Bitter Sweet Kicks
Bitter Sweet Kicks vocalist Jack Davies has mixed feelings about the band’s St Kilda background. On one hand, St Kilda is arguably the most important suburb in Melbourne’s punk rock heritage, home to the Seaview Ballroom in the late '70s and early '80s, and the Esplanade Hotel in the 1980s and 1990s. On the other hand, St Kilda of the modern era is a shadow of its former punk rock glory, its once-feral streets largely sanitised in the name of gentrification and ne’er a decent punk rock venue to be found. “St Kilda’s dead now – it died with The Greyhound,” Davies says. “But I’m definitely proud to be wearing that St Kilda badge. We’re trying to grasp whatever’s left.”
Bitter Sweet Kicks formed about six years ago, the by-product of the usual motley assortment of teenage punk rock bands. “We all played in trashy punk bands when we were underage,” Davies says. “Eventually we all merged. It’s been a long time, and the music’s got a lot better since we started out.” Bitter Sweet Kicks played its first gig at the Esplanade Hotel basement in 2006, the first in many gigs “slogging it out” in a quest to generate some interest. “We all had the same interests when we started out – classic punk, mixed with some new school stuff, like Rancid,” Davies says. “And then we started delving into the more rock’n’roll side, away from the punk stuff we’d started out with.”
Despite the dearth of venues south of the river, Bitter Sweet Kicks were lucky enough to find enough sympathetic patrons to champion the band’s blues-punk-rock sound. “If you go to the right place at the right time in St Kilda, it still has the right people, and the right vibe,” Davies says. “There’s places like the Lyrebird in Ripponlea – you can go there and hang out with good people, the old St Kilda rock dinosaurs that are still around.”
It was on the other side of the river that Bitter Sweet Kicks encountered another long-time St Kilda resident, and soon to be strong supporter of Bitter Sweet Kicks, Spencer P Jones. Bitter Sweet Kicks had long indulged the swamp-rock edge of the Beasts; serendipitously, Jones was an immediate convert to the Bitter Sweet Kicks cause. “We had a gig at the Spanish Club on Johnston Street, when they were still having gigs there,” Davies says. “We were there during soundcheck, just playing some blues stuff, and we thought there wasn’t anyone else in the room. Little did we know but Spencer was there having dinner in the corner with his wife at the time, and he came up to us and said he liked what he’d heard,” he says.
Within a few months, Jones had hooked up Bitter Sweet Kicks for a tour, exposing the young band to a wider audience. “Spencer is such a big supporter of young bands, he’s always looking to help out, even when he doesn’t need to,” Davies says. “And we absolutely idolise the Beasts Of Bourbon – a lot of our songs sound just like them!” he laughs.
As well as featuring on a number of the Day By The Green bills organised by fellow St Kilda band Cold Harbour, Bitter Sweet Kicks played its first Cherry Rock festival in 2010, on the same bill as the legendary Rose Tattoo. “I don’t remember too much about that festival, but I know we had fun,” Davies laughs. “There was such a great vibe, and everyone was really good to each other. I ran into Angry [Anderson] back stage, but I also spent time hanging out with Jesse Hughes, which was pretty cool.”
Earlier this year Bitter Sweet Kicks were invited up to Andrew McGee’s Empty Room studio in Nagambie to record what will eventually become Bitter Sweet Kicks’ debut album. McGee, a co-founder of Shock Records and long-time benevolent patron of the Melbourne independent music scene had seen Bitter Sweet Kicks play in Melbourne and decided the band was worth a punt. “That place is the most laid back, perfect setting,” Davies says. “We’d only met him a couple of times, and he invited us up there. They fed us, gave us food and wine, there’s a pool there, a trampoline – it’s so relaxed. You’d wake up in the morning, have brekky and then go straight into the studio. You couldn’t ask for better preparation!” Davies gushes.
The fruits of the band’s recording labour are due for release in about July, in time for the Bitter Sweet Kicks’ first European tour. Having made the acquaintance of Spanish garage band Los Chicos at last week’s Boogie Festival, Bitter Sweet Kicks has also managed to line up both gigs and accommodation in Madrid. “We just became supergreat friends with those guys – it was a really good connection to make,” Davies says.
As for broader career aspirations, Davies isn’t setting his sights any higher than living in the moment. “This is it!” he laughs. “None of us have anything really to fall back on – we all have throwaway jobs. I can’t imagine doing anything else. We’ve all made this commitment, and we just want to give it a red hot go. can think of plenty of worse things to do with my life!”
BY PATRICK EMERY
BITTER SWEET KICKS play the massive Cherry Rock 012 alongside Fu Manchu, Black Cobra, Matt Sonic And The High Times and heaps more on Sunday April 29 in AC/DC Lane. There are limited tickets left from trybooking.com.