Hunters & Collectors: Kings of the Road
Great article featuring Mark Seymour and Paul Dempsey (Something For Kate) talking about the Hunters legacy.
Author: Craig Mathieson, The Age.
Date: 4 October 2013.
Hunters & Collectors are back on tour, joined by Something for Kate. Mark Seymour and Paul Dempsey discuss this new chapter for the Hunnas.
Mutual admiration: Paul Dempsey and Mark Seymour. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
“I’m going home,” sings Hunters & Collectors vocalist Mark Seymour, tearing into an acoustic version of the band’s 1989 classic When the River Runs Dry, and the excited audience at a Triple M live broadcast in Melbourne is already there waiting for him. Aided and abetted onstage by Something for Kate frontman Paul Dempsey, Seymour is celebrating the reignition of one of the country’s most iconic rock bands with the release of the tribute album Crucible and the news that they’re embarking on their first national tour in 15 years.
Covering Throw Your Arms Around Me, Something For Kate are part of Crucible’s eclectic line-up, and the trio will also support the re-formed Hunters & Collectors at outdoor summer shows next year. It’s an arrangement that obviously pleases Dempsey, who, in a subsequent conversation with Seymour, reveals he has fond memories of the band everyone simply called Hunnas.
Dempsey: How does it feel to have all these people paying tribute?
Seymour: It’s only dawned on me over the last week how special it is. It’s been in the pipeline for ages, but I hadn’t digested the significance of it until now. We pitched a lot of names early on and then it became obvious that the album wouldn’t get made if we were involved in the process, because of the sheer range of opinions. We decided to stay out.
Dempsey: Has the band had the chance to have a good listen? It must be a trepidatious experience because there are some very different interpretations.
Seymour: We’re good. It depends on when you first became aware of Hunters & Collectors. There are artists on the record who probably weren’t alive when we recorded the song they interpreted.
Built a legacy through touring: Mark Seymour. Photo: Martin Philbey
Dempsey: What’s a Few Men  was the first album I ever owned. I have three older sisters who used to follow you around the country. They were massive, massive fans, so I would hear the band in our house constantly when I was kid.
I had been listening, as every 10-year-old does, to chart-music compilations, but then I remember hearing Hunters & Collectors and waking up to it. It was just so much better than what was on the radio.
Seymour: That record didn’t get any radio airplay anywhere. I didn’t think anyone would hear it because Triple J had stopped playing us and Triple M hadn’t started. We didn’t have any choice, so we just kept playing in pubs, so I was surprised that record ended up doing as well as it did. We were relatively popular, as a lot of people would go and see the band, but radio wouldn’t play it at the time.
Dempsey: We always admired bands like Hunters & Collectors and REM who built their audiences through touring and the special bond that built.
Seymour: You become very close to whoever comes. You develop a strong relationship and you become very respectful of whoever is there. You can’t tell what’s happening on a national level, but you can see who’s there in the pub watching you. With this record, especially in the last week, I’ve realised there’s a real awareness of those songs.
Dempsey: How does the rest of the band feel about getting back on the road?
Seymour: They’re pretty good. There’s no creative pressure – we’re just doing a retrospective tour. We’re not trying to reinvent ourselves creatively and that’s important. We’re not trying to rekindle the idea of some creative overlay because, personally, I think that’s fraught with danger.
Dempsey: You stopped touring in 1998 and that’s when we started touring heavily. Have the other guys missed it?
Seymour: It’s hard to say, as everyone is really polite. People have mellowed. We pretty much all have kids, so we don’t sweat the small stuff any more. Most of the guys have full-time jobs now, so there’s a different mentality now. No one’s desperate for the band to go back on the road.
Dempsey: Hunters & Collectors have such an identifiable sound because of your voice and a rhythm section that is like a freight train. Was there a moment when you found that sound again?
Seymour: At rehearsal this week. Each time we’ve come together, it’s fallen into place quickly without a struggle. When it happens, it’s just big. You’ve got to relax with it; you can’t question it, because it’s just this forward pressure that keeps pushing all the time. The analogy I always drew was that Hunnas was like this big machine. No one was ever driving it.
Dempsey:When the River Runs Dry has all of the things that I love about Hunters & Collectors, the finest features in one song – the throbbing verse, the really raw, honest vocal, the urgency and when it hits that chorus, it just takes off.
Seymour:When the River Runs Dry is a very important song. We were never strident politically, but we tried to sometimes define a general attitude, and that was one.
Gig details A Day on the Green: February 1, Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley, with You Am I, Something For Kate and British India; March 1, Petersons Winery, Armidale, with Something for Kate, Diesel and British India; Saturday, March 8, Robert Oatley Vineyards, Mudgee, with Something for Kate, Diesel and British India. April 4, Enmore Theatre with the Panics.
Tickets All tickets on sale October 11; Enmore through ticketek.com.au, 13 28 49, A Day on the Green, ticketmaster.com.au, 13 61 00.
Into Hunters & Collectors’ melting pot
Few Australian bands have a more storied history than Hunters & Collectors, a group who emerged from Melbourne’s inner-city scene at the start of the 1980s and gradually evolved into a titanic live band whose horn-infused, definitive seven-piece line-up became one of the country’s premier concert attractions. In the past 15 years they have made only a handful of one-off appearances, mainly for benefit gigs such as Sound Relief, the 2009 Victorian bushfire benefit.
One way to measure the group’s standing is to note the artists who contribute covers to Crucible: Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Neil Finn (Throw Your Arms Around Me), The Living End (Say Goodbye), The Avalanches (a remix of Talking to a Stranger) and Missy Higgins and Matt Corby all feature on the first disc. A second holds the original recordings.
Across almost two decades Hunters & Collectors evolved from art-rock provocateurs and cold-funk minimalists to a muscular force that provided a chronicle of change in Australia. The strength of songwriting in the band’s back catalogue is a key reason why their 2014 shows will be more than nostalgia. That’s extended by the tribute versions on Crucible, where a diverse range of artists engage with the varied DNA of The Slab (Betty’s Worry), Holy Grail and Do You See What I See?
“People have completely reinterpreted the material. People have found the songs, and I wasn’t sure how that would work with something like Talkin to a Stranger, admits Seymour. “Missy Higgins and Matt Corby doing This Morning have discovered something that I didn’t even know was there.”
Crucible – The Songs of Hunters & Collectors is out now through Liberation Music and can be purchased on iTunes here.