Published on May 17th, 2006 | by The Beige Baron


Screamfeeder Interview

If a week is a long time in politics, then imagine what 10 years in the music business is like. Not only does a band have to negotiate a gruelling storm of writing, recording and touring, it has to chart its own course regardless of which direction the winds of fashion are blowing.

Under the pressure of international touring, dealing with contractual obligations, rounds of interviews, venues and shows — and not least the expectations of fans — it’s a minor miracle that any band can survive beyond the first flush of youth.

But get this: three-piece Brisbane rock group Screamfeeder has been together for more than 12 years, producing seven full-length albums and a pile of singles you couldn’t jump over. But where you might expect the “business” to have turned them into cynical prima donnas, you’ll find the exact opposite. Singer and guitarist Tim Steward, like the music he plays, wears his optimism with a crooked smile — and he’s keen to say off the bat that no, just because the latest record is a compilation doesn’t mean that band is ready to fade into obscurity at Shady Acres Home For Burnt Out Rockers.

There’s going to be a lot of fans relieved to hear it. Screamfeeder’s familiar brand of ironic and self-deprecating slacker rock stirs a fondness in the hearts of many Australians. Spinning the new record, Introducing: Screamfeeder, Singles & More 1992-2004 is like looking through an old photo album, evoking memories of childish love, high school keg parties, homework and your first car. “I just thought it would be nice to get some samples of our old stuff for people and say hey, what about the new ones. People into our new stuff can check out the old ones,” says Tim. “It’s just such a long time. I can’t believe how long it’s been going.”

One reason for Screamfeeder’s longevity is that their profile grew gradually.

“In the early 90s we got pretty successful and that was nice, but I guess we were completely naïve about it. We didn’t know how well we’d done back then. Things started moving along, we had a couple of records in the states, went overseas and that. We kind of took it in our stride.” Do priorities change once you get more experience in the music industry?

“I don’t think so, but as you go along your expectations become more realistic. Say with a young band, you think you’re going to be stars, overnight successes, and then a year later the drummer’s left, the singer’s shitted off with you, you might be burnt out or you haven’t got a label. “We just enjoy the lifestyle. It’s kind of cool actually.”

Screamfeeder have been fans of 90s bands like Sebadoh, The Flaming Lips and My Bloody Valentine since day one. Its own melodious but discordant pop sits comfortably alongside these American bands, but with a spacious Australian flavour. Has the local musical landscape changed much?

“It’s like a different planet I’m on now,” says Tim. “You know, the dawn of Indi rock becoming big, there was grunge and all that stuff. Everyone was into live music, it was really full-on — and you only realise this in retrospect.

“Nowadays it’s diversified with dance music or whatever, but there are traces of the old scene here and there.” Screamfeeder writes much of its material before hitting the studio, and is “gear phobic” according to Tim, preferring aging amps for a nice warm sound. They’ve also worked with respected Aussie producers including Magoo, Wayne Connelly and David Price. Tim can’t decide on a favourite. “The main job of the producer is to keep the band happy, thinking they’re playing well and to get a great take out of them … but they’ve got all these little lines, and they all mean come on, give me something half-decent to work with here!”

Screamfeeder recently came off a lengthy world tour that spanned three continents. Hard work and a lot of their hard-earned helped grow an overseas fan base, particularly in America. The key to keeping the band fun is maintaining a sense of humour and not forcing things. Right now Screamfeeder is in the midst of a national tour.

“We’re not at the point where we want to stop or anything,” says Tim, who is looking out his window towards [bassist] Kellie Lloyd’s flat, maybe wondering if she’d be up for a beer. “Me and [drummer] Dean have a two-piece going and I’ve got a solo project … but we’ll get back into it. If you’ve got something on the boil, you go with it and shift the other to the backburner, and kind of make dinner.”

After the latest feast’s been digested, it’s a sure bet that kids all over the world will be ready for dessert, as only these Queenslanders can serve it.

Introducing Screamfeeder, Singles & More 1992-2004 is in stores now.

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