INTERVIEW: Violent Soho

Brisbane band VIOLENT SOHO have had quite a marvelous career thus far. Describing themselves as “stoner-pop”, Luke Boerdam, Luke Henery, James Tidswell and Michael Richards are just four friends who enjoy making music and have been doing so for many years.

From rehearsing in parent’s garages to showcasing to Rick Rubin of Columbia Records, buying a van to play gigs along the east coast to playing chicken wing festivals in the States, it is clear that this group really are something special.

Recently signing to I OH YOU, I was lucky enough to chat with vocalist Luke Boerdam of the group on the last day of Violent Soho’s Tinderbox/Neighbour Neighbour tour.

So just how did Violent Soho that we now all know and love become a band?

We all knew each other in high school and basically we started a band probably a year after we all graduated and stuff. Just made some demos and yeah we got together. We kind of formed just as friends rather than, you know, musicians, just to do something, and actually go forth and we just kinda wanted to party and yeah! James said, “I’ll play guitar”, and Henry said, “I’ll play bass” and so we just went and bought the crappiest guitars and instruments [laughs] so then yeah we just started rocking up to gigs with like pedals and whatever amps we could find and yeah started playing gigs but yeah, seven years ago now! [Laughs]

I’m not sure if any of you would have ever thought of this before, but I was curious to know how the band came up with the name ‘Violent Soho’.

We just randomly picked it – two words and we put them together [laughs]. It was a thing where all these kinda punk bands were playing Brisbane as really kind of random cool names and I don’t know, we just wanted something like that. Like Eat Laser Scumbag.. All those band names are way better than our’s, but it was kind of one of those things where we just strung two random words together and we just thought it sounded cool. And then I guess we made the band give meaning to that name rather than the other way around. We didn’t want to be pretentious or anything, we didn’t want to like come across like just from our band name that we trying to do something and, you know, break new musicial boundaries so we just picked two words that we thought sounded kind of cool together and we just picked them in an afternoon and went for it.”

Now, I don’t know what could possibly be cooler than Thurston Moore [of Sonic Youth] wanting to listen to and sign your band to his own label, Ecastic Peace! Records. Considering that this happened to Violent Soho just a year after releasing their debut record, I asked Luke what it was like receiving this acknowledgement from such an iconic figure.

Luke was understandably a little lost for words.

Ah it’s fucking incredible.. It was obviously very cool.

We kind of made it a goal to tour more than any other band at our level to just get out and go to Sydney and go to Melbourne as much as possible. Like we wanted to play in Sydney and Melbourne at least once a month. And Henry bought a van so that we could do that. Basically driving, like every second weekend we were away you know.

So from overseas to hear Thurston Moore’s fucking read into it was just a really random and surreal thing to happen. It’s just like what? [Laughs] Thurston Moore knows who Violent Soho is? And then from there we went overseas and played to him and it was just fucking awesome. We’re a very lucky band in that regard, especially with our type of music, to be heard by and respected by a singer like that is just.. Yeah.

They really have scored with super rad labels. I OH YOU – the Melbourne based label that Violent Soho have recently signed to – has always portrayed itself to me as an endless party rather than just a business driven label. I asked Luke about this, if I OH YOU feels more like a family rather than just a record deal.

Yeah! Well when we came back from overseas, and we kind of went through this major label thing in the States – which was fine – like we made that choice and we’d probably do it again; like we toured with some fucking awesome, incredible bands and we’d do it all again, but I mean, this time around, it just couldn’t be more comfortable. I think we let it happen naturally. We didn’t sit around and just do nothing and wait. I think we kind of learnt the type of people we wanted to stay away from, and the kind of people we wanted to work with. Basically, first we hooked up with UNFD Management. I’d heard of I OH YOU through Shane from DZ Deathrays. After I got back from America, me and him caught the same bus every morning and I go, “What label are you on anyway, you’re doing really well,” and he’s like, “Oh I OH YOU. They’re fucking awesome.” And I was like, “Ah okay” and just kept a mental note about this label. And then yeah met Johann and then from there, the rest is history. The guy’s an absolute legend – he runs a label how a label should be run you know, it’s really band-focused. It’s for the bands and how to get the music out there in the best possible way. He really works with us. At the same time, most importantly, he always keeps it fun, never a drag.

