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PostSubject: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:39 pm

Recording The Album in LA: The Sunset Sound Factory Sessions July 2001 - Dec 2001
by Michael Olliffe
2002
*this piece originally ran on www.the-vines.net

Originally the sessions for the Vines debut album were scheduled to be held in Sydney in May 2001, with the principal recording to be done at Q studios, over a period of around two weeks. Another two weeks had been allotted for mixing, and the comfort of a home-based recording seemed like the perfect way to ease the band into their widened recording career. However, at producer Rob Schnapf's request the sessions were moved to Los Angeles, and time given for recording and mixing was extended to a more comfortable eight weeks. Among a host of reasons, Schnapf saw his access to his own collection of classic instruments and vintage recording equipment as an important factor, especially in attempting to achieve a classic sound. So to accomodate the Producer and persue what looked to be a good match on paper, The Vines boarded a plane on July 7th, 2001 for their most sought after endeavour yet: The classic album.

For those who do not know, the Sunset Sound Studio complex has an awesome history attached to it. Bands as varied as Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys, Prince, Beck, and perennial Vines faves You Am I, have all recorded there. The studio is divided into two complexes, the Sound Factory and Sunset Sound, with three main studios being available. It is also, notoriously well equipped and decidedly pricey. At one point during the sessions, classic 80s pop-absurdists Devo performed adjacent to the studio, cementing yet another folk tale for the diary. It was even mooted that Elliott Smith, whom Schnapf had worked with on Smith’s previous two exceptional LPs, would guest on the record as well. A collaboration that sadly never eventuated. Ready access to talent-on-tap is one of LA’s great strengths, but quality control can often be dubious.

Living and working in LA was clearly going to be a double-edged sword.

Being in the heart of La La Land, living and working right near Sunset Boulevard, also provides direct access to sleaze, glitz, glamour and a sense of importance. The LA Way won't get any more in your face than there. The band were staying in relatively well-appointed bungalows a short walk from the studio, and they had access to a car, and were encouraged to use it to avoid any entanglements with dangerous locals. Aside from a side trip to Las Vegas, and shopping expeditions, life was pretty much centred around recording. As for the colourful street-life of LA itself, Schnapf once regaled the band with a tale of being mugged outside the studio. Aside from the proximity to violent crime, the move also saw to it that there was greater access to the band from industry people, and greater chance of exposure, and naturally less contact with their own friends and families. Whether this was a wise decision is now a contentious issue a year on.

The sessions themselves actually began very rockily. The solitary week of preparation and liaison with Schnapf proved to be difficult, and more than likely, a rushed affair. Individuals, for reasons best known to themselves, had been walking out of rehearsals in protest, and the siege mentality that Schnapf later reported as taking over the recording, had already taken root. Furthermore, Schnapf was determined to record the band's two core songs "In The Jungle" and "Winning Days" his way or not at all. The band had prized them from very early on, and even suggested that they might be the first and second singles on any debut album. A stand-off occurred between the band and Schnapf, and from the first rehearsals there was even talk of using a session drummer. This destabilised the band and the confidence of people within. Not the least of which was David. Eventually "In The Jungle" was recorded without Schnapf at the helm (much to his annoyance) - and "Winning Days" not at all - and it was decided as a compromise to proceed with some of the more straight ahead tracks and slower songs. Time had now been lost and it was only very early on in the recording. Unfortunately relationships between all major parties concerned had not been firmly established, and things were looking fragile.

At this point the band had also attempted a relatively new track "Landslide", that had been played at some of the handful pre-You Am I support shows, and a track recorded back in 1999, the Pavementesque "Drown The Baptists". The start was missed on an apparently perfect take for the former, and it was consigned to the outtakes pile instantly. "Drown The Baptists", soon to be given an airing on the Rex Records 7” was then also overlooked, seemingly due to the taste of certain individuals. It was soon realised that one person’s meat is another’s murder, and that the bulk of the power was perhaps not with the band themselves. Almost instantly, commercial imperatives were influencing the content and eventually the sound of the album. It seemed that things were more out their control than ever before, and at the most crucial point in the group's existence. Divisions were clearly not confined to band and producer, but internal conflicts, which had always hovered like a fog, burst through. These beginnings were to become characteristic of the mood of the recording. Also it had become apparent that people were hanging their hopes on one song in particular - "Get Free".

"Highly Evolved" was one of the first tracks given a shake with spectacular results. It’s bristling, spiky energy and brevity, gave it sufficient weight to be considered as a single, even in spite of the potentially gimmicky minute-and-a-half sting. It proved to be a sublimely abrasive smash and grab, and eventually their first UK chart entry. Both this and "Outtatheway" were recorded without click tracks, and shows the band’s natural chemistry and intuitions. It was also one of the next in the series that showed their knack for thrilling sledge-hammer rock, followed by the gorgeous "Autumn Shade", that feels like it blissfully goes on forever, but is under three minutes long. With this initial group of songs, and the engaging results, it could be seen that, relatively speaking, things were settling down, moving along and work was getting done. However, it was soon realised that the time set aside for recording was going to be overstepped. The only thing people couldn't guess was by how much, and this time, money was a big factor. This time, pressure was coming from other areas as well, but the results were also quite proving to be impressive.

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One of the interesting elements of the recording was Schnapf’s insistence on providing a psychedelic atmosphere within the studio. He had fairy lights and spotlights hung around the live room and had an oil wheel projecting its liquid, coloured swirls onto the rear wall of the live room. Such ambience creation has been employed in the past, most notably on Talk Talk’s monumental Spirit of Eden LP. During the sessions the band had oil wheels, various lights, and sometimes even total darkness to evoke a psychedelic atmosphere and make the mood accessible and tangible. Eventually it hit the tape and the results were uniformly fabulous. Similarly, this is what one can assume Schnapf had in mind for the Vines. Interestingly both albums will be known for their protracted recording and hefty budgets. In the case of the Vines, no A&R representative has been known to weep upon first listen to the fruits of such an adventure into sound.

As the recording progressed, all the reports that filtered back voiced unanimous relief and excitement at the results of the album so far. Momentum had been established, drum takes were apparently being knocked out quickly and impressively, guitar sounds were being thoughtfully found and arrangements polished and bass ideas were being revised and enhanced. It is also important to note that although the band was playing live in the studio, only one part was recorded at a time, so the notion of the recordings being completely live and spontaneous is not actually accurate. There was also the issue of having access to technology such as Pro Tools, and the pros and cons of click tracks to negotiate. This approach was fairly at odds with some of the band's previous recording experience, and may have milked them of a certain vitality, and their big time naivete may have also made them sheepish about being more dogmatic about their own vision.

Those concerns aside a track like "Sunshinin'", clearly benefited from Schnapf's input. It's buoyant bass line and chiming guitars make it a classic Summer single, if people were so inclined to issue it at a seasonally appropriate time. The main track on the album that differs noticeably from the demo version, “Sunshinin’” takes the driving, grinding rock of the original and polishes it up with a funkier and poppier strut. The bass is buoyed with a bouncy, funk groove, and the performances were clearly outstanding. Craig’s guitar work and layering of guitar tracks basically renders the tune nearly impossible to replicate effectively in a live context. Generally, the songs were also proving to stand up to studio polish, although a certain energy could have been seen to be removed in the process. "Factory" was also given a going over, and although a slightly different feel from the album version, at it's heart, it had captured the feel of the demo that was being favoured by the UK press. That said, certain insiders mooted that it may have to bee re-done due to issues with the level of bass. It turned out that this was not quite the problem that was at hand.

"Outtatheway", as previously stated, was also another triumph. I once asked David whether the change into the build up was actually an edit, he replied in the negative, and remarked that it was simply a virtually flawless early take. Things were looking as if the initial difficulties were going to be surmounted. The interest in the band was swelling significantly. A&R reps were liasing with the band's representatives (a rough estimate of about ten labels, some more serious than others, were reportedly vying for their signatures), people were believing and perpetuating the hype and the band were trying to get on top of the recording. Things were however slow. Not unreasonably (from an artistic perspective) there was considerable overdubbing of guitars and vocals (at one point a seemingly excessive acoustic guitar tracks were used on one song), and David particularly was spending most of his time just hanging around, having completed ten parts for ten songs. Not including the four that were abandoned. There was even a trip to UCLA to see a Salvador Dali exhibition organised so as to meet and press the flesh with an interested A&R scout. One may argue that this is potentially a good way to spoil the appreciation of the genius of his work.

To get the band out of the claustrophobia of the studio, it was suggested they do some showcase shows in LA, New York and the UK. In the UK interest in the demos and the Factory 7" in particular was spreading like wild fire. The NME seizing upon them as a group worthy of intense attention. The band were excited with these developments, and it would provide necessary relief from the cabin fever of life in the studio and back at the hotel, and it appeared to be a welcome sign of recognition. The shows in New York and London never actually happened, and crucially, the LA show at the Viper Room went ahead. The group hadn't played live for months, and rehearsals for the recordings and the show had been sporadic and troubled. With 150 industry people being invited to the intimate venue, pressure was to be intense. Irish band the Future Kings of Spain were also on the bill, and a band that was best described as some sort of LA funk-rock kind of experience, also stepping up for a set in front of the industry movers and shakers. But there was only really one band they were there to see.

Ultimately the show, depending on who you talk to, was either a solid performance, a shaky one or the usual Vines nail-biting frenzy and lack of polish - but no doubt wonderful and exciting. As David admitted later on, he was alerted to A&R ill will towards his position in the band, and given that unbeknownst to him there had been clandestine moves made to remove him from the band for unjustifiable reasons, it proved to be a dent to his confidence. Regardless, fellow Engine Room signatory, singer-songwriter Carla Werner was wont to reassure David that he had nothing to fear, and that his drumming was great. Regardless, it was the show that would see the industry begin to fully take the band and carve its mark into its heart. Tim Rogers once confided, from personal experience, that in LA, interested parties, at the expense of the other members, protect the singer of any touted band. People were suggesting the rhythm section wasn't good, that changes had to be made whispers and evaluations were presented to the kingmakers. Someone obviously listened, and it began in earnest, the knives were out. The A&R people had cast a pall on the band's ability to do a major label's bidding, people were desperate to sign and be signed. Something had to give and it did. That, it would appear, is showbiz, LA style.

2.
Amidst all this wheeling and dealing and attention on the Vines, a record was being made, and being given a sometimes painful and slow birth. During the first three months in the studio, versions of "Sunshinin'", "Factory", "Homesick", "Mary Jane", "Get Free", "1969", "Autumn Shade", "Outtatheway", "Highly Evolved" and "Country Yard" were recorded and at various stages of completion or near completion. The recording of "Country Yard" was an unexpected diversion in the recording as it was a track the band was not prepared to record for this particular album. In fact since it hadn’t really been played since it was recorded to 4-track some years previous. It’s a little known fact that what has become Highly Evolved was once innocently sketched by the band to be a fourteen track response to the Beatles Revolver - track for track - called On Safari. Craig and David had even worked out running orders in one of their many State of the Nation pow-wows. This idea somehow mutated into the form that we now have. Not quite the product of idealistic ambition that it once was.

In terms of the make up of the record, certainly pre-LA setlists from shows indicate that "Country Yard” was never a starter for the debut Vines album at all. There was previously no discernible or strong interest from the band in bringing the track to a wider audience. It had already surfaced on the free Demos release that was circulated that year, but Schnapf appeared to favour the song greatly and encouraged the band to record it. Consequently it was given a great deal of attention, and the results were if nothing else, surprising. Maybe it was a case of cutting and polishing a raw diamond, that had previously failed to yield any real lustre, or perhaps this was the producer's attempt to showcase his skills by rescuing the tune from obscurity and going to town on it. Undeniably it gets the treatment, but the song never appeared to be one of Craig's strongest, and was perhaps fortunate to be realised through this process.

The arguably pedestrian first half of the song takes on a massive shift in the second half, where it becomes a soaring lift out of the "sick and useless" life of the protagonist. The self-deprecating and self-pitying lines like "Glueing my eyes together could be the right escape", requesting blindness from whatever horror or distractions that they see, tend to be erased by Craig's soaring vocals, and a slight shift in intensity from the simpler intro into the change and beyond. Craig spent a lot of time at home, often only venturing out to hang with band and friends. Such a solipsistic environment, fuelled largely by Cable TV, music and art, are at the heart of these tunes. Craig’s life is sometimes best articulated in song, where words may fail or seem pointless elsewhere. Here is one such example. From his bedroom he was conceiving a worldview refracted through popular culture, that he often criticised and lionised in equal measure. In the end, "Country Yard" was never in the original blueprint, and seemed to indicate further the band's lack of control of song choice.


Tastes and opinions of individuals were clearly in conflict if "Country Yard" is given preference to tunes like "In The Jungle", "Winning Days" and "Landslide", and even “Drown The Baptists”. Perhaps with the latter Schnapf was concerned of the response a tune with such a title may receive in the Bible belt of the USA, but Wal-Mart have refused to stock albums for less. If you consider pre-LA songs that featured on setlists on their tour supporting You Am I, a track such as “Fuck The World” or “TV Whore” had significantly more potential impact. Even despite the obviously offensive title, “Fuck The World” showed how their sophistication within the limits of rock music had developed, particularly with a certain psychedelic bent. A certain studio refinement could even place it amongst the band’s more exciting and powerful tunes. At the time they were conceived though, the content of the On Safari concept was considered a foregone conclusion, and the group were already starting to look beyond an as yet unrecorded debut. These two songs being considered for the second album. Even if there was no question of recording very recent songs in LA, there was always the chance of re-recording other songs that had been recorded at A#. As it turns out, that option never came into the equation. In fact that was opposition to the Q treatment of “Winning Days”, and a general attitude that those recordings were something to be ignored once complete.

One of the album’s many moments is "Homesick", which triumphs beautifully and is a strong indication of Craig's ability to write beautiful ballads as well as crunching rock bastards. There is clearly a yin and yang in the Vines that a number of groups might miss in preferring the safety net of generic homogeneity. It is a conscious balance between sensitivity and aggression that is almost equally represented. “Homesick” changed little, if at all, from the A# version the band had recorded two years previous, with Craig's Lennonesque piano phrasing and aching vocals capturing their real distance from home. I recall talking to the band on the phone while at the studio working on the track, and the mere mention of the title used to really put things into perspective. While Craig had never really been on an adventure away from home like this before, he had somehow captured the spirit of longing without needing to. Regardless of whether the song was touched by this reality or not, if there was any time for the group to totally nail the sentiment of this song, it had to have been in Los Angeles. The band’s arrangement allowed for great space and depth, and arguably echoes their interest in Pavement, more obviously their pastoral strum-alongs. As well as the other obvious touchstones like the Beatles, the entire band had been fervent Pavement fans for years, and Craig particularly held Stephen Malkmus in high esteem. Many of the Vines ballads follow similar proclivities to Pavement, particularly “Drown The Baptists” and “Winning Days”, not to mention Craig’s esoteric lyricism.


The album's epic closing track, a co-write between David and Craig called "1969", goes deep into the heart of one of the group's major inspirations: The Verve. The track was eventually conceived as a kind of response to the Wigan quintet's own "Come On", the monumental closer to Urban Hymns, and began as an acoustic song called "20th Century Blues". David had written the entire lyric and first half of the song in an attempt to comment on the plight of an American conscript to Vietnam in 1969. An individual forced to deal with the insanity of the field of war against his will, and consequently forced to cope. David's lyric is ambiguously personal, but framed within this context is a striking portrayal of war, mortality and hopelessness. Informed largely by the film Apocalypse Now and scenes of drug taking in combat, the lyric feeds into the group's own psychedelic instincts, as well as the obvious references to the Stooges "1969". During their regular song-writing binges together, Craig fused his outro to David's song, linking them together with the crescendo and freakout, electrifying the acoustic beginnings in the process, and held together by Patrick's thudding notes. There is an original 4-track version of the song performed by David and Craig that is basically the same song that appears on the debut. The LA version is big: Big sound, big rock, big power, but again the lack of spontaneity and live playing may diminish slightly from it's final version. Completing Craig's vocals apparently became an ordeal, and the song's production was drawn out. The results, however, are quite potent and satisfying.

"Mary Jane", another of the band's epic sonic adventures, differs from the A Storm In Heaven feel of the Q sessions version, but is still a grand, bobbing and rolling mellow-rock gem. Rather than tom fills there are rimshots on the snare, giving a more angular feel to the song, as opposed to the other spacier version, but Craig's vocals again soar, bolstered by the rising and sliding guitar shapes. Many will probably speculate about the reference to "Mary Jane" as being a tip of the hat to marijuana, and certainly it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to deduce that. However, while Craig is capable of the straightforward and direct, his ability to poetically shape ideas is unquestionable. That said, it may well be about spliff, absolutely. The keyboard and bass parts arrived at by Patrick deserve special attention simply because of how they enhance the song tremendously. The initial piano phrase provides a nice bridge between the vocal melody and the basic melody of the song. Combine this with his bass part also veering off into a slightly different direction, counterbalancing the main solo guitar phrase (probably employing a tremolo or chorus pedal, more likely a combination of both), you have a little psychedelic symphony. Patrick's keyboard phrase takes on a different hue in the outro section with a rising arpeggio now contrasting and complementing the acoustic guitar arpeggio. Overlaying this is more tremolo guitar, and finally sealed with wind chimes. The intricacies are delicious and beautiful.

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At the centre of the general corporate interest of the band, is "Get Free" which was to many, the obvious hook that demanded people's attention, and consequently dragged them in. It was seen to have the same potential as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and has thus been treated with a rather high degree of reverence. It is a source of a lot of agony, desire and infamy in Vineland, and while many of the reasons for this can't be dealt with, it is safe to say that had it not existed at all, things would be a lot different. The chief reason for the elevated position of the "Get Free" is simply its catchy simplicity and bulldozer aesthetic. Why anyone can't conceive of millions of teenagers connecting with "I wanna get free/I wanna get free/I wanna get free/Ride into the sun", buoyed by that brilliant riff, is beyond me. The Q session version of this song had everything: Space, drive, power, unbridled energy, but the version played on by the three founding members of the band, that was recorded in LA, may never see the light of day. The person who drummed on it nailed it on either first or second take, considering it his crowing moment on the record. Next to some of the album's other songs, this was some statement. By Schnapf’s own admission his decision to re-record it was purely down to his own taste and that view prevailed and was given precedence, nothing more. Tellingly Capitol had also had their input by now, Andy Slater having desired to sign the band on the strength of hearing the original Schnapf production of the song.

So why does REM, Elliott Smith and Beck drummer Joey Waronker play on it?

This is a question that many people know the answer to, but are clearly not keen on revealing, or in denial about. To go into the details now would probably risk a lot of things for a lot of people, so I choose to say only this. People made various decisions to effect who played on this version of "Get Free", it was not down to one person, no one was fired or quit. David’s departure from LA around this time was retrospectively made to look like he had left the band. The truth of the matter lies in a little corporation known to Australians as One-Tel, a gone-the-way-of-the-Dodo telecommunications company headed up by a character called Jodee Rich. When the company collapsed amid the huffing and puffing of corporate greed, underhanded deals and embezzlement, one of the major losers in the Enron-like affair was the Packer family. The Packers are one of Australia’s richest business dynasties, and the financial backer of Engine Room Recordings. They withdrew funding for the label, and hence the Vines, as a knee-jerk reaction to their not inconsiderable loss, and left the band high and dry in LA. One of Engine Room’s principal players eventually came to the rescue, personally backing the completion of the record, but in the intervening 8 weeks, following instruction that they should all go home and sit it out, David went, Craig stayed, and Patrick was asked to stick around with Craig. While Patrick was contemplating finishing off his Medical Degree, David, battle-weary and worn down by the process, packed his bags, got a lift to LAX, received a taciturn goodbye from his bass playing friend, and went home.

While all this had been going on, the terrorist attacks on New York occurred, America did not seem like the most sensible place to be. In fact Rob Schnapf had insisted they all continue recording in spite of the tragedy, recalling his times spent watching the Gulf War on CNN in the studio. He then procured map of Afghanistan, fixed it onto the wall and declared that the Middle East should be made into an ashtray. Tension, and sadness cleared gripped all concerned. How much more madness was to be endured? David had completed ten drum parts for the album by the time he left, and had begun working with session drummers including Joey Waronker, on various tracks that were deemed by some, to need work. He had walked through intense scrutiny, pressure, conflict and to some extent the fulfilment of his life's passion. Forget about what snide NME journo’s will tell you though, the process of removing David from the recording was not simple or straightforward. After a meeting - that he was absent from - was held, he was told of the decision. How no one could predict the reaction that such a betrayal eventually provoked is clearly beyond the rational individual. He simply ended up boarding a plane, and flew home to chill out and rest, and think about whether he wanted to be a Vine. It turned out he did.

3.
With David’s departure, the band were now faced with the prospect of finishing the already overdue album much later than anticipated. Not too mention the problem of navigating a chemistry-shift in the dynamic of the band. This presented itself as a catalyst for further tension, but may have also benefited the pursuit of certain ideas being imposed on the album’s final presentation. Before David left Joey Waronker had been brought in to re-record “Get Free” and “Factory”. Waronker had worked with Schnapf previously on Elliott Smith and Beck’s work, so any possibility of difference of opinion was immediately eliminated. Session drummers are generally instructed or directed to play, and then they usually comply and perform. Speed (as in the ability to rapidly nail takes) and accuracy (in doing what is asked) are usually what the session fee rewards.

Crowded House, the Beach Boys and even the Beatles (curiously all Capitol acts) have all used session drummers on their recordings at one time or another. On a couple of tracks on Crowded House’s stellar debut, a complete dial-a-genius rhythm section was employed on the recording of “Now We’re Getting Somewhere”: Jim Keltner and Jerry Scheff. Collectively they had worked with the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello and John Lennon. It is also not unheard of (more so in the 80s) that a band’s drummer may be replaced by a programmed drum machine. As superb a drummer as Lindy Morrison of the Go-betweens really was, it seemed no obstacle to eliminate her playing entirely from the band’s 16 Lover’s Lane LP in favour of a drum machine. Midnight Oil’s Rob Hirst, a consummate player, technically and feel-wise, admitted to almost having a nervous breakdown over producer Nick Launay’s insistence the band use drum machine’s on 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Far from being an aberration, this practice of displacing drummers from their group is commonplace in the music industry, often justified by the crucial role of the rhythm track in recording. Since all music made for sale is commercial, economic reality dictates the necessity for populist instincts at some level.

As it turns out, Waronker’s take on the songs tends to drift away somewhat from David’s more free and open style, opting instead for a slick rigidity that’s not entirely without merit. The second version of “Factory” is slightly faster compared to the more “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” meets “Come As You Are” hybrid of the first version. The feel of the different versions is markedly different also, even though they don’t essentially appear to be miles apart. It could be argued that it’s like a stylistic difference between ska and reggae. They are cousins, not brothers, but the same family nonetheless. The song itself may have been inspired by Patrick’s labouring in a factory while studying, often taking in late shifts, and working the band and academia around it. The banal practicality of such endeavours, and the affinity with the unspectacular, are celebrated with a kind of earthiness and charm that working-class travails can evoke. The second version is more up beat and jaunty, while the first is more languid and irreverent. Staccato piano was added to the second version, and the prominent and hooky bass line pushed slightly more to the fore. There was originally a suggestion that the first recording of the song should be sped up using the tape machine, a re-recording with a different drummer was considered a better option. The luxury of having such options is generally only available to those artists with the financial comfort zone to indulge themselves. For a first album the Vines seemed to be accorded the sort of status that bands further down the line of success might have earned.

This special treatment seems to be indicative of the burgeoning interest of the outside world and industry, and the strength and depth of the song writing and playing. It was almost as if success was considered a fait accompli, but the reality of life in entertainment is that it rarely is. Or it is fleeting. Great artists have failed to set the world alight and race up the charts before, and it’s almost as if people could see the same career trajectory that Nirvana experienced, about to happen for the lads from Sydney. At the time Nirvana conquered the world and blew the industry apart, people had no real idea that they would be that huge. Projected sales for Nevermind by Geffen were in the hundreds of thousands, not in the millions. There appears to be a strong belief, held by many, that with the Vines, lightning will strike twice. Therefore fitting them into some sort of preconceived formula for success seemed normal. Having session drummers knock off the edges of songs (often the edges that make them unique or exciting in the first place) makes sense to people with a commercial interest. No one denies the fact that almost all those involved with the band maintain a genuine love of the music, undoubtedly people who work for and around the group seem to love the Vines. Whether that love becomes misguided or motivated by other interests then becomes an issue, especially if it appears to go against the core ideals of the band and follows other agendas.

For example, the re-recording of “Homesick” is almost completely identical to the original version; a fact that may baffle anyone who hears the two different recordings. The question that must be asked then is this: What on Earth possessed those involved to spend time and money doing an almost perfect forgery of the original? Was it taste, a heightened perception of nuance, or was it a technical issue with mixing that was avoided by re-recording the track? Clearly the idea of re-recording a song almost exactly the same way as the one that was scrapped sounds absurd. As ever, there may well be a rational explanation for this that the world has yet to hear. As a humorous aside, Pete Thomas (drummer for Elvis Costello and the Attractions), who was called in to play on the re-recording of “Homesick”, did it partly because his teenage daughters loved the band. They urged him to play on it also because of the fact that they thought Craig was incredibly cute, and probably wanted to meet him. Whether this starry-eyed rendezvous actually occurred is currently a mystery, but the results would have been wonderful to witness. No doubt Thomas dug the band as well, and we could speculate that this is the reason he simply played it as it was originally performed and recorded - only a little harder and louder - as was his brief.

“In The Jungle”, which was one of the songs that had previously caused disagreement in the studio between band and producer, was eventually taken elsewhere and put down with an Australian resident in Los Angeles, Justin Stanley. Stanley was once a guitarist and keyboard player in the Australian group Noiseworks, who achieved some acclaim during the 80s stadium rock boom. Stanley also formed a production team and group with former Noiseworks bassist Steve Balbi. Dubbed the Electric Hippies they managed to gain a little exposure and score a hit with a track called “Greedy People”. It would seem that Stanley was the right man for the job. Able to understand his fellow countrymen and determined to keep it real (the studio where the guitars were recorded was located in his garage!), they cheaply and quickly got the tune down. At this point David was still with the band in LA, but time was a factor, so they drafted in session drummer Victor Indrizzo to play on the track. An older player, Indrizzo bonded quickly with David, and he discussed with him exactly what was required. David knocked out a couple of quality takes, but Indrizzo eventually stepped in to knock out a quick and nasty take that pleased everyone. The song itself is one of the group’s earliest tunes, and according to David perfectly realised on this version. Quite simply, in the same structure and form as the first A# session, it is awesome. The band had finally had their way, and were ultimately vindicated. Schnapf was later indignant that this version had been done without his approval or knowledge, but given his initial disinterest or opposition to it being recorded at all in their preferred manner, it seemed the only way around the stalemate.

An interesting digression is the emergence of a track from the sessions called “Jose Can You See”. Recorded post-September 11, it is a faltering, flippant yet sombre attempt at the American National Anthem that normally begins, “Oh say can you see”. “Jose” being a pun on “Oh say”. The voice is either Doug Boehm the engineer, Joey Waronker or possibly even Nate the runner in the studio, and resident Dr. Feelgood. Someone is heard to mutter something that sounds like “Joey you rock!” at the end. Unless someone wants to step forward and claim their rightful role on this bizarre piece of Vines history. It may be that “Jose” becomes that unlisted bonus track that echoes the famous “Endless Nameless” on Nevermind, or it may never even turn up at all. The piano accompaniment on the track (player unknown) attempts to play out the basic tune in notes, rather than chords (possibly with one hand or using single fingers), eventually losing ability or interest to finish the song, and finally breaking down. At this stage it is the only Vines track with a discernible and strong American accent on it, and is deeply symbolic not only of the political and social climate of the time, but the world within Vineland. It is painfully bittersweet, and listening to this not long after it was recorded gave one the overwhelming sense that the primary influence on the Vines at the time was overwhelmingly American. A lot can be said in 0.55 seconds.

Also around this time Craig committed to tape an acoustic version of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson”. Now a legendary part of their live set, “Ms. Jackson” has since been recorded by the touring band, which one day may surface as a bonus track on a single. Craig’s love of hip-hop is long-standing and in some ways just as passionate as his love of rock music. He may not have as expansive a selection of hip-hop records, but he is a fan of the genre. Furthermore, over the years Craig and Patrick were both active in going to dance parties, exploring electronic music and the party scene. This activity might occur alongside a trip to see Supergrass, a Vines rehearsal or show, literary interests or an evening spent watching the comedy channel on cable. The Vines ears and eyes are, generally speaking, wide open. One of the more well known non-album tracks to emerge from these sessions is their contribution to the I Am Sam soundtrack, the cover of the Beatles “I’m Only Sleeping”. When David heard about the recording, he had been home in Sydney for a while, and the song had already been completed with Waronker playing drums.

Rob Schnapf contributed the acoustic guitar parts, while Craig plays the electric guitar for the solo parts, and naturally sings. As is Craig’s practice he normally sings his own back up vocals, while Patrick will occasionally provide backing as well. Here Craig does the lion’s share of the singing, sounding perfectly laconic and dreamy. The song itself is a wonderfully faithful rendition of a classic, although not featured in the film, as is the case with many film soundtracks these days. So how did they come to be involved? The president from an interested record company invited the to record the track, perhaps as a way to woo the band, and the band simply entertained the offer. Nevertheless, the band ended up with Capitol. The track was issued on the soundtrack and it ostensibly became the Vines first top 20 entry in America. A favourite part of the song, personally speaking, is found at 1.51 - a panned yawn. Anyone who knows Craig’s capacity for late nights and afternoon rising may find this a little amusing.

