Powderfinger is back on the scene with a new record, new sound and new approach
Nov 14, 2009. By Jordana Borensztajn.
After more than a decade in the industry, one of Australia’s premier rock groups – the Brisvegas quintet Powderfinger – has re-emerged on the scene with a hot new sound and fresh approach to their craft.
Sipping a cup of tea and watching a storm thrash down outside his window at home, guitarist Ian Haug tells Nova the key to the band’s longevity lies in their relationships. “We have good therapists (laughs). Generally we try not to take anything too personally, like creative decisions, and we know each others’ boundaries, and how to push each others’ buttons,” he explains.
“It’s a good idea to not try to p**s each other off if there’s a task at hand. But we’ve just been having fun. We look for a bit of fun among anything we’re doing – whether it’s a photo shoot or anything. And like any group of friends, there’s a good bit of sledging. It’s an Australian tradition I think.”
The ARIA award winning group is hot off the heels of delivering its seventh studio album, Golden Rule. The record’s first single “All of the Dreamers” released last month, has been bouncing around Aussie airwaves and shows a far more upbeat and positive side to the group’s music than their previous work.
“When we were writing the songs and recording them, we just wanted there to be a certain spontaneity in the whole process and the result. Hopefully and ultimately, I think we’ve achieved that. We wanted to keep ourselves excited by making stuff interesting. We wanted to have a different vibe and that involved material not necessarily being right or slick, but stuff that sounds broken or sound like it’s about to explode.
“That’s what we wanted. You can’t try to do that. It’s a fine line, really. If you’re trying to do it, it would probably sound a bit conspired. We’re invigorated, definitely, by what we’ve been doing. Powderfinger limited its creative process to a period of six months and Haug says something just felt different his time around. He says everything just fell into place. “We just went for it and enjoyed it. There’s a whole lot of different styles going on in this record. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves. The whole thing has got a certain positivity about it and vibe to it that’s meant to be fun. I mean, if we’re not interested in what we’re doing then we can’t expect anyone else to be.”
It’s clear these guys know how to have fun. Inspired by an impromptu busking session that took place in Byron Bay, an intelligent and unexpected guerilla stunt last month, Powderfinger rocked Australia when they decided to play free gigs in three Aussie cities in one day. In the week of their single release, the band performed in Brisbane in the morning, in Sydney at lunchtime, and in Melbourne late afternoon, and made last-minute alerts to fans via their Twitter account.
“It was fun because you can’t hide behind anything if your’e playing acoustic guitars. It was great. We would definitely consider doing it again.” When it comes to Powderfinger’s strategic approaches, the band’s efforts to diversify themselves from the pack don’t stop at free shows. This time around, the group offered fans the opportunity to pre-order Golden Rule as an iTunes LP which combines music, design and visual features. Haug says in the current competitive and very tech-focused music climate, you need to think of inventive ways to stay ahead.
“Because there aren’t as many physical records nowadays, you’ve got to do something a bit interesting. We’ve always tried to give fans something else. It’s a shame people can’t get B-Sides anymore – the big stores just don’t stock them,” he says.
“The free download thing is really good for music as a whole in that younger bands can get their stuff out there and be heard. There’s no doubt about that. But at our level, the only way we can keep making records is if a certain amount of people can buy them . I think it’s done a full circle though. People don’t want a shit quality download. They’ll actually buy one off iTunes.” With their newest delivery now safely in fans’ hands, Powderfinger has a pretty full summer schedule head. They’re headlining Homebake, are a major local act on the Big Day Out bill, and also have overseas shows schedule in.
Haug says it feels pretty good to be considered one of the country’s premiere rock groups but even better when you love what you’re doing. “It feels great. We’ve always tried to keep ourselves amused with the music we’re doing and we’ve been fortunate enough that people haven’t been interested in our lives too much. We can get involved in certain charities or causes we might want but we don’t want to preach to anyone. We try not to do that, and we just enjoy being in a band. I consider myself really lucky that my hobby is my job. I just love playing guitar and writing songs and recording songs. We’ll stop when we don’t enjoy it.”