AUGIE MARCH History, Hobart and a homecoming

Following a four year recoup, Augie March have returned with their sixth and brand new record Bootikins. ELOISE PARKS had a chat with lead singer Glenn Richards about the album, its title, and his favourite Augie March album. Augie March play Mojo’s Bar on May 18 and 19.

Let’s start off with something fairly simple: what does the word “Bootikins” actually refer to?

I always get myself into trouble when I name records! It sort of translates from “caligae”, which were the sandals that the Roman legionaries wore. When Caligula was just a little kid, his father took him on a couple of expeditions with the legions into Germany and so on, and after a while he became a kind of mascot for them. So they made him a pair of caligae and a full set of armour and that became his nickname – it translates to Bootikins, roughly, and that’s where this all came from.

Aww, that’s actually really sweet!

Haha yes, it’s kind of sweet but then you have to think about what a monster he became and it becomes a little more sinister.

Oh for sure. The next thing I was really interested in is the new music video for When I Am Old – I thought the fact that Jack Charles was involved was really incredible and I just wanted to know what it was like to have him on board…

I came across [to Melbourne from Hobart] to do the first shoot and we were really pressed for time to get it done. Sunny Leunig [director] had struggled to get a crew together and it happened that the guy that he got lined up to do the ‘old guy’ bit kind of just disappeared, like old actors tend to do. I’d run into Jack Charles a few times on the street, and it occurred to me that I should ask him; give him a copy of the song and see what he thinks about it. He was right into the tune and the rest is history; it’s really beautiful and I’m very glad it happened that way.

Wow, that’s awesome that it all worked out so well. This is less specific to the album but I suppose it could apply in a sense; the band has been together for over two decades, so do you feel as though the dynamic is much the same or has time changed the way you work together?

That’s a pretty big question. A lot has changed. I’m not in Melbourne anymore so the distance is a big factor. I commute there as much as I can but it’s not the same as being able to get together in a room, and often that’s got pluses and minuses. It’s still pretty much like your average dysfunctional family when we get together, and it can be really nice, but when we start working it’s the same sort of issues that crop up but the same good things happen too. I think the fact that we took a good break and just left it up in the air is a healthy thing. If we had ploughed on after being with a big label that we hadn’t really signed to in the first place and we weren’t very happy with, we wouldn’t be doing it anymore. We deserved something, and that’s why the new record has actually got some good life in it; it doesn’t sound like some old indie act.

Yeah I definitely noticed that when I had a listen. Still on the same sort of vein, would it be fair to say that, throughout the years, the songs have become a little less straightforward in a way and perhaps more symbolic?

Yeah you’re absolutely right. I think it’s partly a conscious decision. I know that the songs that have worked for a lot of people and got us a bit of attention have been relatively straightforward; people can hear them or feel them like they’re “love songs”, which is kind of the language of pop unfortunately. Even if they aren’t, it’s kind of what they sound like, there’s a romance to them. In order to keep writing and to keep things interesting for myself, they have to be more interesting for me. But that said, I think there’s a few on the next one that are just about as simple as they get, maybe not lyrically though. The single [Bootikins] is not at all obvious, it’s fairly direct but its words and structure are very complex.

Well sometimes that’s the best way to go to keep people interested! Have you had a chance to play any of the new songs live yet?

No. Last night was the first rehearsal and Friday we’ve got a fan thing at the recording studio where we’ll play it from start to finish, with maybe three or four other songs.

In regards to the upcoming tour, do you have any plans for what that’s going to look like? Any explosions on stage or exciting things like that?

[laughs] I hope not! What happened with, along with making the music for this record, was a nice collaboration with the visual artist [Matthew Dunn] who came up with the cover and quite a lot of other stuff. He did our t-shirt designs too; he just really is one of those very keen people. He loves the band and it was a real thrill for him to be working with us. I think we’re gonna have a big backdrop of the album cover and specific lighting to go with that, and he’s also combined a lot of incidental art which we haven’t figured out how to incorporate yet. It’ll be subtle but more than your average Augie show. There’ll be something else going on. It’s still a fair way off though.

Certainly sounds exciting, if it’ll be anything like the Bootikins video! (Glenn laughs, as the video in question features many of his hand-drawn genitalia.) Just a small one to wrap things up – looking back on your career, which of your records do you feel you’re most proud of?

Probably the first two, and this one. Those two and this one have a little bit in common; there’s a strong return to expressing a fair bit of control over what was going on, even though for the first two I was very young. If anything I was more passionate about things going a certain direction. In a physical sense I’m doing a lot more of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff, a lot of the engineering and mixing and so on. So I think, musically, all three have their own energy which shines through more than the others.