The recording of “Ain’t No Room” was basically an afterthought following the reaction to the song when the Factory 7” came out in the UK. Even though the song was more of a contender for the album than “Country Yard”, it certainly wasn’t in the minds of all and sundry when they landed in LA all those months before. Like “Country Yard” it was given the full treatment: Big shiny choruses, ragged punk swagger in the vocals, and an urgent drive from the rhythm section. Unlike “Country Yard”, “Ain’t No Room” does not seem to share the same excessive and polished treatment, managing to sound a little more ragged and vital. As it no doubt should. The actual mastered version for the album is different, with a chorus, probably cut and pasted, and added for a repeat into a section of the song before going into the extended outro. There is also a fade out of the outro rather than letting Craig strangle the song into submission. It would seem that the rearrangement of the song on the final version weakens rather than strengths it, trying to force it into some sort of palatable verse chorus structure without the long vocal-free ending. That said, so much second-guessing had gone into the album that even substantial 11th hour changes were not deemed ridiculous. It appears some people are prepared to draw a funny moustache, pointy beard and glasses on the Mona Lisa.

Once all of this protracted recording and drama had begun to wind down, talk turned to mixing. Craig had refused to go home until the album was finished, and there was talk of Andy Wallace being drafted in to remix the tracks. The Nirvana shadow still continuing to haunt them. His input to the final mixing of the album is uncertain, but he does not appear on the credits to the “Highly Evolved” single. Most of Schnapf’s final mixes were finished by the end of December, but little alterations were made at the mixing and mastering stages. In December Patrick returned home to attend a friend’s wedding, the same person responsible for putting on their first show back in 1996, with Craig arriving a couple of weeks later. For the first time in months the Vines were back together in the same locale again, but the drama was not over.

The A# Sessions - April 1999

user posted image

On Anzac Day, Saturday April 25 1999, the Vines embarked upon their studio recording career. After various four track experiments, and one session in the garage of their friend Anthony Guerra (to date the only track I'm aware of from that session that exists is called "Take A Sunday" the band pooled their monies and hit the hi-fi world. At this session a friend of ours Glenn Santry who worked at the studio, engineered and mixed three songs. The now almost mythical, and largely unheard classic "Winning Days" (faster than the Q sessions version), "She's Got Something To Say To Me" aka "She To Me" (a Patrick J. Matthews composition) and their early favourite "In The Jungle". The recording and mixing sessions would have taken no more than two days. The band were on deck for both days.

I remember Craig being extremely animated that day, declaring that he'd been waiting for this for a long time, and being quite edgy, like a little kid. His excitement and energy were really endearing. It was almost as if they'd seamlessly slipped into being a studio band in a day, but I guess the tiny budget and lack of pressure contributed to that feeling. I also remember a lot of cigarettes being smoked and photographs taken too. Patrick and David were pretty chilled - all three of them were - and they were pretty sharp in getting things down quickly with the maximum pay off. It all seemed to go smoothly. Craig was quite focussed about what he wanted and the mood was very buoyant. There were no tantrums, although ideas were preciously protected, and the results were excellent, and worthy of release.


A session was conducted some months later, where another three songs were put together at A#. Glenn engineered and mixed with the band again and Craig played keyboards on his tiny, toy-like Casio keyboard. It had to be miked up from a small speaker in the top of the instrument. Not exactly your top of the range synthesiser, but it was a typically naive Vines thing to do. The songs that were recorded this time included, "Rainfall", "Ride" and "Homesick". Some people have even suggested that this version of "Homesick" is superior to the LA one, while "Ride" recently returned to setlists for UK shows. "Rainfall" has been suggested by some to be a certain starter for the second Vines album, but there are some incredible tunes lying in wait for that. These six songs from the A# Sessions were never officially released, but were eventually used as part of a 19 song demo CD that was circulated to interested labels and media people in Australia and overseas. There was however a cover design finished incorporating the Vines painting by Craig, and a drawing by David.

Q Studio Session - Feb 2001

The band recorded a session in February 2001 after signing their Australian deal with Engine Room. These songs were recorded by Australian producer Greg Wales, at the highly respected Q Studios complex, located in inner Sydney, as an introduction for the band to the ways of big studios. Mixing and remixing was done at 301 Studios. The sessions were brief but very productive, conducted over a few days. There are different versions to the soon-to-released songs like "Get Free", "Mary Jane" and "Outta The Way", as well as a more polished recording of "Drown The Baptists", an awesome version of "Winning Days", and a great take on the beautiful "Sunchild". There were also a number of remixes and alternate versions done (about eight) that sound different in some respects, but are still very much in the spirit of the Vines. The status of these recordings as potential b-sides or singles is uncertain.


Free Demos CD given away at shows last year on national tour with You Am I

Tracklisting: Factory/Country Yard/Mary Jane/Highly Evolved/Autumn Shade version of Mary Jane recorded in a very swish studio after they signed their Australian recording deal. The others are the famous four track versions recorded by the band at a rehearsal studio in Sydney where they used to practice. Not in a garage, or in Craig's bedroom as has been suggested by some. Some demos have been recorded in Craig's bedroom and David's living room (even once in a real garage!), but the main material that rocked many people's world, was the rehearsal studio stuff. There are around fifteen or twenty of these sorts of recordings in existence, and literally dozens of other four track ideas and songs committed to dodgy cassettes on even dodgier four-track machines. A rehearsal recording of “Get Free” was issued on an Ivy League sampler before the Demos disc.

Michael Olliffe © 2002 : These are my own personal views and assessments based on information I've acquired from a number of reliable sources, as well as my own personal contact with people. All opinions expressed are the author's own.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:39 pm

Dying for the Vines
Rolling Stone, August 2002
by Gavin Edwards



Craig Nicholls' dad Terry had a band called the Vynes, who wore Beatles suits and never left Australia. Nicholls is the frontman for a band called the Vines, who relocated to L.A. and released an excellent Nirvana-meets-Radiohead album, Highly Evolved, one of the most promising rock albums of the summer. There's no record of Nicholls' father attacking his band mates, ending interviews by locking himself in the bathroom for three hours or gaining a reputation for panic attacks -- that's one more area in which the twenty-four-year-old Nicholls has outperformed Dad.

When was the last time you trashed a hotel room?

It was the first night we ever went on tour -- I smashed the lamp with a phone. I was being sarcastic. And today I broke the table when I was walking on it, but that was accidental. That bookends our career, so I think we're going to retire now.

When was the last time you got in a fight?

About twenty minutes ago, checking into the hotel. Somebody told me there was a McDonald's in the hotel and there wasn't, so I started shouting at him, and then I was shouting at some other people, and then I was rolling around on my back in the parking lot. Somebody said, "Sir, do you want to move?" I said, "If I wanted to move, I fucking would!" I needed to reflect on the pavement. Most people just let me do my thing. And then I started saying a lot of four-letter words at high volume, squealing like a high-pitched wicked witch. I've started doing that lately.

Does that get results?

Mostly it gets me funny looks. I'm going to take some mental therapy. I was going to get into meditation, but I want to do more than breathe. Animals breathe. I would never knock animals, but I want to make things, to totally occupy my mind. I want to watch TV and play guitar and ride my skateboard.

How do you get ready for a show?

I just change my clothes, write the songs down, project in my head to the near future. I sit around, waiting to go on, drinking Red Bull, smoking a cigarette.

Do you smoke anything else?

I smoke banana peels.

What's the best advice you ever got?

"Be excellent to each other" and "Party on, dudes." That's from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

What cartoon character would you want to have sex with?

Pamela Anderson. She is a cartoon, right?

What would you be doing now if you didn't have the band?

Trying to live with my parents. They'd probably have kicked me out, and I'd be on the street and I'd die.

What's the difference between the Vines and your dad's band, the Vynes?

My dad never smoked pot.

What's the difference between Australian pot and American pot?

It's all great, man. We don't smoke anything second-rate. We throw it back and say, "Don't you know who we are? We're an unknown band from Australia with a lot of hype!"

What role did fellow Australian Kylie Minogue play in your sexual awakening?

I would not want to even bother talking about her. I don't want to say anything bad about her: She's got a good voice, she's nice-looking, she wears futuristic clothes. But what's more important -- is it music or is it sex? I'm not trying to say we're all priests, but music is a sacred thing for me. We want our studio recordings to progress. I have fifty songs we could go record right now. Bands should get better. Everyone should be going forward. Songs have a beginning, a middle and an end. Well, when we're lazy, they don't have a middle.

Are girls hitting on you now?

I don't think so. I'm too dumb to recognize anything. I'm kind of dull and slow.

What's the celebrity-stalker quotient? Has Winona been in touch?

No, she hasn't. She's in prison, right? Someone asked me what was going to happen when Courtney Love wanted to talk to me. Ain't gonna happen. I'm really shy.

What drug will you never take again?

Adrenaline from a bull.

You once locked yourself in a bathroom for three hours. What were you doing in there?

It just gives you time to sit down, reflect, bang your head against the wall. Sometimes I like punching myself in the head -- everyone has the right to do what they want. [Pauses] I'm sorry, I would never punch myself in the head. I've run out of interesting things to say, and it's really important to me to further my career with crazy stories. I'm just an artist, even though we play rock music. Everything is positive, drugs are bad, stay in school.

What's next?

We're not coming out of the studio until we have three albums recorded. Our fourth album is where I think it's really going to get interesting. Being in the studio is like having a canvas at one end of the room and a paint gun at the other. You might get an incredible image, but it's definitely more rewarding than spending two years on a painting.

What would you want on your tombstone?

Craig Nicholls is a compulsive liar. I can't believe anybody took anything he said seriously. And there should be a statue of [Depeche Mode's] Dave Gahan without his shirt on, inscribed sleep in peace, my dark angel.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:41 pm

Craig Nicholls Does the Rock Star Martyr Thing
The Face
January 2003


Craig Nicholls doesn't seem to notice the gooey-eyed 17-year-old sitting next to him taking off her corduroy jacket. In fact, he doesn't even flinch when she starts lifting up her vest. But she's spent her entire holiday allowance and flown over 800 miles - all the way from Switzerland to here, Nottingham, England - to see her 24-year-old wonky rock-boy hero. By the look in her eyes, she isn't about to back down at the final hurdle. So plucking up courage, up comes her cream-and-red vest and there, just to the left of her pierced navel is a tattoo. It's Craig's name. Etched in a wobbly trademark jade-green ink. 'Look!' she gleams proudly. 'Remember when you signed my stomach back in Europe? Well, I had it made permanent!' Craig blinks and looks up warily. Showing of nicotine-stained incisors and a bitten bottom lip, he just about manages half a smile. 'Yeah, um, great.' In comes The Vines' tour manager asking for laminate passes. And the girl is ejected politely into the corridor.

It's 8.30 on a Wednesday night in October and raindrops the size of daisy-cutters have been carpetbombing Rock City's corrugated-iron roof for over four hours. Inside, Craig is hunched over, his face lost under a teepee of tousled mousy-brown hair, waiting for the call to stage. Eyes red and swollen from lack of sleep, puffy hands from sucking wearily on the endless cigarettes, he's nervous and bored. While he rolls his eyes like lotto balls, Craig's head bobs loosely back and forth on a pale, bruised body that's visibly hurting on this, the final week of The Vines' three-week European tour.

Out in the corridor, there's a riot going on. The Libertines - England's angle-faced contribution to the new rock revolution, all long, shabby hair and beer-stained biker jackets - have fallen off-stage and into the open arms of the band's heavily stocked rider. For lead singers Pete Doherty and Carl Barat, it's vodka and lager shandies a-go-go. And for the schoolyard full of swooning teenage girls in tow? Trips to the cubicles in pairs. Beer bottles are clinked, joints are sparked and the air soon becomes a fuggy haze of hormones and hash. Rock and roll, just one louder.

But at the eye of it all, Craig sinks deeper into his sofa. While groupies flutter around him, pat his hair, ask for autographs on newly bought bootleg posters and slur starstruck praises, he just sits and shuffles his raven-black Etnies trainers, looking for answers from the cigarette stubs smouldering on the floor. Still, he doesn't make a fuss, flip out - as he did just before appearing live on David Letterman in the States earlier this year - or start crunching cookies wildly into his hair. He's polite, unconfrontational and hardly says a word. He sips Red Bull, keeps his thoughts close to his chest and waits for when the 2,000 or so frothing capacity crows demand that he drive his black Fender Stratocaster through the drum kit. Craig decides he's hungry. Looks are exchanged and something is mumbled to the tour manager, Mark, about a burger. Enter through the melee - two vinegar-soaked sack-loads of Nottingham's finest deep-fried fish and chips. Lots of salt. Plenty of mayonnaise. For the moment at least, the fog clouding Craig's sky-blue eyes clears. He wolfs them down, breathing heavily, almost gagging on the grease like it was his last meal. In under two minutes, the empty bag is tossed into the bin and Craig wipes his dripping chin on his forearm. But something else has caught his attention.

From a boom-box screwed down next to the steadily emptying fridge comes the grating feedback of the White Stripes' 'Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground'. Craig's ears prick up and he starts tapping his hand over biro-scrawled denim jeans. He tilts his head back slowly, shuts his eyes and his long mane sweeps the back of his grey t-shirt. His muscles seem to tense. Almost as if Jack White's six-string assault is charging from speaker to table to floor and into his veins. It's the most animated he's been all day.


craig has officially tuned out. When you first witness him zoning into the great wireless in the sky, it's a little uncomfortable. 'I love the White Stripes. They're so creative,' he says genuinely. 'Creative', along with 'artist' and 'serious', are Craig's favourite and most used words. But it's genuine adoration. Like his connection to music is so fierce he has to unplug the rest of the planet. Little wonder then that Craig's favourite place is in his head. 'I never had my own car and a lot of my friends lived on the other side of town. I used to go skateboarding a lot out in my road. I became almost happy to do my own thing. Listening to music became an obsession for me. Like another world. I found it so relaxing. You could just put on a song and drift away into Nowheresville in your head.'

Craig's Nowheresville was formed back in his messy bedroom in a leafy branch of suburbia just short of Sydney. As a teenager he spent hours staring out of his window, thinking about guitars, writing bands' names on his arm in biro and daydreaming about being a rock star. Not necessarily the troubled, reluctant rock star signing his name onto the pot-bellies of wide-eyed groupies and driving his guitar through a stage monitor, but certainly a creative force of some description. Someone just like Jack White. Or as his record collection showed back then, someone just like Kurt Cobain, Steve Malkmus, Eddie Vedder or John Lennon.

It was at school that Craig's passion for music and his second love - art - were fuelled (though the fact that Craig's parents called the police on their own song suggests that he was a long way from being a shirt-tucked-in kind of pupil). 'I always knew I could draw, and then at art school I took it on further to painting,' he explains, before going on to talk incoherently about The Vines album cover he inked up. 'But I was a below-average musician in my class. Not even very good on the guitar. But I could sing. I had a feeling I could do that better than anyone else. Although the thought of having to the play the guitar and sing at the same time - that seemed impossible.'

Craig dropped out of school before tenth grade. And after a brief, unflourishing stint at art school he found himself wearing a crimson-and-white McDonald's pinny. 'I flipped sesame buns and picked gherkins out of kids' Happy Meals for quite a long time. I did it purely for the money. I never got any gold stars or employee of the month or anything.' He confesses later. 'I feel like I did my time of hard labour. And I'm glad it's over now.'

It was underneath the golden arches that Craig first met Patrick Matthews - now the band's philosophical, square-jawed bass player. Patrick had been at medical college: being a doctor is something he keeps on the back burner, often hinting that he might like to give all this up and 'start waking up in the same place for at least a week'. After a while the two reluctant potato-peelers got talking about a mutual interest - bands like Pavement, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground. Before long, they began meeting up after work, exchanging hairnets for plectrums and making a racket in their parents' living rooms.

'My father taught me the twelve-bar blues - the first thing I ever learnt on the guitar,' explains Craig. 'And then he showed me the basic chords. He was an influence to me in the beginning, yeah I guess. But I taught myself really.' In fact, Craig snatched his own band's name from his father's outfit, The Vynes - a rockabilly, Elvis-loving covers band. 'I took the name just because it was there,' Craig insists. 'It wasn't some great nod of respect and reference to my dad's band. He agreed I could use it as I took music more seriously than he did. And it was more out of laziness than anything. It just kind of happened.'


back in Nottingham ten minutes before the gig, huddled in a shivering ball of anxiety, sucking the life out of a green Perspex bong with 'Chills' marked on the side, you get the feeling that Craig might like to escape back to staring up at his bedroom ceiling. With his records, his daydreaming and his own uncomplicated planet to explore. While others around him are having the time of their lives, Craig looks like he'd rather be anywhere else but about to go on stage and entertain. 'Sometimes it can feel like every night is a party. And I do like going out, sometimes with everyone. But I find it hard touring. I find it really hard. Songwriting and recording tracks are more of a strain mentally. But touring and travelling around so much is draining physically.'


It looks it. When Craig performs he literally throws himself into the music. And into Hamish Rosser's drum kit. His pale body is covered in cuts and bruises from past stage battles with cymbals, hi-hats and mic chords. Above his right eyes is a graze the shape of Africa where he knocked himself out on the microphone in Manchester two nights ago. But he wanted this. He wanted to be Kurt Cobain and Michael Hutchence. He wanted to be a rock star. He wanted to escape, didn't he? 'I wanted the release you can get from becoming a rock star. I mean, it's better that I shout and scream up there on stage than it is to do it to someone in the street, right?' he mumbles in a Australian accent that's morphed from too much time in LA. 'I often get disorientated up there. Half the time I don't even know where I am. I like it like that. Although it can get tiring now that people expect it of me.'

There's a knock on the door. A young boy with a black headset strapped across his head walks in. 'You ready to rock? You're on.' The stage lights go out. A thousand voices erupt from the darkness that ripples like an oil slick. Just to the left of the stage, behind the black Marshall amps and the tangled electrical wires, the cherry of a cigarette shakes nervously between Craig's grubby fingers.


three years ago, Andy Kelly, of music management company Winterman and Goldstein, was slumped in his car stuck in Sydney's fender-tight traffic. Bored stiff, he tuned into one of the city's handful of independent radio stations. What he heard was a raucous four-piece garage rock band whose singer spent most of the song screeching into his microphone at a lughole-damaging decibel level. They called themselves The Vines. 'I was like, "Wow! The Vines? Who are they?" I had never heard of them, which is weird because I thought I knew every wannabe rock band on the Sydney circuit. I knew who was gigging, which drummer had a heroin addiction and who was about to break up. But I had never heard of The Vines.' Before The Vines had finished their three-minute shoutathon, Andy had hit speed dial and was frothing down his co-manager's ear about getting in contact with the band. Getting back to the office he spent the next two weeks flipping through his Rolodex of local contacts. It seemed no one else had heard of The Vines either. Through sheer perseverance, Andy found Craig Nicholls' home address. So he wrote the front man a note asking where they had any more songs. A week later he got a response. The Vines had a gig. So, along with around 20 or so other people who had nothing else better to do that night, Andy went to see if his instincts were correct. Halfway through the gig he turned to his co-manager, saying, 'Do you see the same thing I see?'

'We couldn't believe that this one person could have so much charisma. Up on stage, Craig was the most prolific person I had ever seen. We saw them after the show and asked them so send us in some more music.'

Craig sent it in. And kept going. 'Every week we'd get another five or so songs recorded on this shitty, little tape player. Craig's songwriting ability seemed unstoppable. We bought them an eight-track and started putting together a demo CD to send out to record companies and whatnot. Usually you'd pick the best five our six songs but we ended up with 21. There wasn't a weak track on there.'

Early in 2000 one of these CDs happened to land on the cluttered desk of Rob Schnapf, a Los Angeles record producer whose past handiwork has been on the likes of Beck's Mellow Gold and Foo Fighters' eponymous debut. It knocked him for six. Soon he had worn out the demos he'd been sent so he bombarded The Vines' management, hungry for more. One of his emails simply spelled out the band's name repeatedly: "THE VINES THE VINES THE VINES THE VINES..."

'It was never about Nirvana,' Schnapf says from his LA home. 'What I heard was the primal snootiness of the early Kinks. That twinned with the melodies of The Beatles. At the time, everything else I had been getting through the mail had been that nu metal shit. All Limp Bizkit and Korn stuff, which does nothing for me. This is the kind of music I like - good songs and that primal feeling.'

By summer 2001, Craig and The Vines had boarded a plane to begin work with Schnapf in the studio. The sessions were booked in for a preliminary six weeks. They ended up taking six months.

'There were lots of problems. To do with internal band stuff. Their original drummer, David Oliffe, wasn't happy with how his sound was coming out and he didn't like spending so much time away from Oz. So he left. Also, I had never had any dialogue with Craig before he came over to start recording. So it took him a while to adjust. And for him to start believing I was on his side.'

'He was very protective of his territory,' Schnapf says. 'I worked hard at trying to show him that I was there to make things, better, that I cared as much about his music as he did. He's totally obsessed by the music. People talk a lot about how he seems to lose himself in the music on stage. It's not act. He's for real. The sessions were insane. I'd be at the console looking through the glass watching him just going out of his mind some days. I mean, full-on, writing-around-on-the-floor-type stuff. Bouncing off the walls. When he was doing his vocals, we almost had to staple pillows to the wall to protect the mic. And I'm just sitting at the dials thinking, "What the fuck?" He was very intense.'

About three weeks into the sessions at Sunset Sounds Factor, Andy Slater, president of Capitol Records, bumped into Craig in a narrow corridor. He was so intrigued, he made it is his duty that day to listen in on The Vines recording.

'I was at the studio, this kid walked in and he had this immediate presence,' he told the Los Angeles Times. 'He wasn't looking at anything in particular, just wandering around the studio kinda looking at the air. Sometimes artists are tapped into some other dimension that enables them to articulate things we want to say but sometimes can't. He felt like someone who was tapped in.'

A few months later, Slater signed them to Capitol. Together with Andy Kelly and The Vines' management, Capitol decided to showcase the group in the UK. By the end of the year, they were being punted by the media as 'the best band since Nirvana.'
some craig nicholls rumours laid to rest. sort of
that you should be on 24-hour suicide watch 'Well I guess I have thought about that kind of thing too. Sometimes, I feel out of control and head downwards. I mean I won't pretend that I'm always happy, but then at the same times I would be lying to say I'm unhappy all the time. Being on stage playing my music makes me happy. Sleeping and watching TV makes me happy. Feeling open-minded and not let your thoughts dragging you down. Keep perspective on the things around you. I like it that people think I'm al little odd. I don't want to start the day at nine and then go to bed by five. There's clarity in lots of different things. Clarity in chaos, I guess. Not feeling sick makes me happy. Skateboarding makes me happy. I'm getting some time off so it'll be nice to do more of that. It's like being in the band a bit. I mean, you can do creative stunts or you can cruise straight down the street.'

that you had a fling with kelly osbourne 'Err...I don't know. Not really. I can't say anything about it. I feel really strange talking about it. I have met Kelly Osbourne and we hung out together a little. But we were just friends, sort of. I mean I think she's a good person. It's maybe a bit different for her. I just think she's kind of sweet. So no! Definitely not.'

that you're addicted to weed 'Smoking that stuff just helps me think and relax. I need to calm down sometimes as I know I can be a little immature. If I get too strung out, it helps. I started as a teenager. And just got into it because of friends or whatever. But of course I never inhaled. And I can't be held responsible for any illegal activity. I didn't do it.'

that you're addicted to a prescriptive drug of some sort

'I though I wanted to take Valium for a bit. But I really didn't know what the fuck I was talking about. Although I need something stronger to calm me down and level everything out. I'm not taking anything at the moment, but I'm definitely looking at it. Prescriptive drugs, that is. Not getting addicted.

that you made 'Highly Evolved' 95 seconds long because that's how long it takes to cook a burger in McDonald's 'No! I don't think I did that. I've forgotten how long it takes to cook a burger. I mean, everybody seems to have this obsession with me and fast food. I mean, I like it, don't get me wrong. But I only eat because I'm on tour the whole time - it's quick. And I can't cook to save my life. Truly.'

that you get hurt when people think you're a little odd 'I'm quiet, I guess. I don't really care what people say about me. I'm glad I'm odd because I'd rather be a bit different. I used to have a problem with authority, people telling me what to do. Just like most young people, trying to figure everything out. I don't have a problem with authority - I think sometimes it has a problem with me. I mean I don't know... maybe because people think I freak out all the time. I mean I always have people coming up to me and asking if I'm on drugs, but I'm not really. And some people believe the way I act is really selfish but I don't think that's the case at all. I suppose people will think that if they're jealous or whatever and I'm the frontman. But I see myself as more of a recording artist anyway, rather than some kind of troublemaking rock and rolls star.

'I am for REEEEEEEEAAALLL!' A drunken, howling caterwaul. That's what is ejected from Craig Nicholls' fish batter-lined belly when he belts out the cover-version of OutKast's 'Ms Jackson' - the second-to-last track of The Vines' chaotic, sweat-drenched set. The venue is packed to capacity with pierced-up rockers standing shoulder to shoulder with twentysomething Nirvana fans and skinny, choker-wearing teenage riot girls. All - apart from the venue's overweight bouncers who are loitering by nervous-looking, middle-class boys in black Ozzfest hoodies - are transfixed.

Craig is somewhere else. Buy The Vines LP and you'll only get the faintest whiff of the anarchic exhibition you get when witnessing the spluttering hobgoblin that is Craig Nicholls live. Eyes screwed shut, mouth open, almost swallowing his microphone, he only acknowledges the crowd with occasional, incoherent muttering and when he must swerve as water bottles missile towards his head with frenzied enthusiasm.

the vines' Jekyll-and-Hyde 'polarphonic' rock - a combination of guitar squall noise and downtime, bucolic melodies - is a recipe that's cooked them up incredible success, with chart-topping album sales and pen-waving fans at every port. Well, almost. Despite their Stateside success story (some sceptics putting this down to the fact the album went on sale for a cut-price $6), The Vines are only now being accepted back in their native Australia. But it's the very fact they're Australian, or more specifically not from New York City, that's helped stoke the frothing Vines hyperbole over the past year. When Rolling Stone slapped them all over the front for their relaunch issue back in September, they were only too pleased to punt around proudly the fact that The Vines were the first Aussie band on the cover for over 20 years. The fact is, since The Strokes opened the floodgates for young NYC garage bands with wing-mirrored cheek bones and scruffy pink ties, the pretty-boy rock scene has reached saturation point. Five good-looking latchkey kids making a pop-rock racket with guitars in a basement off Madison Avenue - however good they sound - just isn't good enough anymore. British bands are cursed by a similar over-exposure. Sever as it may be, some spotty English boys smoking weed and making sea-chanty-sounding records in a Hull bedsit just isn't as glamorous as a band from the other side of the world doing exactly the same thing. After all, the Swedish self-believing gang of five who are The Hives didn't get to where they are because of their songs. They have silly accents and even sillier costumes. Coming from Australia, The Vines' profile benefits from the boomerang-shaped lift. And as it is, foreign is interesting. The rock revolution is over. Long live The Vines.

Forty minutes, two cans of Coke, a Red Bull, three cigarettes and two joints later and the demolition starts. And the crowd get what they came for. As Craig screeches through the final track, 'Amnesia', a hazy melodic symphony due to be recorded for LP number two in January - his slow, considered scuttling of the stage begins. Hamish, Patrick and guitarist Ryan Griffiths, who have seen it all before, know where to stand. The chrome mic goes into the bass drum first. Then the Fender Stratocaster slams into the hi-hat. It isn't long before Craig piles in. The oil slick fizzes and roars. Patrick just about manages a wry smile. Tony, too, is smiling. The Vines guitar tech - all watermelon-sized head and camo trousers - has seen the smash'n'dash routine too many times to recall. Placed by his well-worn set of chrome screwdrivers, spare strings and a fuzzy dog-eared koala bear is a large blue Perspex box: a guitar graveyard full of broken bodies, snapped necks, pick-ups and bridges by the sack load. While on the road, living on an endless supply of cold coffee and service station sausage rolls, Tony tries to glue together the bones of bygone guitars. 'He goes through about one a night,' he mutters dryly, in-between tuning up one of the rehabilitated. The Vines have so far this year played 60 gigs. You do the maths.


one whiskey and coke mixer sunk and the after-gig drinks are already getting to Craig. The Social bar, just off Nottingham's central square - where a crumbly Woolworths slumps next to a two-a-penny Poundstretcher stores - is bubbling with mid-week revellers. Students mostly. And it doesn't take five minutes before Craig's spotted. Over in the far corner, a long-haired group of pint-spilling boys are pointing and chattering excitedly. Before too long, one of the latchkey kids musters the courage, clears his throat and brings over a chewed biro and beermat. But Craig has already bolted, the cuff of his brown corduroy jacket disappearing out of the door and into the crisp midnight air.

Out in the street is no safer. Huddled underneath a bolted-down shop entrance, Craig wraps his arms across his body and kicks a crisp packet around with his feet. 'It's him. It's definitely him! Look!' A group of alcopopped kids are beckoning the rest of their drunken scrum out from a kebab shop close by. Clutching bags of chips, Burberry caps and mobiles, soon Craig is encircled by a frenzied crowd - drunk on Bacardi and the prospect of a star-spangled story to tell their mates back in school tomorrow. 'This is making my head spin,' says Craig, ducking into himself. 'Dance! Dance for us!' One of the boys wants his Reebok Classics signed. Craig pulls out a sharpie from his back pocket and scrawls his name over the boy's trainers. Turning away, he pills his jacket tight across his chest, quickly sniffing the black marker before capping it and stuffing it back in his jeans. He steps out from the orange glow of the street lamp, walks down the cobbled path and disappears into the shadows. Unfulfilled requests from fans falling around him like dead leaves. Eyes half shut. Hands in pockets. Desperately trying to tune into the sounds inside his head.












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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:42 pm

The Vines
Craig Nicholls has all the makings of a rock star: good looks, great songs, serious mental problems. Now if he can just live through the night.

by Rob Sheffield
Rolling Stone, September 2002

I didn't break anything," the Vines' frontman, Craig Nicholls, mumbles. He's backstage at the Roxy in Los Angeles, trying to remember what he did last night. "I just remember all this glass. I started making pizza in the microwave around six in the morning. I was really hungry, and I was really out of it; I was hallucinating. Well, not hallucinating, but I didn't really eat. I didn't have any food for a long time before I went onstage. So I was hungry, and I remember there was all this glass. . . ." His voice trails off and his blue eyes cloud over. "Uhhh, maybe I did break something."