Going back to your question, yeah it’s definitely more of a family then a business for many reasons.

I’m always super curious to know what weird things have happened to bands and artists on tour. Boy, have Violent Soho experienced some things! I wish I could write them all out to you word for word, but the length would probably make your computer crash. Basically, they’ve hung out with James McCartney (son of Beatles’ Paul McCartney) at a party, in which he left as he felt as though everyone present was going to steal his things. He also carried around a soap dispenser and washed his hands then and there in front of Luke. Another occasion has been the time they played a set at Jacksonville’s Chicken Wings Festival – a family festival literally celebrating chicken wings. Finger lickin’ good?

And then there was the time they showcased for Rick Rubin – the co-president of Columbia Records.

His AR dude was like, “Rick wants new music. We’ll pay for your tickets back if you showcase for us.” And we were all, “Okay, whatever man.” And then basically they called up and they’d rebooked the tickets so it ended up being that we were going to showcase for Rick Rubin, fly home, and get in a cab from the airport then play Homebake three hours later [laughs].

They go, “What guitar do you want?” I’m like, “Well I’ve got a guitar,” and they’re like, “Yeah no, your showcasing for Rick Rubin man, you need a better guitar.” So I was like, alright. “Fender ’68 Mustang! And I want a JCM 800!” I was just like rattling off all these amps nearly as a joke cause I was like well that’s like forty grand of gear right there. And then they rock up at this private Malibu place and all the gear I asked for is just laid out in front of me [laughs] like all the amps, all of the guitars, and everything James’ asked for, all his amps and guitars are there. And we just went, “Hoooooly shit!” And they laid it out they were like, “You’ve got two songs! Play two songs. You look at Rick Rubin, if he nods, you play another two. If he gets up and walks out.. Only play two a time, don’t rattle on a whole set.” “Yeah cool, whatever man. These are the songs we’re gonna play.” And they’re like, “Yeah cool.” We waited, they had this like buffet. And it was hilarious – before he walks in they dim the light [laughs] it was like Jesus was coming or something. And then Rick Rubin walks in and I just remember him wearing Crocs. We played him about six songs or something and had a chat to him. Found out his favourite rock band and he’s a huge, huge Nick Cave fan. He’s a really rad dude.

So who is Luke Boerdam’s favourite band ever?

Aw man I hate answering this question, because mine’s like.. Mine’s Pavement, but I’ve got a secret soft spot for Radiohead. Especially because I saw them last week. I mean come on. Man they were good. I used to listen to them all the time years and years ago and I still do. I got these tickets and yeah, went. I was like, ah man, I forgot how good you guys are [laughs]. It fucking blew my mind.  I also saw Refused, they’re one of my favourite bands too, they were fucking awesome. I had a pretty good week. You know if you want to see two shows to get you pumped for tour, seeing Radiohead and Refused will do the trick.”

Luke’s definitely got taste. And now that he’s brought up Pavement, I can see a subtle influence through the sounds of Violent Soho. Does he think so too?

Yeah I reckon. I mean I don’t think with any band, it’s ever as clear as “oh we’re so easily, clearly influenced by this band, this band, this band.” You’ve got four dudes, they all love different types of music, you know similar but different, they all play differently. Sometimes I’ll write a song and I’ll take it to the band and it comes out completely different. I still love it and I love how it sounds, but yeah.

But Pavement, I think what I grab from Pavement and what I love about Pavement is just the looseness of the vocal delivery.

The quotes about Pavement is just like, “They’re the smart version of Nirvana” Obviously Kurt Cobain’s lyrics are fucking genius as well, but I kind of think that Pavement’s lyrics are a step above. Some of the stuff and the concepts he comes up through their music is awesome.

