Ideals of an Inner City Hippy
Interview with Mark Seymour a week before the start of the recording process for ‘What’s a Few Men?’.
Author: Suzy Freeman-Green, The Age.
Date: 31 July 1987.
Original URL: N/A.
Mark Seymour is convinced the Hunters and Collectors are on the brink of making it in the US. He talks to Suzy Freeman-Greene about life, the universe and Crowded House.
The last thing Mark Seymour wants is to be drawn into comparing Hunters and Collectors with Crowded House. Unfortunately for him, a lot of people are asking him to do just that. They are unable to resist the fact that he and his brother Nick are successes in two very different bands.
Sounding just a trifle unconvincing, Seymour says he “really likes” Crowded House. When pressed, a bit more feeling tumbles out. “I don’t want to get into this sibling (expletive). It’s really boring”, he says. “The press are constantly trying to get me to say something about them, but I don’t really have any particular opinion about Crowded House.”
It’s hard to see how the Hunters’ lead singer and guitarist could not have an opinion, having just done 10 weeks, 40 shows and thousands of kilometres around the United States, where Crowded House are all the rage. There is undeniable irony in the fact that while the raw, earthy and uniquely Australian Hunters were trudging the US college circuit hoping for a break, the light weight pop formulas of Crowded House Breezed through the States with almost overnight success.
Seymour doesn’t appear to be bitter about this. In fact his attitude to the American success syndrome is surprisingly sound. He sees commercial success as an adjunct to his music making, not its raison d’etre.
“I look at my experience musically in terms of quality of life. I’m having a great time. To be able to make a living out of a creative lifestyle is something very few people ever get the chance to do. So I look at what I do in those terms.”
Next week the band will begin recording a new album called “What’s a Few Men’ which will be produced by American Greg Edwards, who has worked with John Cougar Mellencamp and REM. It will be a brighter, rockier, less angry offering than their last album ‘Human Frailty’ which was mainly about Seymour’s relationship a woman.
Seymour says his latest lyrics are of a bit more spiritual nature. He describes himself as “a bit of a hippy” when it comes to music and, in an odd sort of way, the description is true. Small, wiry and almost as intense in person as he is on stage, Seymour has a lot to say about personal transcendence.
His most recent lyrics deal with deals with things like the landscape and the idea of waiting. “Waiting is a very strong theme. Waiting for someone to come home, waiting for someone to react, waiting for somebody to understand. There’s still that underlying sense of frustration in my lyrics.”
“There’s one song called ‘Born Hungry’ which is an attempt to express that feeling. Looking at the idea that when you’re born you have this sort of wide-eyed innocent eagerness to just consume what life has to offer. Gradually … you have to come to terms with the idea of survival which tends to crush that innocence. I’m trying to express the idea that the feeling never really goes and that’s where each person’s spirituality comes from.”
Back on the subject of success (of which Seymour is wary) he is convinced the Hunters are not far from making it big in the US. It is, he believes, “a natural progression” from their success on the college circuit. “My attitude is that we are going to be big in America – there’s no two ways about it. Our music has an intrinsic quality which people find appealing.”
But, he adds, “success always looks good from the other side of the railway tracks. I mean I know of musicians who are heaps more successful than me commercially but they still go through the same kind of frustrations and personal problems everybody else does”.
Seymour says there’s still “heaps of naivety left in Hunters and Collectors. “The guys don’t get that cynical about things, which is pretty good. There’s sort of a collective naivety – we tend not to take things for granted too much.” At 30, Seymour still loves fronting the band and admits that playing live is an incredibly satisfying drug, albeit an ego trip. “I know this sounds incredibly sentimental but I really like the idea of looking into hundreds of faces who are thinking something and feeling something that I’m feeling.”
According to Seymour, Hunters and Collectors are a body politic: “If you cut off one bit the whole bit dies.” Not that he can envisage that ever happening – unless of course they inadvertently hang themselves with they’re over-intellectualising. “We’re our own worst enemies when it comes to over-intellectualising what we do. What we’re good at is the spontaneity between us when we’re just playing. Greg (Edwards) has latched onto that and said: “Don’t get too brainy about what you’re on about – just do it.”
Where and When: Hunters and Collectors can be seen at the Old Greek Theatre in Richmond Tonight
Thanks to Matt for typing this one out for us all to enjoy.
Matt notes: No song called ‘Born Hungry’ has been released by Hunters and Collectors. Possible working title for ‘So Long Ago’ (?) due to Mark Seymour’s description and lyrical themes in ‘So Long Ago’.