He probably did. The Vines are at the tail end of their first extended journey through America, and the strain is showing. In the short time that they have been the toast of the rock world -- six months that have seen the British press anoint them as the best band since Nirvana and their first album, Highly Evolved, debuted at the top of the Billboard album chart -- Nicholls has acquired a reputation as a weird little guy. He's become famous for locking himself in the bathroom for three hours before showtime, discussing suicide in interviews and kung-fu-kicking his bassist on the set of a U.K. TV show. At twenty-four, Nicholls says he has already written hundreds of songs. He would rather spend his time in the studio than onstage, but he has spent the past month touring America. It has not helped the mess inside his head any.

Right now, the elfin space cadet sits on the dressing-room couch, writing up the night's set list -- the same dozen or so songs every night, but always in a different order -- consuming bong hits and Red Bull. "How many Red Bulls is too many?" he asks. "I've had two. It doesn't go too well with pot. I don't know if I should have another." He shouldn't.

In the final minutes before the show, Nicholls starts feeling freaked out. You can tell because he gets up and paces, saying, "I'm freaked out." He retreats to a corner of the couch, bong in hand, and curls up into a ball. When one of the roadies asks, "Are you OK to go on?" Nicholls tells him, "I don't know, man." The other Vines don't seem worried. They've heard all this before. A lot. Bassist Patrick Matthews, drummer Hamish Rosser and guitarist Ryan Griffiths drink Victoria beer and debate whether to rip off their shirts onstage the way Nicholls does. "No way," Matthews says. "I'd need Botox in my gut." Nicholls still sits with his head in his hands.

An MC asks the crowd, "Are you ready to rock?" Nicholls lifts his head up and moans, "I am not ready to rock." He heads downstairs to rock anyway. The show is ferocious: Nicholls screams like a man possessed in Nirvana-style rave-ups such as "Get Free" and "Ain't No Room." In a crowd-pleasing version of OutKast's "Ms. Jackson," he sings the chorus over and over, like a psychedelic angel stuck between Australia and the Dirty South. For the final song, "Fuck the World," Nicholls smashes his guitar and jumps into the drum set. He tumbles in the debris, drums and cymbals spilling around him; for the first time all day, he looks like he's having fun.

Ever since they released their debut indie single in Australia last year, the superbly titled "Hot Leather/Sun Child," the Vines have been rocketing to the big time. Along with bands such as the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Hives, they've been acclaimed as leaders of a new modern-rock sound that blows away the bloated Korn-clone cliches of the past few years. In truth, none of these bands really has much in common with one another, but they all get lumped together because they show how rock fans across the world are starved for some new excitement and adrenaline, punk-rock style. Suddenly, the letter K and fake DJs in baggy shorts are out; guitars, leather jackets and the silent E are in. As Griffiths says, "It's a miracle we've gotten through America without anybody introducing us as the Hives."

The Vines have garage-punk energy in their sound, but their real wellspring is Nicholls' grandiose imagination. What sets him apart is his ambition, his sense of mission. "I always knew we had it," Nicholls says. "I knew we could make a great album, if we put our heads together. We didn't put our heads together, but we made a great album anyway." He wants to be the next Kurt Cobain, and he wants it right now. He wanted Highly Evolved to be a double CD; he's impatient to head back into the studio and record the music he has inside him. He's often been heard to complain that the Beatles and Brian Wilson didn't have to go on tour, so why should he? (Never mind that the Beatles and Brian Wilson gave up touring after they'd already conquered the world.) "We want to make . . . hmm . . . I think about twenty albums," Nicholls says. "Yeah, twenty. Sounds about right. I want to do it when I'm young and I have energy, because my energy's fading."

Hanging at a friend's bungalow in West Hollywood, absent-mindedly playing Radiohead's "The Tourist" over and over on his Epiphone acoustic guitar, Nicholls babbles amiably in the afternoon sun. He lounges in his Swervedriver T-shirt, under rat's-nest hair that looks like the rats were evacuated for their own protection. He's a friendly, funny guy, but he definitely fades in and out of his own world. Sometimes he zones out and can't finish his sentences; other times he falls asleep. When he's on a roll, he can ramble on wittily for minutes at a time. As the ancient proverb says, you can't steer a cat. "I've always been shy," Nicholls says. "I was a quiet child. I didn't start speaking until . . . uh, last year."

Maybe, just maybe, his demeanor has to do with the fact that he smokes an ungodly amount of pot. Nicholls carries his own bong around all day, wrapped in a plastic bag. He constantly packs the bong, lights up and slurps away. Forgetting his manners, he neglects to offer any to the hard-working journalist in the room. Spending time alone with him feels like baby-sitting my three-year-old nephew: I'm on guard, vigilant, watching to see that he doesn't hit his head on anything.

He's aware that his nut-case reputation precedes him. "I don't mind. It doesn't hurt me if anyone says I'm not normal. I don't know what normal is. Sometimes I'm just really tired, or I haven't eaten, and people get the wrong idea about me." The Vines hadn't toured much before this summer, and Nicholls is still getting used to performing. "Coming offstage is like going on a spaceship," he says, closing his eyes. "It's really far out. You're still kind of spent, in every sense of, you know, the existence thing. Heavy, man. I'm very dazed and confused when I come off. It's a good feeling. But I guess I'm kind of dazed and confused even when I haven't just played."

Nicholls grew up in a suburb of Sydney, where his father works as an accountant for Sony Music. In the Sixties, Nicholls' father was in an Australian garage-rock band called the Vynes. "That's where I stole the name from," Nicholls says, stretching out on the floor. "They sounded like Elvis, I think." Nicholls' dad taught him his first guitar chords. It opened up a new world. "I was a loner, it's fair to say. I didn't drive a car, so I never socialized. I stayed at home and listened to music all day. Music became a mystical world for me."

Nicholls left school after tenth grade and did a six-month stint in art school before dropping out to work at McDonald's. "I was pretty slack. I just worked there to get money to buy . . . that unameable thing," he says, looking down at the crumbs of green all over the coffee table. While flipping Big Macs, he and fellow employee Patrick Matthews bonded over their love of music, especially American rockers such as Nirvana, Beck and Pavement. It was only a matter of time before they started a band. After Nicholls began writing songs, the group went into a local studio to cut a demo. "We spent a couple of days there and a few hundred dollars. When I heard it back on the headphones, that's when I quit McDonald's.

"Our next album will be a hundred times better," Nicholls announces, warming to his favorite topic. "We could go into the studio tomorrow and make another great album. I wanna go in and do hundreds and hundreds of tracks -- violins and cellos and everything. There's so much good music that's happening now, and we're glad to be part of it, with bands like the Strokes and the White Stripes. I don't think it's a movement. It's just real rock music." There's a pause, then the synapses fire up again. "I like to think music is a healing thing, a meditational thing."

This is a theme dear to his heart: the mind-altering, life-affirming power of music. But Nicholls gets freaked out dealing with the world outside of music -- it's almost as though his connection to music is so intense he has to unplug the rest of the world. He hides behind that sweet, impassive, heavy-lidded grin of his, a beautiful and coddled child of rock & roll fantasy, listening to the sounds inside his own head. Beyond music, he doesn't have a lot of curiosity about the world. He watches a lot of TV on the bus, but he doesn't remember much when it's over. He plays a lot of Tony Hawk video games. He identifies with Shaggy from Scooby-Doo because he used to have a dog. Trying to think of a film that made an impression on him, he ponders in silence before coming up with David Spade's Joe Dirt. He isn't a big reader. He has no interest in politics. What he really cares about, all he really cares about, is being a rock star. If not the new Kurt Cobain, he's at least the new Evan Dando.

One of the crew dudes is hosting an end-of-tour celebration barbecue at his house in the Valley. Crowding around the backyard Weber kettle grill, as David Bowie's Aladdin Sane blasts, the Vines point out that in real life, Australians do not say, "Put another shrimp on the barbie." "We don't even call them shrimp," Rosser says. "We call them prawns." Matthews is drinking a self-devised tequila-and-beer concoction that would turn an ox's stomach. When I tell him how much he looks like Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg, he's disappointed. "I thought you were gonna say Stephen Malkmus," he says.

Matthews has a reputation as the normal one in the band, the nice guy who serves as a buffer between Nicholls and the insanity he generates. A serious lad and aspiring doctor who gave up med school for the Vines, he still reads medical textbooks on the road. "When I met him," Matthews says of Nicholls, "I thought, 'Well, he's really good at music.' " But? " 'But' didn't happen until later. When we started to play shows and go on the road. That's when I started to think, 'Well, I probably could have picked out a better personality to spend a year with.' "

The Highly Evolved sessions were extremely fraught. The original trio of Matthews, Nicholls and drummer David Olliffe flew out to L.A. in July 2001 to record with producer Rob Schnapf, who's worked with Beck, Elliott Smith and Foo Fighters. After two months of constant clashes, Olliffe flew back to Australia alone. "Craig and Dave were both seriously freaked out," says Matthews. "I was the only one who could talk to either of them. But then I got Hamish in the band, and we became a little more stable." Griffiths, the twenty-four-year-old Kurt Cobain look-alike from back home, joined later on guitar. "I'm Craig's minder," Matthews says. "It takes a lot of perseverance. But it's not a tough job." Matthews pauses and licks some of the salt on the rim of his pint glass. "Well, yeah, it is a tough job. He's mental. But Craig's really inspiring."

Nicholls says the word "serious" a lot in conversation. He repeats the line "I don't want to be a rock star, I want to be an artist" every time he gives an interview. The first few times I ask about his personal life, he just grins pleasantly, retreats back into his shell and mumbles about how serious the band is. But when I mention a rumor that Drew Barrymore is hosting an afterparty for the band (it never happens), he's piqued enough to loosen up a little. "She's dating one of the Strokes, isn't she? I didn't hear from Drew. Maybe next time."

Does he have a girlfriend? "I guess I have a short attention span. I meet a lot of girls on the road. There's so many people around. It's hard to tell what's going on. It's hard enough to remember to pick up our clothes. Get our wallets out of the hotel. Love. It's too hard. That's why I listen to music."

What do his friends back home in Sydney think of his success? "They probably think I smoke too much pot." Does he worry about smoking so much? "Smoking is an inspiration. It's good for me. It gives me focus. It's kind of spiritual. . . . I don't really know what we're talking about. Oh, smoking. I wouldn't do it and drive a car, but I don't drive."

He sings about love a lot on the album. Has he ever been in love? "I think so. I think I fall in love about thirty times a day. Maybe more. I'm not sure. But yeah, I'm definitely in love. I love Tony Hawk. I love Coca-Cola. Maybe love is bad. Bad medicine, it's what I need. But if you ask me if I'm gonna get married, I don't know. I could marry Natalie Imbruglia, but I'm too busy, and she's too busy, and she probably hates me. I would marry Meg White, but she wouldn't have me. I could marry Winona Ryder, but I'm sure I'd be too boring for her. I don't think she knows who I am, and I don't think I could hold her attention span. "I don't have a girlfriend at the moment, but then I don't have time. At the moment, I don't think a girl would come near me because I haven't showered in weeks. I'm gonna get that worked out. Women respect a man who can wash himself."

Before their final show, the vines grab dinner at the Rainbow, where we stop after I mention it's featured in the Guns n' Roses video for "November Rain." Nicholls orders fettuccine alfredo, probably because he enjoys saying the name out loud repeatedly. He hardly eats any of it, though, and halfway through dinner, he abruptly gets up and disappears. Nobody seems concerned. He turns up later backstage, flipping through a French rock magazine that somebody left behind. "You can't read French talk," he complains. "It's too hard." A roadie comes in and checks on Nicholls' bong. "We really should change the water," the roadie says. "I'll get somebody on that." Nicholls shuffles into the bathroom and changes the water himself.

There is much dressing-room merriment over a rumor that Wes Scantlin from Puddle of Mudd tried to get backstage last night but couldn't convince the bouncer who he was. "We've pissed off Puddle of Mudd then, and he'll tell Fred Durst," Matthews says. "No invites to the Playboy mansion." Rosser goes into overdrive: "Let's see, Miss April for Ryan and Miss December for Patrick. Oh, and Craig? Miss March through November for you." Nicholls isn't listening. It's showtime. Sacked out on the couch just a few minutes ago, now he's already hopping up and down in the doorway. "Come on," he says. "Let's get out there!"

After the show, the backstage scene is euphoric. "We had a proper drum-kit trashing tonight!" Rosser says. With a flourish, Griffiths rolls up a dollar bill, tucks it into the bong and lights up. He and Matthews smoke hits of the burning cash. But as a crowd gathers, Nicholls curls back up into a ball on the far corner of the couch. He hides from the girls jockeying for position. Every Jane in the room is giving him the thermometer, one way or another. One plants her hands on his shoulders, stares into his eyes and recites some of her poetry. He says nothing, just gives his blank smile until she goes away. A blond Ukrainian model with pupils the size of golf balls goes around asking the band members to autograph the banana she's carrying. Here in L.A., the world capital of weird scenesters and rock hustlers and hangers-on, the dressing room buzzes with activity. But right now, Nicholls just keeps hiding in the corner behind his lopsided grin, tuning in to the music inside his head.




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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:45 pm

Question Vine!
NME Oct. 26, 2002


Craig


Favorite current song
“‘Hyper Chondriac Music’ by Muse. It’s on the ‘Hullabaloo’ compilation. It’s a slowed down version of ‘Hyper Music’ and it blows my mind, man. It’s one of the greatest recordings.”

Favourite reading matter
“The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. That’s really interesting. He’s very far-out, so I can relate to him a bit and all his crazy abstract ideas. I find it hard to read on tour but I love Dali. I like to read about artists, bands…no surprises there really, huh?”

Favourite current film
“I haven’t seen any new films for a while. I’m not really tuned into the current release schedule. But of all time…I saw A Clockwork Orange on the bus in America. I loved that film so much. The Kids in The Hall: Brain Candy is really great. The Breakfast Club too.”

Favourite item of clothing
“My long-sleeved Swervedriver t-shirt.”

Last email/text message
“It was from a friend who’s away from Australia right now. I’m not very good at that stuff, though.”

What’s in your pockets?
“A guitar pick. That’s it.”

What side of the bed do you sleep on?
“The middle.”

What are you most scared of?
“War, death, disease, vampires and monsters.”

Are you like your star sign?
“I think so, maybe. I read it sometimes and think, ‘Yeah, that could be me.’ But I’m not superstitious. I think I’m Virgo.”

First record bought
“‘Straight Outta Compton’ – NWA.”

First girlfriend
“That’s really hard. I feel uncomfortable talking about it, so I won’t.”

Favourite high
“Just music. Nothing can lift you like that.”

What can you cook?
“I can cook eggs in the microwave. I can cook sandwiches. That’s all really, but you can survive on that if you have to.”

Who’s your best mate?
“Patrick and Ryan.”

Worst ever injury
“I’ve never broken a bone but I fucked up my legs skateboarding when I was young. And I haven’t got such a great back. I twisted it jumping onto a couch, that was some crack, probably the worst pain I’ve known. I’ve been lucky really, all told, because I’m pretty reckless.”

Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
“Thom Yorke. We didn’t speak for long but it was a real thrill because we’re huge Radiohead fans. He was really friendly.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“My momentary lapses into extreme immaturity. I would like to be perfect. I’d like a new nose. Can I be taller, too?”

Pppp-Patreek

Favorite current song
“Justin Timberlake – ‘Like I Love You’.”

Favourite reading matter
“Tony Wilson – 24-Hour Party People.”

Favourite current film
“Chopper and Zoolander.”

Favourite item of clothing
“My maroon hoodie from L.A.”

Last email/text message
“It was a hoax virus.”

What’s in your pockets?
“Swedish Krona, Euros, Marlboro Lights and my little black book.”
(bet he’s written craig’s name on every page - me)

What side of the bed do you sleep on?
“We’re all on the tourbus, so the middle.”
(*clears throat* see above and craig’s answer to this same question - me)

First record bought
“G’N’R – ‘Appetite for Destruction.’”

First girlfriend
“A girl named Craig Nicholls.”

Favourite high
“Murder powder.”

What can you cook?
“Scrambled eggs.”

Who’s your best mate?
“My brother.”

Worst ever injury
“A broken collarbone.”

Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
“Kirsten Dunst.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I’d be easier on myself.”

Hammy

Favorite current song
“Queens of the Stone Age – ‘No One Knows’.”

Favourite reading matter
“George Orwell – Down and Out in Paris and London.”

Favourite current film
“Minority Report, Goldmember.”

Favourite item of clothing
“My ‘Just Say No’ t-shirt.”

Last email/text message
“It was just two ‘xx’s.”

What’s in your pockets?
“Wallet, tuning key and lip balm.”

What side of the bed do you sleep on?
“The middle.”
(orgy! orgy! orgy! - me)

First record bought
“‘Happy Man’ – The Greg Kihn Band.”

First girlfriend
“Louise Nock.”

Favourite high
“Onstage or cliff jumping.”

What can you cook?
“Stir-fry.”

Who’s your best mate?
“A guy called Hans.”

Worst ever injury
“Ruptured spleen.”

Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
“My hero, David Lee Roth.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“My ability to put my foot in my mouth.”

Ryan

Favorite current song
“Coldplay – ‘In My Place.’”

Favourite reading matter
“Chopper III.”

Favourite current film
“The Blues Brothers on DVD.”

Favourite item of clothing
“My leather aviator jacket.”

Last email/text message
“‘Am I officially insane or just a little loopy?’ I sent it to myself.”

What’s in your pockets?
“A guitar pick, some loose change.”

What side of the bed do you sleep on?
“The middle.”
(hell, yeah, the vines orgy is full on… - me)

What are you most scared of?
“Fires.”

First record bought
“AC/DC – ‘Back in Black’.”

First girlfriend
“Can’t remember.”
(psst…her name was craig. still is – me)

Favourite high
“Life.”

What can you cook?
“A mean Bloody Mary.”

Who’s your best mate?
“Jesus.”

Worst ever injury
“I broke both thumbs playing football.”

Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
“Thom Yorke.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“My filthy rotten feet.”

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:46 pm

Christmas Soulmates: Craig Nicholls
NME, Dec. 21/28, 2002




Kelly or Pink?
I’ve met Kelly, she’s cool.

Hard or clever?
Cleverly hard.

Do or don’t?
Don’t do.

Bush or Saddam
Um, no no no. Neither.

Jack or Meg?
The White Stripes. Rock ‘n’ roll, yeah. I love them both.

Half-full or half-empty?
Totally empty.

Jay-Z or Nas
Ummmm…Nazzy J-Jeff?

Liam or Noel?
I don’t know exactly what this means but I’ll say Noel.

On top or on the bottom?
Jeez, man. I’ll say the middle.

Drunk or sober?
Elegantly wasted.

Red or black?
Red, because black’s the colour of the devil.

Zeppelin or Sabbath?
Led Sabbath.

Mod or rocker?
I guess…rocking chairs?

Boxers and briefs?
Boxing briefs.

Beatles or Stones?
The Beatles. They’re really inspiring.

Spit or swallow?
I like all birds. I think the eagle is my favourite.

Badgers or squirrels?
Wow! A badger with a little squirrel on it would be cool.

Tattoos or piercings?
For me that’s hard to decide because I’ve got so many tattoos and so many piercings…Not really. But piercings, because you can take them out but you can’t take tattoos off for the night.

Fischerspooner or The Strokes?
I like The Strokes a lot.

*****

Christmas with Craig Nicholls

Where will you be on December 25?
Sydney. I’ll probably be spending it with my family.

Who’s the most famous person on your Christmas card list?
I don’t know what fame is.

If Jesus walked among us now, who would he be?
Shit, man. Who would Jesus be? Gaz Coombes.

What present do you always resort to for people you’re not that fussed about?
Oh, um, I don’t know. No one. I mean, yeah, that’s it.

When did you find out about Father Christmas?
I seriously can’t remember. I could try and be funny and say last year. I believed in Santa Claus all the way up until last year.

Have you ever eaten or drunk so much at Christmas you got sick?
Yeah, I would be lying if I said that hadn’t happened before. I guess I’m lucky it hasn’t happened more often. The last time was probably a few years ago.

Have you kept any childhood toys?
I doubt it.

Giving or receiving?
I don’t know. Both.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:50 pm

The Fits and the Fury …
by Marc Spitz
SPIN magazine, March 2004

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I wanted to hit Craig Nicholls. I had determined that the Vines' 27-year-old leader was a hopeless, infuriating interview subject, and I had travelled 8,000 miles to conduct a major question-and-answer session in which he'd directly revealed...almost nothing. There are al-Qaeda detainees at Camp Delta who are more likely to give up information to their interrogators.

"I am really self-conscious in interviews," he admits early during our conversation on his home turf of Sydney, Australia. "I don't want to say anything bad about any people or places." I should have known. The last time we spoke, backstage at a 'David Letterman' appearance, shortly after he'd thrown a tray of food at his publicist and just before he'd trashed the band's set-up during a performance of 'Get Free,' I asked him to tell me something about the Vines that nobody would suspect. "We like cookies," he replied, after nearly ten minutes of discomforting silence. "But we don't like grapes."

But one's desire to hurt Craig Nicholls eventually subsides. After spending some time in his company, observing his various tics and waiting out his pauses, I soon discovered, as do many people who deal with Nicholls (his bandmates, his record-label reps, his managers, possibly his new girlfriend, definitely his producer), that there are ways of understanding and coexisting with him without resorting to violence. Even when he resorts to violence.

First, you must realize and – despite your cynicism – actually believe that even when it’s quiet, as it is on this muggy, lazy summer afternoon in the Southern Hemisphere, there is loud, wholly distracting, ostensibly beautiful music in Nicholls’ head. He prefers listening to it than doing just about anything else. Second, you must indulge this. If you happen to be a journalist, you have to wait, often several minutes, maybe longer, for him to speak. And don’t make any sudden movements. Greeting him with an innocuous “Good to see you again” might prompt a short nod of recognition or a vacant stare. “You have to be onstage in ten minutes, and after the show there’s a meet-and-greet, then we take the tour bus to Houston – that’s in Texas” might conjure a whirlwind of flying furniture, beer bottles, deli platters, ashtrays, and bong water. Both verbal exchanges pose the same threat to Nicholls. They interrupt the beautiful inner noise.

“Craig is addicted to the combination of smoking pot and listening to music,” observes the Vines’ even-tempered bassist Patrick Matthews, a longtime friend of Nicholls’, who as a teen had flipped burgers with him at McDonald’s. “That’s become, like, his life,” he says, adding, “Pot unlocked music for me to start with, but then the noise in my head got to be too much.” Those closest to Nicholls have gotten so good at abiding his fixation that frequently they don’t even flinch when the debris starts flying. “Sometimes we’d be at a venue, and Craig would start throwing chairs around, and someone from the record company would say, ‘Oh my God! Is he all right?’ the band’s blonde surfer-dude drummer Hamish Rosser says, “And the other three of us would be sitting around, going [pretends to yawn], ‘Eh, is he throwing chairs again?’”

There are quiet moments between Nicholls’ inner euphony and cacophony. In these instances, he is able to respond with logic and almost perfect simplicity, even wit. We enter the Royal Botanic Gardens, accompanied by the affable co-manager Andy Kelly and his new girlfriend, British goth-rock-singer Dirty Harry. Although he is dressed haphazardly, in a black, Asian-silk ladies’ blouse (most likely hers) over an inside-out Minutemen t-shirt, with widely flared jeans that drag on the ground, he seem relatively happy (at Letterman he was unmistakably miserable). Harry and Kelly leave us and we sit. Nicholls swats away a fly, then another, but says nothing. I figure it’s time to break the ice by asking how he, a touring rock musician who still lives in his hometown (the Sydney suburb of Hurstville), manages to repeatedly make the brutal 14-hour trip across the Pacific. “I think I’m a good flier,” he answers, “in that I haven’t been in a plane that’s gone down yet.”

In these moments of lucidity, Nicholls can also be manipulative, even dishonest. For example, I was told that I should try to bond with him over the videogames that he supposedly enjoys playing for hours in his bedroom. I don’t play videogames, but it seems like a harmless way to get a pleasant chat rolling. When I mention them, he stiffens and looks around nervously to see if anyone’s listening. Then, in a hushed stammer, he replies, “I’m sure I’ve played videogames,” before surveying the area for eavesdroppers. It should be noted that we are sitting on a hilly section of a sprawling great lawn. With the exception of an ibis and the folks riding paddle boats and water taxis in Sydney Harbour, there’s nobody within 25 yards.

Videogames are legal in Australia, as they are everywhere else. Marijuana is not. As his bassist attests, Craig Nicholls smokes a lot of pot. “I don’t smoke pot,” Nicholls says, when I bring up the subject, noting his symptoms of classic stoner paranoia. “I don’t see how anyone could smoke pot everyday and still have any sanity left in their brain. I almost find that insulting.” He stares at me hard. Suspiciously. Then, again at the invisible spies. I assure him that I am not a cop. “I’m a rock journalist.” It doesn’t ease him a bit.

Nicholls knows that sitting on hills with rock journalists is necessary when there’s an album to promote (the Vines’ sophomore effort, Winning Days, on Capitol), but he doesn’t seem concerned with how he or the band will be portrayed. “I don’t care,” he says, pulling up grass and staring at his black sneakers. “Obviously, it’s good for us if people like our album.” I already know he’s fibbing. That morning, I received a phone call from the band’s management asking me not to tell Nicholls that I’d interviewed Rosser the previous evening and am set to fly to Melbourne for a sit-down with Matthews (second guitarist Ryan Griffiths never gives interviews, so I’m told). It’s implicit that informing him of this might jeopardize his participation. It seems Nicholls would be more comfortable if he were the only Vine being uncomfortable with the press.

“Are the Vines democratic?” I ask him leadingly (hey, it’s better than clocking him). “Or is it just unequivocally your band?” He ponders this for a moment. A smirk crinkles his boyish face. “Well, there’s a part of it that’s my band. Like the vocals.” Sensing my frustration with his vague responses, he’ll later admit, “I’m a compulsive liar. I don’t even know myself when I’m lying, so it’s very confusing.” It’s during such moments that Craig Nicholls becomes a much more interesting interview.

Of all the bands in the recent new-rock revolution, the Vines seemed most likely to self-destruct and the least likely to pull off a credibility-securing second act (as have both the Strokes and the White Stripes). Even uniformed, bravado-spewing Swedes the Hives (who will also release a new album this year) are taken more seriously by cred-conscious rock fans, despite monikers like Dr. Matt Destruction and Chris Dangerous. When the Vines shared the stage with the Hives at MTV’s 2002 MTV Video Music Awards in a garage-rock battle of the bands (after the Strokes declined), many claimed that they were cashing in on a genuine phenomenon, in the same way that Seattle bands like Candlebox were accused of hitching onto the Nirvana/Pearl Jam bandwagon a decade earlier. Although the hyperbole-prone UK press predicted that within a year the band would be bigger than U2, many who welcomed the Strokes and the Stripes as rock saviors dismissed the Vines as one-hit wonders, concocted in a studio, boy-band style. Nicholls seemed too cute, too Kurt Lite to be taken seriously. Even Dave Grohl told SPIN in January 2003, “Avril Lavigne’s song [‘Sk8er Boi’] is more challenging than [‘Get Free’].”

“I wonder if I was on the outside, if I would dismiss us too,” Matthews tells me the following day over pints at downtown Melbourne’s charmingly dilapidated Builders Arms Hotel. “Because there’s always, like, a picture of us as a band and then a picture of Craig looking all beautiful. I would probably be like, “You look a bit like ‘Matchbox Twenty,’ myself.”

“I’ve gotten slagged many time [for working with the Vines],” says veteran producer Rob Schnapf [Elliott Smith, Foo Fighters, Beck],’ who helmed both their 2002 debut, Highly Evolved, and Winning Days. “People think they have just one song. It’s like they haven’t listened to the whole record. I don’t get what there is not to get.”

The fact that the Vines were the last of the big four ‘the’ bands to release an album (after the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Hives - sorry, the Mooney Suzuki) and were the highest to chart in the U.S. (at #11) might have contributed to a backlash. But according to Matthews, there’s always been one. The complaint: In the Sydney scene, it was believed that seasoned acts like Powderfinger were the ones who deserved to be discovered by a powerful management team on the strength of a homemade demo, flown to Los Angeles to work with an A-list producer, and sell more than 650,000 albums.

“People say, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta work it for ten years,’” Matthews says, mockingly. “’Powderfinger are a band that deserve this.’ I don’t mind if people don’t like us, and I don’t mind if people point out our faults, but this whole thing about deserving it is a bit stupid. You can’t trick people into buying a record.”

Ah, but if you do enough stupid shit on your promotional tours, you can trick them into believing you’re one insane Australian. “People think Craig’s dumb,” says Matthews. “Some people get him, and some people don’t, and they just treat him like a moron. That’s always funny.” All four Vines live performances I’ve witnessed had moments of genuine excitement, but the instrument-throttling chaos that occurred at every show quickly became a cliché. Maybe it was once a great spontaneous punk-rock release, but Nicholls’ gear abuse eventually seemed a sort of choreographed temper tantrum, akin to a child acting out because he didn’t get the pony he wanted for Christmas.

“I’d found that there is creativity within a band’s performance as well as in recording, and I wanted to expand on that,” Nicholls says, cryptically justifying the destruction. “I don’t want to put out this image as some crazy person. But, you know, sometimes I can hiss like a snake. I mean, literally, like a snake. I give myself a scare every once in awhile.”

“What do you do when that happens?” I ask him.

“I ride the snake. That’s what Jim Morrison said, right?”

