It may be a little hard to believe, but Melbourne rock institution The Living End are pushing up towards 20 years together as a band, and recently released their sixth studio album. They have just about seen and done it all in the Aussie music scene, and lead vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter Chris Cheney spoke to us recently about the new record, its rather puzzling title, their upcoming tour dates (including Big Day Out 2012) and all other TLE related issues.
We've really made the record that we wanted to make," he enthuses, "you just don't know how it's going to turn out, when you're writing it. You've got this idea in your head of how you think it's going to sound, and how you think it's going to flow and all that. It can go the opposite and turn out completely different but this one, to us, we were just so stoked. When we were actually making it we were like 'fuck, it's sounding really good', sonically it was sounding really good, and I think we picked the best batch of songs from the 30 or 40 we'd demo'd. Vocally I was pretty happy with the way it was coming along. And when it was completely finished and mixed, we were just like 'fuck yeah!', we were sure people are gonna like this. We just felt like this was our best record.
We basically started demo'ing the album January last year," he continues, regarding the record's evolution and recording, "and I don't think I took more than a day away from the writing, for the entire year! I lived it and breathed it 24/7. There were lots of ups and downs in the writing, we had some really good songs in January, and by around March or April we were sitting around in our rehearsal rooms staring at eachother, we kinda felt like we'd run out of ideas. I started to feel kinda burnt out on the record. It was kinda like 'shit, we're only half way through the writing.' But we pushed through that. The thing about The Living End is that we've kind of got this work ethic, we kinda just get on with it, and we push ourselves, because we wanted the result. I think that's the reason we had the down time, when we're searching for something that doesn't exist, something special that we have in our minds. I really felt like three weeks after that, that I really dug deep, and came up with a whole batch of songs."
The album is titled The Ending is Just the Beginning Repeating, and has understandably caused a little consternation amongst Living End fans. But Chris explains that it was through the need for changing things up and keeping things fresh in their camp, as opposed to foretelling the demise of the band, that they chose such a lengthy and cryptic album title.
It definitely has!" he laughs, "a lot of our fans were shocked when that was the album title. It's not a very TLE sounding album title, they're usually short, sharp and direct kind of album titles in the past. But that's kind of what drew me to it, we wouldn't do that normally, so that's the reason. And I guess for me it's a statement on lifecycle, I suppose. There's a real thread that's going through this album that's asking a lot of questions, and there were a few things that were going on in my life during the recording and writing of this album, a lot of personal stuff. I really felt like I was in a difficult place, and I was hoping that that would end! And that I would grow from it if I survived it. So I felt like it just seemed like a very powerful statement," he explains further, "things do continue and you have to get through a whole lot of shit in order to do so sometimes. But it's important, and it's part of life that some things have to end in order for other things to evolve and re-generate."
So does Chris feel that there's a lot of that personal stuff that he went through that's come out in the lyrics and vibe of the record? "Oh, the whole album!" he emphasises, "the whole is just a massive question mark really. It's me being the age that I'm at now, with two little kids, and the band being through everything we've been through, and you kinda get to a point where you start analysing things a lot more, and what does it all mean? My life's changed an enormous amount in the last six months, and I guess it's trying to rationalise that. And I guess what you're going through always makes its way through to the songs."
The Living End have a number of dates left on their current tour, which takes them up to the end of the year, before their fifth appearance at Big Day Out next January/February. Chris and the band are jumping out of their skin to play Australia's biggest and best known music festival. "We pride ourselves on being a live band," he states, "once we get the album released, it's basically a chance to get out and play the album. We have 11 new songs to go out on the road with is super exciting for us, particularly because they sound so much better than our old songs. They just work, they flow, and they sound tougher and bigger… just to get out and play live again."
Check out the Living End's remaining tour dates across the country, and their Big Day Out engagements on the official website.