First published in Time Out Sydney, February 2014
The Brisvegas 90s legends make a long-overdue return
Dave McCormack, dear reader, is a very conversational person. He’s effusive, chatty and extremely charming, although even he has found doing press for the upcoming shows by Custard, the Brisbane-born band he fronted from 1990 to 1999, has been a bit odd.
“I’ve been doing interviews and it’s hard because I don’t really have much to promote or sell,” he explains. “Most bands, they’ve got a new record out and they’re doing this and that, they’re gonna tour America and they’re doing a video clip – I don’t have any of those fallback points.”
See, Custard’s reunions – like much of Custard’s career, really – have been quite casual affairs. “Absolutely! We just go with the vibe and see what happens, and if it seems like a good thing to do, we do it. You could write this whole article without talking to me, really – you know what’s going on.”
Custard did a few shows around the place last year, including Meredith Music Festival last year and their first Sydney shows in 12 years – which seems a long time given that all the members live, for the most part, in Sydney.
“It’s good to have the old gang back together,” he grins. “It’s very lovely. We hadn’t done a gig together for ten years, until 2009 [when they played in Brisbane for Queensland’s sesquicentenary], for a lot of reasons, and the whole subject of getting back together seemed impossible and then we did bite the bullet and got in a room together, and from the very first chord in rehearsal it just seemed to come together. I think it was a lot of muscle memory: after doing so many gigs for so many years we did sort of gel like an organic beast.”
Did the existence of those aforementioned reasons mean that the first rehearsal involved clearing the air at all?
“Not really, no. I think there probably is a lot of undiscussed and unresolved tension, but we see each other so briefly and it’s mainly getting on stage for gigs, that we’re all pretty happy with the way things are going,” he shrugs. “I mean, everyone’s really nice to each other and we’re all enjoy each other’s company. We spent a lot of time together for ten years, so there is a brotherly thing there. There are things that you just don’t have to discuss.”
He’s quick to point out that the band haven’t exactly laboured over the set for these shows either. “It’s just a matter of booking a rehearsal room for an hour, running through the set for 45 minutes, having 15 minutes of free time, and then off you go.”
Well, a well-drilled Custard would be a strange thing…
“It would defeat the purpose!” he declares. “I’ve always been a fan of the happy accidents. And I like to think that the people who come along do so for the accidents as much as the parts we play right. It’s the greatest hits played in the same versions as the recordings, played to the best of our abilities. Any changes are due to ineptness rather than anything else.”
He’s also pleased that 2011’s seen the return of a number of their contemporaries.
“I’m so glad that the Hummingbirds are back! They’re vastly underrated band. I loved the Hummingbirds – when did ‘Alimony’ come out, ’88? ’87? They were blazing a trail for guitar pop. Simon Holmes, great songwriter. ‘Two Weeks with a Good Man in Niagara Falls’ – what a great song,” he gushes. “He’s a guitar hero.”
Well, as YouTube attests, McCormack was quite the player in his day too – barking out ‘Apartment’ while playing those fiddly riffs…
“I’ve matured into doing one thing at a time now: I can’t do fiddly guitar and sing at the same time. But where we came from was this bumbling, not-really-that-good-at-our-instruments thing. None of us are that good, but when we get together with the right songs, we can play the tasty little bits – which is nice, I think. If any of us were hired as session musicians, I think we’d fail spectacularly.”
Except Glenn Thompson, of course – the band’s multi-instrumentalist drummer, recruited for the reunited Go Betweens, no less. Not only could he be hired as a sessioneer, he actually has.
“True, Glenn has. He’s the exception to the rule. He’s a very talented musician, and a great songwriter. His album [Beachfield’s Brighton Bothways] is unbelievable. Unbelievable.”