The real reason for the violence was that every day is Christmas in Craig Nicholls’ private world (ponies trot freely). And while supporting a hot album, he was dragged out of it every night. Nicholls is a studio rat in the body of a skinny, dreamy rock star (the Vines were name-checked in last year’s Disney remake of ‘Freaky Friday’ as the major influence on Lindsay Lohan’s band, Pinkslip). And he actually has more in common with Brian Wilson than apparent mental instability. Most of Highly Evolved sounds nothing like ‘Get Free’ or the similarly screamed follow-up single, ‘Outtathaway.’ The acoustic, psychedelic pop of ‘Autumn Shade,’ ‘Country Yard,’ and ‘Homesick’ are delicate in melody, soaked in intricate harmony, and reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Love’s Forever Changes. Not that you’d have known it from watching Nicholls garble them live while getting tangled in the mic cord or pushing the drums off their riser. “I don’t know how many times I had to repair my kit,” says Rosser. “Hundreds!”

As the Vines continued to tour, Nicholls felt lost and exhausted. As he got farther and farther away from the studio and his bedroom – with the headphones and the pile of Muse and Suede cds – the public and private fits became a serious liability. “I’d just look at my feet even more,” Matthews says of the later concerts. “Or look over at Hamish and raise my eyebrows.” Then came the Letterman debacle and a scheduled appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in December 2002 that never even made it past soundcheck. “Craig started smashing stuff, and the producers just sort of said, ‘Go!’” Matthews remembers. “Andy Kelly had to carry him out.”

While riding the snake during a show at Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Middle East club that same month, Nicholls struck Matthews hard in the head with his microphone. Although the bassist now dismisses the incident as an accident, there was a report that Nicholls went off on him after Matthews broke a string. A soft-spoken former medical student, Matthews is two years Nicholls’ senior and the kind of guy who likes a pint, a good book, and a Smiths record at medium volume. “But when I got hit in the head, I guess that’s when I lost my rational side,” he says. The band cut short their set, trashed their dressing room, and then took it outside. “Patrick chased Craig down the street trying to knock him out,” Rosser says. “Pretty heavy times.”

Dates in the U.S., U.K., and Japan were cancelled, and it seemed like the band had finally hit the wall – hard. ‘Get Free’ would have to stand as their one great hit on the big ‘Rock of the 2Ks’ compilation graveyard. But the Vines are a strange band from a land famous for strange things: the chicken-flavored potato chip, the pig-nosed turtle, and the movie ‘Dogs in Space.’ “I used to think about quitting a lot,” Matthews admits. “Pretty much for the first and second tour of the U.S. I was just like, ‘I don’t wanna do this.’ All the time. Me and Craig weren’t getting along. I went from being a hardworking student to someone who drank every night of the week, and that was making me unhappy. There was a lot of tension having to live with the others on the bus.” Looking back on the 2002 tour, Rosser says, “I actually learned to pass up free drinks and free drugs. That’s one thing that will help me survive longer on the bus.”

The fact that they regrouped and are about to return as a unified force with a record that’s even more accomplished that their debut is not so odd if you understand two more facts about Craig Nicholls. As far as the snake might take him, he will always stop to record the music in his head. And he really likes trees.

The title track of Winning Days is one of the band’s oldest tunes (it was on the five-song demo that initially attracted Schnapf). “It’s about when you’re younger and it seems like simple things excite you a lot more,” Nicholls says. “Likes, trees seem a lot bigger.” A drifting acoustic ballad, it speaks of an optimism that could not have been captured in an L.A. studio or backstage over a four-track recorder. The sentiment must be protected by foliage. Rabbits. Deer. Little snakes that are impossible to ride. I ask Schnapf if he had become wary of working with the band after hearing all the road stories. “That chaotic behavior doesn’t exist in my world,” he says. “Everybody is pretty much on good behavior with me.”

Still, the decision to record album two at the legendary Bearsville Studios near Woodstock, New York, is telling. Situated in the middle of a wooded estate, Bearsville was founded by Boy Dylan’s former manager, Albert Grossman. For three decades, artists have been drawn to the tranquil surroundings [gentle rock classics like R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People and Jeff Buckley’s Grace were recorded there]. The other appeal of Bearsville: There’s nothing else to do. “Deer would be walking through the place all the time,” Rosser says. “We even saw bears. It was like a mellow retreat.”

“There was a stretch where I don’t think Craig left the grounds for six weeks. And that was perfect,” Schnapf says. “There was the barn – which was the studio – and the farmhouse, which was walking distance. He really likes trees and fresh air, and we’re right on a stream in the woods by a field.”

“It was a big weight off me,” Nicholls says when I bring up Bearsville. “It was just great to actually be in the middle of recording a tune again, and it was really exciting.” Apparently the loose, communal atmosphere opened up a very tightly wound unit. “After we got the first song done,” Matthews says, “it was the best it’s ever been within the band.” Though he wasn’t around for the touring mayhem, in the studio Schnapf did notice a change in Nicholls and Matthews: “Playing live and recording are such two different animals. You had guys who had never really left their town. Now they’ve toured the world, and they’re a lot more experienced. They’ve had a loop.”

'Winning Days' proves that the Vines have been evolving…highly. Although it opens with the ‘Get Free’-like ‘Ride’ (surprise: it’s the lead single) and segues into the ripping ‘Animal Machine,’ the psychedelia that set them apart from the Strokes and the White Stripes now predominates. It’s a headphones album, crammed with quadruple-tracked harmonies, creepy Moog (‘Evil Town’), odd tempo changes (‘TV Pro’), Beatles-esque power pop (‘She’s Got Something to Say to Me’), and pastoral atmospherics (‘Autumn Shade 2’ features bird calls). Listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll find evidence of Nicholls’ buried wit. ‘Fuck the World,’ long a live favorite, has a great, crude punk-rock bass riff, but such words as ‘Fuck the fields, and we snared the ocean’ betray it as an ecology-minded protest song, not a nihilistic anthem.

“Craig once said really offhandedly, and then never returned to it: ‘It’s raw, yet futuristic,’” Schnapf says. “He’s got a way of doing that. The primal part of his brain connects directly to his mouth without going through the brain filter. I think that phrase kind of summed up the record in a good way.”

As refined as it is, the Vines’ new sound isn’t so new that it will alienate fans and industry supporters. “The anticipation for the Vines is great,” says Gene Sandbloom, assistant programming director at L.A. radio station KROQ. “But we’re not looking forward to the Vines because they’re this massive band. We’re looking forward to them because they’re on the front end of this whole garage-rock genre. Now that the genre is huge, it seems like Winning Days will be a slam dunk.”

Most important, although the Vines are and have always been Nicholls’ band, in 2004 they sound like ‘a band. Rosser, an Aussie who formerly played in the Nevada-based cover band Sixties Mania!, replaced drummer David Olliffe (who quit during the recording of Highly Evolved) and is now a permanent member. Second guitarist Ryan Griffiths, who previously would play for only half a show, is now on every track. “This is the first step toward us becoming like Coldplay,” Matthews says without a trace of insincerity, “becoming a professional band.” As they get ready to hit the road for an inevitably un-Coldplay-like tour beginning in March, will Nicholls still feel the need to smash it up onstage, or will he do this new material proud? “I want Craig to sing – if not to impress, at least to not turn people away,” Matthews says. “Sometimes he’s just too destructive to the songs. I’m a bit sick of that. But I can see a lot of potential.”

As Nicholls and I rise to walk toward the harbor, I ask him, “Are you done with all that?”

“I don’t know if I’m done or not,” he says. “It’s hard to tell.”

Again, I don’t bring up the sticky truth. Shortly before Christmas – just a few weeks prior to our talk – the Vines returned to live performing with a show at Sydney’s Annandale Hotel. By all accounts, it was shambolic as ever. But confronting Nicholls about it would be pointless. Besides, I’ve upset enough of his noise. I let it be and hope, like those around him, that one day soon he’ll figure out how to be Chris Martin – or at least a Craig Nicholls not so hell-bent on sabotaging his own talent. I assure myself I haven’t traveled 8,000 miles in vain. I now know how to handle Craig Nicholls. And I no longer want to hit him.












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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:50 pm

“We Need More Money!”
Is $848 enough cash to go eating, drinking, shopping and bowling with Aussie rockers the Vines? Apparently not…
by Clark Collis
Blender, May 2004


“Who told you we wanted to go to an ice hockey game?” asks Craig Nicholls, frontman for the Vines, standing in the foyer of his Manhattan hotel. “We are definitely not going to an ice hockey game.”

This announcement comes as a blow to Blender, who had been informed by the Australian group’s ‘people’ that the band most definitely did want to spend part of the $848 we’ve given them to attend a sporting event. We even purchased tickets for tonight’s Madison Square Garden showdown between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks, plus four giant fingers emblazoned with ‘Go Rangers!’ – digits of foam craziness that, it now appears, will never be waved by the people whose 2002 debut found them hailed as the best new rock band since Nicholl’s idols Nirvana.

In a last-ditch attempt to change the group’s mind, and with the game fast approaching, Blender points out that beer will be available for purchase at the arena (this receives a nod of approval from lanky drummer and resident band party animal Hamish Rosser, 29) and there’s also a good chance of seeing grown men beat the crap out of each other with large pieces of wood (ditto).

Nicholls, however, is having none of it. “I,” announces the 26-year-old in a tone that brooks little opposition, “want to go to a toy shop.”

Ten minutes later, the Vines, who are in town to promote their second CD, Winning Days, are standing in the foyer of Toys R Us in Times Square, inspecting the store’s indoor Ferris Wheel.

“I went on that thing last time I was here,” Nicholls sniffs. “It looks good. But then you get to the top, and you’re stuck there for fucking ages. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Inside the store, bassist Patrick Matthews, 28, tries on a sea captain’s hat, while Nicholls berates Rosser for his selection of a toy guitar (“Are you sure you want that? I mean, are you actually going to take that home with you?”) and a tambourine-and-triangle set (“Another wasted purchase!”).

“I thought this would be fun, but it’s actually quite dull,” Nicholls says after we have been in the store for all of 10 minutes. “Let’s go get something to eat.”

As we walk to Virgil’s, a nearby barbecue restaurant, the lead singer reveals that he has given up both drinking and smoking. “Not smoking isn’t hard,” he muses. “One day I just decided to stop.”

Blender points out that this news is bound to provoke hatred in smokers who have tried to quit without success.

“Oh, stick around,” he smirks, evilly. “You’ll soon find plenty of other reasons to hate me!”

While, to be fair, the singer will later apologize for his behavior, Nicholls’ antics during dinner are indeed somewhat irritating, as he alternates between look-at-me self-flagellation (“I’m so pretentious! We’re all such clichés!”), non sequiturs (“I like monkeys”) and rock star boorishness (thrusting his glass over his head when the waiter fails to refill his Coke quickly enough).

Not that Nicholls’ behavior comes as a huge shock. This is the man, afterall, who got the Vines banned from ‘The Tonight Show’ by destroying an array of equipment during rehearsals and who has been known to lock himself in the bathroom for three hours before a show. Nicholls may semi-seriously complain about one of his bandmates’ fondness for acid – “One time he got so wasted, he took all his clothes off and tried to eat the pavement!” – but he seems himself familiar with the other LSD – Lead Singer’s Disease.

What turns the evening’s tide is a post dinner visit to the Virgin Megastore, where Nicholls scoops up the entire stock of CDs by the late attack-dog comedy icon Bill Hicks: “I don’t care if I’ve got duplicates. I just love him!” Meanwhile, guitarist Ryan Griffiths, 25, arrives at the cash register carrying a basket loaded down with DVDs: the Alien Quadrilogy box set, The Wild Bunch, A Hard Day’s Night, both Wayne’s World movies, a Simpsons box and a raft of other films that when we rung the total was more than $800. When Griffiths is informed that this is much more money that the band has left, the guitarist’s face scrunches into an expression of misery.

“My house burned down,” he whispers.

What?

“It’s true,” Rosser says. “Ryan, Patrick and Craig were all living in the same house. It burned down while we were on tour. Ryan lost everything.”

“We need more money!” Nicholls adds. Blender agrees that - on this occasion and this occasion only – the customary $848 allowance should be increased to $1,848. Delighted, and still cooing over his CDs, Nicholls improves his attitude dramatically. He even expresses contrition over his previous behavior.

“I was really just nervous about doing this,” he explains, “I really hate the idea of coming across all pretentious. Most of the time, people think too much. I want to show people that we’re normal. We’re the kind of people who go shopping, eat dinner and like to bowl.”

To prove this, we relocate to the Leisure Time bowling emporium inside the Port Authority bus terminal, where the Vines decide that their remaining cash should be awarded to the winner. Sadly, Blender’s hopes of reclaiming at least some dough are soon dashed by Matthews, who, fortified by a couple of beers, establishes an immediate and commanding lead.

“Most people concentrate on hitting the center pin,” Matthews says when, with his score nearly triple Blender’s, we ask him for advice. “But it’s just as important to pay attention to where your hand is when you let go of the ball.”

Under Matthews’ Yoda-ish tutelage, Blender’s game improves – but too little, too late. The final score: Nicholls, 93, Rosser, 97, Griffiths, 98, Blender, 119, and Matthews…161!

“Did we not mention that he’s really good at this?” laughs Nicholls, who suddenly couldn’t be friendlier.

“To be honest, that’s my low end,” Matthews says. “I’d usually expect to score around 180.”

“Do you want to know the tip I didn’t give you?” he adds, stuffing Blender’s last $100 in his pocket. “Only play games that you know how to win! Now how about a rematch!”

*****
How They Spent It
The Vines, February 2, 2004
Hockey Tickets $178
Foam Fingers $24
Toys $78
CDs and DVDs $1,142
Bowling $80
Patrick’s Winnings $100
Total: $1,848

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:51 pm

New to Blender: The Vines
Dazed and confused Australian foursome offers Nirvana-flavored primitive rock & roll
by Nick Duerden
Blender, August 2002


In a nondescript hotel room 11 stories above London, Craig Nicholls is looking dazed. This, it quickly becomes evident, happens often: He appears as confused over the presence of bacon in his club sandwich as he is when considering the hype his band, the Vines, has generated over the last few months.

“Am I surprised?” he asks. A shadow passes over his face. “Well, I guess I am. Yeah. I think so. In a way. I mean, yeah. Yeah.” A slice of bacon slips from his sandwich. He watches it fall.

Made up of singer-guitarist Nicholls, 24, bassist Patrick Mathews, 26, acoustic guitarist Ryan Griffiths, 25, and new drummer Hamish Rosser, 28, the Vines are from Sydney, Australia — and sound unquestionably American. Their debut album, Highly Evolved, is a sparkling, ferociously energetic guitar-rock combination of the Ramones, Pavement and Nirvana; the first single, “Get Free,” could easily be a newly charged version of Nirvana’s posthumous 1996 hit “Aneurysm.” Early reports have pitched them alongside the Strokes and the White Stripes as members of a rejuvenated underground-rock scene.

Nicholls and Mathews first met in a Sydney McDonald’s “maybe six years ago,” the singer guesses. He’s fairly certain he and Mathews gravitated to each other because of their shared love of Kurt Cobain and John Lennon.

After an extended period of inactivity — punctuated by temporary jobs, local shows and artful contemplation — the two, along with longtime friend and drummer David Oliffe, found a manager and, on the strength of their first Australian single, “Factory,” a record deal. Last year, they decamped to Los Angeles to record Highly Evolved with Beck’s producer, Rob Schnapf. While Nicholls and Mathews enjoyed themselves, Oliffe went back to Australia.

“He didn’t quit. He just went home early,” Nicholls demurs. Though clearly, with Rosser now on board, Oliffe must be permanently out of the band? “I’ve been busy. I haven’t had time to ask him.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Nicholls says he’s only truly comfortable onstage. Only when playing music, he says, is he properly able to communicate.

“Other times, I guess I’m kinda . . . I tend to, you know, trail . . . ” Off? “Yeah, I tend to trail off.” With that, he’s gone, unable to claw his way back.


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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:51 pm

A Winning Mentality
by Matt Reekie
Blunt, March 2004

Known as possibly the most difficult interview subject in rock, Vines leader Craig Nicholls recently cancelled any further interviews regarding the new Vines album Winning Days, instead referring journalists to Patrick Matthews, his long suffering bass player. Before he did that, Blunt editor Matt Reekie sat down at a pub and had a long chat with our Craig, only to find that beneath that everyday neurosis he wears proudly like a badge, beats the heart of your average, uber-talented, self-involved, rags-to-riches rock star.

I wish I could write a story about how Craig Nicholls is all crazy and weird and zany and on the verge of suicide and the Vines are on the verge of collapse and the planet’s crumbling because a suburban Sydney kid with a guitar in his hands had the sheer audacity to take an opportunity most songwriters would stab siblings for and make an album in America instead of slogging it out in Australian beer barns for years first. But that’s the story you’ve probably already read about the Vines a zillion times since they burst onto the scene with their debut album Highly Evolved in August 2002. The tale has been told by many a rock writer, always using references to Big Macs, bongs, temper tantrums, onstage fights and some terrible live performances on the 2003 Big Day Out tour. But rarely does anyone seem to elicit anything decipherable from Craig.

People talk of him being aloof, shy and hard to interview. He stormed out on reputable Triple J DJ Richard Kingsmill, and has been known to throw the odd journo’s tape recorder at a wall when the mood takes him. But to me he seemed just like any normal suburban kid not dealing very well with adulation and attention. Although he answered my questions to the best of his ability, I get the impression he’d just like to play rock music and be left alone altogether. Certainly whoever said he was shy hit the nail on the head.

As we sit and begin discussion on the all important second album that he and Vines cohorts Patrick Matthews (bass), Hamish Rosser (drums), and Ryan Griffiths (guitar) have just released, Winning Days, Craig’s eyes dart nervously around the room. In addition to this he has the annoying habit of looking past me to a reflection of himself in a huge mirror behind. But really, he’s no more neurotic than most of my good friends. Maybe that’s why we got on alright together? Or at least why there were no difficult moments, dodging questions, awkward pauses or thrown Dictaphones. Just two guys in the back of a Sydney pub having a talk about music…

Winning Days is a great album. Are you happy that there’s going to be no backlash now from sections of the media who probably had knives at the ready?
I feel okay about it. We just want to make good albums. It can be taken any way, but it’s meant to be enjoyed. We definitely don’t want it to inspire any violence by us or anyone else, for any reason. Peace is good.
Did you envision that making a second album was going to be difficult?
It felt pretty natural to us. There were some songs than we had leftover, which were pretty much finished when we finished the first album and we knew we were going to do them. Then we had a bunch of songs that were a bit newer, some were only half done, but we had more than enough songs to choose from. With what we had, we felt ready to do the second album – it felt right.
Did you, or do you still feel the pressure of, “What are people going to think, will it live up to expectation?”
I’m starting to get nervous, but I think that’s just because I’m starting to do interviews again. Because I feel I do my best to describe myself and more importantly the band and the music…But we don’t really mind. We’re proud of what we’ve done, we’re in it for the right reasons, if people like it, that’s cool. I think we would still be able to go on if people didn’t like it; actually, we’d probably quit, I don’t know?
Really, you care?
I don’t care, I’m just being retarded.
I really liked the way you fucked with everyone in the lead up by describing the album as electro or like Van Halen…
Patrick said that, I thought it was kinda funny.
But you were saying it was going to go electronic right from Highly Evolved.
I was saying that, I was probably a little premature in saying that, it’s not going to happen right away – we’re a rock band. I was just getting really carried away. I think it’s something I want to get into and I think I could do it with this band, maybe get more of it on the 3rd album, if we get to that point.
How much are the other guys contributing now, is it feeling more like a band than it did making Highly Evolved?
I think it’s more now, we’re more of a band now, I guess. Patrick plays bass, Hamish plays drums, and Ryan plays guitar and I sing, so whatever part anyone comes up with for their instrument, that is what it will be. We have a good nonverbal understanding – if something feels good, go with that. I guess is kind of works like that onstage as well.
Do you think your performance at Homebake last year put to bed all the stuff about The Vines being crap live?
We had a good time doing that. You can’t control the reviews. I had a good time. It was cool to play will all those other bands.
Was it Australian’s afflicted with Tall Poppy Syndrome who said those things in the first place?
I’m so self-absorbed that I don’t know anything about culture and I can barely read, but I just think that maybe people expected something different, or something more. They wanted the clouds to open up and Jesus to come down. I really wasn’t sure. It didn’t bother us because we’re a rock band. It’s not like we’re a pop act who would take that onboard and go, “Right, we’ve gotta fix up our act.” It’s interesting people having those opinions.
Does it feel any different playing live now than it did a year ago?
It’s the same craziness. In the studio we can be real serious but then we take that out there and sometimes we play the songs like the album but sometimes something can be different. It can be twice as fast or twice as slow and that’s the most exciting thing for me. You have the album if you want to listen to the proper recordings of the songs, but I think we’d go mad if we played the songs the exact same way every night and went through the same emotions. Bands that I always liked, like Pavement, always had really good songs, but they could play them loose as well.
Is your focus to try and talk about the music in interviews this time - it seems like last time it was about everything but?
Yeah, after the first album we did so many interviews and I was trying to tell people that it doesn’t matter and that the songs were what was important to us, but somehow your words get manipulated or your image does. I’m not saying I’m perfect or anything, but I’m just an ordinary person who plays in a band who got a lot of attention put on us for whatever reason.
What is your opinion of journalists, do you ever wish you could write reviews of their reviews or articles?
I guess that’s their own world, they say what they feel about something at different times, like, they like it one day and hate it the next. We don’t really mind because we got into it for music, we didn’t do it for attention. Of course we want our music and our songs to be heard, but I find it really strange that you’d want to talk to me, or anyone would want to talk to me about it. I find it kinda strange.
Did you ever have aspirations beyond music?
I never wanted to do anything. I remember in school being interested in art and music classes, but this just kind of happened. It was fun to do, just jam and write songs.
Was it your demo getting discovered that was the turning point?
Yeah, the demo made it different. At the start it wasn’t serious, but that was the point where I thought we might be able to do this seriously. That was when we were serious about having good songs, and having a lot of good songs, because we knew we wouldn’t last 5 minutes. We wrote so much and we weren’t doing it to get a major deal, even though that may have been what we wanted, but it was just like, “We want to be a band, we want to put out albums, we want to play onstage…” We didn’t know that we were going to have this opportunity to go to America and record in a good studio with a good producer. He really liked our demos so we just thought, “Just go for it.” And then it was kinda mad and I did a whole bunch of interviews and spread a whole lot of crap, but I got through it.
But you were always writing songs despite having no real aspirations…
I always had aspirations for the songs. When we finished the first album, I thought we were going to do the second one straight after, I didn’t have a concept that the band was going on tour. Even though I had seen bands I liked, it didn’t really click. But people were saying to me, “If you don’t go out on tour, nobody is going to know who you are.” So then we did that and we really enjoyed that side of it…but we always wanted people to hear our music, we just weren’t sure if people were going to.
What would you have done if it hadn’t all happened?
It’s not a pleasant thought. I’m glad it happened for us. I was serious and I really believed in it; it was the only thing for me to do. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.
Did you ever feel like everything good had already been done?
Sometimes, but rather than thinking that so much had been done and being intimidated by that, it was really exciting for me to think of everything that could be done. I still think that way and that’s why I still talk about digital music and stuff. It’s crazy. That’s probably the next chapter, I don’t know?

Disassembling Days
Craig Nicholls takes Blunt through the new Vines album, Winning Days, track by track…

Ride: It didn’t hit me until we were mixing it but we all agreed this was the one to start out with. It’s very poppy and also it’s kind of heavy as well. It’s a mix between those two. The words are like poetry, very random, abstract, I’m not really trying to say anything, more just like throw out a collage of sound.
Animal Machine: We tried to get different sounds to go with the vibe of each track and that one is kinda evil. It’s heavy but it’s not necessarily so fast, we used to play it faster live. It’s an interesting little trip. I guess I compare it to “In the Jungle” on the first album.
TV Pro: We’re really proud of this one, this is the most futuristic sounding one, We really want to go more in the direction of that. It starts off really dreamy and then turns into rock and then goes back into a dreamy ballad and back and forth. It’s got a good sing-a-long middle section.
Autumn Shade II: That one is the most restrained song, it’s just meant to be very mellow with the vocal harmonies and stuff. It’s very moody, it’s very held back, but it’s definitely a ballad ballad.
Evil Town: It’s sludgy but kinda melodic. I started writing it about a person but it turned into a place and the last verse has got a lot of attitude – it felt really good to sing that. I remember getting that on the first take. It was one of the few things that I got on the first take.
Winning Days: I think that’s the best song we have. It’s very sentimental, I was shaking when I sung it because I felt it. It is kind of abstract but it is really personal. It’s about thinking about a long time ago, at least the first three lines are, then it’s just about feeling really disconnected. The lyrics can be a bit introspective and a bit depressing, but the melody is uplifting.
She’s Got Something to Say to Me: That’s a pop song, very simple. It starts out heavy but it’s got an old school sound, like ‘60s surf rock, the Beach Boys…
Rainfall: That is a jingle, jangle thing, kind of like a cross between a ballad and a pop song. It’s meant to have good energy and be relaxing.
Amnesia: I think that’s got the best lyrics, I was really proud of those ones. It’s one of the longest songs, it’s really dreamy with lots of layers. I like doing that because it opens up and there’s something majestic about it. Sometimes hearing a slow song can affect you more than something really fast, it’s a whole different other side of it.
Sun Child: It’s my country rock song but we did a lot of overdubs to make it interesting. This is old, it was our first single, but the recording was not so good but we thought it was a good song and it would be worth doing again. I’m really glad we did because I think we hit it right on the head.
Fuck the World: It’s a cross between me being kinda pissed off with the world and also me wanting to save the world. It’s environmental and kind of sarcastic as well because at the end of the song I’m singing, “Fuck the world, don’t.” I’m being sarcastic saying, “Fuck the world, do it, do whatever you want, no one is going to stop you.” But I don’t think that’s what I really want, that’s just the way it came out because I feel so frustrated sometimes.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:52 pm

Hang on to Your Ego
by Mark Hooper
i-D, April 2004

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Their first album was hailed as ‘the best debut ever.’ Then came the rumours, bizarre antics and breakdowns. As The Vines get ready for a triumphant return, singer Craig Nicholls reveals how they made it back from the brink.

Four pm on a typically grey, typically London Friday afternoon in February. The Trafalgar Square Hilton is abuzz with the polite chatter of the moneyed, slowing winding down for the weekend. The wails of the lobby are dominated by blown-up live photographs of the Rolling Stones, peering imperiously, if somewhat incongruously, over the clientele. Anonymous lounge music plays at the bar. Craig Nicholls, lead singer with The Vines, shuffles into the room, looking even more out of place than Mick and Keith: taller than you’d expect, as shambolic as you imagined, dressed in a t-shirt and duffle coat, his hair artfully distressed. Bang on cue, the CD at the bar starts to skip, tapping out a staccato rhythm. At once, Nicholls is transformed into a robotic dervish, windmilling his arms about, his head like Leigh Bowery on a particularly rowdy night out. The Friday afternoon businessmen stare silently. The woman at the bar beams at the impromptu performance. “Like this one?” she asks. “Yeah!” Nicholls screams, before stopping as abruptly as he started, turning apologetically and shaking hands. Mad Craig has entered the building.

So far, so according to stereotype. When The Vines appeared on the musical radar in 2002, it was in a flower-burst of lurid press hype. A string of unhinged, incendiary live performances first caught the media’s attention. Then the NME, with typical restraint, heralded the band’s first album, “Highly Evolved,” as possibly the greatest debut ever. Barely drawing breath, they went on to suggest it could also be their last, given the self-destructive path their lead singer seemed to be pursuing. The zenith/nadir of this trajectory was a live appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” in which the curtain fell on a turbo-charged Nicholls tumbling head-first over the drum kit while the bemused host made sardonic remarks about ‘kids today.’ Amid the identikit blazer-and-jeans, retro-with-a-disco-twist bands that emerged in the wake of “Is This It,” The Vines were a burst of pure, barely bridled energy. Their reference points were immaculate: Nirvana’s irresistible urgency topped with harmonies to do The Beatles proud. To top it all, they had a frontman who’d apparently chanced upon all the charisma his peers had left behind.

Rumours soon began to circulate about Nicholls’ erratic behaviour, about breakdowns and falling-outs with the band. It was even suggested to Nicholls that he ought to be put on a suicide watch, a view with which – in print at least – he seemed to concur. Music journalists couldn’t believe their luck. They’d stumbled across their very own fully-formed Kurt Cobain for the post-Strokes generation.

But, frustratingly, Nicholls wouldn’t play ball. Not only has he plainly refused to die, he’s gone and recorded a follow-up album, “Winning Days,” that puts “Highly Evolved” to shame. Its first single, “Ride,” is doing so well on US radio playlists that, not only do UK music press have some difficult egg-on-face moments ahead as they try and out-do their own hyperbole, they may even have to face up to the unthinkable: their opinions aren’t going to count for much. The Vines have bigger fish to fry. Crucial to their success has always been the fact that, while their peers were scrambling to get to the top of the indie heap on the traditional New York/Camden trail, The Vines went straight for the A-list. One minute they were recording four-track demos in their Sydney bedrooms, the next they were signed to Capitol in the US, doing studio sessions with Rob Schnapf, producer for Beck, Foo Fighters, Guided by Voices and Elliott Smith. When their original drummer, David Oliffe, quit and headed back to Sydney, the band’s first choice as replacement was Ringo Starr. Like it or not, The Vines are Big Time.

But trying telling Craig Nicholls that. In his head, he’s still the Sydney kid on his beloved skateboard, unable to equate his own success with the often modest achievements of his idols. While most critics pick up on the classic ‘60s influences in the Vines’ sound, his own reference points tend to rest squarely in the ‘90s: Suede, Swervedriver, Blur, Radiohead, The Verve…even Muse. Ask him about that ‘best debut album ever’ quote and he demurs, “I’ll just be very shallow and say it’s a compliment,” before visibly perking up. “I think the first Supergrass album was probably the best debut album. That is amazing to me.” Clearly there’s a few perspective issues to be resolved in the sudden success story of The Vines.

