Move It Or Lose It
Perennial Perth rockers The Volcanics launch their new album, Get A Move On, at Amplifier this Saturday, October 12, with support from Datura, The Wishers and The New Invincibles. TRAVIS JOHNSON has a word with lead singer, John Phatouros, ahead of this momentous event.
If you’ve ever seen John Phatouros on stage, then you know he’s the real deal; a powerhouse rock frontman, all surly swagger and forceful vocals, one of the few remaining pureblood members of a tribe with a rich and terrible history.
It’s always amusing, and a little confusing, to meet him in person, then, and find a guy who’s polite, self-effacing, and even – dare we say it? – a bit on the shy side.
“Aw, do we have to include that?” he replies when asked for a quick précis of his band, The Volcanics. His reticence is charming.
For those who don’t know, The Volcanics have been around since 2002, releasing their first EP, Nothin’ For You, in 2004. They formed with the sole aim, Phatouros says, of playing “… Australian rock’n’roll, influenced by all the bands that the guys in The Volcanics dig: The Saints, Radio Birdman, The Screaming Tribesmen, Cosmic Psychos. It’s mainly the ‘80s guitar bands we’re influenced by, and a lot of them on Citadel – ‘70s and ‘80s Australian.”
That name-check of Citadel Records is deliberate, because that legendary label will be releasing The Volcanics’ latest effort, the full-length album, Get A Move On. Citadel, as Aussie music aficionados well know, has been home to an impressive roster of talent, including The Lime Spiders, The Trilobites, The Bamboos and The Stems. The Volcanics should be right at home.
The Volcanics came into existence because Phatouros and his bandmates were none-too-pleased with the early 21st century Australian music landscape. “There were lots of Australian bands playing music that made them sound like American bands,” he explains. “There were more Australian bands playing music that made them sound like they were American rock’n’roll than Australian, so that made it – not an easier choice, because we don’t choose to play that kind of rock’n’roll, that’s just what’s in us, if you know what I mean, but at the time there was fuck all Australian bands that we knew of playing the music we were influenced by.”
Asked to elaborate on what makes Australian rock stand out for him, Phatouros shies away from giving a concrete answer – he just knows it when he hears it. “I can’t say what’s distinctive about Australian rock’n’roll but I can say that Australia, just like Britain and just like America, they know how to play rock’n’roll. It’s real. A lot of other countries, they want to play rock’n’roll, but they’ve got a different beat or they’ve got a different shuffle and it just sounds almost like a tribute to rock’n’roll – and we’re not doing a tribute to rock’n’roll. I don’t know the Australian sound, but I know that when you hear it, you know it.”
That fierce allegiance to the heritage of Australian popular music informs Get A Move On, right down to the choice of behind-the-mixing-desk talent that helped midwife the album into existence. Rob Younger of Radio Birdman and The New Christs produced, while living legend Wayne Connolly mixed the project.
Still, it’s The Volcanics’ baby, a collaborative effort between the four members, with none taking centre stage in the production process. As Phatouros tells us, “We all write and we all choose not to write a whole song and then bring it to the band and have the band cover it, so to speak. We don’t enjoy one person writing a song and the other people learning that song. We all write, like a lot of bands, together. Someone starts it and then we all jump on it and make it better than if one person did it. At different times, different members start the idea.”
Of course, with a new album comes, almost inevitably, a new tour, and Phatouros is excited at the prospect. “We’re going to tour early next year – just an Australian tour – and we’re applying to see if we can go to SxSW. If that does happen – we’re trying to organise that. Our main priority is promoting the album, though, so our main thing is our album touring around Australia.”