Silverchair's grown-up freedom

By LUCIANA LOPEZ (The Oregonian)


Some people might find it less pressure to risk someone else's money on a business venture. But for Australian band Silverchair, financing their fifth album, "Young Modern," by themselves proved less stressful than going through a record company, as they'd done throughout their multimillion-album-selling career.

"We just went out and did a heap of shows to put some money in the bank," bassist Chris Joannou says. "It was probably one of the easiest -- well, not easiest -- but one of the most enjoyable records to make with Silverchair. I think we're probably having more fun now than what we were having a long time ago."

For Joannou, guitarist/vocalist Daniel Johns and drummer Ben Gillies, that long time ago stretches back just more than a decade, when the then-teenage trio shot to fame with their first album, 1995's grunge rocker "Frogstomp."   
Going through adolescence is hard enough, Joannou noted, without doing it in the public eye. Johns, as the frontman and main songwriter, particularly felt the pressure. His eventual bout with anorexia inspired "Ana's Song (Open Fire)," off their third album, 1999's "Neon Ballroom."

As the group matured, they moved away from their grunge roots, working with a broader sonic palette. For their fourth album, 2002's "Diorama," Silverchair even brought in Van Dyke Parks, hailed for decades for his work with everyone from Brian Wilson to Joanna Newsom. That partnership might not have happened: The band's manager at first thought Parks had already died. But Parks was (and is) very much alive, and traveled to Australia to work with the band.

"He's a pretty special character," Joannou said. "We're just so lucky to have him get onboard and do some stuff with us."

But even Parks' work on "Diorama" wasn't enough to keep Silverchair from friction with its record label.

"We got dropped from Atlantic in America, and nothing against people that were just doing their job there on the last record, but it wasn't the easiest record to make with a lot of record company involvement," Joannou said. "We just saw this as an opportunity to make the record that we wanted to make and not have any outside involvement."

They called in friends and previous collaborators (including Parks) and set to work. The result, "Young Modern," is ambitious, polished and accomplished, drawing on pop at least as much as rock.

Though the album, set for U.S. release July 24, cost them around $900,000 (Australian) to make, the decision to pay for it themselves proved liberating. When, for example, they realized it wouldn't be ready by the end of 2006, they decided to postpone it, Joannou said -- a different choice than record label executives might have made.

"We're very happy in the space that we're at now," Joannou said. "That's for sure."