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Underground Lovers

The music scene in the '90s, particularly in Melbourne, was happening and alive," says Vincent Giarrusso, "It was good to be part of it." His band, Underground Lovers, were a seminal Australian dream pop act of the 1990s that had a fitful kind of success. They were critical darlings with a devoted fanbase. They won an ARIA, Best New Artist, for their self-titled 1991 debut, and signed a major label deal with Polydor. They released six albums, including the much-lauded Leaves Me Blind [1992] and Dream It Down [1994], which spawned a triple j high-rotation hit with Losin' It . They had an international sound, in an era when Australian indiewas becoming increasingly parochial, but they never quite made it big overseas. They probably should have, but they didn't.


"When we were in the UK, we sometimes felt that being from Australia was a liability and we had to work hard to shake off that perception," Vincent shrugs, "(But) we were lucky because we didn't look or behave in that way. And we sounded so different musically, we couldn't be pegged."

 

The band certainly made some inroads, touring overseas and winning coveted support slots with international acts like The Cure and My Bloody Valentine. But ultimately, the Underground Lovers were best-lovedby the home crowd, and like so many middling fish in a relatively small pond, they eventually ran out of steam. In 2002, shortly after supporting New Order on their Australian tour, the two founding members of the Underground Lovers decided to pack it in and pursue other projects. It had been twelve yearssince their debut gig at The Corner Hotel and both Vincent and Glenn Bennie needed a break.

 

Vincent describes the years that followed as a "cooling off period". He had exceptional success as the writer/director of Mallboy in 2000, and went on to become a screen studies lecturer while developing other film and writing projects. Glenn continued to perform and produce music with various Melbourne-based artists, but the Underground Lovers were forgotten. They checked out of the bandfor a better part of a decade - just enough time to let their aging fan base get good and nostalgic.

 

In 2009, the Underground Lovers were invited to play a reunion set at Homebake. Vincent and Glenn brought the original line-up together, including Philippa Nihill, Richard Andrew and Maurice Argiro, and the reformed band played a handful of shows in Melbourne and Sydney around that date. They also re-released their debut album, and somewhere in the process remembered just how awesome their band had been.

 

Inspired by each others company, and their reception at Homebake, the band decided to pour through the Underground Lovers' back catalogue and put together a proper retrospective album, featuring radio singles, B-sides and remixes (including proto-electronic tracks recorded under the GBVG moniker). Called Wonderful Things, the album has been two years in the making, as it was entirely remastered by the Underground Lovers' original engineer, Don Bartley, and features new artwork by their long-time visual art collaborators, Other Rooms.

 

"Its a good way to get acquainted with our sound and our songs.The retrospective is structured like an long play album so you canlisten to the whole thing in one go or you can dip into it," Vincent says.

Underground Lovers perform at The Corner on Thursday November 17. Wonderful Things: Retrospective is out now on Rubber Records.