The Vines back to touring, vows Nicholls

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Craig Nicholls still hates heading overseas but is readying a return to international touring for the good of his band The Vines.

The singer-songwriter has Asperger’s Syndrome which makes him nervous and disorientated in unfamiliar situations. World travel isn’t recommended.

The last time The Vines embarked on a major overseas tour, in 2004, the experience almost destroyed the band.

Nicholls fought with fellow members on stage, stunned a Japanese audience with a tirade of abuse and, the final straw, faced criminal charges after kicking a photographer in Sydney.

Guitarist Patrick Matthews quit the band and Nicholls vowed he’d never play abroad again. The first evidence of Asperger’s Syndrome emerged during his subsequent court trial.

Not until 2008 did The Vines attempt another overseas tour. An initial run of success in the US was tempered when Nicholls’ mental health deteriorated on the Australian leg and the band cancelled its remaining shows.

Now back with a new album, Future Primitive, The Vines are planning tours of Australia, the US and Europe later this year. But can Nicholls keep control on his emotions this time round?

“I’m ready for it,” 33-year-old Nicholls tells AAP.

“I know what to do and what to avoid and when to compromise.

"Maybe I’ve just become a bit more mature and realised you can’t be a brat the whole time.”

Unlike most kids growing up in Sydney, Nicholls never wanted to travel the world. He was more concerned with making music and a dedication to songwriting made him a relative recluse.

It wasn’t until The Vines exploded onto the international rock scene with their 2002 debut album Highly Evolved that Nicholls realised he might have a problem.

Despite his studio tantrums and bizarre behaviour on stage, it took a while for anyone else to cotton on.

“When we went to bars the rest of the band would wonder why I was acting so strangely,” Nicholls remembers.

“I wasn’t used to it because I never went out before.”

The Vines took a much needed break after Nicholls was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome but later regrouped for the albums Vision Valley (2006) and Melodia (2008).

While neither captured the grungy spirit of their first two albums, Future Primitive shows a reinvigorated freshness.

Recorded over three weeks in Sydney’s 301 Studio with Bumblebeez producer Chris Colonna, it features spacey electronics alongside the usual fuzzed up guitars.

Nicholls is most at ease in the studio but knows The Vines are required to play countless live shows to be a bankable act.

He recently opted for high pressure audiences at Big Day Out and supporting Powderfinger to warm up for the road ahead.

Renowned for screaming lyrics incoherently and rolling around on his band in the early days, there’s little of that now.

“I decided a while ago that I needed to feel good about making music rather than it be something that just happened around me or didn’t matter,” he says.

“I want to get the words and the melody across rather than it all be one chaotic mess.”

Ten years on from The Vines’ world-teasing breakthrough which had the band ranked alongside The White Stripes and The Strokes, Nicholls looks back with a mixture of pride and regret.

He knows mistakes were made and can understand why scathing things have been written. The only thing he contends is the claim his craziness was an act.

“It wasn’t an act,” he smiles sadly.

“To me there was an explanation for everything even though some people were saying it was retarded.”

He feels the same about music as he did when he formed the band. It’s the pitfalls surrounding, like his old marijuana habit, which he must be conscious of.

Age and experience have combined to instil vital lessons and Nicholls observes a bright future for the band, despite his ongoing struggles.

“At this point it’s really good and if it gets too much for me I’ll just have a mental breakdown,” he laughs, a light hearted moment which is quickly corrected.

“No I won’t do that. Not any more.”

Future Primitive by The Vines is released on June 3