We catch up with The Badloves.
The Badloves epitomise Australian music from the 1990s – their fresh brand of soul-infused rock was tantalising for those chasing something a little softer than the Powderfinger’s, You Am I’s, Regurgitator’s and Spiderbait’s of the time. The band have two records to their name, Get on Board and Holy Roadside, both of which have garnered critical reception and after going quiet for a period of time, they are readying themselves to release their second single in the space of the 12 months.
To celebrate the release of their new track, ‘Tribal’, they will be playing a show from MEMO Music Hall as part of the venue’s ongoing livestreamed series in collaboration with Renegade Films. You can find out more about the series here.
In the lead-up to the show, we were lucky enough to sit down with the band’s frontman, Michael Spiby, to talk about what they’ve been up to and how they’re approaching the show sans a physical audience.
Beat: During the ‘90s, The Badloves became one of Australia’s most respected bands – their soul-infused rock marking a fresh venture for the scene at the time. Why did the band enjoy such success early on?
Michael Spiby: I think we got noticed because we were operating outside the trend. I found the ’80s music scene to be a pretty hollow musical era personally, so as a songwriter, I wanted a band where songs, not style, reclaimed the spotlight. This meant it was actually a slow grow for us – you know we were maturing musically, under the radar for years, while other bands were getting signed and released.
Once we gained momentum however, it all went bang due to all the hard slog of writing, recording and playing that went into the front end of the project back in the late ’80s. From the market’s perspective we simply appeared out of nowhere in 1993. I found that pretty amusing!
Beat: 30 years on and people still admire the band greatly. How would you describe The Badloves in 2020?
Spiby: We’re very fortunate to have loyal folks that have joined us on our journey. It’s incredibly humbling to be able to share music, to have it be tangible at some level or emotionally meaningful to another human. It’s not something you ever take for granted. I don’t think the band’s focus has changed in any way from 1989 til 2020. It’s still all about songs, played with real instruments and warts and all performances. The performance aspect is more about being loose and having fun… maybe that’s something that’s more pronounced in recent times.
Beat: The Hammond organ became a bit part of The Badloves sound and aesthetic and continues to be a constant fixture of the band. Why has this instrument been so quintessential to the band?
Spiby: Our love of the Hammond organ sound grew out of a love of old gospel and R&B and became a point of distinction for us at a time when the rock and pop world had an ongoing love affair with dinky little toy synth keyboards. The Hammond was one of our secret weapons because, played well, they’re a hairy-chested predatory beast – they can grind like a wall of guitars one moment then hum and whisper like an ensemble of singers the next. They’re orchestral minus the bow tied pomp. To refer to them as just another keyboard is a gross understatement.
Beat: The Badloves are about to release ‘Tribal’, their first single since 2019’s ‘Soulbrothertruckinsong’ and only their second single in almost 20 years. What inspired you to start writing new music again?
Spiby: ‘Tribal’ and ‘Soulbrothertruckinsong’ are the tip of the iceberg in terms of new Badloves songs. Writing songs has always been an ongoing infliction. Songs have always pursued me so the writing has never stopped, it’s just that the release schedule has recently resumed for the band.
Beat: What’s the story behind the new single, ‘Tribal?
Spiby: I rarely remember dreams in any detail but in recent times I had a recurring dream where I feared not being able to keep my tribe together. ‘Tribal’ is the exception where I not only woke with the emotion of the dream but also much of the detail, even though it was scrambled and abstract. The song formed easily because the meaning, and therefore the lyric, came through clearly.
Beat: Livestreamed gigs have become the new norm and while many virtual shows have been stripped back and DIY, MEMO have taken things to another level with their professionally-made livestreams. What is your perception of the livestreamed gig format?
Spiby: MEMO have certainly nailed the concept with their streams. Not surprising given the pedigree of the folks involved. It also doesn’t hurt that the venue is also one of the best music halls in the land. Streaming can be a bizarre performance experience for performers because the audience is remote and therefore the energy or feedback is not in your face… the alchemy is different. But it’s still music, and still live.
Beat: What can we expect from the performance? Will the band be approaching the gig any differently to a regular show?
Spiby: Actually, we’ll still approach the gig in the same way as a regular show because we have a blast playing together – still lose ourselves in the songs, still have a laugh. And you’re fully aware there is an audience along for the ride. The onus is back on the performer to just enjoy the music, the venue and each other’s company and hope that the audience enjoy it too.
Beat: There’s whispers of a new Badloves album on the way. How’s it coming along and when can we expect it?
Spiby: There are a few releases in the wings, one a live vinyl recording, and later in the year a new studio LP. The current lockdowns are playing havoc with our original studio LP plans but we’ll find a workaround. There’s a feeling of great momentum driving this band, it’s an incredibly exciting time for us.
Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.