+Live+ are back and back in a big way. +Live+ are returning for another Australian tour after a brief visit last year which includes playing the Adelaide 500 with the Birds Of Tokyo. There is a real sense of excitement and energy within the band when I spoke to front man Ed Kowalczyk about the band reuniting and writing new songs which are almost ready to go as he explains to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles.
How are you Ed?
I’m doing great, nice to meet you.
It’s great that Live are coming back for another Australian tour. There’s plenty of love Down Under for Live.
There sure is, yeah.
Playing the Adelaide 500 must be a huge buzz for the band especially playing in front of somewhere between ten and twenty thousand people?
Yeah, it’s really exciting as we’re all into racing as well. I’m sort of a latecomer to the racing scene. Here in the states I’ve been to probably four Indy races in the last year or so, and I just love it. To combine the music and the racing is great, that’s just a fun party man, I’m really looking forward to it.
Do you get to come a little bit early and catch some of the racing at all? Or is it just focused on the show?
I think so. I might have to look at the schedule, but I do believe we are going to be able to be there the day after as well. I’m not quite sure what we’ll get to see, but we’ll be there, of course, the day of the show and hopefully get to catch some of the excitement.
Since reuniting as a band, do you feel now that the band is really on a good path?
It’s been incredible. We started, of course, last year. We’ve been back together now for a couple of years but it took us a minute to get it all laid out and decide what we want to do. Last year we started by just playing almost exclusively festivals in the United States and that was by design. We wanted to get out in front of a lot of people and we also wanted to just get back together before we even start working on new music or thinking about new music, we thought, “You know, let’s get the band out and just do some of these awesome shows where you get to see lots of other artists and get inspired.” It was really, really great…
We played with Foo Fighters, Tom Petty, Jane’s Addiction, you name it. We were all over playing these amazing bills and it really did inspire us. I think on top of that, the fans were just so elated that we were back together. There was this awesome mix of nostalgia and the fact that we’ve now been around for almost thirty years. Also people were really responding to how great the band sounded and how much energy, sort of a refreshed energy, that we had, and still have.
Now we’re working on new music, which I’m really, really excited about, so that’ll be coming relatively soon. It was just an incredible opportunity to get to come back to Australia so quickly from our last trip at the end of the year. Last year it was just a wild thing to be able to do it so close again.
Is the bond between everyone stronger than what it ever has been before?
In a way it is, man. I think we all share an incredible amount of gratitude for the fact that we’re back together at all. I don’t think anybody really expected it. I think that we didn’t realise until we broke up for a while how deep our friendship and our chemistry was together. I think there’s just a renewed sense of energy and gratitude for the whole experience of Live, and how much it means to us and how much it means to the fans and the new music, I think I really can’t wait for people to hear. That energy translated right into the studio which is really exciting.
When you talk about new music, is it more Throwing Copper? Or Secret Samadhi? Or are you pushing it in a slightly different direction again?
I think whenever you put the four of us together it’s going to have that sound, but there’s just another level of energy to it. There’s some new really rocking fast songs. If you look back on Throwing Copper and Secret Samadhi as you mentioned, they’re relatively mid-tempo records. They’re real contemporary grooves that kind of creep up on you. If you think I Alone and Lightening Crashes and even Dolphin’s Cry, and stuff. Whereas, we are with this music, probably a handful of these songs are some of the fastest ones that we’ve done and some of the most intense rockers that we’ve done in forever. So we really feel like we’ve kind of kicked up another notch, which again, I don’t think anybody was expecting us to do that, but I think it’s just the energy is so amazing, that it’s just making you rock that much harder.
Does that influence come from anywhere in particular such as playing festivals and hearing those other bands?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely! That was a big part of it. I think just getting out there and I figure what we felt when we got on stage was like, “Wow, we want to kick this up a notch, really strip it down., not thinking about the production all that much, just get great songs and really play them live, play them with this new energy. What’s coming out is absolutely inspired by the incredible experiences we had last year. Just getting out there in real time and watching some of our favourites and taking that inspiration back into the studio.
Is it hard to keep a lid on the excitement because I can just feel and hear the energy in your voice?
Yeah, yeah, for sure. It’s definitely bubbling under, man! It’s like we’re chomping at the bit to get out and finish what we’re up to here in the studio, and then start to play these songs live. We have a pretty big tour announcement coming out for North America in the summer. We’re going to play a lot of shows, we’re really excited to be able to play all these new songs in the set and get this music out to the fans.
Is that likely to be this year with the new album?
Oh, yeah! Absolutely. I’m not exactly sure what format it’ll come out in. I mean, we have five or six songs that we feel are almost ready to go. They’re in the finishing stages, and we’ve been discussing all kinds of different ways that we might get this out there, but with the emphasis on quickly, which could be a new song any minute. During our long hiatus we looked at the music business and the way people are consuming music changed dramatically. We have all these different tools and opportunities available to us that we didn’t have back then, and so like, hey man, why wait? You know? Put it out, let’s put one song out, put two, you know! Or maybe an EP, and then maybe a full album later. I think the whole idea is just to get the music out there and let people hear what we’re up to.
What was the biggest standout for you from 2017, starting to plan all these shows? Was there any one show or one moment that you think, “Yeah, wow. This is why we’re back together?”
There were a bunch that I can recall that were just like so full on. We played sort of a legendary Austin City Limits Festival, both weekends, and that was incredible with the Chili Peppers one night and some of my all-time favourites getting to share the stage, again, and check everybody out. Like I said, take that inspiration up.
I hadn’t seen Dave Grohl, only on and off over the years since the early, early days of Live and Nirvana. We got to reconnect with him at the Voodoo Fest in New Orleans. I was about halfway through the show, I kind of looked off to my periphery there by the guitar techs. Look over and Dave’s standing over there with this huge grin on his face., I was just so happy that he got to feel the happiness and the excitement that we were clearly emanating from the stage. He love it, and so that was cool to reconnect with him. That was a cool moment.
It must be hard pleasing all the fans with the shows now, with such an awesome back catalogue to choose from?
It must be hard trying to cram it all in in an hour and a half or two hours. I’m sure we’d like you to play for six or seven hours.
It is. It’s a blessing to look back on all those records and realise how many of the songs, not just the singles, but how many of the b-sides on the albums are super big, popular songs with the fan base. Trying to touch on some of those, but at the same time honouring and wanting to express where we are as artists now. I think the last thing we want to do is go out there and just be the guys who only play their old songs, or aren’t really up to anything creatively anymore, that are just sort of cashing out. That’s absolutely not where we are at. We’re really feeling like we’ve hit a new stride creatively, and that’s the most exciting thing for us.
Here in Adelaide, you’re playing with Birds of Tokyo, and they’re absolute super stars but also touring with The Tea Party, that must bring back a few memories as well?
They are an amazing band. When their name came up I jumped at the chance to play with them. Just the opportunity to come back to Australia this quickly, I don’t think we’ve ever done that in our whole career. Usually it’s a solid couple years between opportunities that you get a record out and the record cycle, the touring cycle is a couple years long. It was really neat to turn around and go, “Hey, we’re going back.”
Interview by Rob Lyon
Live play with Birds Of Tokyo at the Adelaide 500 on Saturday 3 March. Tickets from Ticketmaster