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Grenadiers on balancing music with a day job, tough decisions and the importance of band chemistry

Jesse Coulter is feeling a little bit seedy. “I just woke up and tried to force myself through a hangover,” the Grenadiers frontman says. “We played a show in Brisbane at the Crow Bar last night. But I’m just getting some breakfast now. I think I have managed to get myself through the worst of it.”

One can imagine that Coulter’s hangover rebound skills will be getting a workout over the next few weeks – his band are touring all the way through to the latter half of May, playing a series of shows across the country to promote their crushing new single Suburban Life.
 
“We’re just doing weekend tours,” Coulter says. “I think that’s the way it goes for a lot of bands. Most bands have to work to earn a crust in addition to making their music, so they have to fit in a tour with the day job. Plus, nobody really wants to go out and see a band on a Wednesday night.”
 
As well as an eminently watchable frontman, Coulter is also a veteran of the music industry, and knows all too well what is required of an establishing band looking to carve a little space in the scene for themselves. Namely, he understands that bands have got to tour. “The thing is, if you’re a European band or a North American band you can just tour constantly,” Coulter says, almost a little enviously.
 
“Like with America, by the time you’ve finished doing an entire tour of the States – if you go to everywhere in America – then it’s time for you to start all over again. It will have been eight months since you started. And it’s the same with Europe – you can non-stop tour.
 
“But it’s not like that in Australia. There are only five places you can play that have a population of more than a million people. In Australia, [to make it] you either have a big song on the radio, or you tour constantly. And we don’t have a big song on the radio, so…” he laughs.
 
Coulter has had to learn such lessons the hard way, fudging his way through his fair share of business decisions, tour schedules, and meetings with execs over the years. “For a lot of musicians, their brains are wired towards being creative and making music, not geared towards being a manager or an accountant,” he says.
 
“A lot of bands need to have a team around to make that work. But if you’re DIY, as we are to a large extent, you need to work that out yourself. I’ve been in bands for ten years, and I’ve worked out that sort of stuff along the way. I have learnt how to get your song out, how to tour, how to route out a tour, how to find places cheaply – all that stuff. It’s a rich tapestry of fuckery.”
 
Of course, often that level of fuckery forces you to make some pretty tough decisions – not all of which you are going to necessarily get right. “The only way to learn is to make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are minor, and you can take a kind of c’est la vie attitude, and other times they’re catastrophic and you have to stack everything back up again.”
 
But no matter how bad things might occasionally get, Coulter is bolstered by the relationship he has with his bandmates. “I’ve heard the analogy many times in interviews with bands that being in a group is like being married to several people at the same time,” he says. “It’s a corny thing to say, but it’s true.
 
“Maintaining one relationship is hard enough, so maintaining a marriage-like relationship with two or three other people is a struggle sometimes. There are ups and downs, but there is also an implicit trust that comes with being in a band. If you don’t have that, then you’re going to be in trouble,” Coulter says.
 
“You either want to have that solid trust, and those brotherly, sisterly relationships, or you want to have a shitload of money so you can afford to stay away from each other.”
 
By Joseph Earp

Grenadiers will perform at The Workers Club on Friday May 19 with Pale Heads and Hoodlum Shouts.