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GARETH LIDDIARD Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous

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Taking time out from a recording a new album with The Drones, Gareth Liddiard performs at State Of The Art in the Perth Cultural Precinct this Saturday, May 30. ADAM NORRIS reports.

It’s been a busy year for Gareth Liddiard. Currently gearing up for their return to Perth in time for State Of The Art, Liddiard and The Drones are also in the midst of recording album number seven, in addition to reissuing their entire back catalogue. 

It’s an impressive feat, but then The Drones are indisputably a hard-working band. Chatting with Liddiard, you come to suspect their work ethic was formed in his early years here in Perth, where he worked as a roadie when festivals rolled into town. The truth is somewhat more sketchy.

“I never set out to really do anything or learn anything from that work,” Liddiard remembers, his voice exactly the kind of rumble you would expect. “But I liked it, so that’s what I gravitated towards. I did lighting, roadie work, lugging stuff around. That was ’92 to 2000, when I threw it in to move to Melbourne and try being a musician. But it did mean that I never got weirded out by stages, because I was already standing on them straight out of high school.

“Gigs like Big Day Out, working stages in front of these huge crowds. But I never thought anything would ever come from that, and now I just love it. Plus you got to see some awesome bands from the side of stage. Rollins Band, Beasts Of Bourbon. It was a good little period of study.”

The Drones’ career has taken on a rather idiosyncratic trajectory, one which seems marked by elements that would generally seem quite stressful: legal dramas, an impressively exhausting touring schedule, the band itself morphing through different members. It sounds energising on paper, almost frantic, but experiencing it all in the flesh was a different beast altogether.

“To a degree it’s stressful, but then there are different kinds of stress,” says Liddiard. “There’s good stress, like how you can be stuck with the band in a van for 48 hours. But then there’s other things – internal tensions, all of the grinding touring. But I don’t think we’re exceptional in that case. Like, everyone gets screwed over when you’re on the road. It’s a strange business, and there’s just no regulation. You can just totally not get paid for a gig, and nothing will ever come of it. People can get away with murder.”

The band is currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Australian Music Prize-winning sophomore record, Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By. Its harrowing opening number, Shark Fin Blues, was recognised as the greatest-ever Australian song by a panel assembled by triple j in 2009. The Drones’ history is one brimming with such industry respect and popular accolades, and while they now enjoy the freedom to pursue whatever project takes their fancy, they find themselves still having to keep on their toes.

“We have to keep working, meet your responsibilities. It’s not the worst thing in the world. We can still do what we want to, but we’re definitely not rich. There was some speculation in the past that we were rich, and that’s fucking hilarious. It started when someone saw us buying a bottle of scotch. I mean, we desperately needed scotch, we were off in the wilderness somewhere near this country town, and the last bottle of scotch they had there was Chivas Regal. So word got around somehow that that meant we were rich. Really we would have just preferred a bottle of 100 Pipers.”