to being 18 -- we're not a bunch of high school boys any more. That's very important to us; we've been able to devote even more time and effort to the music on this album. I think you can hear that we've matured quite a bit over the last two years. If we didn't grow up a bit I think there'd be something really wrong. We still like the music we made on the last album, but we've all moved on a bit as well."

To many, the incredible, across-the-board success of silverchair's debut album was one of the most surprising developments in rock history. After all, here was a band from Newcastle, Australia that had emerged literally from nowhere to sweep into the collective consciousness of the music world. All it took was one local radio contest, and one inexpensively produced demo tape, and silverchair were on their way to international fame and fortune. One would be hard pressed to think of a similarly surprising and spectacular event occurring in the long, historic annals of rock and roll. In fact, it seems safe to say there's never before as young and as successful a hard rock band as silverchair. But rather than being the metallic equivalent of Menudo (that Mexican pre-teen pop phenomenon of the 80's, for those of you with short-term memory loss), these boys have shown they not only have the talent needed to succeed, they also have the drive required to ensure a long-term stint at the top of the rock pile.

"I'd like everyone to forget about our age," Joannou said. "I'd like that at least for a little while. Every interview we did last time talked about our age. It really got kind of boring. What can we say? Yes, we were 16! There's really nothing more to it than that. We all can understand why the subject came up - it almost had to. But we really did get tired of it. Is the music good? Or is it just good for a bunch of 16 year-olds? I think we know the answer to that. It's good rock and roll, and that's the important thing."

Indeed there isn't a "16 and under" category in the always competitive universe of rock and roll. From the moment frogstomp was released, silverchair were figuratively cast to the wolves. Despite their tender years, they soon learned they had only two options -- either quickly learn the methods of survival needed to make it in the high-pressure music biz, or be gobbled up by a corporate machinery that's geared for survival of few and the demise of many. The odds were against silverchair in almost every imaginable way, but somewhat amazingly, these boys never even seemed to be aware that they faced an uphill battle of almost epic proportions. All they knew was that they had gone from creating a demo tape to landing a major record deal in a matter of months. Then they were off to see the world on somebody else's credit card -- and on top of everything else, they got to miss school in the process! It occasionally seemed the fact that their record was such a success was almost an after-thought to Johns and his buds.

"I think that they were so caught up in the excitement of what was going on, the fact frogstomp was selling millions of copies was kind of lost on them," a label confidant explained. "They were so innocent when they first came over to America. Everything was so new, so different. But part of the fun was watching them grow up. After a few months you could see the difference in their attitude and approach, and by tour's end they were really no different from most hard rock bands that had been on the road for the better part of a year -- except they still had their mothers hanging around to make sure they stayed in line."

It seems rather unlikely that their moms will be interjecting their presence on silverchair's 1997 world tour. With their second album ready to go, it appears as if silverchair will undertake a massive road outing by spring... and not get off the road until they're damn ready to do so. To heck with school, and to heck with all the teen restrictions placed upon them the last time out. This time these 18-year-old "men" are ready to act like Rock Gods in every sense of the word. Maybe they'll drink more than Pepsi, maybe they'll eat more than burgers, maybe they'll do more than talk to their female admirers. But Johns admits, silverchair aren't about to go crazy now that they're old enough to make some of their own decisions. This is one band that knows full well that their music comes first.

"We've heard that it's tough to be as successful the second time," Johns said. "But we really haven't given that too much thought. When people ask us about it -- which they do all the time -- it's kind of hard not to dwell on, at least for a little while. But we know that we have no control over the success we'll have in the future. All we can do is make the best albums we can and hope that our fans who liked us the first time out will stick by us now. If they do, we'll do whatever we can to make sure that their confidence in us is rewarded."