THE ONES WE LOVE is a unique series of concerts in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne Celebrating R.E.M. featuring an All-Star line-up of singers including Jeff Martin (The Tea Party), Steve Kilbey (The Church), Ron S. Peno (Died Pretty), Trish Young (The Clouds), Alannah Russack (The Hummingbirds), Ashley Naylor (Even), Greg Atkinson (Ups & Downs), Peter Fenton (Crow) with special guest Amanda Brown (The Go-Betweens).

Together they will pay tribute to R.E.M. by performing songs from R.E.M’s rich back catalogue from the period 1982 to 1992 including Losing My Religion, The One I Love, Man on the Moon, It’s The End of the World, Radio Free Europe, Drive, Orange Crush, Everybody Hurts, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, Nightswimming, Stand, Fall on Me, Driver 8, Shiny Happy People plus plenty more. Backing them will be some of Australia’s finest musicians who will honour the sound that was uniquely and undeniably R.E.M. I spoke to Steve Kilbey about the tour which starts tonight.

It sounds like it has been a really busy year for you so far particularly now with the lead up to this R.E.M. tribute show?
That’s right!

Celebrating R.E.M. 1982 to 1992 is that your favourite time period of the band?
Um no! Look, I’m coming in to this from a fairly neutral perspective. I’m not a fan of R.E.M. but I didn’t dislike them either. I was always neutral towards them and I haven’t listened to them a real lot. I was interested to take up this gig because it is a great cast of singers and In know the band is an amazing band. I thought it could be my chance to do some homework, listen to R.E.M. and sing these songs to re-approach them and learn something about them. The door is really open, I might love them by the end of all of this. Right now I’m approaching it from a neutral point of view.

How did you become involved? Was it about playing with this band? The songs?
I’m a singer for hire and everything I do has to be reasonably good though. Imagine if you’re an actor and you’re always doing certain roles, then someone rings up offering you this role which is different from what you normally do, you might know a lot about it and you take it on and enjoy the process of learning and finding out about it as you go even though it’s not what you’re listening to at home. I think I’m doing because I know it will be a successful night with those R.E.M. songs and those singers I think we’re going to deliver a really good R.E.M. show in the spirit if R.E.M. were there they would enjoy. It has all the hallmarks of a really good gig which is what I’m really interested in.

Do some of the relationships with those singers go back a long way?
I haven’t met Jeff Martin, don’t know him but I know Ash Naylor really well, same with Ron S. Peno, Alannah Russack, Trish Young I know… I like ensemble things like when you do a play and there’s a big cast of people. I have done some plays and a few musicals, it is a great feeling being a part of a cast, being a cog in a machine as opposed to a band where you’re all one thing, working for yourselves and you all know what you’re going to do. Being an ensemble player is a really interesting thing a bit like being in between singles and doubles tennis. There’s a skill in doing things on your own and there’s a skill working with other people to kick a goal. I’m very much attracted to all of that and I expect by the time it is all over I’ll love R.E.M. as much as everyone else does.

How does the song selection work? Do you get much choice over what songs you’ll sing?
All the tribute nights I have ever done that doesn’t really work , it always ends up being someone deciding which ones they want you to do. I think you have to pretty much accept whatever you’re given, if someone has a vision for it. Being just a hired guy that’s what I wanted. They chose it for me.

Do you think will be a once off or will there be more shows down the track?
I think it will be a once off.

The rest of the year is going to huge for The Church celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Starfish.
It is going to be a big and busy year definitely.

Did you ever think that album would be as enduring as what it has been and as relevant now as it ever has been before?
No, I never think that. I just think I’m doing a record and give it my best shot. It is great that it has happened, it is great thirty years later people still like it but at the time back in 1987 when we were there in L.A. making the record things that would happen in 2018 were a long way off our menu.

Is there any feeling of nostalgia about these tours?
No, I don’t view it as just another tour or nostalgia. I enjoy it pretty much for what it is, playing these songs in 2018 I’m thinking about more what it means to me now as I play it, trying to find new things in the song that I like, new ways of subtly enhancing the song or whatever I can do.

Is there a new album planned for next year?
No, there’s nothing planned. I don’t think we’ll make an album for a while, just play live as there’s so much to explore with that. The feeling is lay off doing an albums for a while.

Interview by Rob Lyon

Catch The Ones We Love: Celebrating R.E.M. 1982-1992 on the following dates, tickets from https://metropolistouring.com/tours/celebrating-rem/

The Ones We Love Tour Poster