Grasping the holy grail

A great article and interview with Something For Kate in relation to Hunters and Collectors.

Author:  Kate Tarala, Newcastle Herald.

Date: 1 January 2014.

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Something For Kate play alongside Hunters & Collectors, You Am I and British India at A Day On The Green on February 1 at Bimbadgen Winery. Tickets at Ticketmaster.

Hunters & Collectors were pivotal in turning Something For Kate frontman and accomplished solo artist Paul Dempsey on to rock’n’roll. So when the legendary Australian band announced they’d return to the stage this year – on the back of a tribute album release – Dempsey had to be involved.

His band, Something For Kate, recorded their own take on the classic Hunters song When the River Runs Dry for the Crucible – The Songs of Hunters & Collectors.

The trio will also join the Hunters on their first tour since 1998, a run of A Day On The Green shows including Bimbadgen Winery on February 1.

Dempsey explained his love of the Hunters & Collectors goes back to their 1987 album What’s a Few Men?, the first album he ever owned. He credits his three older sisters who were ‘‘absolutely obsessive fans who used to follow Hunters all over the country and who all wanted to marry Mark Seymour’’ with introducing him to the band.

Soon the Hunters entrenched themselves in Dempsey’s – and indeed the Australian – psyche. Songs such as Throw Your Arms Around Me, Holy Grail, When The River Runs Dry and Do You See What I See are some of their hits.

‘‘They were just a band that were blasted in our household when I was a little kid. They are definitely a band that is responsible for flicking that switch in my brain that makes you realise there is a difference between chart music and actual honest, raw rock’n’roll that has a heart and a brain, that’s not sugar-coated,’’ Dempsey explained.

‘‘They were definitely the dividing line between listening to whatever was in the top 20 and music that could be dark and sweaty and dangerous.’’

Decades later, the Hunters continue to affect Dempsey’s work with Something For Kate, and not just in their heavy touring schedule (as the Hunters did in their heyday).

‘‘You can probably see their influence on Something For Kate, I think there definitely are some parallels between the two bands because they are both bands which have been in and out of favour over the years. Some of your records are all over the radio, some aren’t. Sometimes you’re in fashion, sometimes you’re not,’’ Dempsey explained.

‘‘I think Mark Seymour also has one of those voices that people either loved or found difficult to listen to and that seems to be the case with us as well.’’

Rather than seeing it as a negative, the singer believes the divisive tendency has a definite upside.

‘‘You get a more passionate type of fan because if people are into it, they’re really into it.

‘‘They almost love the band even more because you are the underdog and you never win the awards or the popularity contest, but you work your arse off.’’

And now as well as sharing a stage, the bands will be forever linked, with SFK recording their version of When the River Runs Dry for the tribute album, which was released in September.

The album features established names Eddie Vedder, Neil Finn, Paul Kelly and the Living End alongside relative newcomers such as the Rubens, Alpine, Matt Corby and Abbe May.

But Dempsey revealed SFK wasn’t first in line to record their take on the song.

‘‘It’s a funny story, I’m not sure if I should tell it, I might get in trouble, but what the hell. That song was actually earmarked for another artist and we were sort of given some other options but I basically said, ‘There’s a whole lot of fantastic songs here and we’d be happy to do any of them, but quite frankly, we want to do that one and it’s kind of that or nothing’.

‘‘I pushed my luck a bit but I do really love that song so much, so I kind of went hard for it and we got to do it.’’

Were there any nerves about putting their stamp on such a well-loved song?

‘‘It was mostly just excitement, you could get nervous but you sort of choose not to. If you genuinely love something and you are sincere about wanting to do it justice, then you just give it your best shot,’’ he said. ‘‘You know that you can’t please everybody, there are going to be people who like it and people who don’t like it but you can never convince those people anyway, so you just put your best foot forward.’’

It certainly helps that the themes of the song still resonate today, decades on from its release in 1989, which Dempsey said was ‘‘testament to how timeless and well-written that particular song is, that it can still make a whole lot of sense 20 to 25 years on’’.

Recording the cover allowed Dempsey to immerse himself in the song and seemed to only reinforce his appreciation of the band’s talent.

‘‘When you actually sit down to do a cover and you pull out the magnifying glass and analyse their songs and all the individual parts, that’s when you see it’s amazing.’’