So is being a rock star what you imagined it would be?
Well, I think that’s a dirty word, because it’s all connected with drug taking and early death, so I like to be as pretentious as to call myself an artist. I guess it depends what rock’n’roll means to you. For me, rock’n’roll is on CDs; it’s not about how late you stayed up and what you did the night before. But things have never really changed. Like going to awards shows, I’m not into any of that. We rode in a limousine one time in LA and I thought it sucked. You do sideways and…moving in cars in general of whatever kind doesn’t interest me. Cars, material things…

Aren’t you sideways on a skateboard?
[laughs]Yeah, I like skateboards. I think simple things are cool – riding skateboards, watching tv, playing guitar. But definitely, none of that stuff. People always ask what it’s like being famous. Well, first of all, I don’t feel famous and secondly, if I am it’s a big fucking disappointment. Even though I had no expectations for it. We wanted to turn people on to the band because we were so turned on by it: that was the only reason, it wasn’t all just a vehicle…odd choice of words…to get to some certain point. I’m just not like that. I went to this award show last night, I drank a glass of water and got home before midnight.

Do people always expect you to be crazy?
Yeah, I feel very apologetic and fell like I’ve let people down by not being obnoxious. So sorry, guys.

Does it feel like the press have invented a persona for you?
There’s a lot of that. It don’t really matter. It’s my job to write songs and their job to write what they think, I guess. I hate to disappoint people, but I don’t feel really bad about it. I’m being dramatic when I say that because I don’t really care. We like sharing music with people and if they connect then it’s good, but people seem to expect me to throw a television out of the window. Fuck that, it’s too heavy. And I like watching it anyway.”

Do you find it frustrating, people saying you’re about to crack up after meeting you for half an hour?
Yeah, it is. I think anyone would be mad if they were traveling the world and people were asking them questions like that, ‘What’s the deal?’

Trying to get inside your head?
Yeah, I couldn’t completely describe it – I didn’t even want to describe it, but people would get the wrong idea and I’d get frustrated and say, ‘No it’s more like this…’ and then I couldn’t follow through, I’d get all these other ideas and I’d forget where I was. I’d get lost.

How do you feel when your first question in an interview is: ‘Should you be on suicide watch?’
People think that, and it’s like, ‘Sorry, yeah, I’m in a good mood and I’m not on drugs, I’m not drunk, I don’t have any gossip about any other bands, I’ve got nothing bad to say about anyone.’ Except maybe the government.

Were you prepared for all that?
I wasn’t prepared at all. People were warning me. They’d say, ‘Look out for the NME, man.’ What are you talking about ‘look out?’ They just sounded like school teachers.

It has to be said, in the defence of fellow hacks, that Craig Nicholls is undeniably a little odd. He admits it, both in his lyrics (from Autumn Shade II: ‘I’m succeeding to speak like I’m fucking m-aa-aa-ad’) and, matter-of-factly, when you mention bassist Patrick Matthews’ assertion that things got undeniably ‘pretty touch and go’ towards the end of the last tour. “Well, it felt perfectly natural to me,” he says, “but then I was out of my mind. I’d gone through about three mental breakdowns.” However, the Craig Nicholls of 2004 presents himself as positive, sober and undeniably the right side of sane, if not a little lost in his own world. His accent doesn’t help: a weird approximation of LA via Sydney, spoken in a voice that seems perpetually on the point of cracking, but not, cracking up.

If there’s one word to describe Nicholls, it’s ‘misunderstood.’ This is how he tries to explain why he’s not the hellraiser people imagine. “We went out to a little bar in New York with some friends and I don’t drink, but I ended up slamming my head on the table, just absolutely screaming out. And people must’ve thought I was either really drunk or on crystal meth or something.” His point being, he wasn’t drunk. Just a little tired of having to do interviews all week. You can see how people might get the wrong end of the stick. There’s more. “And then when I first got to England, I was really excited – mostly to get off the fucking plane because my short term memory is so bad, it felt like my whole existence had been on that plane. I got off, we were in a store, trying to get some food, and this guy next to me was like, ‘Are you alright?’ He was an Australian guy, I recognized the accent. And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m great. I’m just really excited,’ I thought he was just being nice. And when he left he said, ‘Stay off the drugs.’” Craig being Craig, he chased the man down the street to explain he wasn’t on drugs. I’m guessing here, but I suspect it didn’t help much.

All of which brings us neatly to the Letterman incident. “That was crazy,” says Nicholls, with a degree of understatement. “It was great fun.” Did he get to meet Dave afterwards? “I just waved at him, I was kind of shocked myself at the whole thing, there was lights and people everywhere. I had a really good time. But it was also a weird time. I think some of the weirdness came out in the performance. People may think I’m really slow or something, but I’m really proud of that performance.” It’s also the kind of moment, like say The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or The Who in any hotel they’ve ever stayed in, that can rubber stamp a band’s rock star credentials. “I think what is was,” says Nicholls, “was it was mental. Just because it was a knee-jerk reaction to being in such a confined studio. Plus the city: everything’s concrete, there’s a million people there and it’s all so serious. I don’t know, maybe it was a subconscious message to people: don’t take life too seriously.”

Fortunately, the band’s manager picked up on the ten-storey high warning signs. Together with Schnapf, again in the producer’s chair, they chose the relative calm of Bearsville recording studios in New York’s Catskills mountains, near Woodstock, to work on their next LP. Away from the concrete and the numbers. Difficult Second Album Syndrome failed to materialize, even for the follow-up to the best debut ever. “It was really good for us,” says Nicholls. “It was our producer Rob’s idea to do it there; he knew that we didn’t really like Hollywood very much. It’s in very natural surroundings and it really paid off because I can hear it on the album. I could feel the clarity of it.”

“Winning Days,” as the title suggests, is positive in outlook and feel. The music is more fleshed out – where once The Vines wore their Nirvana, Kinks, and Beatles influences on their sleeves, now they’re more subtly incorporated into the whole. There are more moments of bucolic calm to temper the trademark brattish sneer. There are more moments of bucolic calm to temper the trademark brattish sneer. There are more surprises, more shifts in tempo, more moments of light and shade. In short, it’s the sound of a band maturing. “I’m really proud of this album,” says Nicholls. “People thought we were going to self-destruct, but I knew that we had the album in us – it was long overdue, like the first one was. And we were a bit more confident, because we’d done it before.”

Does Nicholls feel as if he’s calmed down? “Yeah, I guess so. And also I think you just calm down a bit anyway when you get older.” (He’s now 26 – about to be 27! – me) “We wanted to not get too crazy. The first time, going into the studio for the first album, I had in my head that we were gonna have 100 tracks and everything was gonna be fucking backwards guitar, millions of different percussions at once, 20 different keyboard tracks, a million split harmonies…and then we realized that was maybe a bit ambitious. That’s what Rob taught us: less is more.” There’s even talk of a ‘concept country rock album’ next. “It’s not gonna be punk rock sounding, it’s gonna be strings, acoustic music. Ballads.” But despite his emphasis on restraint, both in his life and on record – despite his appeals that “you become desensitized if it’s just full-on all the time” – Craig Nicholls still can’t resist the odd primal scream. The last song on the album, following on from the positive chimes of ‘Winning Days’, ‘Sun Child’, and ‘Rainfall’ is called ‘Fuck the World.’ “I do like death metal a lot too,” he chuckles.

Is this the sound of Craig Nicholls at peace with himself? “It definitely feels good that we’ve got to make a second album. I knew we had something special, but I didn’t know if we were actually going to get it out to people. If we’d even finish the first album or if people were gonna hear it. It was just driving me mad, thinking there’s albums being made every day, and I just wanted my shot at it. I’m glad we got the shot and we got enough people into it and people are still interested. It’s very nice, yeah, Flatterinig.”

All this and now humility. So much for the reputation. But before we go, there’s one more issue that needs addressing: the McDonald’s Question. At the height of the “Highly Evolved” hype, the music press hit upon a startling story. It seems that not only were Nicholls and Matthews zero-star employees of Ronald McDonald’s when they first formed the band but – get this – Nicholls is still partial to the odd burger now. In the 21st Century, sharing a taste for the most popular food in the Western World – along with a billion or so others – is somehow deemed a headline rock’n’roll story. “It’s weird,” says Nicholls. “I guess I don’t really care about it, it’s not really part of my reality except when I do interviews. We worked there a long time ago – and sometimes we eat it. [laughs] I’d like them maybe to go a tiny bit deeper. Maybe scrape the surface a little harder. If people are interested in writing about it, they can go ahead because it’s just too mad for me to wrap my head around.”

Mad Craig? Do him a favour. If anyone had bothered to look beyond the headlines, they’d have found more than a few hidden depths. An obsession with the philosophy of Bill Hicks for a start. A self-assuredness that means he doesn’t blanche at the thought of inviting a Beatle to join his band; the same kind of cockiness that comes with realizing your second album is about to go stellar in a climate when not even The Strokes can guarantee a hit. The knowledge that, in a world dominated by garage band fakers and ‘Pop Idol’ creations, you alone can wail “I am for real” and know that no one’s going to question you. Craig Nicholls is a proper rock star, even if he does want to stay in. Who’s crazy now?

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:52 pm

Introducing The Vines
The Vines: usually, when people call a band "the next Nirvana," that's the last you hear of them. not these guys - Matt Diehl speaks to Craig Nicholls and Patrick Matthews
by Matt Diehl
Interview, August 2002

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What starts with a consonant, ends with the letters es and represents the future of rock? If you answered the Strokes or the White Stripes, you'd be correct--it this was 2001. In 2002, however, this honor goes to the Vines. After one of their raw demos zoomed up the charts in the U.K., this young Australian quartet found themselves as the new flavor of the month. The New Musical Express called them everything from the Australian Strokes to the perfect synthesis of the Beatles and Nirvana. The Vines' debut album, Highly Evolved (Capitol), justifies the hype: It's a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am tour de force of heady emotion, heavy guitars and more hooks than a tackle shop sells.

MATT DIEHL: The level of songwriting craft on your album is impressive. But, on the other hand, there's this unbridled tension. You get the feeling that the ship could tip over at any point. Do you feel that for :rock to be interesting it has to be on that edge?

CRAIG NICHOLLS: For me, it's always about that. While we were making our album, I was listening to the Kinks' album Sleepwalker. It has all these liner notes, and one note says it's 'music to live for." Nothing turns me on like rock music does. What's really important to me is that our music is about escape. It's controlled and it's not controlled, and it's got to be that half and half.

MD: Is rock 'n' roll a healing thing, or does it open the wound more?

CN: It's everything. It's emotional. It can be spiritual and mental. We're not trying to be negative at all and we don't dwell on that in the songs. There may be some elements of sadness in the songs, but that's real, that's honest. We want to make serious music. Listening to Beatles albums growing up--my dad had more than half of them--was something really cool to me. I wasn't into school a lot, and I didn't feel comfortable doing something just to get money. I wanted to create something, to give back to music. So I chose to devote my life to this.

MD: How do you feel about all the comparisons to the Strokes?

CN: I don't feel any way about it. I just saw them play for the first time a few weeks ago in Washington, and I thought their show was really great. Like them, we're a new band, and we have our own kind of songs--we're not 40 years old on our reunion tour.

PATRICK MATTHEWS: We were called the Australian Strokes because, like them, we put out these demos that were a bit rough. Yet the songs were there.

MD: You and Patrick seem to have a brotherly tension that informs the music.

PM: We have known each other for a very long time. I'm 26 now and I was 19 when we first played together, and Craig was 17. He should be my younger brother. I've got two younger brothers, and they defer to me. Craig should assume that role. [laughs]

MD: How did you get your very psychedelicsounding band name?

CN: My dad had a band in the '60s called the Vines, and I just thought it was a cool name. We were called Rishikesh before. It's the place in India where the Beatles went. It always got misprinted, like Rishi Chasm or something. The Vines sounds like guitar strings; it sounds like rain on trees. It sounds like a band. And my dad thought it was great.

MD: You two first bonded over music as teenagers working at McDonald's. Did your song "Factory" stem from that experience?

CN: Part of it. I was imagining a bored guy working at a factory in this gray type of world, doing the most mundane things imaginable. I always hated that, so I escaped with songwriting.

MD: Don't you think many of the people who will buy your records have to work in factories?

CN: Well, I did my time in McDonald's, too. The first verse is "Days are long, but the mind is strong in the factory."

MD: Much is made of the influence of Nirvana on the Vines, but you're also into Ryan Adams and Pete Yorn.

CN: Pete Yorn and Ryan Adams are like Nirvana--they're less heavy, but really universal, emotional, intelligent and serious.

MD: On your album, songs like "1969" and "Mary Jane" also show a real allegiance to psychedelia. Where does that come from?

CN: Our all-out personality. Listening to bands from the '60s--the Kinks, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix--you realize they were all about transcendence.

MD: Speaking of transcendence, tell me about the song "Get Free."

CN: "Get Free" is about doing what you want. It's a combination of strength and pain, fear and excitement. "Getting free" can mean anything, like sleeping in until three in the afternoon every day if that's what you want--that's getting free. For me, though, getting free is in the music.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:53 pm

Barmy Army
by Johnny Davis
Q magazine, March 2004

The Vines are in a bizarre place. The weird antics of singer Craig Nicholls still attract more attention than their music. And they've just turned in an album that's far too close to the last one for comfort. Can things get any worse?
Well, Courtney Love wants to be their friend...

Today The Vines are making a video. They mime along to their new song Ride in a big room, sorrounded by 26 others bands. The idea is that the other bands will mime along too, so it looks as though everyone is playing the same song.

French director Michel Gondry, who has previously toyed with repetition and mirroring in The White Stripes' clip for The Hardest Button To Button, has specified real, unsigned bands with different images. One of them is called Pants Optional. Another, the electroclash band Das Mega Cool, have been forced to leave their keyboard player at home beause The Vines don't have one.

This being a) Los Angeles and a music industry event, halfway through the shoot Courtney Love turns up. She has a minder with her and is wearing Charlie Chaplin trousers, black braces and a sheer black top. You can see her nipples. "I just shot my video," she says. "So I wanted to check out the competition. Because my song's better than theirs."

She has come from a hearing at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, following her arrest last year for possession of prescription drugs.

"A fucking paparazzi threw himself in front of my car when I was on my way to see the judge," she says.
Did she hit him? "No," says the minder, firmly.
"Yes," says Love. "That's how he lives his life. He's trying to make money. He did it to Krist, he did it to Dave..."

Is Love a fan of The Vines? People say they sound a little like Nirvana. "In their fucking dreams, sweetie."

Some time-honoured Love behaviour follows. She heckles the unsigned bands, is told off for polluting a non-smoking building and rolls on the floor with the female guitarist from The Shocker. "I was making videos 20 years ago, in 1995," she says, inaccurately. "These kids weren't even born."

Eventually she introduces herself to The Vines. She says now much she likes their song. Then she writes her name and cell phone number in a black Biro on the back of a taxi receipt and tells the band to call her. Why don't they all go out for drinks?

"She was so obnoxious," Hamish Rosser, The Vines' burly drummer, will say later. "she was off her face. Either on drugs or doing a good impression of someone on drugs."

After the shoot Ryan Griffiths, The Vines' saggy-fringed guitarist, goes back to his room at the Hollywood Roosevelt. He dials Courtney's number twice. There's no answer.
"What on earth were you up to?" Rosser will ask the next day.
"I thought maybe we could talk," says Griffiths, sheepishly.
"You know, she could give some advice..."
"Advice?" snorts Rosser. "Like, Ryan, you cold be famous for doing nothing at all. Like me!"

The Vines are famous for... their singer, Craig Nicholls, whose eccentric behaviour has, for instance, seen him smash up his band's equipment during a rehearsal for the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, the American TV chatshow (they were escorted from the set and didn't perform)... For their debut albu, 2002's Highly Evolved, entering America's Billboard Chart at Number 11 (how much this was assisted by their record company's decision that it should retail at a greatly dicounted price - around 5 Pounds - we'll never know)... for being "The Australian Strokes", another fresh-faced band with a "The" in a year of fresh-faced bands with "The"s... For Craig Nicholls's passion for smoking bongs... For owing debts to Nirvana and The Kinks and for saying they do.

This month, The Vines have a new album out. It's called Winning Days and it sound quite a lot like the last one -short, spunky rock songs in the style of their hits Outtathaway! and Highly Evolved - though some songs are slower, longer and use the whirring sweep of a Mellotron. The reason for this simlarity, perhaps, is that the songs on this album were written at the same time as the songs on the last one. One of them, Sunchild, has been releases twice before as a B-side. Two others, Fuck The World and Amnesia, will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen The Vines play a gig. And another, Autumn Shade II, is called Autumn Shade II to distinguish it from Autumn Shade on the first album.

"All of them were demos that we made before we had a record deal," says Rosser. "Capitol [their record label] made a CD of the 16 songs that didn't go on Highly Evolved and now they've made it onto the internet. You can download every single song on the album now."
Which would imply that The Vines haven't written a new song since 2001.

"That's not weird at all," says bassist Patrick Matthews, an aspiring doctor who gave up medical school to concentrate on the band. "There's a lot of great songs that deserve to get out there. So we put them out there. They're still fresh enough."

"There are two brand new songs that we're working on," says Rosser. "But they're not ready." Are Vines fans not likely to feel a little short-changed by this?
"Well," says Matthews, "if you're a fan of the band, you could buy The Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks instead."

The best bands, from The Smiths to the Beastie Boys to OutKast, tend to create their own universe, one where you immerse yourself in their lyrics or their clothes or their philosophy. They invite you to consider a particular view of the world, which you can choose to subscribe to, or to which you can sya, No thanks, I'll have Justin Timberlake instead. In this sense, The Vines aren't really about anything. In the absence of something quite so tangible as a group manifesto, attention has fallen on Craig Nicholls.

Since they sprang from a suburb of Sydney - Matthews and Nicholls having met while working at a McDonald's - much has been made of Nicholls's credentials as a suitably contradictory rock star. The pin-up who pulls tortured faces. The shy boy who likes to destroy his Fender. His diet of bacon doubl cheeseburgers and marijuana. And when he pulls tricks like locking himself in a bathroom for two hours during an interview... well, journalist love that kind of thing. That Craig Nicholls? He so crazy.

All of this means that somtimes, people tiptoe around him. Before the video shoot, someone from The Vines' record company calls the rest of the band and asks if they think Craig's going to be "alright". During a trip to Santa Monic Beach to take the photos for this magazine, their publicist looks decidedly shaky. "Craig hates beaches," he says. "Last time we took photos on a beach he threw a breezeblock at my head."

But Nicholls doesn't freak out or throw breeze blocks at anyone's head. In fact, he's bashful, chatty and polite. That's not to say any of the above behaviour should be taken as an affectation. Because he certainly is quite odd.

One lunchtime, we meet up. He's sitting outside by his hotel restaurant, near the swimming pool. It's hot enough for a few of the other guests to be lounging around in their swimming costumes. Nicholls is wearing an outsized green cardigan. Occasionaly, a helicopter buzzes past overhead. When it does, he ducks. He sens his manager out for Wendy's fast food ("the usual"). Then he mumbles his way through an hour's worht of round-the-houses conversation using the squeaky voice of US stand-up comedian Emo Philips. here he is, answering the question: have you ever been in love?

"Aw.. I guess, I think.. maybe I have.. I mean, I like it abit, I don't like a bit sometimes... I'mnot sure if I like, but...
both I guess. No. Yeah. I really.. love is like peace. Groovy, yeah?"

And it's all like that In response to a question about why he enjoyed art so much at school, he rambles on about the harmonies on the first Supergrass album.. then he spots a squirrel. "I'de like to be a bird," he says. "Because I think that nyone that can fly around the sky and witness everything... I heard that they're like dinosaurs, or close to dinosaurs. Or maybe that's crocodiles?"

That'll be the pot, you'll be thinking. But no. "I just kind of stopped smoking recently," he says. "I really surprised myself.
You kind of move on, I guess. Now I don't smoke or drink. Maybe I'm going to start going to the gym..."

And the rest of the band says that this time around, Nicholls seems a lot happier. "He has stopped smoking," says Rosser. "He's in a really heatlhy frame of mind."

"I couldn't have been worse equipped to del with his behaviour at the start," says Matthews. "There was so much mental stuff going on. I just want to make a really exciting rock record next." There's a pause. "Though I'm sure Craig doesn't have anything like that kind of idea."

Does Nicholls realise people think his behaviour can seem a little strange? "Yeah," he says slowly. "But when I talk about mental illness I don't know if I'm serious or not. I don't even know what I'm sayin. It's very hard for me to work it out."

One evening, The Vines want to go bowling. First, they drive to The Cat & Fiddle, a bar on Sunset Boulevar that's done out like an English pub. There are horse brasses on the wall and sausage rolls on the menu. morrissey and Tim Burgess, English rock people in America, like to drink here. But not together. And not today. "Hey," says Nicholls from the back of th van. "Put that CD on, that track called Video Shop." Nicholls has been buying up on some CDs The Kinks made in the '80s, one with songs he's less familiar with. There is perhaps a reason for this: the songs that The Kinks made in the '80s are not their best. Video Shop - a song about a video shop - is no Stop Your Sobbing. "Not again," groans their manager.

In the pub, everyone gets a bit drunk. Nicholls sticks to Coke and plays darts. Elvis Costello And The Attractions' I want You comes on the jukebox. "This song's alright," he says. "I prefer the other Elvis, though, for his eating. He pioneered sandwiches."

Later, at Pinz, the bowling alley, The Vines prove themselves to be quite excellent bowlers. A blonde girls approaches Nicholls. She recognises him from somewhere... where is it? "I'm in a band," says Nicholls. "We're called The Vines. We're not from here. We're making a video." The girl, who works on a TV show hosted by Saturday Night Live beteran Tracy Mogan, asks if Nicholls would like to "come outside and smoke a joint with Tracy".

"Oh no," he says. "Oh... I'm sorry. I'm tryint to cut back.."
As everyone is preparing to go, Nicholls wnaders off. The band find him throwing balls down some of the closed lanes.
"Hey!" says a man in a Pinz hat. "What are you doing?"
"Eh?" says Nicholls.
"You can't just throw balls down empty lanes," says the man.
There is an awkward moment.
"Oh," says Nicholls, a little hurt. "OK."

Outside in the car park, The Vines decide they want some more to drink. They drive to a 7-eleven and buy some crates of beer. Back in the car, Matthews hands them out. "Let me have one," says Nicholls. "I'm going to hold it for a bit. Get used to the idea."

They drive to a hotel to see some friends from Australia who are also in a band. The evening becomes morning and the beer is polished off. All, that is, except for one bottle. That remains in Craig Nicholls's left hand. Unopened.


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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:55 pm

THE VINES: What is Craig Nicholls’ problem?
by
Kerrang, March 2004

Craig Nicholls needs calming, some gentle, soothing reassurance. He’s just had an unpleasant experience and now stands in a state of some agitation. It’s Monday, February 16.the day before the brit awards, the day when every pop star worth their weight in platinum is to be found in the finest hotels in the nation’s capital. Craig Nicholls is staying with his band at the Trafalgar hotel, at the foot of the square, next to admiralty arch. The transportation is taking him to the worx a studio in parsons green, where he will pose for his first kerrang! Cover shoot.
Only this being the week of the pop star, the vines’ vehicle (provided by a top line transportation firm) has been tailed by the paparazzi. They don’t know who Craig Nicholls is, because what they’re actually tailing is the vehicle itself, the photographers knowing the registration numbers of the firm’s fleet. But Nicholls to be fair doesn’t know this. He might have asked himself why it is he’s being followed when really, in the conventional sense, he isn’t all that famous- indeed, fresh from her appearance on a buttock-clenchingly awful episode of channel 4’s “Faking It”, his companion, Victoria “Harry” Harrison is arguably more famous.

But he doesn’t . Instead he strops. He throws a coke bottle at his pursuers and arrives at the worx in a state of distress.

Finally calmed, he’s led into the studio’s main room. Kerrang! Has two representatives here: caroline fish, the magazine’s art editor, and photographer scarlet page. Fish holds out her hand and introduces herself. Nicholls ignores her completely, walking instead to the front of the camera lens, this despite the fact that scarlet page is not yet behind the camera lens. Seeing that nothing is yet happening he walks back to fish and says: “I just want to tell you something. I think your magazine is shit.”

Beat that for a first impression.

Standing before the camera, Nicholls runs through the repertoire of ridiculous faces he seems to pull in every photo shoot. As Scarlet Page snaps away, the singer momentarily looks serious.

“I just want to tell you something,” he says. “I think your magazine is shit.”

“Well,” says Scarlet with a smile , “I think some of my photographs are good.”

“No” says Nicholls. “ I think your photographs are shit.”

Nice. As the other members of the Vines take their turn in front of the camera, Nicholls assumes the role of a hyperactive child: opening and closing shutter doors, again and again; sitting on a bin until it breaks. Not saying a word as he moves off it; throwing polystyrene light reflectors into the air, again, over and over; turning up the studio stereo so loud that no-one else in the room can hear themselves think. Making himself the unwanted centre of attention in what turns out to be a difficult and awkward session. A session toward the end of which he’s asked a question, out of nothing more than politeness: “Is there anything you want to do for some last shots, Craig?” “ I don’t know,” says Craig, shrugging, twisting like a child. “it's not my job to think”.

Perhaps not. But if it’s not Craig Nicholls’ job to think then it is his job to be thought of and talked about. Because soon the Vines are set to return with their second album, “Winning Days” the follow-up to 2002’s snappy “ Highly Evolved.”
Advance word on the band’s second album has been mixed, but perhaps that shouldn’t matter, at least not yet. Less than two years ago the Vines were applauded in sections of the media with an intensity that would have you believe that here stood the heirs apparent to the bloodstained throne of Nirvana, ridiculous, of course, but even an unkind ear would have regarded the band as at least an intriguing outfit brandishing a promising debut album. And plenty of people did. Highly Evolved sold more than one and a half million copies, its creators became “Rolling Stone” cover stars and guests on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Gathering a growing wave of momentum that’s still behind them. Now they have a second album recorded, and the game of press, of promotion. Of talking up a storm has begun. And what a game the Vines are playing.

The band are in town all week, and the week has not been without problems. Our interview was originally scheduled for the day of the band’s photo shoot, but it was cancelled because Nicholls was in “a state”. It is rescheduled for the night of their show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom….and blown out five minutes before we’re due to start. Two days later the band play a promotional gig at the Islington Academy, and the interview is supposed to happen that afternoon. But – and you may be ahead of me here – doesn’t. Finally, Sunday at the Trafalgar hotel is suggested, and then confirmed. And so it is that at 3:25pm I’m sitting in room 218 of this angular and hip hotel. Waiting for Craig to arrive, in just under three hours I’m off to the Royal Opera House to review Motorhead, the formal invitation to which decrees “evening wear” for the occasion. So so I’m wearing a suit and I’m feeling self- conscious.

I’m also thinking about Craig, about the two years’ worth of “stuff” we know about him. About the time the Vines’ US tour climaxed with a onstage fight between Nicholls and bassist mathews. About the time during another interview when Nicholls grabbed the journalist’s tape recorder and tore the tape from the machine. About the tales of tantrums. Stories which might even suggest mental illness. And just as you’re wondering what on earth this man is going to be like, he walks in through the door.

Sat in a chair Nicholls appears almost doll-like in his frailty, a boyish whispishness wrapped in a fidgeting frame. His hair is catwalk tousled, his eyes a dream. In a black canvas parka and Caucasian street wear he looks like a gap model. His head tilts as if it were being controlled by remote control. It is always moving. He looks at his clothes, at the bed, at the walls and very occasionally, at me. At first Craig is not at all what I expect.

It would be wrong to say he was friendly but it would also be wrong to say he was unfriendly. The attention span needs work, as does the memory, or so he would have me believe. He can't remember the name of the neighbourhood in Sydney where he grew up, and he “thinks” he was born in 1977. He says he likes to travel but that it’s confusing “not knowing where you are”. I assume he means this in a figurative sense but no Craig means that he has trouble remembering which city he’s in. He was okay at school, he’ll tell you, but better at the creative subjects over, say “math and science.” He likes writing songs. He’ll tell you that he doesn’t know whether he likes doing interviews or not, doesn’t know whether or not he's difficult (“I don’t know what difficult is”), doesn’t know what to say to my suggestion that his onstage persona, at the Vines’ curiously lifeless Islington Academy show at least, gives the appearance of someone who doesn’t enjoy what they do. (“You might be wrong, you might be right…..you can write down whatever you like.”)

It is worth pointing out at this point that Craig’s quotes, at first, are all useless, almost to the piont of being entirely nonsensical. Even the most fawning and subservient of interviewers would have difficulty accepting the yawn of stale air filling the room. During moments of the purest banality Craig will cock his head to an angle and glide his eyes up to mine. Daring me to do….something. He’ll smile in a way he believes to be damning, superior and sarcastic, but which actually appears petulant and sly. And he’ll say things like, “I think what you do is insignificant,” he’ll say his outburst in the work on Monday was about integrity, about him thinking something “is shit and (trying to be) honest.”

“And I have to tell you that I think what you do is shit as well,” he’ll say, the grin sliding open from the centre. “I have to be honest. What else can I be? Am I supposed to be a good little boy in a nice little rock band for you, so you can interview me and I can say, “thank you so much for putting me in Kerrap! Because that’s what I think of it. And you can print that, in quotes. Kerrap! Kerrap! Kerrap!.”

Craig probably thinks he’s the very first person to call this magazine “Kerrap!”. But he seems uncommonly pleased with himself, like a small boy who’s just discovered his own cock. What does it matter what you think of the magazine?

And now Craig is raising his voice. “Well you’re interviewing me aren’t you? You’ve just said that you want to hear what I think…..” And then the singer, the little darling, begins to say something, something that’s difficult to hear, or understand. Something about structure. And you say, structure to what? And he pauses for far too long, and then as if this were the smartest thing you will ever hear he says, “table cloths”.

Nicholls is asked why, if the magazine is so shit, he deigns to be interviewed for it and he says, “because it amuses me to piss you off.” I assure him I’m not pissed off and he says “I think you are”. I tell him, in response that what I really think is that is new album is, well, shit, and he say, “I’m gonna be, wow, really upset by [that]”. He says that it must “hurt that you didn’t say that first, before I told you that I think you’re shit and your magazine is shit.” I mention common courtesy and not wishing to appear as rude as him.

