Still at School, Doing Homework on Weekends, Gigging in Europe and Being One of the Biggest Success Stories in the Land

By Cathy Sexton (Metal Masters Magazine)

"I don't own a Nirvana album, or a Pearl Jam one," states silverchair bassist Chris Joannou.

Newcastle's silverchair (after two hit singles, a platinum EP and brilliant debut long-player frogstomp) are more than sick to death of the comparisons make between them and those other grunge contemporaries. So much that even after spending most of their somewhat whirlwind career carefully sheltered from the media, they won't even comment on the issue except to say that any similarity is completely coincidental and, even more so, unappreciated.

For the young trio-who played '70's covers in a garage in Merewether back in '92, the real inspiration is more likely to come from the likes of You Am I, Primus, Helmet and Offspring -- the point of which comes across far stronger on an album, without the slightest whiff of Teen Spirit. The sound is loud and primarily aggressive, and more than proves silverchair's ability to hold their own. frogstomp features a third version of the band's most popular song to date -- No. 1 hit tomorrow. The original was a 6-minute demo version that originally earned them attention on the SBS program Nomad's national demo competition.

"For radio, you don't want a 6- or 8-minute song if you want to get airplay," points out Chris Joannou. "They get tired of playing it. We edited it down to about 4 minutes. It was exactly the same; we just took out a verse or something. They chopped it up a bit, but the sound's the same."

When it came to recording the album, the band decided they still weren't 100 percent happy, so tomorrow was completely re-recorded.

"We'd changed a bit since then," explains Joannou, "so we thought we'd just make it a bit different. There was a lot of vocal tracks on the old one. The new one's a bit rough around the edges and not so polished compared to it."

The man responsible for the album's sound is Kevin "Caveman" Shirley (who's worked with some of Australia's finest hard rock and pop bands), and was mastered in the U.S.A. to amazingly high (and loud) standards.

"He (Shirley) has the best sounds -- drum-wise, everything-wise," states Joannou. "He's great to work with, and he's got a good brain. He didn't change a lot of our songs at all. He mainly made things a bit longer or shorter. We did the pure massacre single with him as well.

"We did the album pretty quick, because we didn't have a lot of time. We did it in about 10 days and... you know how people say it takes like, three months to do an album? That's a load of crap. You can do it in 10 days -- piece of cake."

After finding support from Triple J and scoring high rotation for tomorrow (before they'd signed anything!), record company interest was imminent -- Sony [subsidiary] Murmur wasn't the only company vying for rights to record the country's freshest, most commercially viable band of the moment.

"We had an offer from Mushroom and someone else," reveals Joannou. "So we saw a music lawyer, and he looked at the contracts and gave us a bit of guidance. We had a bit of a chat with the people from each company and figured that we liked Murmur."

A decision the band hasn't regretted in the least since. Although the deal was only for one album, Joannou says the 'chair are keen to stick with the label. They realize there may be bigger offers on the horzon but they're adamant their loyalties lie with their original company.

"We won't be selling out, we'll stick with Murmur," he declares. "They used to come into the studio each afternoon to see what we'd done, and they seemed to like everything. They've been really good. They help us out in any way they can. Also, the agency that books our gigs and handles everything else -- they make time for us to muck around and do normal things. We still go to the beach and get into all the ratbag things that 15-year-olds do."

That includes school, and with the year 10 exams at the end of the year, the average parent could be forgiven for being a tad nervous. Regardless, Joannou says that their parents support their music careers, even if they do miss the odd day of school here and there.

"Well, they do like us to go!" he exclaims. "We do have to do a lot of catch-up and things, but they make sure things are done in weekends and holidays, so school time isn't interrupted that much. And the record company understand that we've got school as well, so they try to juggle it around for us.

"Nothing's really changed at school, it's just that we happen to be in a band now. No one really yells stuff at us or comes to school and talks about the band. It's just straight school now, which is good."

No doubt, however, silverchair are probably the only school kids to take time off for a hurricane tour of Europe, playing Frankfurt and London, plus a Warrior Soul support [date] in Amsterdam.

"It was just a bit of a thing to spread the word that we were a new Australian band," says Joannou. "London was good, because there was a few Australians in the crowd. Frankfurt really sucked -- it was fun, but it was, like, press everywhere and cameras in your face the whole way through, so it sucked the big one for a while. Apart from that, it was all good.

"The crowds in Europe are so different to here. Over there, if they appreciate a band, they just groove on the spot then clap after the song. Nothing like what they do here."

Meanwhile, back at home, silverchair has become renowned for their hyperactive crowds. Crowds that Joannou says range in age from 14 through to folk in their late 20s. The video for pure massacre clearly demonstrates not only the band's live energy, but also the energy of the punters who frequent their shows. One thing that's taken some getting used to for the band has been the sudden demand for live performances, with silverchair playing the whole Big Day Out tour earlier this year, plus a number of shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane since.

"It's been a big shock," admits Joannou. "When we first started, we'd play occasionally, maybe once a month at a street fair or something, but street fairs don't happen very often. If we got a gig back then, we'd be cheering."

Nowadays silverchair has become such a shining success story that offers come thick and fast and, although the band are one of the most successful of their ilk (having one of the bestselling Australian songs in the history of contemporary music), they also have more than their fair share of hecklers. A point that doesn't seem to worry them in the least.

"I wouldn't say it gets to me," says Joannou. "I'd just say people don't want anyone good, or to have an Australian band do well. I don't give a crap how much shit they give us, 'cause a lot of its not true. A lot of people are making up stuff and being very critical of how young we are, or that we'll only be one hit-wonders or whatever, but everyone cops it, so we're just getting our little serving.

"I'd say there will definitely be another album, and that we'll stick together and keep writing material. All of us feel like following a music career full-time. My idea of it would be to keep going and try to make a career, and I think Ben and Daniel's would be the same. We've never really thought about doing anything else."