Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

It’s Good To Be The Badloves

Released in July 1993, The Badloves’ debut album ‘Get On Board’ spent a massive 69 weeks in the charts. Going from strength to strength over the years, lead singer Michael Spiby had a chat about what keeps bringing him back to music.

So, you’re in the studio today?

Yeah, at the moment we’re cooking up a new record to go and record at the end of the month, live in the studio – live as in just performing and recording it. Because it’s a Badloves thing, I always try and get as much of it down live first because we’ve got a fabric, we knit a fabric together because we’ve been playing together so long, it’s crazy to record any other way.

Do you usually record live?

Live as in we learn the songs as we would play them live but then of course we haven’t played them live, we’re just going into the room to track them, and keep as much as we can. To be honest, over the years, we’ve actually tried replacing things that we’ve recorded, thinking, ‘I can do much better than that,’ and it just loses something in translation; yes, it’s more precise and technical, but it doesn’t have the spirit of the original. It doesn’t knit with the other instruments in the same way.

Being a band since the 90s, you’ve taken a few breaks over the years. What brings you back to music after those breaks?

There’s a bit of a joy that you get in relationships. When you get back together, it’s like a good catch up, and that then leads to more and more shows. You can try and simulate that in various ways and I’ve played with lots and lots of great players over the years. The current line-up, we’re about seven years in, and that’s a lot of crocheting. Over the years, we’ve pulled it together, even to the point where, if we haven’t played for several months, it takes us a couple of weeks to really hit our straps again. But, from the very first show, it surprises everybody how much is still there. The band is something very special, I’ve learnt over the years. It’s the ego, I think, that you think you can pull anything together with any players, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s certain music dialogue built from years and years of playing together and can’t be substituted. It’s amazing, always humbling.

There’s been a few changes to the line-up over the years, how do you go about finding new musicians to tour with?

We’ve been really lucky because there’s only been a few times where we’ve had to approach people cold. For example, seven or so years ago our drummer, Jeff Consi, I heard him play on some other people’s music and each time I heard it, I just went, ‘My god, that’s exactly what we need in the band’. With the Badloves, it’s always about songs first and style or instrumentation comes second. In his case, I knew he was the one, so I just had to go chase him. But quite often, we get great recommendations, like our Hammond (organ) player Sam Cope. Incredible, because there’s a whole generation of young Hammond players which totally shocked me, I thought it was a dying breed and over the past decade or two you could count good ones on one hand in the country. Now, it’s just fabulous, there’s incredible players, well-versed and with the real equipment, so that’s a very important thing for this project.

Do you notice a change in the crowds or the industry or even yourselves after a break?

I guess the most explicit one is the Covid thing, and I was quite shocked at the audiences and the musicians. I guess, we can be accused, quite rightly, of being self-centred as an industry, we get on with what we’re doing and please ourselves a fair bit. Coming out of the Covid thing and back on stage, we played an iconic venue called the Festival Hall in Melbourne, which was long deserted, it had the Beatles and Ray Charles back in the 60s. We jumped in there and did some live podcast things because we couldn’t have an audience and we realised how much we missed that joyous dialogue between players. When we took that on the road eventually, the audiences, I could see them re-immersing themselves in something they took for granted which was live music. Everything was different, the energy onstage was highly aware of the privilege of us being onstage and the audience, I think, were reinvigorated by the fact that something that had been taken away from them was actually important to them, and that was the live experience and the joy of intermingling between musicians and audience. That was a very humbling experience.

Speaking from experience, those first few gigs after a couple of years of no live music were some of the most memorable because you had that new level of appreciation.

Yeah, the senses were heightened by new experiences of not having it. That’s something that’s really informed a lot of our music, it creeps into the music making process as well because you realise the responsibility you have. It doesn’t mean you doctor the music according to what you think’s going to be successful, but you are definitely aware of doing something meaningful and not being flippant with your music. We realised that it was important to people and that’s something that I’ve always brushed off myself but now I’m really aware because people came back with stories to tell about what they’d missed and how deeply they relied on music while they were isolated. You realise, ‘Actually, I’ve got an important job, not just a self-indulgent, solo trip’.

Do you think the pandemic affected the themes of what you were writing about?

I guess it did. I tend not to be very good at being topical. The obvious example of somebody who did operate in that era of his was (Bob) Dylan. He was quite journalistic, actually, in his writing. I tend not to be like that. I seem to have to process things for a while and things come out a bit abstract. One example, I guess, where it did affect directly was, I had a recurring dream for one of the songs that we ended up recording. That was quite troubling and that was that I wouldn’t be able to feed my children because we were struggling, and it was very real and I woke up one morning and that was a song called ‘Tribal’. I just took dictation of the dreamscape that I’d come out of and that’s unusual for me, I never remember dreams. I just think everybody’s got a new awareness of that.

How excited are you for Airlie Beach Festival of Music?

We’re really excited about it because it means we escape the ridiculous weather down south, that’s me personal, selfish reason for coming up. But also, it’s a wonderful bill, and it looks like it’s been a pretty important festival up north, from what I can see, if it’s ten years in the making. If you go hunting, let’s face it, that’s what festivals are best out, if you go for a deep dive. There were 20 names I don’t know, it’s amazing, it’s like going into op shops looking for treasures. That’s what I find really exciting. Maybe it’s courtesy of the weather, but I find people are lot looser and happier to enjoy themselves.

What can crowds expect from the Badloves?

We’ll be doing a bunch of stuff from our earlier recordings. Just a mix, really, of old recordings and the new stuff that we’re putting down at the end of the month, and a couple of singles. It changes on the day, to be honest. I always draw a setlist up for the boys, and that’s a good indication of probably what we won’t play on the day. Depending on the audience is like, we chop and change. It’ll be great fun, both on and off stage.

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