“I didn’t get in a band for fucking common courtesy, you dick,” he snorts. “you’re a fucking joke. The bands you put in you magazine with the tattoos…..you’re all a big joke. That’s all you are.”

Listening back to the tape after the interview, it's difficult to believe this actually happened. But it did, and the transcript of what is basically a row lasts five whole pages. Questions and answers, barbs and insults. Him lolling his head and smiling that smile, the kind of smile that one day will surely get him hurt. He eventually stops answering question; not that he ever really answered the questions in the first place, in the end he’s just talking, telling me I can do “whatever the fuck I want” when I ask him if he wants to talk about something else. Telling me he “doesn’t fucking care” and that all this is “amusing.”

But it isn’t very amusing, it’s just a bit sad.

“I don’t care what you think,” he says “look at you” What do you mean, look at me?” "You look like you work in a bank” and so I explain, for the second time, that I’m dressed like this because of Motorhead and that I normally dress like him if this would make a difference, if this would make him less suspicious? “You are really lame, man.” You're not answering my questions at all. “ Because your questions are pathetic. Your whole existence and what you are is lame.” Me personally? “Yeah.” And then, after a bit more of this, Craig walks out of the interview. Actually, “walks out’ might be a bit strong, he kinda, well, flops off, shambling gently away, walking as if he’s keeping freshly laid eggs in the pockets of his trousers. Neck-deep in scarcasm Craig tells me that he hopes “everything works out for me” and I tell him how nice it was to meet him. And the door closes shut.

Wow you think, that doesn’t happen every day, and you stand in the silence of an empty and expensive hotel room, smiling and frowning. And you have a think about Craig, and you try and find a word for how he was, was he rude? Well, yeah, in a very random way. Was he offensive? No, he didn’t actually manage to rise to that. Was he arrogant? Not a chance, the childish need to shock negated such singularity. So what was he? In both senses of the word. I guess you’d say Craig Nicholls was ignorant.

And this doesn’t really matter. Doesn’t matter that he didn’t like me, our art editor, our photographer, our magazine and –if you really want to push the point – you for buying and reading it. To expect him to be any different might be like expecting the cat to place its paw in front of its mouth when it yawns. But you do wonder what the point of all this might be. Kurt Cobain, sometimes sounded like he could be a proper pain in the arse in interviews. But Kurt was a brilliant, world changing talent who changed the face of music, and Craig is just a guy in a band who have actually sold less records than the like of Disturbed or Crazytown. And if you really don’t want to play the dancing media monkey, you can always take the route that inspirational, industry-hating musicians Ian Mackaye or Fat Mike take, which is to choose your interviews carefully and then have something to say.

Craig has nothing at all to say, he just released words in an unfocused, haphazard, grasping manner, and after a promising debut, the Vines are beginning to sound this way as well. Craig looks as if he can't be bothered, and so too do the Vines onstage at the Academy, him wrapped up in whatever it is he does, his audience shivering with boredom. Craig speaks and you wonder what the point of it is; Craig sings and you wonder what the point of it is.

Because a half an hour in his company is to see a man sit cheap, ephemeral and thin. Not really a problem, just a waste of time.






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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:55 pm

Naked Ambition: The Controversy, The Caricature, The Sneer…The Vines
by Mikhail LeBlanche
Filter, 2004

There’s an old saying, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.” And when it comes to the Australian garage/grunge inspired/Brit-rockish quartet the Vines, those opinions tend to be rather extreme (and often expressed, yes, by assholes). It’s uncanny. They have been hailed by some as the second coming of Nirvana – a highwire out-of-control rock band with a no-fucking-around charismatic (and forever sneering – wtf? me) star in lead singer Craig Nicholls who happens to have an unprecedented mix of dead-on influences (the Beatles, Pavement, the Verve, and of course, that-band-from-near-Seattle) and an unassailable talent for songwriting, responsible for one of the best debut albums of all time, Highly Evolved. This camp tends to include the British press, a few members of the mainstream American press, and a mostly-young, frenzied fan base that heard that album and believed. Sales tended to confirm this characterization, as Highly Evolved debuted at number 11 on the US charts and number 3 on the UK charts – an incredible feat for a heretofore unknown band made up of Australian kids who met over the deep fryer while working at a McDonald’s in Sydney.

Then there are the detractors. Hipsters, mostly, and indie purists who have a certain kinship with the garage sound in general (though in the case of the purists also a certain amount of envy thinly disguised as annoyance), but who see the Vines specifically as another in a long line of over-hyped, slickly-produced pretenders to a mostly vacant throne (that, sniff, they could occupy if someone would just play that latest K! Records release on commercial radio). The Vines seem to symbolize something to these people. And all those stories of Craig Nicholls launching himself into the drum-set mid-song on Letterman or posing gamely for pictures with captions that say things like “Anatomy of a Rock God” (again with the wtf?-me) or any sorts of activities that suggest that the Vines don’t plan to wile away their music career playing for 50 of their friends in some small, well-intentioned town (content with the belief that it’s not that the world didn’t choose them, no sir, but that they chose to be broke and unknown and tragic) – all any of this does is confirm to hipsters and purists that the Vines want to be something that challenges the musical ‘ethics’ (a sketchy code, at best) that they carry around with them like a red badge of ironic courage.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with Craig Nicholls – or bandmates Ryan Griffiths, Patrick Matthews, and Hamish Rosser – or the actual music the Vines make. Except for the fact that their songs tend to bounce back and forth between extremes as well – serene and wistful at times, and at others howling, angry, loud. Craig’s an affable enough fellow to interview (see below) and seems less the caricature of a ‘rock god’ or an ‘ambitious charlatan’ that both his champions and critics want him to be – and much more like a guy whose days are spent in studios and tour buses. And whether you consider him great, awful, or just plain confused, there’s no denying that he’s got some real talent. But then, that’s just one opinion. An I’m sure you have one too.

I’ve read that you were interested in moving in a new direction with the new album, Winning Days. Something about it sounding like Pavement and Van Halen…
That was our bass player Patrick, I think he said that I guess…uh…I guess we’re really influenced by Pavement, I don’t think Van Halen so much.

So having gone through the process now, do you feel like it’s a big departure from Highly Evolved?
It still kind of sounds like us. The band’s changed a bit. I think we just felt more confident and I think that comes across in the songs. We wanted to keep it simple. We didn’t want to make multi-layered kind of stuff. I think they’re a little more extreme.

You definitely go through extremes. That was the hallmark of Highly Evolved, just being able to go from some wailing rock song to something kind of sweet and melodic that you could play for your girlfriend. The new album’s got “Fuck the World” which sounds a lot like that Nirvana song, “Territorial Pissings.”
I never really thought of it that way. I guess I can understand it, though. It’s very hard and fast and aggressive. That’s, like, the heaviest song on the album, yeah. I’m doing a lot of screaming on that one.

I imagine your voice gets hoarse at the end of the day
I gave up smoking and I gave up drinking. I think I’ve been singing better. I’ve been kind of lucky, I guess. I’m surprised I never…I only ever have one time I actually felt pain from it. I think I cut something in my mouth because I opened it so wide when we did “Fuck the World” in the studio. That’s not the kind of song you do lots of takes of.

Do you have to record a song like that on different days form ones where you actually sing?
Yeah, usually I’m better later in the day and the night. But when I was doing “Winning Days” I was shaking. Because the song is really personal, and sentimental and crap. I think it’s the best one we have right now.

There’s this huge, almost schizophrenic rift with the Vines where you go from so loud and unleashed to something kind of lovely and quiet. Generally, a rock band will do some kind of power ballad or a songwriter will attempt to do something loud and it sounds like shit.
I guess, yeah, on the more mellow songs, I must be a lot calmer. Just kind of playing my guitar at home or something. And then the louder stuff comes out of playing with the band. When we first started out, we would just try and write songs. We wanted to incorporate as much as we could, without making it too complicated.

You do realize, though, it’s quite unique. Most musicians are one or the other.
I don’t think it was anything we were conscious of. We listened to different kinds of music.

There was so much written about you when Highly Evolved came out. It was such a high profile release in both the US and the UK and took you from utter obscurity to, like “Everyone, heeeeeer’s the next rock star,” and all that hyperbole shit, and it can be just utter shit. I wonder if that affects the way you approached this next album.
I don’t think so. We just concentrated only on the record. It’s kind of strange, when people are writing about you and you don’t know if what they’re saying is true or not, or if they believe it. But we were just in the woods and we wanted to make the best album we could.

You recorded it in Bearsville in upstate New York. Was it just like some hick-town with one gas station and you’d go down the street for a Pepsi now and then?
Yeah, it was a pretty small town. It suited me, though, because I like it when it’s quiet. The studio where we recorded was really close to the house, so we didn’t have to get a car.

Is it weird to read about yourself, especially considering all of the outlandish things that are written about you? It must be somewhat of a compliment, even if it’s negative. Are you surprised by the things people say?
I guess so. I’ve read stuff that’s been written about me. I haven’t read all of it – I wouldn’t have time for anything else – I’m not trying to be pretentious by saying that. I’m just not really up to date on anything that’s happening in that world. With the stuff I have read, I think at best they can get, like, half of what I say right.

There’s a certain amount of sensationalism to it.
Yeah, it’s kind of far out when people want to interview me. I feel like I’ve run out of things to say. I’ve focused all this energy into songwriting, so it’s really hard to say even what I think about it.

There was this real attempt to make you into some Kurt Cobain-esque ‘rock star’ and everything you see is like this big, crazy font, “Craig Nicholls Attacks Drum Set.”
Yeah, it’s a lot of drama. It was kinda weird. We just thought, “Is this what we want?” We think that if people listen to our music and get something out of it, it’s good. It’s really hard to control what people think of you. I just try to say that we’re in it for the right reasons. Even if some of our music has a negative edge to it, it’s just like a release. The songs are personal. It’s not as if they’re all made up. People might think I’m really twisted or something. I’m not.

Sure, just because you say it in a song, you can feel like something for an hour or two and capture it, and then the rest of the day you’re just watching TV and going out with friends.
You exaggerate for the sake of art sometimes.

Ok, I just want to ask you some open-ended questions here. Do you believe that rock and roll has values? And if so, what are they?
No, I don’t. It’s a very selfish, self-absorbed thing. It’s immature. But, you know, it can be good. Mostly, I just think it’s a chance to be artistic. I think that you should take it seriously, but not too seriously. There’s a balance you have to find. It’s a strange thing when you’re playing in a band and all of sudden there’s these little compromises you have to make. I didn’t think authority was the greatest thing. I wanted to do my own thing.

What do you think is the advantage of being from Australia?
For me, it’s just the sky, the air is clean. There’s a lot of trees and a lot of space. I don’t know, just because I was born here, I think it’s great. But then if I was born somewhere else, I’d probably think that’s great too.

What do you think about when you sing?
Well, I just think, “I hope I get this next note.” I check out my hands and make sure I’m playing the right chord. Nothing too deep, yeah. But sometimes there’s really amazing moments. Most of the time, it’s just kind of a physical and emotional rush.

Does anything make you nervous?
Yeah…like dying, I guess. That makes me kind of nervous.

Are there someone else’s shoes you’d like to be in?
I’d like to try walking in Dave Gahan’s shoes. Because I listen to Depeche Mode a lot. I wouldn’t be looking for absolution or forgiveness for the things I’ve done. But before I came to any conclusion, I’d try walking in Dave’s shoes…

Maybe just sit and enjoy the silence…
Yeah, that would be nice as well. It’s very important to do that.

Where do you write your songs?
In my head. Thoughts in my head. Usually I’m just sitting at home. I can’t really do it if we’re playing a show somewhere or, like, when I have to travel. Yeah, that’s just when you have time and space and have a little idea, maybe just a couple of words.

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done onstage?
I think the most retarded thing I ever did was fall off stage. In Scotland. But I’m sure there’s been other things I can’t remember. When I get on stage, I just kind of tune out or tune in.

What do you think is the greatest misconception about you?
I think people may think that I’m kind of really far out and really crazy. The music is like this struggle for good and evil that’s always going on. I’m really a nice, quiet person. I’m just like anyone else. ( me - )

With regards to the people who buy your records, outside of the whole rigmarole of press agents and fucking magazines and record labels and all that shit, just between you and the people listening – what do you think you owe those people and what do you think they owe you?
Um, they owe, like, about however much it costs for the CD and I owe them a really good one. I think that’s a fair trade. We’re not really trying to preach anything. We’re just a band who likes their own music and we want people to enjoy it. If they don’t, it’s all right. I’m not really trying to say anything. It’s just like looking at paintings. It’s cool to do that because it takes you away.

Do you think there’s a certain obligation an artist has to work at it? Like, your job is to make music just like someone else’s job is to drive a truck?
I was really interested in it, not because of, like, fame and money and stuff like that. I was thinking I could be in a band with my friends and we could actually do something with music. There’s got to be new bands all the time. At least, I hope there is. We want to push it, like, as hard and as far as we can. Without working ourselves to death. It has to be enjoyable because that’s when the best stuff will come out.

How do you feel when people don’t like the music, or if you read something and it’s a negative review – do you have any feelings one way or the other?
Uh, I guess it’s like I think, um, it’s their right to their opinion. And I just think maybe the songs aren’t that good and maybe we should quit.

No, don’t quit!
And then sometimes I think, maybe they don’t know what they’re talking about. Or, of course they don’t. And then, usually, I get to sleep. I write a few death threats and stuff like that and it makes it a little easier for me [laughs to himself] Nah, it’s cool man, you got to take the bad with the good. Anyway, if everything was all glorified, you’d be living in fantasyland.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:56 pm

Vine Dining
by Christine Sams
Sun Herald, January 12th 2003

The Vines lead singer Craig Nicholls may be mad, but he's not that bad, writes Christine Sams.

AFTER ordering four cheeseburgers, nine nuggets, four large fries and four large Cokes for The Vines, I had a silly urge to tell the girl behind the counter I was buying brunch for one of the world's biggest rock bands.

But there was a distraction from the back of the kitchen, where two guys in striped uniforms were laughing and singing out to each other.

The feisty duo could easily have been Craig Nicholls and Patrick Matthews, who worked side-by-side at a McDonald's in Sydney's inner west, before deciding to conquer the world of rock'n'roll.

But Nicholls and Matthews were too busy around the corner in a downstairs studio in inner-city Sydney, laying down tracks for their second album, with bandmates Hamish Rosser and Ryan Griffiths.

There was sweet irony in The Vines requesting Maccas for brunch after all, they hardly need to wrap burgers these days, given their massive international record deals and huge fan bases in Britain and the US. Such is the band's high-profile existence, Nicholls hesitated during a photo shoot with the food, and said, ``I'm not sure whether we should pose with this stuff, it's not like they're paying us ... maybe we shouldwrap the food with newspaper instead.''

Marketing issues aside, music fans and critics are still trying to work out whether The Vines are Australia's greatest rock band or merely an over-hyped group of mates from Sydney's suburbs.

If some rock critics are to bebelieved, the only thing beingfried these days is Nicholls's brain.

There have been mentions of lunacy, hints of a nervous breakdown, and even claims Nicholls is rock's next most likely candidate for suicide. (The singer slammed the description last year, saying it was unfair to families who had suffered real-life tragedies).

But for someone who is supposedly barking mad, Nicholls did a good job of being reserved and polite during brunch with Sunday Metro.

Sure, he threw some soft drink around during the photo shoot, and chuckled softly when Rosser stuffed fries in his ears and nose but it was nothing more than humorous banter between four guys in their 20s.

With his translucent skin and long-cut fringe, Nicholls is a long way removed from the bronzed Aussie males usually favoured by US audiences. But the 25-year-old has a strangely magnetic personality. Although he generally avoids eye contact and speaks in broken sentences (sometimes raving, without making a lot of sense), he knows how to capture his audience.

In the middle of a rambling, eye-rolling speech about music and rock stardom, Nicholls will suddenly say something short, sharp and intelligent that he emphasises with a direct stare from under his fringe.

The effect is exhilarating, and leaves everyone in the room waiting for more.

After the extraordinary success of their debut album Highly Evolved, which smashed its way into the charts in Britain and the US, The Vines attracted enormous praise overseas and intense criticism at home for being inexperienced and over-hyped.

There's a hint of tall-poppy syndrome in all the jibes, but for many local rock critics The Vines have yet to prove themselves onstage.

The band is now gearing up for its first performance at the Big Day Out on January 25, and a satellite show at the Enmore Theatre four days later.

Although keen to impress local fans, Nicholls says the band is not concerned about being criticised in Australia, because the members remain intensely proud of their music.

``You can't control what happens,'' he said. ``We got recognition for the music and that's what we hoped for. We're really serious about it. With the whole fame thing, you're always trying to get someone's approval, and make them like you. It's a very shallow thing.

``The music ... the music itself is meditational, it's like a spiritual thing, it shouldn't inspire any negativity.''

When asked whether the band has been over-hyped, Nicholls said he hoped fans would make up their own minds.

``You just want people to judge it for how they see it, how they hear it, without reading a bulletin beforehand.''

It's hard to know whether he and Matthews, the founders of the band, sat around in their garages, plotting world domination but Nicholls expresses real surprise at the idea of being blindly ambitious.

``I knew if we were ever going to do anything, it would be with our first album,'' he said.

``We didn't even think we'd even be playing at the pub before we first started. It took a long time before we even did that.''

These days, the band specialises in trashing drum kits on US TV, and giving eccentric performances during awards shows something Nicholls obviously relishes.

Despite his inherent shyness during conversation, the lead singer thinks nothing of twisting and contorting his body during performances, often throwing himself across stage in a frenzy.

His on-stage behaviour has prompted concerns about his mental state, with hints of serious drug use.

But although Nicholls' sometimes appears to be crazy, he's not stupid. If anything, he's been an eager pupil of Rock Star 101, idolising troubled (and controversial) artists including Kurt Cobain.

He's certainly not a copycat, but he was an eager student. Unlike many of the local musicians still bitching about the treatment given to The Vines, Nicholls has been busy fulfilling his own rock'n'roll dream.

Not only has his band sold millions of albums, it has appeared on the cover of US Rolling Stone magazine (and many other leading magazines), and been listened to from Boston to Birmingham.

But in true Aussie tradition, The Vines haven't exactly flaunted their success.

``I'm wearing the same T-shirt I've had for a few years,'' Nicholls said. ``I've got one pair of dirty shoes that smell. I could probably afford to buy some more, but I'm too lazy.''

For now, the band members are too busy concentrating on their second album to worry about designer clothes and A-listparties.

``Our only goal was to make a good album originally, and we did it,'' Nicholls said. ``We feel really grateful that we're in a position to make another one.

``Hopefully this one will be more impressive and surprising. For the second album, we will have songs which are advanced lyrically, and arrangement wise.

``It will be more futuristic, but still very song-orientated.''

He shrugged off any suggestions of pressure from the record company, considering the second album will be a major test of the band's credibility.

``We're really sure about our music, about what we want and what we don't want,'' he said.

Nicholls hopes The Vines will eventually expand into electronic music but, for now, they're happy to keep cooking up their unique blend of rock'n'roll.The Vines will perform at the Big Day Out on January 26 and at the Enmore Theatre in Newtown, on January 29. Both events are soldout.

Let's do brunch

What can we say? McDonald's fast food outlets are everywhere, they're always open, and they're cheap. Sightings of trashed rock'n'rollers are not guaranteed, but there's sure to be a few characters lurking around the front counter.

`I'm not sure whether we should pose with this stuff, it's not like they're paying us ... maybe we should wrap the food with newspaper instead'

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:56 pm

Party? We don't want to party...
Friday September 27, 2002
The Guardian


In no time at all, Craig Nicholls has become the most talked-about rock star since Liam Gallagher. And his band the Vines are showing British groups how it's done. Nigel Williamson meets the boys from Down Under

Two stories recently ran on the front page of the arts section of the Los Angeles Times on consecutive days. One asks why British rock bands can't sell records in the US any more. The second carries the headline: "Vines catch rock's new wave."

Both appear at a time when there are just two British acts listed in the top 100 of the Billboard album chart. As if to reinforce the bankruptcy of contemporary British rock music, the third highest-placed album representing what we so recently and risibly called "cool Britannia" is by the Beatles. While Simon Frith, chair of the Mercury music prize judging panel, last week congratulated the UK music industry on giving us "the next generation of guitar bands" who have helped to create "the most joyful Mercury shortlist for years", the sad truth is that the most lucrative market in the world remains utterly indifferent to the charms of Electric Soft Parade, the Coral and Doves.

By contrast, the Vines - ineligible for the Mercury because they hail from Australia - are riding high. The band from down under have risen effortlessly to the top: their debut album, Highly Evolved, entered the American charts at number 11. So the only non-American band right now capable of rivalling the energy and adventure of the Strokes, White Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club comes not from London, Manchester or Liverpool, but from Sydney.

Over dinner on the patio of a Sunset Boulevard restaurant on the night the Vines made the front page, affable bassist Patrick Matthews and manager Andy Kelly talk about the group's astonishing rise to fame. For it is not only America that has fallen for the Vines. On the album's release in Britain in July, it entered the charts at number three and was greeted with a frenzy of critical enthusiasm that exceeded even that afforded the Strokes' debut last year.

The Guardian review carried the headline: "Believe the hype." Yet even Kelly concedes the reaction to his youthful charges has been a little over the top. "NME said it was the best debut album of all time, which is plain ridiculous. And then, on the next page, there was a piece called, 'Anatomy of a rock god.' What's that all about?" In fact, it was a profile of Craig Nicholls, the Vines' highly strung 24-year-old lead singer. He doesn't join us for dinner, because he famously only eats McDonald's. Yet his presence looms over the evening. All the talk is of how earlier in the day while rehearsing for the band's next video, Outtathaway, Nicholls smashed his guitar and kicked over Hamish Rosser's drum-kit. Then he trashed the dressing room because a security guard had knocked on the door, demanding to know if he was smoking pot.

"Craig's not like other people. He has created this self-contained world in which the only thing that matters is his music. He doesn't give a fuck about anything else," Matthews warns. "But don't worry. You'll really like him. He's a great guy underneath. And he's the only reason any of us are here. It's his vision."

In no time, Nicholls has become the most talked-about rock star since Liam Gallagher. Possibly since Kurt Cobain. And most of the talk centres around his alleged mental instability and self-destructive tendencies. "See them soon," said the NME. "It could be the only chance you get." The implication was obvious. It's better to burn out than to fade away, and Nicholls is already being lined-up as rock's next screwed-up poster-boy martyr, destined to come to a Cobain-style end, and feed our need for a new sacrificial victim.

When we finally meet up with Nicholls on the video shoot, such speculation seems wide of the mark. An online message-board devoted to the band is full of wild and unsubstantiated stories about everything from heroin addiction to self-mutilation. Yet the singer appears blissfully unaware that he has become the object of such lurid gossip. He doesn't read his own press-cuttings and he apparently doesn't know how to use the internet. He lives in a sealed-off world, protected by the cosseting of his colleagues and his refusal to engage with anything other than his music.

The scene on the set is surreal. Inside a studio large enough to house a couple of jumbo jets, a reconstruction of a tiny, sweaty club has been built. On its stage are the Vines, performing to an audience of paid extras doing their best to look like a genuine rock'n'roll crowd. In effect, $200,000 is being spent on making a video that tries to recreate the atmosphere of a live gig. Quite why they couldn't film the real thing at a fraction of the cost is unclear. But such are the ways of major US labels. The Vines have been declared a "priority act", which means no expense spared. There is even a wardrobe department, despite the fact that the band wear their own street clothes and flatly refuse to allow the highly paid stylist to have them laundered.

Nicholls spins around like a hyper- active voodoo doll, guitar jerking, eyes rolling. His voice rasps, his legs kick uncontrollably and there is a palpable sense of danger about his stage presence. Even in this sterile environment and on the sixth run-through in front of a fake crowd, he is so magnetic that you hardly notice the rest of the band.

Afterwards, in his dressing room - the same one he trashed yesterday - Nicholls is in unusually reasonable mood. The bong pipe, which accompanies him everywhere, stands untouched on the table. "I suppose the guy was only doing his job," he concedes, when asked about the previous day's tantrum. He looks out of it and his eyes are focused on some invisible spot on the opposite wall. But once he starts talking about music, he becomes lucid and animated. "It's happened so swiftly we haven't really had a chance to stop and think. But I believe it's all a positive experience. It's good fun but we're really serious about our music."

He talks in staccato bursts, answers seldom relating to the questions. "Music is the most interesting thing I've found on this planet so far. There's no limit to it. But you have to be in your own head-space to do it. I don't think about too much of anything outside being in the band and recording songs." He gets up to restart the new Suede album, which is playing on his portable stereo. He has no interest in small talk or even in going over the details of the Vines' brief history. And he has given up talking to the US press because they always ask the same questions, the answers to which are all available in the record company handout: how he and Matthews met at high school in Sydney when they were 15 and decided they would rather play music than sit in class. How they worked in McDonald's. How Nicholls went to a graphic design college but dropped out after a year while Matthews did three years at medical school. "All that stuff's boring," he says.

But ask about his musical influences and he is off again. "Nirvana was the first. That really excited us. Then we got into Pavement. The Kinks. The Beatles. Blur. Supergrass..." His list goes on. "There were really good bands around at the time we were discovering music. We never thought we would be in a group. But then we started playing guitars and jamming and we made tapes and these songs came out. We did a lot of home recordings. It was underground and really exciting. The songs on the album were written over three years. We wanted to make an album that was very broad."

Matthews had said that from the moment Nicholls left school he had done nothing but sit in his room and listen to music. For seven years. "Yeah, you could say that," he says. "I thought it was a great thing. It was like spiritual and healing and freaking out, all at the same time." When he emerged from his room, he began circulating demos of his songs. Soon a bidding war for the Vines was in full swing. It ended with them flying to LA and signing a six-album deal with Capitol, although in Britain they are on Heavenly Recordings. They have been living in Los Angeles since July last year, and earlier this year spent four months recording Highly Evolved at Sunset Sound at a cost of $800 a day. That was when they lost their original drummer, Dave Oliffe, who cracked under the pressure and went home.

Yet Nicholls was the one everyone had marked out as the one rushing towards a possibly fatal burn-out. "I'm confused by that," he says, "because I'm really happy making music. Some people may think I'm a little weird but I have good intentions." He rejects the notion that he is headed the same tragic way as Cobain. "I don't want to disappoint anybody by not committing suicide in a few years. But I think it was really sad what happened to Kurt. That's not my plan at all."

I show him the "Anatomy of a rock god" article, which includes such telling insights as "he has the most exciting hair of 2002". He looks bemused. "I don't get it. Is that me?" He clearly hasn't seen the piece and hands it to Matthews. "Rock gods party and hang out with supermodels and drink. I'm just obsessed with music and bands and analysing guitar tracks and drum sounds. All I want to do is be really productive as an artist and put out as much interesting stuff as I can while I'm still young. I really care about music. Not about partying and hanging out."

He finds it hard to analyse the success of the Vines in the US, where so many British acts have failed. "It's baffling when you think of all the great British bands. We've got British and American influences in our music so maybe that helped. Or maybe it's sheer luck. Or good timing. I really don't know." In an attempt to get him to talk about something other than music, I try a few tricks. Five words to describe himself? "Lazy. Hyperactive. Happy. Sad. Clear-headed. Confused. I know that isn't five but they come in pairs." His perfect day? "In a studio somewhere. I think it's sacred being in a band. But you have to turn off sometimes." At last, a hint of a suggestion that he has a life outside music. We move in. So how does he turn off? "I listen to more music," he answers sweetly.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:57 pm

Heavy Mental
by Ken Micallef
Guitar One, 2004



Craig Nicholls’ nationally televised tantrums made him not only one of rock’s most unpredictable stars but also a walking advertisement for Ritalin. Now, having found some peace of mind, the Vines’ volatile vocalist looks to bury the bratty rep with the highly evolved Winning Days.

Blonde super-babes, Outback muscle-heads, and Fosters-chugging croc-wrestlers – these classic Australian clichés prompt visions of an island nation populated by sunburned alcoholics and Elle McPherson look-alikes, a place where substantial rock must be as rare as a movie actress without breast implants. But this blob-shaped country has had its share of power-music blokes, from ‘70s wack-jobs the Birthday Party and Radio Birdmen to rock gods AC/DC to frothy weaklings like Powderfinger. But rarely has any country seen the combination of pure talent and slacker temperament embodied by Sydney’s the Vines.

The Vines – guitarist/singer Craig Nicholls, bassist/vocalist Patrick Matthews, drummer Hamish Rosser, and guitarist Ryan Griffiths – met while flipping burgers at an after school job, and within a few short years had sold 1.5 million records and criss-crossed the globe. But the ensuing fame, cash, and insanity caused the eccentric Nicholls to go potty in a series of stunts: he locked himself in bathrooms – often for hours – before shows; kung-fu kicked his bassist on live tv; smashed microwave ovens in middle America; regularly overloaded on junk food and weed; and generally acted like a brain-damaged fool.

“Yeah, they made all that stuff up,” scoffs Nicholls, currently in L.A. “Those stories might be based on one moment, but people have this perception that I’m a little brat who likes to cause trouble wherever I am. But I’m serious about what I do, and I appreciate being able to.”

Songwriting Psychosis
If you want to discuss The Vines’ 2002 debut, Highly Evolved, or their latest effort, Winning Days, with songwriter and vocal savant Nicholls, you’d better be prepared to rock with his roll. He’s likely to float off on a tangent, come back, then slip away again before you can decipher his gibberish. Still, he has good company in the babbling-idiot bridgade: Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, and Harry Nillsson, for starters – all brilliant songwriters who couldn’t be bothered to communicate on the level of mere mortals.

“When you work with him in the studio, he’s nothing like his reputation,” says Rob Schnapf, who produced both Highly Evolved and Winning Days. “What Craig really wants to do is record and make music; that makes him very happy. When he tours, or talks to people he doesn’t know, he becomes difficult. But he has a great melodic mind. He has this harmonic thing that just flows naturally out of his mouth.”

