Ex-Hunters & Collectors singer Mark Seymour hits Toronto solo
An interview with Mark Seymour for his late 2013 brief Canadian tour.
Author: Ben Rayner, Toronto Star.
Date: 8 November 2013.
The leader of one of Australia’s most beloved bands tackles his favourite love songs on new solo album Seventh Heaven Club.
Mark Seymour, ex-frontman for Australia’s beloved Hunters & Collectors, has a new band and a new solo album of his favourite love songs.
Hunters & Collectors are one of Australia’s most beloved rock ’n’ roll bands, yet they remain something of an obscurity to music fans the rest of the world over — in all, reckons ex-frontman Mark Seymour, but three other ports of call: New Zealand, Sweden and, yes, Canada.
Canada gave Hunters & Collectors, currently the subject of a tribute album back at home entitled Crucible: The Songs of Hunters & Collectors, a lot of love back in the day. And so Seymour graciously elected to make the long trek to our end of the planet this week to mark the domestic release of his newest solo album, Seventh Heaven Club, a covers collection featuring some of his favourite love songs recorded with the aid of able backing band The Undertow.
After warming up with a gig in Kitchener on Thursday, Seymour delivers an acoustic matinee set at the Mod Club on Saturday, Nov. 9, as a teaser for a full-band Canadian tour planned for 2014. The Star caught up with him at his Toronto hotel earlier this week.
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Q: What possessed you to take on an album’s worth of songs by folks like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne?
A: Essentially, what’s happened is I’ve found a new group of guys that’s gelled really well, a four-piece rock band. We’ll be playing here in May of next year. After the last album we did, I started writing another record and I wanted to include a song by this Kiwi dude, Dave Dobbyn. There’s a song on the record called “Beside You” that came out on an album called Islander. It was an incredibly good record and I always really wanted to record that song because I had it in my set and I was playing it. I do actually have individual covers amongst the originals on my albums. I’ve done it a few times already. And then someone else suggested: “Why don’t you do ‘Lorelei’? You’ve been doing that Pogues song for years.’ And just because I was engaged in that conversation, I realized that from one year to the next I’ve had all these covers in my show and I’ve just discarded them, but they were songs that resonated with me for some reason at that time. They’ve kind of fit in with where my head was at. And also, with this band, it kind of gave the band traction to grapple with these iconic songs. So it was serving two purposes in life. I thought it could be really explosive and immediate, but it turned out to be really difficult. It was a really hard process.
Q: What was so tough about it?
A: It was incredibly difficult to record. It was just so hard. We had so many gos at it and a lot of songs were ditched. We did, like, Dido and Cyndi Lauper and just a really weird, strange mix of material. In the end, though, it was surprising the ones that (worked). The Dylan song (“Can’t Wait”), there’s hardly anything in it, it’s just got that pulse, so that was actually really easy to do. But I love that. That’s probably close to my favourite song on the record. With the band, it’s a monster.
Q: I see you got your daughter, Hannah, to sing on the record, too.
A: I’d earmarked some of the songs for the purpose of singing duets. I’d approached some other women, like Abby Dobson . . . and I was looking for someone to do the female part in “Lorelei” and my daughter was just sort of over the hall, noodling away in her bedroom on the guitar.
Q: Does she want to follow in Dad’s footsteps?
A: She really wants to do something, but how it manifests itself I couldn’t tell you. I’d be happy for her to do it, but you kind of have to have a moment, really, and just go: “All right, this is what I wanna do” and shed a lot of stuff to do it — leave university, say. You can’t just slide into it gradually. A light’s gotta go on. She can sing really beautifully, but I’m not sure that she’s actually going to make that choice. It’s so personal.
Q: Is it weird having Hunters & Collectors become the focus of a tribute album?
A: It is a bit weird. I’m just rolling with it, really. It had nothing to do with me. Oddly enough, the band was asked two years ago to submit artists that we thought might be appropriate and it was just ridiculous. There were so many lists. And then we all got this email from the managers saying: “Maybe it’s a good idea if you guys just step out of the picture because it’ll never get made.” There were just no decisions. So everybody agreed to that.
Q: You’re about to do a couple of reunion gigs, right?
A: We’re doing two shows with Bruce Springsteen in February. I think it’ll be good. We’re only doing two, which I think is probably smart because you’d probably get completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of his shows, just being in the support spot. They’re just nuts.
Q: You’re not sold on the idea of a full reunion tour, then?
A: In a word: no. I mean, I’ve been asked and there was an expectation there and it was definitely in the cards, but I just made a sort of educated guess that this — with the age of everybody and just how hard it is to actually get the band together — I thought, “No, It’ll just consume everything else.” I’ve got my work and I’d just get swallowed up by it . . . I probably would consider it, but we’ve done a couple of shows already and just sorta watched it unfold and it’s, like, “My God.” It’s just monstrous. It’s so big. It’s massive. You’d have to commit. They’re all full-time, professional guys, as well. There’s always these conversations about, “How much time do I need? When do I need to get there? I have to tell my boss.” There’s this whole conversation about allocating time. There are at least two or three guys who are just full on into their own jobs now and it’s just a bit of a pain in the arse for them.