For Violent Soho, 2020 was going to be a busy year, then all hell broke loose

For Violent Soho, 2020 was going to be a busy year, then all hell broke loose

Photo: Ian Laidlaw
Words by Greta Brereton

We chat to Violent Soho about their new record, Everything is A-OK.

2020 was meant to be a big year for Brisbane’s Violent Soho.

The rockers were gearing up for a great return to music after four years of radio silence. They’d put together their highly-anticipated fifth record Everything is A-OK, announced an international tour with dates already selling out and had an Australian venture on the cards too.

Then coronavirus came along, and things took a sci-fi style turn.

“It’s really weird to sort of think about, because we were about to announce our album tour yesterday,” says guitarist James Tidswell when he spoke to Beat on March 19 just after coronavirus took a stern grip.

“I’d hate to come across as having a pity party by any means, but we took three years off or something – we weren’t exactly ready for this.”

Reflecting on the current global crisis, at the time of the interview Tidswell was experiencing the situation first-hand. He’d been cooped up in self-quarantine for the days prior, waiting on COVID-19 results after a trip to Sydney left him exposed.

“I came in contact with a couple of people who have tested positive and got a letter from New South Wales health saying that I had to go and get tested immediately,” he explains. “I had to go to the medical centre, and they were like ‘don’t come in, you’ve gotta call’.

“Someone comes out in basically a hazmat suit, and they come and give me the mask and then she says the doctor will be out in a second.

“The doctor came out in the same sort of suit thing and a mask and just gave me some Ventolin, a prescription for some antibiotics – and this is before I’ve even been tested. Next minute I go in and they shove these things right up your nose. It’s very, very uncomfortable.

“I was like ‘how did I end up in this situation?’.”

As Tidswell awaited the fate of his own personal health, he was glaringly aware of how the virus is also impacting the music industry. Live shows (theirs included) are being axed or rescheduled, leaving musicians and a myriad of personnel – from the crew, to the sound techs, to event organisers – on shaky financial ground.

“We’re talking about it at I OH YOU [the band’s record label],” says Tidswell. “I saw on email this morning, Holly, Jack River, she wrote that her main concern is the crew, and it’s been keeping her up at night thinking about the crew and how they’re going to make their wage. I was blown away by that.

“It sounds so selfish, but I’m just being honest – it was definitely not my first thought. Admittedly mine was probably, how does my child eat? But it was still like, this is really going to go pretty deep.”

On the one hand, it seems like unlucky timing to release a new record in the current climate where things feel like they’re falling apart. On the other hand, the irony of launching an album with a tongue in cheek title like Everything is A-OK isn’t lost on Tidswell, and the sentiment is perhaps as relevant as ever.

“It very much feels like the dog sitting in the burning room saying, ‘everything is fine’,” he laughs.

“I think the title will make more sense now than it did three weeks ago. I like to think that it’s now pretty obvious with the flag [on the cover] being at half-mast with how we’re feeling.”

The record is the band’s first since 2016’s WACO, but it hasn’t exactly been four years in the making. Much of their unofficial hiatus was spent dabbling in other projects or helping other bands produce material, rather than working on their own.

Drummer Mike Richards joined Tired Lion on tour, while frontman Luke Boerdam produced the Perth band’s album Dumb Days. Bassist Luke Henery got stuck into band photography and Tidswell himself launched his own label in the form of Domestic La La.

“Everyone got just involved in the music community again which is what we love and where we’re from and what we’re passionate about,” Tidswell explains.

“We’ve been putting a lot into the next generation, as much as we can, and we sort of just forget about a lot of it because we get that much enjoyment from just being in and around it all.”

A string of intimate performances in February finally drew the group back onstage together, revitalising their passion to create as a unit. The resulting Everything is A-OK is Violent Soho at their best, a true-to-form record from a band that know what they’re about.

“We worked really hard on it, in a different way to what we ever have,” says Tidswell of the album. “Being a band for, I think it’s almost 18 years, it makes things different.”

“You sort of feel silly talking about yourself, but when you’ve been a band for this long, we really can’t be anything but what we are.”

“We’re quite ok with that, you know, we’re very comfortable, and we like to make sure that’s the message – this is exactly who we are, and we’re stoked.”

Everything is A-OK is out now via I OH YOU. Give it a spin on streaming services.