About to release their first album in 14 years, Melbourne’s the Underground Lovers will preview the LP, Weekend, at the Garden of Unearthly Delights in March along with some of their classic material.
Almost qualifying as Australia’s greatest forgotten band, the Underground Lovers have reengaged with the public over recent years. The dreamy experimental pop outfit’s retrospective, Wonderful Things + Everybody’s Favourite, was released in 2011 while their second album Leaves Me Blind was included in the 2010 publication, The 100 Best Australian Albums. The band, which was started by leaders Vince Giarrusso and Glenn Bennie in 1990, reunited for shows in 2009, their first since supporting New Order seven years earlier. This year ‘The Undies’ will release their first album since 1999’s Cold Feeling. Called Weekend the album is inspired by a Jean-Luc Goddard film of the same name.
“We got offered some live shows and we did those and it sort of connected straight away,” singer/songwriter Vince Giarrusso explains about their reunion. “It’s a bit of a cliché actually but it just happened and we had some money left from a grant, so we thought, ‘let’s just go into a studio and see what happens’. We recorded about eight songs in two days and some of those recordings made it onto the record. One song we made up on the spot. I didn’t have lyrics, I just mumbled my way through the lyrics and they [the band] had the melody, so it just sort of happens when we get together, I think. We just fit musically.”
The Underground Lovers debuted with their self-titled album in 1990 before releasing six more studio LPs under the Underground Lovers banner during that decade. Inspired by bands such as Joy Division, New Order, My Bloody Valentine and The Cure, the band became an eclectic force in Australia’s alternative music scene. Changing styles constantly they would go from raw rock and pop on one record to electronica for its next. Never officially splitting, the band was on hiatus for almost a decade to work on side projects. Giarrusso took the break to concentrate on film. The former social worker wrote and directed the Cannes selected Mallboy in 2001 and currently lectures at Swinburne University of Technology while he completes a PhD in film production, methodology and the creative process.
Never rockstars or the hip Aussie hype band, the Underground Lovers were an honest collective that delivered the goods album after album complete with a hypnotic and visually rich live show. Not that they were completely ignored. The band won Best New Talent at the 1992 ARIAs, best Australian album of 1992 by Rolling Stone and the single Losin’ It reached 19 on Triple J’s 1994 Hottest 100. Aside from the albums, the band left an impressive collection of singles, from the aforementioned Triple J favourite to the stadium chorus of Las Vegas, to the slammin’ techno melancholy pop of Starsigns and the downbeat electronica of Cold Feeling. Bizarrely, given their quality discography, it seemed the Underground Lovers were forgotten when on hiatus.
“We didn’t play as much and stuff like that,” Giarrusso explains. “We were always difficult to pigeonhole and we sold okay amounts, which I thought was pretty good but it wasn’t heaps. We couldn’t be pigeonholed into Oz rock and all those other genre types, so that was difficult. Overseas people didn’t know where we were from and we kind of think that’s a positive. It’s actually something that you’d be striving for.”
The band would also completely change direction from album to album going from the highly produced Dream it Down to the stripped back rock and pop of Rushall Station to electronic for their final two albums Ways T’Burn and Cold Feeling.
“We are hard task masters of our audience,” Giarrusso admits. “I really believe that. I think audiences are super smart and you have to really push them and if they come along, they come along, but I’ve been proven wrong. Again it’s that double-edged sword.”
The Undies previewed their first track in 14 years on Facebook late least year. Titled Dream to Me, the album track is classic Underground Lovers, mixing electronic ambience with melancholy guitar elements. Giarrusso says Dream to Me is an indicator to the rest of the LP, Weekend, but that it’s a different kind of album.
“There are tracks [on the album] that are hard to describe, where they pushed our ideas about rhythm, music and repetition and all those sorts of things. There are a couple of tracks on there that are Underground Lovers but they’re kind of not as well. So it’s a kind of progression, I think, in a way.”
Another new Underground Lovers track, Au Pair – an upbeat 60s pop sounding track with an Underground Lovers twist - was recently uploaded to YouTube featuring footage from the film, Weekend. With the album of the same name due this year, Giarrusso says the band doesn’t want to get nostalgic about the past.
“It feels very in the moment still and when we play live we never know what is going to happen – it just has that intensity and this record reflects that as well. There are bands that come out and you can tell that they’re still in the moment; still making music, still vibrant and it’s important for them.”
Paradiso Spiegeltent (Garden of Unearthly Delights)
Thursday, March 14