“Yeah I’ve always loved Shady Lane” I informed Luke.

“Yeah I think my favourite one is ‘Here’. I’m a big fan. I think the last record, like if you listen to Terror Twilight, the one Godrich did is just fucking incredible. You know where there’s the first couple of records and they’re always the best, and then the band moves on, but with Pavement, it just didn’t stop man. Just like Wowee Zowee I was like, “ah I love this even more! This is so good!” It’s different. Yeah ‘Shady Lane’ is a really good song, ‘Stereo’.. Yeah. I really love them. And I love how they all lived in different cities, I think that’s so cool.”

After both of us going on about how fucking great Pavement are, I asked Luke about Violent Soho’s brand new clip and single release ‘Neighbour Neighbour’. A clip that looks pretty laid back to shoot, was it the most fun to work on?

[Laughs] Aw man that film clip was hilarious to shoot. We didn’t know what to expect. All the American film clips are dark. They were shot in Winter. We always wanted that Summer feel in our film clips. That’s where we’re from! We’re from Brisbane, like it’s hot and sweaty as fuck. And basically we want to show that. It’s the band we are.

So we said, “Let’s just do a house party and we want it to be in the afternoon.” Basically, director Tristian was kind of like, “Hey! I know this house and it’s a party house. Basically it’s owned by a company and you can throw parties there. It’s cool.” And we were like, “Ohh sweet!” So we got it rounded up. And there’s all these random people showing up cause we posted it on Facebook.

And I love it, I think I just love how it’s not like you’re on a film clip, and yeah we could have got a bunch of young eighteen year old skater dudes, but basically what we did was anyone that comes in the clip, you know, we got these dudes [laughs] just regular guys somersaulting into the pool, we’ve got, you know, just anyone who was at this house on that day. And yeah we’re really happy with it. I think that Tristian guy did a pretty cool job. People seem to like it. We’re happy with it cause we finally got a video that we didn’t have to shoot in like a New York Winter or wasn’t dark. It’s just more natural to us. That room that’s in the film clip that’s like when we first started the band that’s like exactly the type of room we used to play in you know? So yeah, it was cool.

So what can we expect from the dudes that are Violent Soho in 2013?

A fucking album – one thing! [Laughs]

After I exclaimed an embarrassing little woo, Luke continued,

Yeah, exactly! I’ve been waiting too man! I’ve got all these songs; I want to get into a studio, I want to record them. But really, we could have done that this year, but the thing was it was smarter to put out a 7” and take it really slow. It’s given me a few months to write more.

We’re absolute perfectionists when it comes to songwriting. I write, write everyday and then basically I throw a bunch of stuff out. The stuff that gets taken to the band is, from my opinion, the good stuff, and they go through a whole other process of adding, you know, drums and bass. What ever gets added comes out different but then we go through another process. We really work on songs. We don’t put shit out unless we like it and we believe in it because really if you put stuff out and you’ve got to tour and you’ve got to do all the work around it – if you put out a shit song it’s just depressing. It’s like, “I don’t even like this song. [Laughs] why are we touring it? Why are we playing it? There’s all this work. I don’t get paid enough to do this shit. I don’t get paid anything to do this shit. Why am I doing this?” So we have a really strong rule that if we’re fucking not feeling something, we just throw it out there and then. I think what happens is we basically end up taking way longer [laughs].

So I think 2013, you know we’re ready to record. We’re getting in there and we’re going to have an album out definitely next year. We just can’t wait to tour it, can’t wait for people to hear the new stuff. I think it’s more mature and I think we’ve found a really good grounding for our band. We’ve just got really strong direction now we’ve had that time being in America and really sorted out what the fuck we want to do and yeah it’s paid off. This tour alone has just been awesome to get two songs out even and to get touring again has been so good. I just can’t wait to do it for an album.

Words by Hannah Galvin



An avid fan of Sydney’s jazz and found sound scene, as well as eating peanut butter from the jar.