Living Daylight Press Kit: New Times

New Times article on Hunters and Collectors again from the American perspective.

Author: Penelope Corcoran.

Date: December 10-16 1986.

 

Article Text

Australians don’t have heroes. Or so says young Australian on the rise, Mark Seymour, singer and lyricist of the Melbourne-based rock ‘n’ roll band Hunters & Collectors. “Ours is a middle-class nation,” he says by telephone from New York, comparing his country to the loud, bustling nation he can see out the window. “People feel much more comfortable with the idea of being equal with each other In Australia we are really unwilling to set any one Australian up as a hero.” ( “Crocodile “Dundee could not be reached for comment. – Ed.)

Obviously, this makes it tough to become a rock star Down Under, at least on the grand scale Americans are used to seeing. Despite the abundance of great rock ‘n’ roll in the land of the kangaroo and koala, notes Seymour, Australian artists don’t receive the kind of star-hero treatment that American and British artists get from their respective countrymen. No magazine covers, no honorary knighthoods, no television specials.

“Americans have heroes that are American,” the highly articulate Seymour observes. “And though they’re willing to consume exotic new things like Hunters& Collectors, what comes first and foremost for Americans are the Madonnas and the Bruce Springsteens. In Australia, not only do we embrace Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, but we cannot eulogize our kind at all. “The Australian belief that theirs is a true democracy, he theorizes, prohibits the canonization of Aussies in any field. After all, if everyone is equal in every way, why should anyone person deserve more attention than anyone else?

The answer, as Hunters & Collectors discovered upon forming in 1980, is to make it clear that they are a group in which all members are equal. “‘The idea of people respecting us is probably because we’re not Mark Seymour and the Band,” says the singer. ” We work as a collective, and we make that quite an obvious point to everybody – that we’re all on the same level. People in Australia find that quite satisfying.

Equally satisfying, no doubt, is Hunters Collectors’ sound. From its start as a freeform group which jammed live, building up a “wall of rhythm” which sometimes dissipated into a cacophony as the audience played along on hubcaps, Hunters & Collectors has tightened up considerably. The band’s latest album Human Frailly shows it to be a gutsy septet whose use of the trumpet,  French horn and trombone in no way detracts from its appeal as a basic rock’n’roll band (there’s still plenty of drums, bass and guitar).

Producer Gavin MacKillop has carved out space for all the instruments on Human Frailty. But Mark Seymour’s vocals are especially prominent, pushed to the front of the mix to showcase serious and meaningful lyrics. Seymour’s theme on this album how quickly power can change hands in male-female relationships – is both depressing and enlightening. ( If you think Morrisey of the Smiths writes dandy lyrics, you should definitely cheek out Seymour’s – ouch!) Surrounding Seymour’s  musings are guitars that gleam with every strum and horn interludes which (thankfully) make sense and enhance even the nastiest songs without diluting them to wirnp-strength rock.

“The thing that might have something to do with the way Australian bands sound, which tends to be sort of rough and very aggressive,” Seymour proposes, “is that there is a background of this frustration and struggle involved with getting people’s attention.”   So what’s an Australian band to do? Ship out, mate. They’ve been doing it since the Easybeats crossed the ocean with the 1967 hit “Friday on My Mind”

It seems that the more successful Australian bands get at home, the more pressure there is on them to get out. At some point every aspiring group must make a decision to stay or go, either transplanting themselves to the UK or putting themselves on permanent tour status.  Some bands such as Radio Birdman, Saints, Go-Betweens and fellow Melbourne lads Birthday Party have suffered as a result, surviving abroad long enough only to break up or make new associations.

Hunters & Collectors have been more fortunate. In the early Eighties, Seymour recalls, Australian bands were almost required to move to London to prove their artistic credibility. So in late 1982, Hunters & Collectors joined the exodus, with nearly fatal results.

“We went to England and discovered that it was detrimental to us as a band in a creative sense,” Seymour confesses. “Apart from the fact that we were living on bread and water and living in bedsits in London.” Rather than disintegrating, the band pulled out of its downward spin – and in September 1983 moved back to Melbourne for good.

“We got our arses back to Australia,” Seymour admits. “That was a very wide-eyed experience that made us all the more conscious of what it was in our environment that inspired us to start in the first place.” Though the band knows it must “tour massively elsewhere” in order to survive, adds Seymour, Melbourne will remain the band’s home base.

One factor in Hunters & Collectors’ native environment that the band grew to appreciate during its period of soul-searching is the importance of live music in Australia.

“Going out on a weekend to see a rock ‘n’ roll band in a club is far more a public activity, a part of everyday life in Australia than it is in Britain,” Seymour says. There are pubs – and pub bands – everywhere, he notes – and which bands survive is determined not by the amount of hairspray used, but by the level of the group’s determination to win over raucous pub crowds. “The audience doesn’t relate to what you do in terms of the style of what you’re doing,” Seymour adds. ” It relates to what you do in terms of how powerful the music is.

“Australian bands have got to be able to cut the mustard in a pub,” asserts “No Poseurs” Seymour. “That’s where their livelihood is.”

Hunters & Collectors will perform tonight (Wednesday) at the Metro. Show time is  9 P.M.

 

~ typed up by Caelie.

 

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