The Southern River Band

Never Forget Your Roots

The Southern River Band have bolted out of the South-Eastern suburbs with a heady mixture of country-flanged rock’n’roll with a bombastic, good-time attitude, red-hot live shows, and in frontman, Callum Kramer, a festival-ready motormouth with a black belt in bogan humour.

The Southern River Band have bolted out of the South-Eastern suburbs with a heady mixture of country-flanged rock’n’roll with a bombastic, good-time attitude, red-hot live shows, and in frontman, Callum Kramer, a festival-ready motormouth with a black belt in bogan humour.

By Shane Pinnegar

Before we head into the wilds of Thornlie we should start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. Just who the fuck are The Southern River Band?

“Ha-ha,” vocalist/guitarist, Callum Kramer, laughs before launching into a potted history of the band. “Well, The Southern River Band is four red-hot blokes from Thornlie, in Perth, Western Australia, who, through a series of events – some may say fortunate, some may say unfortunate, but for whatever reason - were brought together at the Thornlie Tavern by a man – no shit – named ‘Bear’! Seriously, his name is Bear, and on his left hand he has B-E-A-R in big stainless steel knuckles.

“And one day me and Ant (Anton Dindar, bass) were down the pub, just having a beer, and this guy came up, ‘youse guys look like you’re in a band!’ And we said, ‘yeah, we used to be’ – Centrefold, Thrust, Southside Cobras, whatever – and he’s going, ‘I’m gonna get youse a gig’, so we’re like, ‘yeah, yeah, whatever’. I’d written a few songs by that point and was looking to get something together, but then he calls us up and says, ‘I’ve got you a gig here in three weeks!’

“So we were like, ‘fuck, we’d better get a band together!’ Jase (Jason Caniglia), our guitarist now, I’d been talking to him – he hadn’t been in a band before, so it was like, ‘do you wanna have a go at this?’ Then we were thinking about a drummer – we jammed with one guy whose name was ‘Handsome Dave’ – who gave himself that nickname…”

You couldn’t make this shit up. Unsurprisingly, there’s more.

“Seriously,” Kramer laughs, “Handsome Dave was jamming in Handsome Dave’s kitchen, and he goes, ‘do you reckon if I do this gig that we could put up a curtain in front of the drumkit so no-one could see it was me but still hear it?’ At that point we kinda went, ‘Dave, love ya mate, but I don’t think this is gonna work!’ So Ant and me were thinking and we came up with Carlo (Romeo), who we jammed with heaps of times back 2007-08. So… we did the gig and I was writing more songs, then we just kinda kept at it and late last year sorta came out of Thornlie and started playing around town doing our own songs.”

And within the space of 12 months scored a WAM Award nomination for ‘Best Live Act’.

Kramer’s history dates back to the hard and sleazy rock of Thrust, Centrefold and Southside Cobras (all with Ant in various line-ups), to playing drums with the blues’n’roots band Blue Shaddy, and backing Morgan Bain’s popular rootsy alt-soul on drums and guitar for a year or so. It’s obvious he laps up a connection to an enviable and eclectic variety of music.

“Absolutely, and I think that’s the key to The Southern River Band,” he affirms. “My earliest musical memory is of watching Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble Live at El Mocambo every night from a very young age.

“Mum was a massive fan of Pearl Jam and still is – and my uncle is really big into country music – you know, Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, those sorts of guys. It’s only the last couple of years I’ve really discovered country music.

“For me it kinda went from the blues, then AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, then it got a bit heavier into Iron Maiden, Motley Crue – that’s when we were playing with Thrust and them like you said earlier, the ‘glam metal years’ for want of a better word (laughs) - then got into Van Halen, and that was the pinnacle for me for a long time. It’s not even necessarily the songs themselves, just the vibe of them and the playing. And then I started getting into the country – first Lynyrd Skynyrd, then when I started playing with The Shaddys again, the blues came back.

“So it’s all just been like a sponge, taking it all in wherever you are – that melting pot. It’s about hearing songs differently, and hearing different songs, and taking the bits of them that grabbed me, and going from there, really.”

It stands to reason that if a band only ever listens to AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses, they will only ever sound like AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses: if you want to develop an individual style you have to feed different influences into the mincer.

“You’ve gotta, man – there’s so much out there!” Kramer exhorts. “Our band are good friends with bands around Perth like POW! Negro, Old Blood, Durongs, Marmalade Mama – and we’ve got this thing called Thunderhawks, which is just our mates, all these people getting together and jamming for fun. Like, Afro-Cuban beats, and then just a guy with a guitar telling a story – you go from one end of the spectrum with the musicality, to the other end with the storytelling – and that’s why I think a band like Cold Chisel are the epitome of brilliant songwriting, because not only is the musicality there, but as soon as you listen to the words you start a movie running in your head.”

The Southern River Band won over a lot of new fans at last month’s Blues At Bridgetown weekender, endearing themselves to the crowd not only through the tracks from their new Live At The Pleasuredome album and some choice covers, and Kramer’s ‘Instant Rockstar – Just Add Beer’ persona, but also by having Kramer’s mum guest on acoustic guitar for a handful of songs.

“Mum and Dad literally are everything to do with me playing music,” Kramer reflects. “There was always music around the house but about when I was nine, we started having jam nights at our house on Tuesdays – it was called the Tuesday Night Club, then we started doing it Friday as well. All these musos would just rock up and play. We had people like Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges come through when I was 10 years old!

“That’s where I met The Shaddys. I was jamming with them aged 10, and then six years later – no, eight years later, when I was 18… see, I’m a musician not a mathematician, I started touring with ‘em. So that all came from Mum and Dad just having music all around… and so much different music.”

Catch The Southern River Band live and you’ll hear the bombast of hair metal, and the laid-back grooves of country: think KISS as played with a Daddy Cool twang, perhaps. Kramer sums it up rather differently…

“Well I like to say that The Southern River Band is a cross between professional wrestling, and your first root – with guitars!

“You’re told that these guys know what’s going on,” he continues after the laughter dies down, “and that this is real – but at the same time, you don’t know what’s going on half the time. You fucken love it – but you can’t wait to tell your mates about it the next day!”

Catch The Southern River Band on Thursday, December 22, at the Prince Of Wales, Bunbury, (with Western Kinsmen Of The Sun); Saturday, December 24, at Lakers Tavern, Thornlie and on New Year’s Eve at the Indi Bar, Scarborough,  (with Old BloodThe DurongsRuby May and The Chimichangas.