A fall-down, foaming-at-the-mouth devotee of layered vocal harmonies a la the Beach Boys and the Mamas & the Papas, Nicholls forsakes laptop rigs for the full-on glory of the professional recording studio; for Winning Days, it was Bearsville Studios, in upstate New York. With that studio only a short walk from the band’s farmhouse, Nicholls was able to concentrate on the music swimming in his head. On one track, “Autumn Shade II,” he sings, “Look through me, ‘cause I’m transparent” – the line a clue to his songwriting approach.

“Songwriting is mystical,” Nicholls explains. “It’s a chance to communicate all my weird ideas and to try to explain my dumb behavior. But the songs are more serious that what I actually say. I’m communicating best when I’m singing ideas, and at times I’m so off in that musical world that I feel like I am not even here.”

Songwriting puts you in that zoned-out state?

“That state puts me into songwriting,” Nicholls corrects. “If you listen to and play a lot of music, that seems to be the universal thing. And to express that state, you need the sounds and the meanings.”

As with other inspired but cracked musicians – from Beethoven (deaf at 32) to Chopin (who once imagined himself dead and floating in a lake) – Nicholls sees the music. Before he plays a lick or writes down chords, his music appears in colors and squiggly lines, the debris of the cranium of some mad savant; all normal modes of communication shut down while the muse fills his brain with sounds.

“I get these patterns in my head, especially when we’re recording,” Nicholls explains. “That’s when it’s most intense. I start seeing lines – there’s always some visual element. My brain does it automatically, and maybe it gives me ideas or helps me figure out the songs. For “Autumn Shade,” it was peaceful nature and daylight. For “Amnesia,” it was like flying through deep space.”

“Amnesia” and “Autumn Shade II,” two of Winning Days’ most compelling songs, represent the leap in songwriting skill that has occurred since the Vines’ 2002 debut. Though one can still hear the influence of Pavement, Supergrass, Swervedriver and Blur, Nicholls has found his won voice. Whereas Highly Evolved, with songs like “Outtathaway!” and “Get Free” blasted Nirvana-esque intimations over song structures similar to those of the Hives or the Strokes, Winning Days is in another league, as if finds Nicholls carving out his own peculiar and provocative sonic world.

Beautiful Madness
Winning Days is an album in every sense of the old-school word. It blasts off hard and harried with the Kinks-ian guitar scrunge of “Ride” and the deranged, pick-dragging pummel of “Animal Machine.” After that grab-you-by-the-throat introduction, the record goes upcountry. Switching to a stash of ‘60s guitars, Nicholls and company push harmonies to the fore and explore riveting arrangements that recall the Beatles’ Revolver as well as XTC’s ignored classic, Black Sea (with a nod to Nirvana’s Nevermind). “TV Pro” creeps up with its sleepy, sleazy guitars, and then tumbles over the edge into a dreamscape of cottony vocals and eerily buzz-sawing guitars. Nicholls’ incantations veer from crazy child to invisible ghost, as guitars blacken the blue sky like smoke bombs. The effect is spooky yet engaging, like finding a tombstone with your name on it.

“Autumn Shade II” lets it all down, flowing to the center of melancholy and madness, where Nicholls’ songwriting magic sends shivers down the spine. With 22 vocal overdubs, the song’s melody works the entire scale, top to bottom. Guitars turn into seagulls, vocal harmonies merge with acoustic pianos – it’s a beautiful song in a world where beauty is increasingly hard to come by.

“It just sounds great,” says Nicholls. “Sometimes with rock music or heavy metal, you become desensitized. It then lacks impact – because you’ve become used to it – and doesn’t seem very heavy or emotional. I think there’s room for beauty. Plus, I like ballads. There are a lot of possibilities, and that’s the direction we’re going to head in.”

“Winning Days,” an acoustic ballad, is a perfect reflection of the Vines’ three month stay at Bearsville, a time spent goofing in the sun and recording in bare feet. In the style of the La’s “There She Goes” or The Beatles “Things We Said Today,” “Winning Days” has its roots in Liverpudlian melancholy – even if a ripping guitar solo briefly disrupts the breeze. A few more jangly numbers unfurl until “Amnesia” smacks your skull like a good blotter of acid; it evokes dream visions of Pink Floyd performing in your living room. With harmonies stacked to the sky and guitars soaring over Mellotron and Moog synthesizers, the song elevates your senses like a drifting hot air balloon on a windy summer day. The eardrum-shredding “Fuck the World” closes the set with a middle finger, but the album’s beauty marks will leave you enamored of the Vines’ songwriting power.

“We knew we had a bunch of different kinds of songs, but we didn’t really know how they’d all fit,” Nicholls says. “We hoped that, like with the first album, they’d fit, but you don’t know until you are done. This album is different; it takes you on a trip.”

Fretboard Frenzies
What makes the trip so memorable, beyond Nicholls’ ethereal vocal layer cake and the band’s attention to detail, are guitar solos, which enter the songs as if pointing to some mystery code. Whereas many of his contemporaries refuse, possibly out of a false sense of hipness, to play solos, Nicholls executes torrid leads that scorch and howl.

“A solo is a simple thing that really works,” Nicholls explains. “We try to put them in context; we don’t stick a 10-minute solo in the song just ‘cause I can play it. I actually have melodies in my head that I play on the guitar which are completely different from a song’s melody. It is about variation, and each variation should complement the next.”

Just as they did on Highly Evolved, Nicholls and now Griffiths often changed guitars within songs, for ultimate impact.

“We’ll record a part for the beginning or add a feedback track towards the end – it’s icing on the cake,” says Nicholls. “The details make the finished product. If you can pay attention, simple things sound the best, but you can combine them in many ways. We didn’t have many rules.”

For the Winning Days’ sessions, Nicholls – who relies mostly on a Fender Strat and a Marshall half-stack for live shows – entered the playground of Rob Schnapf’s “guitarsenal,” where using the producer’s famed set of tools, the guitarist realized the music of his mind.

“Craig’s solos work because they’re based on melodies, not on noodling,” Schnapf explains. “He’s not just scale-chasing; his solos are based around a line. That’s why the guitars and the vocals can cross over one another, merge, or form lines of melodic counterpoint.”

“Craig’s solos had a starting place,” Schnapf continues, “and then it came down to how we would bend and twist them from there.”

Far-out guitar moments on Winning Days are too many to count, from the country-punk solos on “Ride” and “Animal Machine” to the bleeding-fingers-on-ice screech of “Fuck the World.” Still, there are band favorites.

“Amnesia” was the most bizarre, in its extended outro section,” says Matthews. “It’s like a guitar solo, but it isn’t really a guitar solo – just these bizarre noises that Craig learned how to get from the guitar amp by playing it live a lot. To get it recorded took a lot of fiddling around with feedback and shaking of the guitar’s neck. It’s just notes bowing and leaping. The start of that song has the most in-depth guitar and vocals on the album, and some of the most precise moments.”

Unconscious for Rock ‘n’ Roll
Whether Nicholls can compose himself long enough to make it through the inevitable Winning Days tour is anybody’s guess, but Matthews, once the songwriter’s confessed keeper, has faith.

Says Matthews, “That was a long time ago; I haven’t had to look after Craig for a long time. He’s quite sane and calm at the moment. But he’s like the rest of us: Sometimes we fight and yell, and occasionally we have secret, whispered conferences. There’s not much direction in this band in terms of cerebral cortex. It’s unconscious; it’s rock ‘n’ roll.”

Nicholls is already onto the Vines’ next record, thinking about deeper harmonies and greater experimentation. He may sing, “The winning days are gone,” but he certainly knows better. “We’re going to spend a long time on the next one,” he muses. “I always wanted to do harmonies, the whole ‘row, row, row your boat’ idea. I would like to make even more layered recordings. I’m looking forward to doing some deep experimentation but with a lot of preparation. I’ll have the songs ready, and then I’d like to do 10-part harmonies.”

Craig, are you seeing colors yet?

“I imagine the sound we’ll make in the future as very clean and airy and spacey, and kind of lazy and hyperactive. It will be elastic and jump around from here to there.”

Craig’s List
Nicholls’ Go-to Gear for Winning Days
Solidbody
’64 Fender Jazzmaster
’64 Fender Telecaster
’53 Gibson Les Paul
’63 Gibson SG Junior
’63 Guild S200

Electric Hollowbody
’63 Epiphone Riviera 12-string
’63 Gibson ES 330
’74 Guild Starfire IV
TTR Design Custom

Acoustics
’63 Epiphone Texan
’57 Gibson J50

Amps
Marshall Super Lead (formerly owned by the Stooges)
Sound City 50W head
’49 Fender Pro
Dr. Z KT-45 head
Mojave Ampworks Coyote
Watkins Dominator head
Vox SC-30
Fender Princeton
Ampeg Jet

FX
Colorsound Supa Tone Bender


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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:58 pm

Friendly Fire
by Rachel Newman
Australian Rolling Stone, May 2004



Stretched across the couch in the dressing room, Chris Cester, drummer for Jet, is lying on top of his girlfriend, Alexi, lips locked. Jet’s bass player, Mark Wilson, lead singer, Nic Cester, and lead guitarist Cameron Muncey stand around cracking themselves up with the same old running joke (pretending to be Chewbacca form ‘Star Wars’). They’re well into demolishing their slab of beer. And the Vines’ slab. Chris disappears with Alexi and the three remaining Jets huddle around the one lighter, sparking up more cigarettes.

Chris Cheney, lead singer and guitarist of the Living End, is outside pacing. He’s hurling his voice through some vigorous vocal exercises, deep in thought. The Vines are nowhere to be seen. They haven’t left their tour bus all day and they’ve even recently stopped sound-checking, presumably to avoid further scrutiny.

“Man, I feel so bad when I hear Chris outside warming up before each show,” says Nic. “I’m always somewhere nearby with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other not giving a shit.”

“But you’re lucky, Nic,” Muncey smiles reassuringly. “You don’t have to warm up. Nic is always the last one up, the one who’s drunk the most the night before and who always sounds so great onstage the next night. It’s amazing, I don’t know how he does it.”

If Chris Cheney wasn’t the singer for the Living End, he’d be in there with Jet boys, partying it up. “But at the end of the tour,” says Cheney, “we want to go home saying we had a really good tour, not that we had a good time. You can get pissed and stoned every night of the week when we get home, but on tour, it’s like we are here to work, we are her to fucking kick arse.”

It’s 6pm in Boston and the all-ages show starts early tonight at the Avalon Ballroom. Melbourne band, Neon, who have just joined the tour, open up with a 20-minute set. By the time the Living End hit the stage, the room is packed. Vines bass player, Patrick Matthews, and guitarist, Ryan Griffiths, have made their way backstage, salvaging themselves a couple of beers, while one by one, Jet – with the exception of Chris, who is busy at the back of the tour bus with his girlfriend – watch from the side of the stage.

As Cheney and co deliver a blistering finale of ‘Second Solution,’ Nic heads back to the dressing room, shaking his head, muttering: “They’re so good. They make it so hard for us to follow them.” He grabs another beer and meanders over to a sweat-soaked Cheney for a debrief.

Wilson echoes the same sentiments. “The Living End put on such a good show every night, despite how they feel, they always put on a fucking great show,” he says. “They always play great, and they’re just fucking brilliant musicians. I loved them when I was young, but I never had the respect for them until now. I’ve seen them play every night with us on tour. And especially in a place where we’re taking off, and I mean they’re very popular here…but the fucking passion that they have and just the way they play every night is how a band should play before a band like us and the Vines.”

“It’s what we try to do to the Vines. We try to blow the Vines off stage and The Living End’s job it to try and blow us and the Vines off stage. That’s your job. That is our fucking job – to try and fuck the band up,” he smiles. “That’s always been our ethos when we’re touring. When we were touring with the Rolling Stones, we talked about it. Our job is to try and blow them off stage every night. You can’t! You can’t do it! But you can in your own head. You can pretend you did.”

In the American context, this little scene in Boston tonight says a lot about this collective of bands – who they are, where they’re at, and where they’re all going. Despite being overawed by the Living End, and headlined by the Vines – who, mind you, are playing the best shows of their lives – this tour belongs to Jet. But as fate would have it, this Australian juggernaut through North America and Canada couldn’t happen at a more pivotal time for them all. Each impelled with momentum and a friendly rivalry.

Jet, clearly a band on the brink of cracking the American market (they’re only weeks away from selling a million albums there), are wholly living in the moment. The Living End, who were so close to seeing their live efforts rewarded in America before Cheney’s near-fatal road accident more than two years ago, are digging their heels in; serious and determined to re-gather some of that lost momentum. And the Vines are more inexplicable than ever. Having found themselves at the other extreme end of the press’ pen – this time the pointy, poisonous end – Craig Nicholls’ evasive, wacked-out, hibernating ways aren’t as romantic as they once were. Now, the music really is doing the talking.

It’s snowing in New York City. Standing on a not-so-secret landing where guests and crew of ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’ sneak out to add to the thousands of stomped out cigarette butts, the show’s producer seems pleased with herself that, once the Living End perform on that show tonight, all the bands from the Aussie Invasion tour will have appeared on the popular late-night program.

“Jet were much nicer than I thought they’d be,” she smiles. “But the Vines,” she says, twisting the corners of her still smiling mouth, “was weird.” Apparently, Nicholls “was having a day where he couldn’t touch the ground.” So, she says, the crew had to assemble a line of chairs near enough to the stage so he could hop from one to the other. “When we got him close enough to the stage, we just wheeled him up to it.”

Scott Owen, double bass man for the Living End, laughs mildly, but none of his band’s crew look surprised.

It’s only been 30 minutes since Craig Nicholls hit the stage floor for the last time, swooning to the final notes of what can only be described as genuinely great art rock performance. Backstage, Nicholls is sitting nimbly beside his Jet tour buddy, Mark Wilson, copping the odd slap on the back from the gentle giant. The mood is warm; bands friendly but polarized by their differences. As the doors swing open, letting in a steady stream of strangers, the atmosphere changes almost instantly. Nicholls shifts in his sent uneasily, eyes bugging boldly. Wilson beams openly, almost naively at the door as Boston media trickle past Nicholls and onto Wilson, then Muncey and Nic (Chris is again locked away with Alexi). A group of girls saunter in next, all non-descript. Naturally, they’re here to befriend anyone who stepped onstage tonight.

Nicholls lasts five minutes before he high-tails it out of there, incessantly scrunching his hair up with nervous energy. I’m told by one of his managers, Andy Kelly, that Nicholls doesn’t deal well with strangers. It’s a shame. Tonight, Nicholls in good spirits, might have been the only opportunity over the two days I spend with the bands to see the enigmatic frontman in a social environment with his peers. But with the room now full of nobodies, all wanting a piece of the bands, he heads back to the tour bus to play around on his 4-track recorder until the bus makes a start for Philadelphia at 2am.

Meanwhile, the loudest, crassest blonde of all – a Mississippi girl named Rachael – declares to a small group that includes Matthews and Wilson that she’s friends with the Kings of Leon and tries to remind Wilson that they’ve met before. They had a ‘really long, really great’ conversation one time. Wilson ain’t no dummy but he’s guilty of being a little too kind, humoring her for most of the night. But as the half-dozed bottles of vodka dwindle away, Rachael becomes more forward and vocal. Wilson gets fed up.

After politely trying to avoid Rachael’s propositions, Wilson finally picks up a broom from the corner of the room and uses it to secure some personal space. It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. “I don’t want to fuck you, OK!” he screams at her, pushing the straw of the broom into her advances. “I don’t want to fuck you either,” she retorts vaguely, “but why wouldn’t you want to fuck me? What’s wrong with me?”

Wilson doesn’t see the irony in literally beating off the ladies with a stick, but the Jet road crew certainly do. They agree to get rid of the over-zealous Rachael only if she shows them her ‘tits.’ She now has Wilson wedged between the wall and a couch, he’s still holding the broom to her stomach to stop her moving any closer and he’s clearly agitated. “I don’t get it,” he squints at her. “Why? Why the fuck are you like this? What, just because I’m in a band? Can’t you see how pathetic you are?” Rachael considers showing the road crew her bare chest, but thinks better of it and is then escorted out the door.

A bizarre scene, but it fits perfectly with the mounting celebration of Jet in the US. Surely this happens all the time these days? “No way,” Wilson says sternly. “Groupies are around, I suppose, but it’s never been like this before.” Wilson has had enough. Fearful there’ll be no more beer left on the bus, he raids the stock fridges at the venue and packs up a box of drinks. The bus is tight with bodies and completely dry. Wilson shares his box of goodies around, and Muncey turns up the volume on an already blaring Faces record.

Nic has a group of friends on board, one of whom is a long lost cousin that’s presented herself at the Boston show unannounced. The Living End have returned from their post-show dinner, but Owen is the only one well enough – the trio have been suffering from the flu – to weather a thick cloud of cigarette smoke.

The Vines are all tucked away quietly on their own bus, but the only ones resting on the Jet ride are Chris and Alexi. The extras are cleared, Wilson hits the sack and Owen returns to his own wheels, as the busses move on. Next stop: Philadelphia’s Electric Factory.

This afternoon, while the rest of the bands are sound-checking, the Vines head out for an acoustic radio performance, in front of a room full of competition winners at a Philadelphia alternative rock station, WPLY. It’s a rare daylight excursion off the bus for Nicholls.

Along with Griffiths and Matthews, the awkward frontman scuffles up the guts of the hall to the stage like a naughty schoolboy. They’re barely finished sitting down when the first notes of ‘Winning Days’ float out across the cavernous room. They’re only halfway through their second song, ‘Ride,’ when Nicholls starts manipulating his voice to suit his mood. In an acoustic setting like this, with a small audience, Nicholls is confronting. The audience squirm in their seats as the singer yelps; a few heads even turn.

Two songs later (‘Autumn Shade’ and ‘Autumn Shade 2’), a piggy snort, a ‘thank you very much’ (said in a Muppet voice) and the Vines are on their way to the dressing room at the back of the hall.

Nicholls is bouncing around the small room like a crab. He’s taken the pop screen off the front of one of the spare microphones and is using it to ‘look for gold.’ The producer of the radio station has come into the room to thank the band and let them know that the recording went well. Nicholls responds by asking him if there’s any gold in the room. He jumps across seats and squats close to the ground. Griffiths stands, moving out of Nicholls’ way and Matthews just slouches on a couch with that perennial look of nervous discomfort on his face.

I ask Craig what else he’s been up to today. “Just hanging and chilling. Mainly hanging, then we got bored of that and just chilled.”

Yesterday, Nicholls was uncomfortable with the Rolling Stone photographer, feeling that he took too many shots. But today, he’s happy to pull some faces. “I don’t mind the pictures,” he stammers, “I just don’t like the writing-down.” And with that, a Vines tour manager jumps to his defense and tells me, Miami Vice-style, to put the pen down.

Everyone who surrounds the Vines – their management, road crew, tour manager – is particularly sensitive to Nicholls and his frame of mind. Their tour manager apologizes a little later for pouncing on me and my pen, explaining that “its hasn’t been a good day today.” It’s a phrase that’s heard quite often in the Vines camp. It’s also the most regular excuse used to explain the lack of access to Nicholls. “He just wants to write music,” says Andy Kelly. “He never wanted to have to talk about it. He’s got nothing to say about it.”

Journalists across hemispheres have reported – often with frustration – of not being able to figure Nicholls out. Is he really as mad as he makes out? Is it all a clever spin to make the band seem more interesting? A few days in this environment, there’s little or no doubt that the frontman is for real. He’s barely able to cope with socializing and, when he does, it’s usually when he knows there’ll only be familiar faces around. No one is allowed on the Vines bus, which is fine, because the only action on board is via video games and 4-track recording. Nicholls has too much noise going on in his head to conform to the usual way of life. More importantly, he could care less for it. He’s much rather live for and by his music.

Perhaps that is what Courtney Love sees in Nicholls. Her obsession with the Vines – despite being dogged by bad reviews in the US – is only getting more intense. She tracked down (rumor has it she is constantly hiring private detectives) the location of the ‘Ride’ video shoot, showed up and demanded to spend time with Nicholls. When Love was turned away, she simply showed up at the Aussie Invasion’s Irving Plaza show in New York.

It happened to be the second New York show which fell on the same day that Love went a little madder than usual: Wednesday, March 17. That afternoon, she pre-recorded her already-infamous appearance on the ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ – where she jumped on his desk and ripped off her shirt. Then, somewhere between performing her own show that night and being arrested throwing a mic stand at someone in the audience, she caught the Vines live onstage.

According to Kelly, she demanded to be allowed onstage and perform with the band. She wouldn’t take no for an answer either. She stood right by the mixing desk and insisted that an announcement be made informing the crowd that she would be playing with the Vines. Of course, it never happened and Love moved on to create more chaos.

Whatever chaos it might seem that the Vines create themselves, the other bands on the tour are relaxed and accepting of Nicholls. “I think it’s just that they [the Americans] don’t get Craig,” offers Jet’s Chris. “They see him as just uncooperative, and obviously weird. They love it in the UK, but over here it’s like he doesn’t do them any favors and they just shut the door on him. It’s like ‘If you don’t want to make time for us, then fuck you.’”

At the side of every stage in every city you’ll find various Living End, Jet, Vines members watching each other’s set. Back in Philadelphia, Nicholls watches Jet. Wilson – having had a good night sleep – has been drinking since the late afternoon. Before he stepped onstage, after watching the Living End, he confessed to Owen that he didn’t know how he was going to perform tonight. “I’m wasted,” he drawls. “I don’t know how you guys play sober,” Owen quips, laughing.

Wilson gets through most of the set without a hitch until he goes to walk off stage and trips, smacking his knee, falling flat on his face. That the whole audience saw him fall wasn’t a concern. What Wilson cared about was that Nicholls saw it.

The respect the three bands have for another is endearing. All totally different people, all on different paths, their attitude in the middle of America is very Australian. Fans Cathy and Amanda (both in their mid-twenties) are waiting out the back of the venue to see Jet, are into Australian bands right now because of their authenticity.

“They’re definitely more real,” Amanda agrees. “American bands, the majority are cookie-cutter; it’s not like that with Australian bands, they are what they are.”

Chris and Alexi stroll off; “Chris Martin and Gwenyth Paltrow have left the building,” jokes Chris. Nicholls and Matthews sit down for a cigarette with Nic and Muncey. Wilson wheels around pretending to be a nana (with his busted knee) in a wheelchair he found out back. Owen watches on laughing, beer in hand. Cheney and drummer Andy Strachan finish their meat and three veg and join the fracas in the hallway.

They’re preparing to shove off to Montreal tonight. Another gig, another night of drinking, of sleeping in small bunk-beds, and yet another day without showers. Yep, this is pretty real.

Details, Details
*The Living End share their bus with Neon, while Jet and the Vines travel on their own busses
*Each bus has a stereo, DVD and PlayStation facilities. The bands can watch DVDs from their bunks, which all contain individual screens.
*There are no showers or washing machine facilities on the busses, so the bands bathe themselves and their sweaty gear at venues. If they’re doing more than one show in a city, they will stay overnight in a hotel room. (I know for a fact that the Vines rented a hotel room in each city to take showers before shows – me)
*The busses travel by night while the bands are either sleeping or partying.
*At the end of the tour, they clocked up 8,640 miles and played to 42,300 people.
*There are 19 crew members who toured with the bands.










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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:59 pm

The Morning After
Australian Rolling Stone, March 2004
After spinning out of control, the Vines steady the ship rather than sink and drown.
By Dan Lander

“The kid in the mall works at Hotdog on a Stick
His hat is a funny shape; his heart is a brick
Taking your order he will turn away
He doesn’t have a thing to say”
“Grace Kelly’s Blues” – The Eels

As the sun goes down on the back room of an inner city Sydney pub, that one verse from Mark Oliver Everett keeps playing over and over in my head, and the person sitting across the table from me – Craig Nicholls, leader and visionary of the Vines – is the reason behind it all. Afternoon meanders into dusk and I empty a schooner or two, all the time thinking that Nicholls is, more or less, that kid – painfully shy, hiding beneath a mop of hair, doing his best to look anywhere but your eyes, and when you do finally catch his gaze, he meets you with a glance like a schoolboy caught with his hands in his pants. Honest impression: There’s a lot more of the burger-flipping adolescent than the international man of excess.

About a week later, sometime in the New York afternoon, a jet-lagged Patrick Matthews – bass player for the Vines – is woken by my phone call, an hour before he expected it. After struggling through a few pleasantries and a quick chat about the recording of the band’s new album, Winning Days, the conversation inevitably turns to Nicholls. Only, this time around, there’s something slightly different in what Matthews has to say about his band-mate.

“I did a lot of interviews last year,” he begins, then after a long pause adds, “But now that Craig’s doing more of that sort of thing, it’s a lot different for me. Like if you’d been doing this interview last year, I would have been a lot more helpful, but now I feel like I can back off and not have to build up a story or anything. But that also means I don’t have a story or anything. Because it’s all crap anyway. Like I don’t care or know what other bands say, but a lot of the time it feels like we’re making up a story for a journalist, and I had a story for last time around, but now it’s Craig’s turn. It’s good that he’s taking up the slack. Although I don’t know how long it will last. Once we start playing a lot of shows it could be a lot different.”

Thrown away in a casual, sleepy tone, Matthews’ comment brings so much of the Vines saga into perspective – especially given that a week earlier, it was pretty clear that Nicholls didn’t have a story this time around either.

It seems that after all the craziness, the vagueness, wild photos, the ubiquitous bong, onstage fighting, spontaneous destruction of self and surroundings, pre-stage fright, rumours of break-ups, hangers-on, million-selling albums, criticism, adulation, backlash, and breakthroughs, there’s one simple truth that remains about the Vines: The music is much more exciting than the band.
With the benefits of hindsight and level-headed conversations with both Nicholls and Matthews, it is pretty easy to piece together the making of the Vines myth. Start with the celebrated Nicholls’ vagueness for instance. Over the course of our conversation, the only time Nicholls’ mind ‘wanders’ – prompting comments like, “I can’t remember what we were talking about” – is when he doesn’t want to answer a question. It’s a slightly more subtle version of Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s old trick of dodging the issue by talking up a storm of bullshit. During our phone conversation, Matthews confirms the suspicion that, as much as anything, Nicholls’ celebrated ‘space cadet’ persona is simply a form of self-preservation.

“That’s generally not a good sign if he’s doing that,” states Matthews. “It’s a sign that he’s not happy or whatever. He doesn’t really do it much with me in general.”

While Matthews has often defended his frontman in the past, this time around you get the feeling that he might actually be giving us the straight of it, especially when he spits: “I don’t think it’s my job to point out whether or not Craig’s talking crap or anything anymore. Like, in interviews he just gets bored.”

None of this suggests that Nicholls is your straight-up Jorge Regula though. Even Matthews will admit that “he’s not completely rational or sane.” But with the pressures of sudden stardom now somewhat diminished, it looks like Craig Nicholls and his bandmates are facing the world with a slightly less-sensational look upon their faces.

Nicholls’ reflection on the year that led up to the recording of Winning Days - a year which held everything from platinum albums to very serious break-up possibilities – is subdued, uttered in a weary voice that suggests in lots of ways he’s glad it’s passed.

“I guess it was kind of surreal when it was happening,” the singer says. “It sort of became this life of its own. And we wanted to record more straight away, but we just started playing more – that’s just the way it turned out. It’s great to get those opportunities to go to England and America. You know, we were really serious about that. And we gained a lot out of it. But it didn’t change us a whole lot. It still hasn’t made us feel like we’re famous or anything like that. We don’t think like that. We’re just ordinary guys.”

While the mountains of press from all over the world would suggest that the Vines – and Nicholls in particular – are anything but ordinary guys, talking to the singer and Matthews today, there couldn’t be a more apt description. Even a gentle prod about the stories of wild times that surrounded the Vines post-Highly Evolved only provokes a philosophical, reasonably sensible response.

“You’ve just gotta hope that you can hold onto some sort of control,” reasons Nicholls. “And that the people you’re with are good people. And the people that hang around don’t really matter. If we need time on our own we can achieve that, you know. But yeah, it’s weird, because as much as it can all be a little overwhelming at times, you also want to have a really good time. And, sure, that’s not all that the music’s for or about, but while we’re this age, it’s something to enjoy.”

“We started recording,” Nicholls meanders, “I think it was the end of last year. I’ve got problems with remembering the months, though.”

OK, so not everything has changed, and maybe there are times when Nicholls is a bit vague by way of nature rather than pure disinterest. But when you talk to him about the music these days, he’s happy to talk facts, not fantasy. Not the sort of fantasy he imagined in 2003 where he wanted to do a really hi-fi album, conjuring up images of Nirvana meets the Beatles meets Toto. Winning Days is definitely not the new adventure in hi-fi that Nicholls had alluded to, and for his part, he’s prepared to admit that it was never going to be.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” he says with a self-conscious laugh. “I don’t think I ever really meant that. I was just probably getting carried away after the first album, saying things just for the sake of it. But I was and still am very obsessed with the recording side of things, and that’s sort of what I meant. I want things to sound good.”

To that end, the Vines moved to the remote Bearsville studio in the woods outside of upstate New York in May last year to start work with producer Rob Schnapf (who also twiddled the knobs on the band’s debut) on Winning Days. Coming as it did on the back of a grinding tour that had climaxed in Nicholls’ and Matthews’ now famous tiff on stage at a Boston show in December 2002, the move straight to the studio could have been a disaster. Instead, it turned out to be exactly what the band needed.

“The first week, or really just one day or two, it was pretty tense and it was like, ‘Oh,’” says Matthews. “But as soon as we started recording it was, like, really positive and Hamish [Rosser, guitarist] and I were getting stuff on the record and we were really happy about that, and we got it all finished in time which Craig and I were really happy about. Like, we finished a week before time ran out at the studio, and then we went home and didn’t have to do a load of stuff for two months.”

