“In our minds, we’re doing everything.” It’s a line of specious rhetoric that might be found at the foot of a turgid promotional piece published by a multinational corporation, replete with buzz phrases and fatuous assertions. But it’s also guitarist Ash Naylor’s sincere observation of Even’s current state of being. With a new album contemplated, but not yet conceived, and a smattering of shows throughout 2010 – including a highly successful triple bill at The Thornbury Theatre in September – Even remain active, if not blazing the trail through studios and stages the band members would like. “What I want for Christmas is an overseas record label and booking agent,” bass player Wally Kempton declares. “And an extra $100,000 in the kitty – and our own plane.”
It’s lunchtime on a sunny Thursday afternoon, and we’re sitting outside The Esplanade Hotel, where Kempton is currently working as a booker. With Meredith fast approaching, and his Espy booking commitments causing him a level of grief, Kempton is unnaturally stressed. Naylor, in sharp contrast, is placid and relaxed. Between the two of them, there’s ne’er a major highlight for 2010. “I dunno – did we go away?” Kempton inquires of Naylor. As Naylor dredges through the last year’s memories, Kempton answers his own question. “We continued to exist,” he says, “but we haven’t had a very busy year.” Naylor pipes up with his own offering. “The triple treat show we did at Thornbury Theatre was one of our best shows in ages – it showcased all the different sides of the band in a theatre environment. It was possibly one of my favourite shows in ages,” he nods. “People are going to be talking about it through the ages,” Kempton adds.
Even also celebrated their sixteenth birthday with a gig at The Hi-Fi Bar, followed by birthday shows in Sydney and Brisbane. As Even continues into their seventeenth year, Naylor says the band’s subjective measure of success remains popular interest: “That people still come to our shows,” he reasons. Kempton points to another important attribute – intra-band contentment. “The fact that we’re still together is a measure of success, too,” he says. “We’re also still adding to our body of work – we’re not just on a nostalgia wave,” Naylor admits. “And that’s all you can hope for: to keep making new music – that sounds like old music,” he laughs.
As the lunchtime fare arrives, I ask whether there has ever been a full-on verbal or physical stoush in the Even camp. The answer, it appears, is a categorical no. “Not with each other,” Kempton answers. “We’re not little children,” Naylor adds. “Collectively, we’re relatively mature adults, and there’s no need to resort to physical violence or immature squabbling to resolve issues that may come up. We came together quite seamlessly, looking back. We have disagreements, but we manage to resolve them amicably, and if not, we can work around them,” Naylor explains.
This weekend sees the return of the annual Even Christmas shows, with the band playing over two consecutive nights at The Tote. Kempton has revealed his own disdain for the rampant commercialisation of Christmas in previous interviews; Naylor’s attitude is influenced by his parental responsibilities. “My attitude to Christmas is very different now because I have children. Basically it’s focused on them earning their presents,” he laughs. “I’m looking forward to it this year because there’ll be a break between the Christmas Even shows and Christmas Day. So I can enjoy a relatively normal suburban Christmas without my ears ringing and a filthy hangover on Christmas morning after a rip-snorting Even gig.”
Both Naylor and Kempton are understandably looking forward to this week’s Tote shows. On the Saturday Even will be supported by visiting Tennessee band Jeff The Brotherhood and local bands Matt Sonic And The High Times and The Level Spirits; on Sunday Even plays a matinee show alongside Those Darlins. “They’re quite diverse line-ups, and both exciting bills,” Naylor says. “The chance to do two Christmas shows in one venue is great – and the fact that we’re back at the Tote is a little bit exciting.
“It’s the Hotel California of rock,” he adds. “Matt and I did our first gig there back in 1986, and Wally has a very long association with the Tote. So it’s part of our DNA – it’s in our blood,” Naylor says. As for surprise covers, Naylor isn’t sure, though Kempton has his own suggestion. “Hall and Oates – How Does It Feel To Be Back,” he laughs.
XMAS EVEN continues the EVEN tradition of celebrating Christmas the right way – with loads of booze and loud music. So join them at The Tote this Saturday December 18 with JEFF The Brotherhood, Matt Sonic & The High Times, then on Sunday December 19 with Those Darlins’ and a southern style BBQ. Nice. See you there.