It's a peppy, if nasally-challenged Johnny Mackay who's dismissive of the ravages the past month's touring has had on his body. "My body just held out for the tour," he says of the band's recent jaunts (plural) around the country for a run of festival spots with Falls, Sunset Sounds and Southbound and then the travelling Big Day Out circus. "I tested its limits - but now the tour is done, it's given up," he shrugs. "It's like 'here's a bunch of phlegm, deal with it'."
For the frontman of one of Australia's most beloved rock bands - who've moved from perennial up-and-comers to established concern - it's been something of come down, and one that's prompted him to give up the more vice-related partying activities of rock 'n' roll. "I'm giving it up for a little while - I'm going straight edge," he laughs.
Following the release of the band's second album Theory Of Everything last year, the rise and rise of Children Collide has seemingly continued unabated. The manic buzzsaw rock - with its flourishes of Pixies-esque pop - on their 2008 debut The Long Now gave way to a more considered and intense rock 'n' roll experience, one that cemented their status in Australian rock's echelon.
A lot of has to with Mackay, drummer Ryan Caesar and bassist Heath Crawley's predilection for hard work - they're constantly on the road, rehearsing or writing - and their success is a testament to the nose-to-the-rock'n'roll-grindstone ethos they've lived by.
Now, with their tour for new single Arrows and looming dates at the all ages Push Over festival and Sidetracked (as part of the Australian Grand Prix - go Webber), Mackay is content with where the band are at when it comes to evolving into a band who can command the larger stages - as they did with suitable aplomb at Falls and Big Day Out.
"It's taken a while of playing big, outdoor festivals to get used to doing that," he admits, "and after playing indoors - to your own crowd, when they're quite close to you - it takes a bit of getting used to going back to outdoor festivals.
"It's the differences in having that big space between you and the crowd, also having a crowd that aren't necessarily there to see you specifically - they might just be wandering around. So it took a couple to get used to it, but I'm glad we did those festivals before Big Day Out, because we were into it properly by then, and we got back to feeling comfortable with it all.
The band have actually played Push Over before, an experience that Mackay fondly recalls. "Yeah, I fucking loved it, it was awesome," he smiles. "I saw Parkway Drive and some band from America that I'd never heard of who were massive - I guess that's the thing, you can think you're down with 'the kids', but then you play and a bunch of dudes with pvc arrows on their cheeks and star's over their whatever and their crowd is the most nuts of the day. That happened last time - I can't remember their name, but I was like 'who the fuck is that?'
It's those sort of all-ages shows, though, that provide the lifeblood of many Australian bands - being able to connect with an audience, especially if they're under 18 and can't come to your club shows, is crucial in as limited market as Australia. For many, their outlet is thus limited to hearing bands on radio and following their every move on the internet - all ages show then give them one of the few chances to experience live music, grow their love for it, and for the bands plying their trade. Mackay agrees that all ages shows are a crucial part of growing up.
"I lived in Coffs Harbour and there were hardly any," he recalls. "The council closed down the only place we had to have all ages shows and they turned it into a car park for the ex-Serviceman's club so they could play more pokies. As a result, I'm a big fan of pokies," he deadpans. "No… as a result, we put on our own parties with bands when we were kids; in town halls and around the place - it would've sucked if we didn't."
The band's trademark appreciation of a hard slog and never really resting on their laurels also shows no sing of abating, with this latest run of festival shows and their own tour meaning their last twelve months have been close to non-stop. And that will seemingly continue off into the future as they set about releasing Arrows, touring, maybe heading back overseas and, you know, beginning to write their next album.
"We've got the new single Arrows out," Mackay lists, "we've got a new film clip for it as well, which is pretty cool. We actually had a radio mix [of Arrows] done by the guy who did the mix for Peter Bjorn and John's Young Folk and a Bat For Lashes track, which was also really cool. The clip itself is pretty good," he adds, "we're not in it all… well, you can see a picture of us, if you look very carefully."
Ah. So that'd be the moment Children Collide went high concept then?
"We've gone all anonymous," Mackay chuckles. "It's just a static screen… and we pop up… nah, there's this really cute little girl in it with messy hair…" he trails off.
Right. Way to sell it.
"Well… And it's good!" he laughs indignantly. "I'm thinking about the fifth record, actually. But we'll record it a bit later in the year, and hopefully get it out sometime in 2012.
"Stuff hasn't been happening all that much as we've just been rehearsing to get the set right for the festivals and this tour - like trying things out, getting segways right, and then when we actually try them, we fuck them up… but it's at least good to know we can make them up - but we're just about to get right into that writing.
'In the dark?' comes the query, after Mackay admits he's trying to convince everyone that they're writing the entirety of the new record in the dark.
"In the dark," he nods firmly, tongue firmly in cheek.
CHILDREN COLLIDE play PUSH OVER at The Abbotsford Convent this Sunday march 13 alongside Oh Mercy, Break Even, Deez Nuts, and heaps more - tickets and info from thepush.com.au. They also play SIDETRACKED at the Australian Grand Priz in Albert Park on March 26, then their Arrows tour hits Melbourne at The Prince Bandroom on April 22 (tickets from princebandroom.com.au and moshtix.com.au) and The Ferntree Gully Hotel on April 23 (tickets from oztix.com.au). Their latest album Theory Of Everything is out now through Universal.
BY BILLY D. RODRIGUEZ