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Baby Animals


Touring in support of their new album, This Is Not The End, Baby Animals perform this Saturday, November 2, at the Astor Theatre. SHANE PINNEGAR reports.

The Baby Animals are back with This Is Not The End, their first rock album in 20 years.

Guitarist, Dave Leslie, who, along with former Perth girl Suze DeMarchi, are the only remaining original members of the band, says it wasn’t too hard to make This Is Not The End sound like a modern take on vintage Baby Animals as it does.

“I actually think it came really naturally,” Leslie says, “It’s funny ‘cause Email, which was the first single, was the last song written for the record. That was kind of a formula thing – well, not a formula thing, but that just evolved like it was a bit of a rocker. It’s got a sing-along chorus and all those elements that people who follow our band really love, like Rush You and Early Warning and songs like that. It ticks those boxes, so that was sort of a natural thing to choose. As far as the sound goes, the two new guys (bassist Dario Bortolin and drummer Mick Skelton) slotted in really easily and that’s what came out, really.”

Having formed in 1989, it only took one year before the band were signed to a worldwide deal with Imago/BMG, a deal which led to the band’s two outstanding albums and worldwide sales of over a million copies of 1991’s self-titled debut alone. Some 20 years on there’s no major label and no mega-recording budgets, making it a rather different experience, this time round.

“Abso-totally-different!” Leslie agrees, “Above and beyond having to pay for everything, we were also given so much more control over the whole project – more so than in the past. Dave Nicholas was the producer and engineer and we worked really closely with him, and we did it in a smaller studio ‘cause we didn’t have the big budget or anything like that.

“It was refreshing to do it that way, ‘cause we’ve never been privy to be able to sit in on the mixing or the mastering or things like that, so we had a lot more control over the actual product than we previously had. We were making calls, having got stuff back from mastering, saying ‘a little less of this, a little more of that’ or whatever. Stuff that back in the olden days – 20 years ago – your album was mixed and taken away to New York to get mastered and then you were given a copy and told, ‘this is your record’.

“Your control was removed – but by the same token, you pay for it, working with an independent label. It streamlines the decision making process – so there wasn’t some secretary who doesn’t like the kick drum sound, or the tea lady has a problem with the bass or whatever! It was all pretty much kept into a really small group of people, the creative process. It has its advantages, definitely, but at the end of the day it’s all coming out of your pocket, there’s no major label paying for everything and sending you over to Europe to tour.”

The response to the band’s reformation has been overwhelmingly positive, proving that in this country at least, the name – and, crucially, the brand – Baby Animals is still commercially viable. Without the pressure of trying to prove themselves and break their name, is it more enjoyable being part of the Baby Animals nowadays?

“Yeah, I guess it is as enjoyable, if not more,” Leslie says. “Because you’ve had the benefit of hindsight, and we’re all a little more mature now – and we’re all enjoying the opportunity to be able to do it again. We’re all enjoying being able to get out and play with people that we love, that’s the enjoyment now.

“Twenty years ago when we were all kinda younger, it was just great fun, we were riding a wave and that was awesome fun too – lots of parties and stuff. Whereas these days I go on the road to get a good night’s sleep!” says the father of three boys, including twins.

“True man – if I can sleep in past 8 o’clock I’m happy – and you can fuckin’ do that on the road, most days!”

The Feed The Birds national tour kicked off a few weeks back. It sounds as though there’s a diversity of the band’s material on offer.

“It sounds good!” says Leslie. “We actually did a warm-up gig in Newcastle last Saturday night. It was great to do some songs that we’ve never done before, because we put it to a bit of a vote on the internet so people could vote for what songs they want to hear on the DVD we’re going to be doing at the end of it.

“And some of the song choices were surprising – I wasn’t expecting to play them! So it was good, everyone’s in a good headspace, the band’s playing well, we all get along great, we’re all great mates and it’s a very pleasurable experience. It really is.

“There’s a couple from Suze’s solo record (1999’s Telelove) which, because it’s not a Baby Animals record, she was always a bit reticent to play, but we’ve given those a couple of airings. There’s a few more from (1993’s) Shaved & Dangerous. It’s a real mixed bag actually – I was surprised at some of the songs that were voted for, genuinely surprised.

“It’s light and shade. It goes from a pin drop to an absolute scream.”

So, almost 25 years after forming the band, having done all the pub gigs, US and European arenas, experienced so many of the highs and lows that being a successful muso can engender, how does Dave Leslie feel about the ride so far?

“Ahh, it’s great man, you know?” he says, genuinely happy. “Having the chance to sort of recall events and a bit of the journey, it’s awesome, and no-one’s more happy than I am to have the chance to keep getting away with it – it’s really good. I’m a pretty happy camper.”

Baby Animals perform this Saturday, November 2, at the Astor Theatre.
Get your tickets here.

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