Silverchair Go Home to Put their Feet Up

(The Weekend Australian)

After doing an MTV network special on top of [the marquee of] New York's famous Radio City Music Hall, the schoolboy members of Newcastle band silverchair have melted like a summer haze back into their sleepy beachside suburb of Merewether. In fact, life for the trio in the NSW steel port remains pretty ordinary. Bass player Chris Joannou, 15, still walked up to the local video store, according to the staff, to buy a can of Coke the day after arriving back in Australia last week.

Down the road, the burly father of 16-year-old lead singer Daniel Johns shrugged his shoulders over the fence and told The Weekend Australian he didn't know where his son had gone.

Greg Johns said Daniel was sporting a few stitches above his eye after a fan threw a glass at him during the United States tour.

"He's pretty proud of it, he kept on playing," Johns said. Julie Johns, who with the other two mothers and a Sony representative manages the band, stood inside her newly renovated two-storey home constantly on the mobile phone, and refused to deal with the mainstream media, including 60 Minutes. She told the painter to open the door.

The plumber father of Ben Gillies, who lives on the other side of Merewether where the band jams in his loft, said he was "only the dad" and referred all calls to the bands label, Murmur, in Sydney's Surry Hills.

The wall of silence is all about maintaining their "street cred," according to a friend.

Street cred is pretty important in Newcastle's burgeoning music scene where many bands with names like Poison Bruno, Faceplant and Stolen Youth vie for venues. But the rise to fame of silverchair, which chooses to spell its name with a lower case "s," has been more than just a Newcastle success story. In 1993, one of the mothers, Mrs. Joannou, complained to a Sydney newspaper in a story that the then 13-year-old boys couldn't get a venue.

Two years later, the band's album frogstomp had gone double platinum in Australia (140,000 copies) and gold (500,000 copies) in the U.S., last week hitting the top 10 on the Billboard chart.

The band is expected to clean up at next weekend's ARIA awards after nine nominations.

The disappointment so far, according to awards organisers, is the band members won't say if they'll attend.

The rise to fame has come for three boys who say their pet interests are frogs and llamas.

"They have a pretty unique sense of humour," a friend said. silverchair was originally known as Innocent Criminals and also had a fourth member, Tobin Finnane, 15. Tobin is now ruing the day he left for overseas for a year. When he came back to Newcastle, the band had become used to playing as a trio.

"I was pretty disappointed but life goes on," he said.

His comment on his former band members: "They try to say they haven't changed, but they have a bit."

The band started in Year 7 at Newcastle High where its members played versions of Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple. Nirvana became the later influence, the single Sliver became silver and metamorphosed with You Am I's album Berlin Chair into the band's name (which is different to what I read Daniel said in an interview once. He said they rang up a radio station to request Berlin Chair and Ben said it wrong or something and actually said "Silver Chair"). They liked the sound of it and so decided to call themselves that. In Newcastle the fans of silverchair can be found everywhere. Student Ben Mathieson, 18, said some people reckoned the band had grown big heads but he thought "that's just jealousy."

Wallsend High student Summer Pepperall said their songs represented the anger of the younger generation.

"Their whole point is to get a mosh pit," she said. (Moshing is diving off the stage into the crowd.)

Mahu Halliday, 17, said it was anger from school and break-ups with girlfriends that proliferated in the songs.

"They're pretty imaginative for 15-year-olds," he said.

silverchair's fame has had repercussions for anyone in Merewether with the same surname as a band member.

An old lady complained she had received thousands of calls from fans, some demanding reverse charges.

A girl had turned up at her door claiming to be one the band's girlfriends.

"I had to insist there was no one here but me," she said.

Music industry buffs say the band now has the world at their feet. In November and December they will bill with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on a U.S. tour.