In ’92 Tumbleweed were at the top of the heap following the runaway success of their back to back Eps Theatre of Gnomes and ‘Weedseed’ with both topping the ARIA Alternative Charts, their direct signing to Atlantic records in America, and a string of successful tours and supports with acts such as Mudhoney, Nirvana, Rollins and Iggy Pop.
Tumbleweed’s train was rolling at full steam by the time they released their debut album. The first album produced by US producer Mr Colson entered the national charts at number 12 and spawned hit singles such as Sundial and Acid Rain, which have remained pivotal songs in the Tumbleweed story to this day. Following strong demand on Record Store Day, their self-titled debut album will be made available for a limited time only on standard black vinyl on June 2 via Farmer & The Owl / Inertia.
To celebrate Tumbleweed will be embarking on a National tour through July to promote the release of their debut self-titled Album on vinyl, and will be playing the album in its entirety, live for the first time ever. Lead singer Richie Lewis speaks to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles about this influential album and upcoming tour.
I was so happy to hear that Tumbleweed would be touring in July and playing the debut album in full.
It has been threatening to happen for a little while in usual slack arse Tumbleweed fashion, we’re a year late from the twenty-fifth anniversary which is what we wanted to do but better late than ever. Twenty-six years ago we released that record and it was something we talked about doing for a while considering it happened on the cusp of the beginning of the CD, where everyone was burning records and getting rid of them out of the record shops, there was no vinyl happening at all. That record never got a vinyl release, when it was suggested by our friends at Music Farmers in Wollongong to print up a couple of vinyl versions of it for record store day, we thought it was a great opportunity to do it and also learn those songs and play it. We’re looking forward to getting out on the road and playing it.
Are you playing it literally from track one to in order to the end? Does that present some challenges re-learning those songs?
There was quite a lot of the record that was written in the studio and some of it never played live such as A Darkness At Never Never, both Dandylions with reasons both being noise-fests. It will be interesting to see how we will incorporate that in to the live set. There was a lot of production issues with a certain few songs like the acoustic guitar in Dandylion and we thought how are we going to replicate that. We left it long enough to really have enough space between to look back at it with fresh ears and bring something new to it. It has been a really good creative process to learn those ones and those charms ended up being the fun part.
Do you get nostalgic when you start playing these songs and does it take you back to that point in time?
Um, not in that way. What tends to happen is when you’re in the practice room trying to remember them you’re a little more conscious about it. Most often you go back in to this time zone where time really hasn’t passed since then. In that sense you right back there where you were. There is very little thought or reminiscing going on, there’s a little bit, but it is more like a zone you get in to that is similar. When it came to learn how to do Dandylion Part 2, big long noisy thing, that was a bit of a weird one in that regard because at time it was a throw together experimental phase for the producer Doug Colson, he just wanted to test out a few things and have a weird and wild time in the studio with some things. Whenever we had straight ahead songs he would send us back in the room to make a bit more noise. So we thought, how are we going to do that? I think what we tried to was like in the practice room is to try and embody the same spirit and try and get the same the sort of feel but not stick to much to what we did and try and do something new but with the same sort of intention. That’s how we’re approaching that.
Did you ever think that in your wildest imagination that the album would be so influential?
I don’t think so, back then it was living every day as it would come and didn’t give the future much thought. As far as the debut album went, we had two EP’s prior to that, we had a healthy lives sort of thing going on. We had imagined our first album being a lot of things that album wasn’t. When we first heard that album, we were a little bit disappointed because it didn’t really capture what we were about as a live band. We had this feeling as young twenty one year old’s going that doesn’t represent us but what the producer did brought his own creativity to it and created a record that was a bit more palatable. We probably wouldn’t have made something like that. It was very well produced, he’s a very apt producer that Atlantic hooked us up with. I think he ticked a lot of boxes that the record company wanted ticked. I’m certainly very happy and grateful that it has lasted and is very well received. It has taken me twenty years, I had listened to it just to get ready for this and I liked it for the first time in a long time. I thought it was a great record and a lot better than I remember it. I don’t know how much of that is useful bravado thinking that you’re better than what you are but looking back at it, it is pretty good.
