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HANGING OUT TO DRY

Southern River Band
Southern River Band

The Southern River Band have become staples of the Australian live music scene over the last few years.  Widely regarded as one of the hottest tickets in town, their status as a firebrand live act was confirmed with the recent announcement that they will be supporting Cold Chisel on the WA leg of their Blood Moon tour.  Having released first album, Live At The Pleasuredome in 2017, the follow up, Rumour & Innuendo has been a little while coming and follows a period where the band have experienced lineup changes and other difficulties.

…it can be anything between Dean Martin and Iron Maiden on any given day.

Callum Kramer, The Southern River Band

So, is it any good?  Around The Sound spoke to The Southern River Band’s frontman and loose-lipped raconteur, Callum Kramer, to find out.

“Hang on, mate, I’m just hanging my washing out to dry,” was how Kramer greeted us when he picked up the phone, “I’m just trying to get the skank from last weekend off my clothes.”

Making a mental note to get a load out of the washing machine and hang it out to dry at casa de Around The Sound, we asked Kramer how the current Southern River Band tour is going.

“It’s been non-stop for so long now, just trying to keep the ball rolling.  The tour’s going good, the last three shows have been rippers and the band’s playing well, so you can’t ask for more than that.  It’s good to be playing again!  It’s good to be able to play again.  If you’re going to be addicted to anything, it’s better than smack.”

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Knowing Kramer like we do, we’re guessing that he’d be an archetype for the addictive personality, with his photo next to the definition in the DSM.  So, it’s good to know that he’s limiting his addictions to playing music these days and has managed to survive into his 28th year.  During the course of our conversation he even told us that he’d quit the durries, although there were some stories about trying to stay sober enough during the touring day so that he can remain upright when showtime arrives.  Guess you can’t be all clean living and a bad boy for love.

Kramer is the consummate wisecrackin’ raconteur.  He’d make a great stand-up comedian if that was his whim.  So, it was interesting, when we got down to talking about the new album, to hear the shift in his focus and tone.  The Southern River Band’s recorded output is very close to Kramer’s heart, as you might expect.  But you also get the sense that he feels like he’s got something to prove.

“I spent a lot of time workshopping some of those songs,” Kramer told us.  “We’ve been playing some of them in some form since 2015.  Everyone goes, ‘Southern River Band, you’ve got to see them live,’ and I get that, but how about listen to us as well?  Let’s not kill the music side.  You don’t have to have everything going along with it, just purely listen to it for the music that’s there.  I’m feeling pretty stoked with it so far, we’re getting lots of good reports back.”

The path to completing Rumour & Innuendo has been anything but smooth for The Southern River Band.  Since the 2017 release of Live At the Pleasuredome, the band has gone through a succession of line-up changes, including the critical second guitarist spot.  Nothing that doesn’t happen in a lot of bands, of course, but bands are like relationships and Kramer’s an emotional guy under all that bravado, so the changes have had an impact on him, even shaken his seemingly unshakeable confidence at times.

When we asked him about this he said, “Yeah, it’s been an effort and a half to get this fucking thing out.”  Saying a lot with a few words is the songwriter’s way.

But change is both inevitable and, ultimately, good.  Bringing in Dan Carroll as guitarist has enabled Kramer to cement a working relationship that began with the recording of Live At The Pleasuredome, which Carroll produced.

“Dan worked with us on Pleasuredome, that was my first time meeting him,” Kramer said.  “We’ve just hit it off since then.  Whether he likes it or not, I’ve taken up a lot of his time (laughs).  Over time we’ve found our common bonding points and, when we were listening back to the final mixes of Rumour & Innuendo, on tracks like ‘Tinderella’ he’s the one who put that big 80s-feeling chorus on that track.  He’s like, ‘Now I know what you listen to and where you draw from, I know what you mean.’  Sometimes it’s hard to describe what I’m going for.  Having that sort of understanding, our palette is so much wider now as a band.”

I reckon in the near future we’re going to do a few tweaks to that record and bring it up to 2019 speed, where we’re at now.

Callum Kramer, The Southern River Band

Following up, we suggested that, in a way, Rumour & Innuendo feels like The Southern River Band’s first proper full-length album.  In our estimation, first album Live At The Pleasuredome underperformed as a document of the band’s sound and repertoire at the time.  It was a bit like a sketch.  There was a lot of promise, but not enough follow through.  Maybe this is why Kramer feels like his band has something to prove this time around?

“The first one, [Live At The] Pleasuredome, that was an exercise in futility at times,” Kramer told us.  “I remember a lot of the shit that went on just to get that one out.  And obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, which is wonderful for everyone except for the people who needed it at the time, you can look back and see that there’s things we could have done differently.  I reckon in the near future we’re going to do a few tweaks to that record and bring it up to 2019 speed, where we’re at now.”

We’ll look forward to that, Callum.  There’s definitely some unfinished business there.  But, back to the new album.

