Little Murders protagonist Rob Griffiths, by his own admission, was an “anglophile” in his music listening tastes in the 1960s and 1970s. Griffiths had arrived in Australia from England in 1965; already listening to his brothers’ ‘60s records, the explosion of the UK punk scene in 1976 added new spice into Griffiths’ musical mix. But it was The Jam – the poster group for the mod revival that swept through England in the late 1970s – that captured Griffiths’ attention. “There was something about The Jam that was very appealing,” he remembers. “I really liked that melodic style that they had – the mod fashion was really great as well. And the way wrote fell into the mod thing.”
Griffiths and a group of like-minded young mods established a local mod revivalist scene, centred around clubs in Richmond and South Yarra. With its overt indulgence of fashion and style, the mod subculture was a foil to the punk scene – while drawing from punk’s attitude and energy. “The mod thing came out of punk,” Griffiths explains. “Not everyone wanted to dress down. Punk gave the mod scene energy, and sharper edges. And ska was a big thing as well – pencil ties, pork pie hats,” he notes.
Griffiths’ band Little Murders signed to Bruce Milne’s Au-Go-Go records, releasing the now classic single Things Will Be Different (b/w Take Me I’m Yours) in 1979. For the next few years Little Murders – with a rotating cast of musicians – would be focused on releasing the perfect pop song that would dominate the charts. “Bruce really wanted to get a hit single on the charts,” Griffiths recalls. “We spent a lot of money making the single She Lets Me Know, when we could have spent it on making an album. In retrospective that might’ve been the wrong approach, but that’s only looking back on it now,” he figures.
Little Murders toiled on after the demise of the mod revival in 1982, maintaining a strong following, but without the iconic backdrop of the mod subculture. By the mid 1980s Griffiths says the band had lost focus; the loss of another guitarist and drummer in 1985 was the catalyst for Little Murders entering an extended hiatus. Griffiths occupied his time DJ’ing, managing local bands, starting his own label and continuing to write and release his own solo material.
The ‘From the Jam ‘ tour in 2007, featuring original Jam members Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler, was the catalyst for the re-appearance of Little Murders. “I noticed on the ad that it said ‘support – TBA’, so I sent an email to their manager. And then four days before the gig my wife took a call asking if we’d like to do the support,” Griffiths chuckles. “I really enjoyed myself at the gig – everyone I knew from the old days was there. It was a great big singalong!”
Spurred on by the gig, Griffiths took the latest line-up of Little Murders into the studio to record, Dig For Plenty, the first new Little Murders record in 25 years. “I wanted to write more rock ’n’ roll songs, and I thought these songs were pretty good,” he explains. While Griffiths remains the protagonist in Little Murders, his approach in the studio has been refined. “I wanted to collaborate more with the band,” he nods. “We were also lucky enough to find a drummer, and we once had a drummer we could work together as a band.”
Griffiths says Little Murders will remain a going concern, though he recognises the effort required to maintain a band in working order. “Playing in a band is a bit of a marathon – it really wears you down,” he says. “In the old days we played six nights a week, whereas these days we play twice a month.”
As for his adherence to the mod subculture, Griffiths says his heart is still there, despite the passage of time. “I have mod sensibilities,” he says. “I surround myself with ‘60s things, and I watch Michael Caine ‘til I burst, and I like to look good when I go out – so in my mind I’m a mod. But I’m also a big fan of Joe Strummer, and I can feel him on my shoulder saying ‘don’t be too mod, Rob’,” Griffiths laughs.
LITTLE MURDERS launch their new album Dig For Plenty (out now through Off The Hip) at The Grace Darling Hotel this Saturday January 29, joined by The Exotics and The Breadmakers.