If you had your time over would you do anything different? Would you re-record it or does it capture that moment in time that you couldn’t replicate now?
It is what is, with a lot of records that last a long time, there are a lot of records that bands might not think represent them. One that comes to mind, and we’re not comparing it in any shape or form, is Raw Power by Iggy & The Stooges. It was a very thin sounding album produced by David Bowie and for years it has been a contentious mix. I like that record because I like how it has a personality and it is a unique record. I tell you what, I think that is one thing that Doug Colson did was he brought out the songs and I’m a big fan of the song, I’m happy about that. I think if I was to do it differently I think we would have maintained the control earlier on. Being able to take our time with things rather than trying to rush to strike while the iron was hot. We had a lot of people helping us along, we signed away a lot of stuff early, which causes as much problems in the long term but built us up really quickly. I think with hindsight being twenty, thirty years down the track I would have liked to retain a lot of rights instead of just given away but also to have that creative control. I’m comfortable that I can live with the fact that is the way life is. It is easy to look back with hindsight and wish we had done things differently. I’m quite satisfied and very grateful for the spot that Tumbleweed has on the Australian musical landscape for the dedication of our fans and followers that still come to our shows.
Do you miss that golden era of Australian music in the nineties?
It was an exciting time that’s for sure, it was a period that our music, there was a lot of people coming of age at the same time that grew up on things like Beatles, Stones and Zeppelin and punk rock of the seventies, it was a nice natural metamorphosis in to this style which later became known as grunge or whatever, which was a nice merge of all those influences. At the same time there was a really strong youth movement, we were always doing all age shows, it was prior to the internet and there was a more of a community vibe to it because you struck up networks by hard work. You had to ring up people, send off stuff physically so that investment in time and energy created more of a connection.
Those kinds of things I really miss and as far as all the Australian bands that were popping out then it was a really fertile time with the beginning of Triple J going national and national music festivals. So bands that had only played up to two hundred people were playing to ten to fifteen thousand people on stadium stages was really cool and fun. It seemed like a big, long summer and i think there are a lot of cool bands out now, bands that are doing cool things internationally because building up that network is so much easier now with the internet. Bands such as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Hockey Dad from Wollongong, there’s heaps of them who have built very successful followings around the world. You can have a niche now and that niche can be huge and can sustain you. Back in out day a niche could not sustain you, you really had to appeal to the masses to be able to make a living. That is really cool that you can have that cottage industry do it your ethos which I’m a fan of this punk rock ethos, I like that you can do it and have a lot more success with it and not have to rely on record companies. There’s good and bad in everything.
In terms of the now, has there been much talk about doing a new Tumbleweed record?
There has, we have started writing some songs with our new bass player Jamie and he has brought a new spark and vitality to the band. He is a really positive guy and it is really enjoyable to be in the jam room. We think that the best way of presenting that is setting up a singles club and just recording a couple of songs a month, sending them out as seven inch vinyl single and maybe at the end of the year releasing that as a digital album.
How cool is it having Even as a support? A match made in heaven!
Great support! We did a lot of stuff with Even, a band I played in after Tumbleweed called Richie & The Creeps in a our little hiatus we all splintered off and did our own thing for a little while, they gave me a lot of shows. I saw them a lot and I worked closely with Wally (he’s our booking agent as well), we’re great friends and they are a great band. I’ve heard their new album and it is excellent, looking forward to seeing them a lot. Up in Queensland we’ve got Screamfeeder as well. We have a lot of friends on this tour, it will be a lot of fun.
The plan the tour?
We’ll be playing some regional shows and at the end of the year we’ll be releasing Galactaphonic on vinyl to coincide with a beer that it is coming out. Yes, a Tumbleweed beer called Galactaphonic Tonic and we’ll keep working on those songs every couple of weekends.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Tumbleweed on the following dates…