Beat Magazine

The Vines

Source: Beat (magazine)

Author: Jaymz Clements

Date: September 2006

Jaymz Clements sits down to shoot the shit with the three Vines

In terms of Australian music, it's harder to find a bad more continuously polarising of opinion, more fantastically sensationalised in their reputation, than The Vines. From their incredibly succesful debut Highly Evolved, that saw them popular overseas before anyone in Australia knew anything of them, to frontman Craig Nicholls' well documented onstage breakdown in Sydney and his subsequent diagnosis as having Aspergers Sydrome, they're known their share of highs and lows.

With the release of their career defining third record, the wonderfully 'fuck you' Vision Valley, they managed to take people by surprise. After the criminally lukewarm reception to Highly Evolved sucessor, Winning Days, few expected a third Vines album, especially after Nicholls' public meltdown. But with the recognition of his medical problem, Nicholls quit smoking weed, stopped eating junkfood and found himself in fine songwriting form - even if the idea of touring as The Vines again was remote, he found himself wanting to record music again, and the result is some of their best work to date.

Its because of the success following Vision Valley that The Vines decided to tentatively rejoin the live circuit; first with a slot as a secret act at Splendour in The Grass and then hitting the mid-sized venues along the East Coast, which promptly sold out. It's safe in the knowledge that people are willing to give them another chance that the band have decamped to their manager's house where they've grabbed a couple of beers, settling down raucously on a couch to chat.

Nicholls is in fine form. Living up to his reputation as a somewhat difficult media subject, there are touches of baiting and sarcasm flies thickly from each side, whilst drummer Hamish Rosser and guitarist Ryan Griffiths laugh and try to find a healthy middle ground of actual answers. The most interesting facet of Nicholls' responses is his curiously affected stoner So-Cal via North Hampshire via British Columbia accent as he tries his uttermost to not give a strait-faced reply, when asked about getting back on stage.

"It's off the chain" he cackles. "Yeah, yeah we're stoked to be back. It was really cool to do Splendour for one of our first whos back; it was a lot better than we could have hoped really." he laughs, with Rosser and Griffiths in chorus. "We're definitely not scared though," he drawls slowly in response to a query about fears of letting loose on stage, his elongated vowels prompting snorts of laughter from the others.

"With the tour and everything, we're now more looking forward to getting out there again, and playing the new songs - we want to play them loud! And at the same time, we're fresh, recharged."

"We've been dying to go play gigs" adds the gruff voiced Rosser, "we just didn't have a regular bass player (Nicholls' childhood friend and co-founder of the Vines Patrick Matthews walked off the stage at the Annandale when Nichols kicked a photographer, and never returned). "We've used Andy Kent (You Am I) for a couple of TV shows but he obviously couldn't be out full time guy, so we've got a new bass player and now we're back and finally doing it."

Helpfully, Nicholls adds, "Not playing, feels not so great." There's some vaguely hysterical laughter. "Playing, on the other hand, does feel great."

Nicholls then riffs on the idea of cliches when talking about moving on from the troubles of the last two years, saying "it's going to feel great. Yeah, um, we're just going to go and get up there on stage, play our songs and hopefully it all goes well. We're feeling pretty confident and we've just got to try to put the ball over the hoop as many times as we can. Give it 110%, you know?" And he says he's kicked the weed. Cue more hysterical laughter.

Obviously the output of The Vines basically hinges on Nicholls' state of mind at any given moment, and paramount to that is the fact he's gven ganja the boot. It's meant a lot of unnecessary attention has been foisted onto a band that's had to deal with elitist backlash from the word go. Firstly the UK popularity versus a non-existent Australian profile, then the hate directed at the second album, but for all that they've kind of come out on top.

"I think we've dealt with it pretty well, seeing as though we planned it all," Nicholls laughs sarcastically, with an echo from his band mates. "Nah, it's kinda funny how we've gone from being like a music story to a news story. Hopefully we can get back into being more of a music sort of story."

"Yeah it was weird - people started writing about our behaviour and we never wanted that; we wanted them to write about our hair," quips Griffiths, setting the other two off. And they say they've only had a couple of beers. Fark.

But when Nicholls quietly adds "We kinda lost our minds for a while, me in particular. Umm, there was some crazy stuff," you actually feel for this guy who's been thrust into one of the most extreme and isolating situations society can throw at you - that of a young rockstar. "So we took some time off, reassessed and revaluated, and thought we're gonna get back on stage, but in about two years - that should be enough time off."

And how' it going? "Pretty good, I've been off the wagon. That means I've stopped smoking," He giggles. "for about a year and a half, at least that long. And umm, it's changed my life because I'm not crazy any more." His voice is plaintive and surpursingly childlike as he says this, before finishing quietly "I'm more focused on the band now - not that I wan't before, but I can get things done better. "

"There's definitely a huge improvement, you know?" adds Griffiths. "He's put it all together and that's why we're going back out and touring. It's all good now, which is a relief for us, and it means we get to keep this band rolling."

The Vines play the Corner on Saturday Spetember 9 and Sunday September 10. Vision Valley is out now through EMI.