“Another big thing for me was being pigeonholed,” said Kramer, getting on a roll, “especially in fucking Perth, people are just dying to do it!  That’s why releasing ‘Do You Miss Me’ as the third single was like, ‘All right, you’re not going to know what the fuck’s going on right now, but, in time, you’ll understand what we mean by this.’  And with songs like ‘Little Victories’ on there as well, like I’ve said before it can be anything between Dean Martin and Iron Maiden on any given day.”

That’s the thing with Kramer and The Southern River Band, you can’t tie them down.  He knows his stuff and he’s got the chops to do whatever he likes, musically.  And, most of the time, whatever he turns his hand to turns out to be pretty damned fine.  He uses the ‘Dean Martin to Iron Maiden’ line as a bit of a self-parody, but there’s a lot of truth packed into that self-assessment as well.  Sure, he’s a hell raising rock and roller backed by the hottest band in town right now, but he can pull off everything from country grooves to crooning and it’s all packed under the hood of the supercharged V8 that is The Southern River Band.

Musing further on the new album, Kramer gave us some insights into the love and care that’s gone into constructing Rumnour & Innuendo.

“Most of the time it’s written from my perspective on whatever the thing may be.  And, the more that people are listening to it, around my age, mid to late 20s, it’s resonating with people.  What I tried to do with the album was nail the track listing.  It’s got to have that ebb and flow.  When we bring the vinyl out it’ll have the two sides to it, so I had to think, how does side one end, how does side two finish, how do they both flow from there?

“I’ve written ‘Little Victories’ from the point of view of everyone in the world, because I don’t know a single person who’s not struggling in one way or another.  With all the bullshit that gets forced down our throats or forced through our eyeballs on the fucking Internet, people lose sight of the small things.  I like to think it’s pretty relatable.  It’s my piss poor attempt at like a ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ (Lynyrd Skynyrd), or something along those lines, where it’s openly emotive and there’s nothing to really hide behind.  Anyone listening to it, they’ll know what it’s about.”

The Southern River Band bring their Rumour & Innuendo tour to Freo.Social tonight.  It’s going to be another triumphant homecoming for a band that has the well deserved reputation as being one of the best live bands in Australia right now.  The difference this time is they’re touring an album that they can be justifiably confident in.  This should be next-level stuff.

[Kramer] can pull off everything from country grooves to crooning and it’s all packed under the hood of the supercharged V8 that is The Southern River Band.

Get your tickets here.

Next up for The Southern River Band are dates with Cold Chisel over New Year.  Kramer was understandably excited about this, saying, “When I started this band, I had two ultimate goals.  One was to maybe one day pay off a house through making music, and I still subscribe to that goal, even though I’m 28 years old and still living at home with my parents.  The second goal was to play with Cold Chisel.  To me they are just the soundtrack to Australian life and one of my absolute all time favourite bands.  There’s something really serendipitous about the way this has all lined up.  It’s pinch yourself shit, you know.”

——————-

RUMOUR & INNUENDO – REVIEW

Rumour & Innuendo is the deubt album that The Southern River Band always deserved but never quite managed to deliver with Live At The Pleasuredome.  It’s likely that history will treat their opening opus as a bit of an early demo and mark the start of The Southern River Band’s recorded output proper with this new album.

Opening with the one-two sucker punch of singles, ‘Chimney’ and ‘Second Best’, this record sees the band in fine form with a muscular and coherent sound that has studio polish but also reflects their live prowess. 

The Southern River Band haven’t strayed from the formula they established from the very beginning, guitar driven boogie blues with an Aussie twang, and why would they?  They do it so well.  What’s different here is that the excursions into 80s style pop, the country inflections, the cheese and the shifts from Dean Martin to Iron Maiden fit the mould, rather than leaving you wondering which drugs the band was taking on the day they recorded some of their songs.

There’s pacing and ebb and flow in the track listing.  This is a proper album, not just a collection of songs that clocks in at 30 minutes plus, which seems to be the current definition.  We wouldn’t necessarily call it a concept album, but each song has its own story to tell and each builds on the one before.

The songs on Rumour & Innuendo reflect something of a coming of age, both for the band and their audience.  The Southern River Band’s heartland is late 20s punters growing up in modern Australia, and this album traces their lives, tapping into the triumphs and heartbreaks that are part of our current times.  It’s a journey, it’s a ride and it’s going to make you smile, make you think, get you in the feels.  It’s also filled with great guitar-driven music.

By the time you get to closing track, ‘Little Victories’, you’re ready for the anthemic sing along, the tug at the heartstrings, the major key lift and, dare we say it, the tears you’ll shed.

Rumour & Innuendo is eight tracks of rock and roll as only The Southern River Band can play it.  It continues Australia’s rich heritage of dirty blues rock that’s equally at home in pubs and stadiums. 

At last, with this album, a band that is known for its live performances gets the recorded output that properly reflects the their songwriting chops, musicianship and recording-studio savvy.

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