“We don’t want people to be down about it, but to celebrate life,” Lewis says, “and to realise that time is short and you’ve got to make the most of it.”
The youngest member of a musically-talented family which includes Tumbleweed guitarist Lenny Curley, and elder brother Dave (who’d played in the pre-Tumbleweed Proton Energy Pills) Lewis had known Jay since the latter was in his early teenage years.
“He’d been with us since he was 15 years old,” Lewis says. “We’d discovered music together, lived adventures together, we decided to be in a band and take on this path of music and adventure and had these discoveries. He brought his individual spirit to the band; as a musician, he had natural ability to find the groove – Jay had his own smooth style, and tended to roll around on the beat. So as a musician, his nuances are almost impossible to replicate by anybody else.”
Lewis concedes that in the aftermath of Jay’s death, the surviving members of the band seriously contemplated cancelling Tumbleweed’s upcoming shows. “Yeah, we definitely thought about not playing again,” Lewis says. “The reason we got back together in 2009 was because of the chemistry the original line-up had. We had a meeting shortly after Jay’s death to decide what we were going to do. We had a couple of commitments that we’d already made – flights, and stuff like that. We talked about it, and decided to honour those commitments – those being a gig in Sydney and some shows in Melbourne. And we decided that it’d be a good opportunity for a bit of closure for people.”
The first Tumbleweed show after Jay’s passing was the Young Henrys Small World street festival in the inner-Sydney suburb of Marrickville. Lewis describes the show as “stupidly emotional.” Jay’s position on bass was taken by Pat Curley, the eldest of the Curley brothers, and all of Jay’s family came along to see the show. “It was really huge, and a really difficult show to do,” Lewis says.
In mid-November Tumbleweed will travel down to Victoria to play two shows at the Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood, and a slot at the River Rocks festival in Geelong. “Melbourne has always been a bit of an ancestral home for us,” Lewis says. “We’ve got a lot of close friends in Melbourne, and a lot of Jay’s friends are in Melbourne, and we’ve always enjoyed playing there. So it’s a great opportunity for people who’ve been coming to see us for years to come along and celebrate the life of Jay with us for one last time.”
Lewis says the band is conscious of trying to focus on the positives, rather than be weighed down by tragedy of Jay’s death. “I’m really happy that we’ve had the opportunity to mend broken relationships from our 1996 break-up, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to tie a lot of loose ends up. I’m also incredibly proud of us for having the tenacity to keep going after the 2009 reformation and make the new album we always wanted to make,” Lewis says. “There are songs on there that needed to be out there, and could only be done with the original line-up, because of that original chemistry we had, and because of our shared history and experiences. If there’s something that comes up in the future that we can lend our name to, to raise awareness for a particular issue and use the platform of Tumbleweed to help, I think that’s something we might be involved in.”
BY PATRICK EMERY