The chatter of children overtakes the low tone of Tex Perkins’ voice as he wanders talking on the phone from his rural property in northern NSW.
Nobody seems more surprised than Perkins himself
“This is one of the Top 10 most important phone conversations I’ll have today,” he says, warmly, yet firmly and with good humour. “It’s probably about number #8. So can you run around and do whatever the hell you’re doing over there a bit?”
It’s not surprising that Perkins needs a little distance from his kids to talk about Still Here, the new album from The Beasts (no longer ‘Of Bourbon’). 2018 saw the cancer-related passing of bassist Brian Henry Hooper and guitarist, Spencer Jones, and the album is a reflection on life-and-death and the nature and myth of being a ‘Beast Of Bourbon’. It’s broken and world-weary, but also very funny.
“Exactly,” Perkins says. “I think when you’re dealing with all the things that are being dealt with on the record – because it really is about what has happened in the last while to this group of people that have at some stage worked under the banner of ‘The Beasts Of Bourbon’ – it’s important if you can have a sense of humour about things with the right amount of reverence. Humour is always welcome when you’re dealing with the dark stuff.”
On April 13 Hooper left his hospital bed to perform at his own benefit show at St Kilda’s Prince Of Wales Hotel with The Beasts Of Bourbon. It was to be his last ever performance with the band as he passed away a week later. It was also to be the final performance for Jones, who later passed in August. Perkins recalls being caught up in the finality and poignance of the moment.
“I just sort of wanted to hold onto the moment as long as possible,” he says, “and I wanted to study every detail of it and really touch it and slow it all down and remember the experience. I guess the desire to go into the studio was an extension of that feeling.
“Ironically the only way we could truly, logistically all come together was to attend Brian’s funeral. So then it was all about spending time with Spencer and getting him down on tape one last time. It seemed the obvious thing to do.”
An album wasn’t planned but has indeed eventuated. Nobody seems more surprised than Perkins himself.
“We inadvertently made a really strong record,” he says. “It’s a far more focussed, deliberate sounding document than it really deserves to be (laughs). We just went in to spend some time together and I have to say I’m truly amazed at how well it has turned out.”
The Beasts perform at Rock Rover on March 14 and the Rosemount Hotel on March 15 and 16.