Versus The World
A few friends in California decided to have a jam in the back of The Ataris old record store about seven years ago with former Ataris bassist Mike Davenport initiating the idea with Donald Spence taking on the vocal duties. The band’s self-titled punk-rock release, Versus The World, appeared and then things became a little quiet for the band. Versus The World looked as though it might be a one-off side-project but with a line-up reshuffle, including the addition of Lagwagon’s Chris Flippin on guitar and Crooks & Liars’ Bryan Charlson, the four-piece decided to take things a little more seriously from 2010. Despite a solid reputation from their varied punk and rock projects, Versus The World were left to put together their sophomore album at mostly their own expense with little in the way of label support. There are whispers they might be appearing in Australia for Soundwave, but even Flippin is unsure as to whether that is a definite possibility.
“We’d love to come out there and do Soundwave but nothing has been officially set up yet,” Flippin explains. “We would really like to but we need to set up some other shows to make it viable. Nothing is confirmed yet.”
Sneaking into a local studio in between official bookings to make things a little more inexpensive meant that the band’s latest release Drink. Sing. Live. Love. took a lot longer to record than they planned and getting it released was an ever harder prospect. The music industry seems to be allowing the idea of creative economy to disappear and even a band, albeit relatively new, but consisting of players from so many other successful groups, struggle to get their music into the world. “In the ‘90s the labels were going to pay $200,000 for you to make an album and now they’re wanting you to do an album for $20,000 if they even pay at all,” he says. “Everyone can have a home studio but there has to be the guys behind the knobs with the good ears for sound, you know what I mean? Anyone can push the button and record the stuff but it takes a lot of people who are dedicated just to the sound of the albums and producing and that spend so much time making the album sound as good as it can. We spent so much time with label shopping and everything else it has all been a labour. I like the songs so I hope people like it and we can do some touring and play these songs for people.”
Despite the history of Lagwagon, The Ataris and Crooks & Liars on the group’s CV, it is a little like climbing the ladder from the garage up with any new project. “There are still people that know the band from the first album that show up to gigs,” he says. “There are two new members so the sound’s changed a lot and it is all a bit like starting over. We lost the momentum from the first album. In today’s world, god, the music changes so quickly. It feels like every three months there is a new set of bands where as it was about every three years before.”
Despite the album coming together with a staggered approach to recording, the band slowly shaped an overall sonic concept as the tracks were layered. Despite not having an initial focus, a distinct Versus The World punk sound evolved. “It was a really fun time making the album because we all live really close and we had such a fun time hanging out and playing music together,” he says genuinely and yet his gruff don’t-fuck-with-me voice gives a whole new energy to his positive words. Talking to Flippin is a conversation of contrasts. “I still really enjoy playing so much. Sure, sometimes when you travel for a gig and there’s a small turn-out of people it can get you down and just like any other job it can become a job but there’s more good days than bad days. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”
There is always a conception that any project outside of the well-known work of an artist is a side project. The Ataris may be releasing a new album, and despite that being a seminal part of Davenport’s history he has long since moved on from that band. Lagwagon appear to be in an unofficial hiatus and Spence and Charlson, despite having other projects keeping them occupied, are thoroughly dedicated to Versus The World. For a side project, this and seems to be occupying the time and minds of the members entirely. Flippin seems surprised when asked how much of a “side project” Versus The World really is and laughs at his own lack of awareness about audience pre-conceptions. “Oh god, I dunno,” he says. “Yeah I guess the audience do see it as a side project. I guess we need to work on that.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Drink. Sing. Live. Love. is out on now through 3Wise.