Interview—Violent Soho’s Luke Boerdam and James Tidswell
– by Shawn Conner
Violent Soho‘s self-titled release on Thurston Moore‘s Ecstatic Peace! Records label harks back to the grunge-y early ’90s, complete with agonized screaming, Superfuzz Big Muff distortion, and Tad-like heaviness. The somewhat Weezer-ish “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” is the first single off the album.
During its current North American tour, the Brisbane quartet stopped in Vancouver for a day of press. We met up with guitarists/vocalists Luke Boerdam and James Tidswell, both very nice guys, in a back room of the restaurant at the Georgian Court Hotel.
Both wore flannel shirts.
Nirvana and the Early ’90s
Shawn Conner: Are you guys fans of the whole early ’90s era? How old would you guys have been?
James Tidswell: Kurt Cobain was dead before I ever heard of Nirvana. I think when I heard of them I was 12. That was in 1996. So Luke would have been 10 when he died. To us he was like a Jim Morrison type of character.
Luke Boerdam: I remember my parents burned all my older brother’s Nirvana tapes and stuff, we’re from a Christian family, once he committed suicide.
SC: Good for them!
JT: I remember when I was 13, a lot of new kids came to the high school Luke and I went to, and they brought all their Nirvana albums with them. I went home and my dad said there’s one band you can’t listen to, and that’s Nirvana. And I was like, “Why’s that?” And he goes, “Because this guy committed suicide, he’s like the ultimate loser.” And I remember thinking, “Ultimate loser, hey. I’ll have to check it out.” Two months later, my uncle actually committed suicide.
LB: I think that has more effect on how we view that era than we realize.
JT: Yeah yeah, totally. It seems to us the last time there was any sort of revolution in music, even though it was only five years before, to us it could have been a lifetime ago.
LB: It seemed and still seems like a complete change in musical culture, to us. Everything became myth, this grand story of this band that killed pop music for many years. All we had left was books and CDs.
JT: We grew up in a generation where it had already been decided there will be no rock stars. The Axl Rose-Slash mentality of the singer and guitarist, we grew up in an era where that was shunned upon.
LB: Especially in Australia.
SC: So the whole band’s from Mansfield, in Brisbane. Is it a Christian community?
JT: We actually come from a Pentecostal Christian school. It’s the biggest Christian community in Queensland.
LB: Down my street there were four primary schools that were religious. Drive a bit further and there’s an Adventist school and then another Christian school and there’s Joyce Meyer Ministries headquarters. Hillsong [a “Pentecostal megachurch”, according to Wiki] now owns this other church. It’s a huge concentration of churches in our suburb.
SC: So is it fair to say you weren’t encouraged when you formed the band?
JT: We definitely weren’t encouraged! It goes beyond that.
LB: We’re still not encouraged! My mom still thinks I’m coming home. She goes, “So you’re just trying this out for a year.” Well, I’ve worked pretty hard for five or six years to get to this point. So I’m going to give it a good shot.
JT: People thought we were absolutely stupid. Even when we independently released our album, it ended up getting played a lot on the radio. And actually, it went on to commercial radio, and this is an album that only cost $10,000 to record. We had no one push it and it ended up getting there. And my parents were still saying, “Are you ever going to make it?” And I was like, “We’ve gone so much further than we ever thought we would.” And literally, people in our area think you form a band and it’s Hammer of the Gods – there’s women, there’s drugs. They think that’s how it is, instantly, over night.
Where does that come from? You couldn’t name another band, I think, from where we’re from. It just doesn’t happen.
SC: What about An Horse? They’re from around there, aren’t they? I talked to Kate [Cooper] from the group awhile back, they were opening for Tegan and Sara.
LB: They must be doing really well in Canada.
JT: Kate Facebooked us the other day about meeting up. We go way back. She was a university tutor of mine. When we first started the band and were desperate for local shows she emailed a list of what we needed to do.
SC: I noticed you guys toured with The Grates, whom I love. Whatever happened to them?
LB: They’re living in Brooklyn. We hang out with them all the time.
SC: Where’s the next record?
JT: They have released another one [Teeth Lost, Hearts Won]. I think it got released in America about six months ago.
LB: But it was on an indie rather than Interscope. They’re incredible live.
SC: So have you been to Seattle before?
LB: The first time was a pretty good way to do it, we got to support Dinosaur Jr.
SC: The first time you went, was there anything you wanted to do or see?
JT: Absolutely. There’s so much I want to do there and soak it in. But we haven’t had too much time there. But we met some of the local kids there last time and they took us out. I think I got back to the hotel at 6 o’clock the next morning. I think you guys [to Luke] picked me up walking down the street at 11 a.m.
SC: Now that I know about your religious background, that puts “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” in a different perspective. It’s probably true to some extent.
JT: It’s true, 100 per cent.
LB: It’s me, I was dating his [James’] sister. We were engaged.
SC: What happened?
LB: She wanted to go to church more, and I wanted to go less. And I was in the band. We broke up mutually.
JT: But in twelve years of going to that school, I couldn’t tell you how many times I saw this excuse used to break up relationships.
SC: Does she like the song? Your sister?
LB: I think she found it funny. A year after the fact.