The album itself is solid rock & roll coloured by different moods – the perfect bookend to the collection of stories that was started by Highly Evolved. They are sister albums, even to the point that Nicholls chose to include a second version of “Autumn Shade” and call it simply, “Autumn Shade II.” It is the first time the band have recorded as a four-piece – with Rosser and drummer Ryan Griffiths now well established (except in the mind of this interviewer who mixed Ryan and Hammy up! – Jen) – and not too much has changed. Like Nicholls, Matthews is definitely glad it went that way and not down the more absurd path that both he and Craig had intimated it might.

“[The hi-fi thing] wasn’t something I ever really wanted to do,” the bass player confesses. “I guess that there are some bands that have done that but I’m not really sure that I’ve heard too many bands do stuff like that. Like there’s Muse, they’ve sort of pulled it off. But at the same time, I think this record is still fairly hi-fi, but with nearly every song, there’s something that’s dirty. Whether it’s the bass or guitar, there’s one thing that’s edgy. And even though the vocals are recorded pretty nicely, I think there’s just something about making everything shiny that’s a bit unnecessary.”

Nicholls confirms that the band had a very firm mindset about the sound they wanted when they went into the studio and this, together with the wisdom of Schnapf, helped them stick to the less-is-more mentality that made their first album such a sensation.

“I wanted it to be – in my head – something grand, with big ideas and that vision sort of thing,” begins Nicholls. “But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that something can’t be special if it’s just simple. Because I think that the songs are the main idea. I think I might have been thinking that we were like a hip-hop group or something, so we could do these full-on things, but we’re not. We’re a rock band. We sing our songs and play guitar and have drum beats and we like it like that.”

“It all comes down to the songs and mostly when we were recording we thought that there’s no use in putting extra keyboard tracks on it or another guitar part in it. But the thing that we think as a band – as clichéd as it might sound, and as much as we don’t want to do something over and over again – is that sometimes simple things are the best.”

Even if the music might not have changed too much for the Vines, there is no getting around the fact that it’s a very different world the band find themselves in as they set in for the new rounds of media attention and scrutiny. Even simple things have changed for the band, like Nicholls leaving the bong behind.

“I gave up man,” he says with enough innocence to suggest he’s telling at least half the truth. “It wasn’t really hard. I was just kind of through with it. I was surprised, actually because people have said to me before that it’s hard, but I haven’t been having trouble at all. It’s weird – like I can’t even really notice stopping. You did it and then you stop, and I don’t know, it just happens. Maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be.”

Nicholls isn’t the only Vine looking out for his health either. Matthews – resigned to the fact that it’s a little harder for him to give up the drink than it was for Craig to kick the weed – has found a novel way of compensating for his thirst.

“I’ve been jogging,” he states. “A lot. It’s my thing because I’ve admitted to myself, like when you’re an alcoholic and you have to admit it to yourself, that’s the first step. So I admit that I’m an alcoholic and I need to exercise to balance that out. You have to take pleasure in the masochism of it (jogging with a hangover). You really feel the sweat coming out in great, big square cubes. I’m really going to attempt to maintain it.”

Given what the band will be facing over the next few months, the y may very well need healthy minds and bodies. With the release of Winning Days, the Vines must now face the problem of being both a big name band and being Australians signed to an American label, and in many senses being imported back to their own country. This fact led to a healthy dose of Aussie skepticism the first time around, and now the situation is only more obvious.

Although album sales have been good in this country, the Australian critics – both professional and armchair – haven’t always been kind to the Vines. Despite rave album reviews, their first major tour of Australia was met with a storm of negative press, as a combination of inexperience and being introduced to your home crowd as international superstars took its toll.

“We went to Melbourne and played this one show at the Hi-Fi Bar,” remembers Matthews. “And they seemed to be cool with us while we were playing but then we got really bad reviews. Then we played this show at the Laundry or somewhere for Triple R (Melbourne public radio station) and it was like the most frosty audience I’ve ever seen in my life. It was ridiculous. Talk about scrutinizing. Like, why did they even bother? But Melbourne was the worst.”

“We played in Sydney and got a few more bad reviews, and people writing into Drum Media (street press) – one week people would be bagging us and the next week someone would write back saying, ‘No, they’re alright.’ It’s just a bit of a joke sometimes.”

Nicholls offers a similarly resigned, shrug-of-the-shoulders sort of perspective on the situation.

“It’s cool, you know. It doesn’t matter what people’s opinions are; well, it didn’t matter to me, because that’s the reason you play in a band – so you don’t have to listen to anyone or do what they say. That’s why this is our band, not theirs. All I can say is that we did work hard and it’s a crazy world, especially with music – if people think you’re lucky they get negative. But we did work hard, and we were just kind of behind-the-scenes when we were still in Sydney. We worked in my bedroom and in the rehearsal room rather than on stages.”

Fortunately for the Vines, the tide of opinion seems to be changing. Their Homebake appearance last December might not have pulled the biggest crowd at the festival, but it did have a few people eating humble pie, with most agreeing that the band had improved by a long shot. Even so, speaking to Matthews, there are obviously still a few artistic differences within the group – no doubt the same differences that caused so much tension late 2002.

“I thought it sounded alright,” says the bass player. “The singing was a bit pitched in the screaming zone for my liking. Screaming’s all right, but not for a whole set. But my singing was terrible as well, so you know. I think the band sounded pretty good though.”

With the Vines embarking on a tour of the U.S. with Jet and the Living End – a tour which is more than a little remarkable for what it says about the stature of Australian music overseas – the band find themselves in an interesting position. The hype’s gone with the bong and the bullshit. It’s now a case of letting the music talk for itself. They’ve been through the ringer on so many issues, and despite so many people thinking it could end otherwise, the Vines have survived to make a solid second album. And while it might be fair to say that in terms of spectacle and outrage the band are not half as interesting as they used to be, you’d also have to say that the music is. For Nicholls – for the first time at least – that’s enough.

“We’re just really glad that we’re still doing this, still together,” he says. “There were times when we thought that it might not last, that we would break up, but then again it’s really important to us, so maybe we were just being dramatic during those times. You know, those were probably the times when, for some reason I was thinking I could go and do a solo album with the London Symphony Orchestra. I won’t do that.”

Instead, the Vines are taking small steps towards becoming a band that’s going to outlive its own hype. Where it would have been easy for them to get carried off by the ideas of extravagance and excess that so many journalists and critics surrounded them in, the Vines – much like the Strokes to whom they’re so often compared – chose instead to just do the same thing they’ve always done. And they, unlike the Strokes, even managed to avoid Hollywood girlfriends.

Even so, don’t press Craig too hard to the future. He’s still capable of pulling out a bunch of bullshit just to hide the fact that, really, he hasn’t got too much to say on the subject…

“I’m starting to think about concept albums, and that sort of thing. That’s always in the back of my head. Something that’s different than a standard sort of rock album.”

“I don’t know what. I think it’s gonna be something. It’s gonna be a concept album, but I’ve just gotta work out what the concept’s gonna be. It’s very early days. But you can’t deny it’s a good idea. It could make us or break us. But that’s the risk you’ve gotta take. You have to keep reinventing yourself.”

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:02 pm

Guitar Player
by Alan DiPerna
March 2004



Agoraphobic, possibly schizophrenic, prone to violent outbursts…the Vines’ Craig Nicholls has all the makings of a rock icon. With an exciting second album under his belt and in a rare moment of lucidity, Nicholls talks guitar. By Alan Di Perna

Vines leader Craig Nicholls acknowledges, “Yeah, we have a split personality.” After one of his characteristically long pauses, the enigmatic frontman adds, “but hopefully it can all melt into one thing.”

Nicholls’ statement applies as much to The Vines’ music as to his own precarious psychological make-up. Musically, the Vines juxtapose the raw aggression of 90s grunge with the sunny bliss of 60s guitar pop. It’s a contrast they exploited to brilliant effect on their debut, Highly Evolved, and which they’ve honed to new heights of edgy perfection on their new album, Winning Days. The Vines main guitarist, not to mention lead singer and songwriter, Nicholls makes six strings slash like broken glass on the album’s first single, Ride. His guitar roars bestial anger on the explosive album closer, Fuck the World. But he can also use the instrument to call down shimmery warbles from psychedelic heaven, inducing pure pop euphoria on spellbinders like Rainfall, Sun Child and the disc’s title track.

“We’ve tried to make the album simple, but powerful,” says the guitarist. “We didn’t want it to be too chaotic. But there are still some tracks where there are a few overdubs.”

As for the mercurial Mr. Nicholls himself, well, they say you’re never alone with a schizophrenic. Craig has a reputation for being difficult. There are tales of tantrums, trashed dressing rooms, drinks splashed in publicists’ faces, bandmates boffed on the head…When he’s not throwing a fit, some accounts allege, Craig lapses into a catatonic stupor, medicated by marijuana. But Nicholls also has a sweet side – boyish but thoughtful and lucid, although he’s not a man to waste words. We’re lucky to meet the nice Craig.

It probably helps to love rock and roll as much as he does – specifically, what many people these days refer to as ‘the real rock and roll.’ Nicholls and The Vines belong squarely in the tradition that starts with the Beatles, Stones, Who and Kinks and wends its way through the years, arriving, the last time anyone checked, at present day garage and rock and roll resurgence bands. Asked to name his favourite current groups, Nicholls answers: “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Supergrass, White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”

Nicholls was pretty much born into this tradition. Back in the 60s, his dad led Australian garage rockers The Vynes, from whom Craig drew the name of his own group. Growing up near Sydney, Australia, young Craig delved head first into the parental record collection. But for all that, he’s no 60s rock purist, in fact, his tastes are pretty basic.

“The Beach Boys, Beatles, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix are the only four groups from then I can name,” he alleges. “Everything else I listen to is new. Mostly, though, I sit and listen to Kinks. They’re such great songwriters, so underrated, and they did so much great stuff later on. I’m obsessed with the Kinks. But also Stone Temple Pilots.”

Growing up in Australia, Nicholls didn’t experience the great divide that split American and British rock during the early 90s. As a result, Britpop stalwarts like Blur, Verve, and Suede mean as much to him as Seattle grunge icons like Nirvana and STP. “Australia is very much influenced by America and England,” he says, “which is good. We get to hear everything coming out.”

All of which gives Nicholls a unique perspective as a songwriter. He’s built his world around two of rock’s most significant decades. Because it takes in a broad swath of time, Nicholls’ musical vision has breadth of scope. But he’s avoided geeky obscurantism, he writes populist stuff – easy to love.

There’s a kind of purity in Nicholls’ musical outlook. Maybe it’s because he’s such an insular person. Music is his whole universe. He doesn’t go out of the house much. And being a man of simple tastes, Nicholls doesn’t need to venture outside the domestic cocoon to indulge in all the things he’s said to enjoy most – junk food, pot, video games and rock.

So imagine what it is like for the reclusive Nicholls to be discovered in 2001, and whisked to Hollywood to cut Highly Evolved. Formerly accustomed to recording at home on a four-track portable studio, Nicholls now found himself amid state-of-the-art luxury at the Sunset Sound Factory. And when he went out the studio door, he was smack in the middle of one of the world’s most bizarrely artificial cities. So there was trouble. Tempers flared as sessions for Highly Evolved seemed to drag on interminably. Original drummer David Olliffe left, to be replaced by Hamish Rosser. The album was finally completed. It was well received on its release and would go on to sell 1.5 million copies.

But the aggravation was just beginning. Nicholls didn’t really like touring and showed very little patience with music biz rituals like meet-and-greets, TV appearances, and press interviews. The problem was mainly this: While his debut album had just been completed, he already had a whole slew of new songs in his head and wanted to go back into the studio. He seemed non-plussed that he couldn’t. When we spoke to him in ’02, he told us he was afraid he’d never get to commit all his ideas to disc.

“I don’t want to lose my voice or hearing before I get a chance to follow through on all the ideas I have with this band. I have to start taking medication so I can stop worrying about it.”

The touring finally ground to a halt during the summer of last year. The Vines traveled directly from London, site of the tour’s final date, to the legendary Bearsville Studios in upstate New York. It was felt Bearsville’s woodsy environs would have a calming effect on Craig – the opposite of Hollywood. The rural resort gave the band an opportunity to decompress from touring while getting down to studio work – always the priority for Craig.

The Winning Days sessions reunited the band with producer Rob Schnapf who had also helmed the recording of Highly Evolved. Part of Schnapf’s production role with The Vines has been to act as ‘older guy guitar guru.’ “Rob owns a lot of cool guitars, which he brought into the studio,” says Craig. “I think we had about 20 of them. A Tele was sort of my main guitar, but there was also a Strat, three different Guilds and a Gibson Les Paul. For amps, we had a Marshall and a Twin Reverb, but Rob also had a whole lot of really old-school amps, which were kind of small and weird sounding, but worked well on a few songs.”

Compared with the drama and strife that attended sessions for Highly Evolved, things went relatively smoothly in Bearsville. “There was definitely some tension there,” says Craig. “If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t be very exciting. I think we were a little more experienced this time around, and so much more confident. I think that comes through in the overall sound of the album.”

Indeed, Winning Days is a sure-footed, beautifully realized piece of work. While it contains some great singles, it’s also an album in the classic sense: a musical journey that takes the listener through variegated styles and moods. “It’s a weird trip,” says Craig, “which is good. I think it’s unexpected. It takes you by surprise.”

The band starts out in full-throttle grunge mode with the aforementioned Ride. The momentum continues with Animal Machine, but here Nicholls offsets Nirvana-esque verses with a reverb-drenched, lysergic guitar solo. And just to keep everyone guessing, Craig throws in some ‘doo-wop’ choruses.

“It’s like from the 50s,” he laughs. “I love songs with weird vocal sounds, those old school, doo wop kind of words. On its own I think it would sound too sweet, but with the heavy guitars, it sounds kinda strange.”

Nicholls songwriting and arranging is all about contrasts. TV Pro derives its energy from jump-cut tempo changes. Floaty, psychedelic verses give way to driving, buzzsaw choruses. Craig notes the song is “meant to sound like a dream,” causing one to speculate whether his dreams are as bi-polar as his waking state seems to be.

The album hits its darkest moment five songs in, with the ominous, heavy minor key Evil Town. Punning on the name of Kurt Cobain’s favorite Japanese girl group, Craig describes an anguish that “feels like Shonen Knife.” “That just means it hurts,” he says. “Very sharp and painful.”

Having struck emotional rock bottom, the album then undergoes an abrupt mood swing. Winning Days is the sixth song on the album. Craig points out this would be the start of the second side of an old vinyl album, typically the place where 60s artists would shift gears in some significant way. The tune is unabashedly euphoric. Winning Days evokes the rosy way the world looks through the eyes of childhood innocence.

“When I was singing it in the studio,” says Craig, “I was so excited, and it just hit me: the album is going to be called Winning Days, I just thought that felt so positive. Even though the song says, ‘The winning days are gone,’ is doesn’t matter, because the melody is happy.”

Guitar pop splendour reigns supreme on the next four songs, and having lulled the listener, the album then ends with a big, rude band. As its title might suggest, Fuck the World is the nastiest piece of work – all distorted bass, Gigantor riffs and throat-shredding rage.

“The song’s just about the state the world’s in,” he says. “But maybe, on the other side, you also have the state of mind I was in at the time I wrote it. It just seemed like an obvious thing to say. I’m being kinda sarcastic when I say, ‘Fuck the world,’ but then maybe there’s a side of me that means it.”

Some garage rock purists dismiss the Vines. But this very fact gives them potential to reach a larger, more varied rock audience. Metal and emo kids can certainly relate to the belligerent angst of Fuck the World. “Hopefully we can turn people who like the harder music on to other things,” says Craig. “Like, ‘Hey, acoustic guitars can sound alright too.’”

The video for Ride underscores this point. It opens with The Vines playing in an empty gymnasium. But when the chorus hits, the room is suddenly filled with rock bands. Almost every musical subculture is represented: punks, Goths, geeks, riot grrls, jazzmen, funkateers, and country pickers, all riding with Craig and the boys. With its gymnasium setting and youthful mob scene, the clip is also highly reminiscent of Nirvana’s famous Smells Like Teen Spirit video.

It seems a deliberate riff on the whole ‘Craig is the new Kurt’ theme – something that’s been around since the earliest days of the Vines. Like Cobain, Nicholls currently seems a mass of raging psychological instability. Craig’s taste in drugs, however, appears far less dangerous. And while many early observers labeled Nicholls the new rock and roll icon most likely to self destruct, the Vines leader is alive, kicking and itching to get back into the studio.

“I think it may be a concept album,” he announces. “The Kinks did so much good stuff like that. That whole idea is really interesting to me. It seems like another step further. Something challenging, I guess.”

Learn to Play The Vines ‘Get Free’
The Vines first came to prominence when they began an 18-month gigfest supporting their debut album, Highly Evolved. They performed this song on the 2002 MTV music awards to an alleged audience of one billion people worldwide (nice work if you can get it).

Guitar, vocal and songwriting duties are handled by Craig Nicholls, and his role in the band is crucial. His style of playing is a mix of flat-out energy and controlled muted riffing. Even when it’s dynamically low, you still get the feeling that it’s going to explode at any second. In a similar way to Kurt Cobain, his guitar playing really powers a song along. Even though he’s not afraid of laying into the guitar, it’s worth pointing out that he’s still very accurate, both rhythmically and fretting wise.

Get Free actually speeds up over the course of the first four bars. When the drums come in it kicks up a gear. The opening riff uses a slow bend up from D to Eb. Don’t let it drift too quickly; you have to let the note sound ‘sour’ until the end of the bar when you finally get there and release the tension with the pull-off lick. The verse is, basically, the same but with tight palm muting to give it a substantial dynamic change.








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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:02 pm

The Wild Ones
by Alexis Petridis
The Guardian, Friday March 5, 2004

They have a reputation for being raw and unpredictable. But is there any more to the Vines?

In a hotel room just off Trafalgar Square in London, Craig Nicholls is becoming visibly agitated.

Beneath a voluminous parka and a faded T-shirt featuring the Minutemen - the 1980s Marxist punk trio who once wrote a song called The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts - the 26-year-old leader of the Vines is a mass of nervous tics. His left leg bounces up and down. He seems unsure whether to conduct the interview sitting on his bed, lying flat, or kneeling on the floor next to it as if he's praying. He seems equally unsure what to do with the Kentucky Fried Chicken that the Vines's manager recently bought at his behest - Nicholls famously exists on a diet of junk food. He picks it up. He puts it down. He stares at it through the tendrils of his fringe, as if expecting it to move of its own accord. He picks it up again.

Article continues
All the time, he chatters nervously. "I have a reputation for being the maddest and craziest guy, but I'm the most quiet. It's the other three guys that raise hell. They're the crazy ones." He looks imploringly at bassist Patrick Matthews who is slumped in a designer chair across the room. "Tell him!" he insists. "Tell him! Tell him!" Matthews looks back at him with an unconcerned air.

Even at the best of times, Nicholls is hardly a model of laid-back insouciance. At worst, he is famous for throwing tantrums that Naomi Campbell would consider slightly de trop. The last time the Guardian interviewed him, he destroyed a dressing room because a security guard had the audacity to knock on the door and ask if he was smoking pot (he was). He once smashed up a television studio where the Vines were rehearsing because he was hungry.

There's a pause. "Yeah," Matthews drawls laconically, "we're the crazy ones."

The Vines' craziness or otherwise is a familiar topic. Not even their vast success in the US, where their 2002 debut album Highly Evolved shifted 1.5m copies, has done anything to dissuade the public from their popularly held belief that Craig Nicholls is barking mad. Indeed, mental health issues appear to have underpinned their story ever since they emerged from Sydney at the end of 2001, proffering a combination of Nirvana-inspired noisy alt-rock, woozy, vaguely psychedelic acoustic songs, angsty lyrics and unpredictable live performances that frequently ended in a mass of smashed equipment.

At a time when rock music was in a post-Britpop slump, the Vines seemed thrillingly raw and unpredictable. Nicholls and Matthews, 28, had met in their teens while working in McDonald's. Nicholls claims that during the recording of their debut album, he was so naive that he didn't realise bands had to go on tour.

The Vines began attracting hysterical critical plaudits: never knowingly underwhelmed, the NME claimed that Highly Evolved was "the greatest debut album ever made". But immediately trouble began to brew. It emerged that their drummer, a diagnosed manic depressive called Dave Olliffe, had suffered a nervous breakdown during the recording of the album in LA and had been replaced by Hamish Rosser.

Olliffe then took to the band's website, denouncing Highly Evolved's producer Rob Schnapf as "the biggest cunt there is" and claiming that he was about to rejoin the band. Olliffe later retracted his comments, but the incident set the tone for the next two years. Every critical or commercial victory was somehow undermined. The band appeared to be in a perpetual state of disarray.

When Highly Evolved entered the American chart at number 11 - a situation certainly not hindered by their US label's decision to sell the CD at a discount - Nicholls celebrated by calling their US label boss "that cunt" and having him thrown off the band's tour bus. The critical hosannas were somewhat tempered by the news that Nicholls had smashed one journalist's Dictaphone in a fit of pique and excused himself from another interview by locking himself in a toilet for two hours. Invited to perform on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, Nicholls threw a tantrum in rehearsal, smashing up equipment and throwing a light at Rosser.

The band were ejected from the studio, their appearance on the programme cancelled. "What do I get mad about?" says Nicholls. "Like, if I'm wearing jeans and Patrick is wearing jeans, it's like fuck you! I'm wearing jeans today! And we have fights with Hamish because he wears T-shirts with four-letter words on them and we don't think that's appropriate. Also," he says, warming to his theme, "he's taken a lot of acid and he's always talking about it. Hamish is the weirdest, but it's not his fault. He's done something to his brain and he can't get back." He laughs uproariously.

"Great drummer, though." What effect have the tantrums and fighting had on their relationship with their record company? "Some of their people are a bit tense around us now," admits Matthews, sheepishly. "I think they're pretty tense to start off with, maybe." "We almost give them a heart attack," chuckles Nicholls.

You can see the record company's point. By the end of 2002, when the band's US tour was pulled after Nicholls and bassist Matthews began trading punches onstage in Boston, stories of Nicholls's erratic behaviour had completely overshadowed the Vines's music. Critical opinion on the band seemed to shift. Reviews of live shows featuring Nicholls howling tunelessly into the microphone, falling off stage and smashing his guitar ceased being awestruck descriptions of a tortured genius at work and began openly wondering what the point was. "Witless, dismal, joyless, depressing," complained one Guardian critic of a performance last year at the Astoria.

According to Matthews, he wasn't the only one: "Do you remember that guy in Amsterdam? " he asks Nicholls. "He said the first half of our concert was the worst thing he had ever seen in his life." Nicholls laughs, before becoming slightly huffy and sarcastic: "It's like, I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that I was supposed to be getting onstage and impressing anybody," he sniffs.

It's a deeply peculiar thing to say - if you're the lead singer in a rock band, getting onstage and impressing people rather seems to be the point - but then, there is no getting around the fact that Nicholls is a deeply peculiar man. The songs he has written for their new album, Winning Days, have met with mixed reviews, despite sticking to the same formula that grasping for the smelling salts when Highly Evolved was released.

Perhaps mindful of the vagaries of the press, he seems to be making an effort today. My Dictaphone remains in one piece and Nicholls stays put throughout, which given his past form, virtually counts as a charm offensive. In addition, he has allegedly given up his prodigious marijuana habit, which some felt was the cause of his erratic behaviour.

However, even drug-free and on his best behaviour, there would be little chance of mistaking him for normal. He cannot decide whether to brazen out the stories about his behaviour - as he points out, his favourite band, the Kinks, used to fight onstage "and that's kind of what attracted me to being in a band, that there were no rules, that you could do things how you saw them" - or to try and convince you that tales of his instability and violence are greatly exaggerated. "People get surprised when they meet me," he sighs. "They expect me to throw something at them. Some journalists twist your words a little." There is always the chance that they simply misheard him.

Perhaps as further evidence of the alienation that led him to write a song called Fuck the World, Nicholls appears to have invented his own accent. It originates somewhere in the Antipodes, but certain vowels seem to have slipped their moorings and ended up in the middle of the wrong words.

Discussing the songs on the new album, he claims that "hoff of thim arralld" (which means that half of them are old). He is also big on something called loff, which turns out to be the opposite of hate.

Once you have navigated the dialectal minefield, there are other matters to contend with. Nicholls' conversation has a tendency to go wildly off-piste, slaloming between topics without warning, before abruptly ending with a firm, satisfied "yeah". On any occasion where his answers stray dangerously close to making sense, he rectifies the situation by throwing in a multitude of pauses, affirmations and apparently random statements. He occasionally winds up sounding rather hurt and defensive about subjects he has brought up himself.

Ask him about whether he thinks some of the Vines's problems stemmed from the punishing tour schedule that comes with trying to break America, and you get this in response: "In America, there was a lot of people saying that they thought we were going to self destruct, so, yeah, like, we definitely didn't want that. We wanted to be productive as a band. That was our goal: making albums, writing songs, listening to CDs and not, like, whatever, the 80s rock or whatever. We're not those kind of people. We're not trying to make any kind of judgements on anyone. We've got no messages. We just want to make good albums. Yeah."

While you're pondering what 1980s rock has to do with the band's punishing tour schedule, or indeed where the topic of the Vines having a message fits in, you also start to wonder how much of this is for real, and how much of it is a defence mechanism, a rather long-winded method of telling you to mind your own business.

Throughout it all, Matthews never attempts to clarify or correct anything his bandmate says. Although he is apparently flummoxed by the simplest of inquiries, Nicholls occasionally reveals a sharp humour and self-awareness: "I always say to the other guys, if you want to throw a TV out of a hotel room window, then do it just before you leave the hotel, because there might be something you want to watch."

In addition, he frequently appears to be sidestepping awkward questions by the simple expedient of behaving as if you have asked something completely different. He replies to an inquiry about how American audiences - who are famously unstinting in their desire for professionalism onstage - have received some of The Vines more outré performances with a lengthy anecdote about how much he likes 1990s alt-rock band Pavement.

He claims that Rob Schnapf, has been attempting to school him in interview technique, although it is unclear precisely what Schnapf has told him, which tends to suggest his schooling has failed: "He's given me advice about interviews. I'd be sitting there, saying 'Oh! I can't explain it, I can't explain it! I've opened this can of worms and now there's all worms hanging out and it looks really ugly!' And he's just saying, yeah, you know? He's played in bands before. We can relate to him on that level. He has great depth to him."

He suddenly sounds angry. "You see the thing is, actually, I'm not a fucking lunatic. People say to me, you know, maybe I could cancel our next tour and check myself into an insane asylum. I'm not necessarily proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it either, because we make songs. As a band that's how it works, you put yourself out there, sharing yourself and your music with people. You hope they might connect with it. They might come up to you and say "hey man, I like your album"! And then maybe other ones go "yeah."

He gives up on that train of thought, and unexpectedly returns to a much earlier one, about which he seems to have changed his mind. "I'm not trying to say that I'm really quiet and all the other guys are loud," he concludes.

"We're all as messed up as each other. Yeah." His leg still bouncing up and down, he goes back to staring out his chickenburger.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:03 pm

The Road Warriors
by Tony Power
Blender, June/July 2004

Blender joins the super-rock twin bill of the season — Jet and the Vines — for an all-access extravaganza of drinking, fighting and failed attempts to “minimize the destruction”

“Where’s my badge?” shouts Jet drummer Chris Cester.

“Which badge?” queries guitarist Cameron Muncey.

“The badge,” Chris replies, beaming, “that says CLICK YOUR HEELS THREE TIMES AND GO FUCK YOURSELF.”

Chris Cester — an unholy union of Keith Richards and Sesame Street’s Grover — has found the perfect souvenir of his trip to Kansas, and he’s been in Dorothy’s home state only an hour.

For Jet, the past six months have been paved with such good fortune. Last year, the band toured the Midwest in “the gherkin,” a tiny, malodorous green bus. This year, with radio gung-ho for snaggle-toothed “post-Strokes” rock & roll, the Melbourne, Australia, four-piece can afford a huge, malodorous bus.

Heading a cross-continental wagon train of fellow Australians — punkabilly veterans the Living End, greenhorn indie kids Neon and co-headliners the Vines — Jet can feel like they’ve really arrived. Lifted by the rave-up single “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”, their debut album, Get Born, has quickly gone gold. As Chris Cester puts it with a shit-eating grin, “My band is huge, my girlfriend’s hot and next year I’m gonna be a millionaire!”

But America is not treating the Aussie Invasion bands to an equally warm welcome. Chaotic nü-grungers the Vines are presumed to be the solid-gold stars of this tour in the wake of their blistering 2002 debut album (Highly Evolved), massive TV exposure and a stirring new record, Winning Days, to promote. Playing last every night, though, the Vines are attracting the worst concert reviews Blender has ever seen, with special bile reserved for zany-cherub singer-guitarist Craig Nicholls. So far, newspapers including the New York Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Chicago Tribune have decried his “prima donna antics” and “physically painful shrieking,” while Nicholls has aimed some brickbats of his own, ending the Chicago show shouting “fucking morons!” and “disgruntled cows!” at the baffled crowd.

Rather than confounding expectations, the Vines’ Lawrence, Kansas, set confirms them. After a drunken, brutish, passionate show by Jet — like watching AC/DC throw anvils off the back of a truck — the Vines have their work cut out for them, but Nicholls isn’t helping. Whether bored or, hey, just being, you know, “jazz,” he turns the vocal parts of all the band’s slow numbers into a challenging battery of off-key howls, grunts and yodels. He ignores the lyrics in favor of hopping on one foot, writhing on the floor and trashing instruments — all in a detached manner. It’s unbelievably irritating, and it’s hard not to conclude that Nicholls, in some incomprehensible way, is laughing at you. Many of Lawrence’s gig-goers appear to agree, swapping looks of consternation before finally filtering out.

Blender would like to discuss this with Nicholls, but since a disastrous recent interview with U.K. metal magazine Kerrang!, he has decided he hates journalists. We discover how strict his ban is the next morning in Omaha, Nebraska, when we approach Vines rhythm guitarist Ryan Griffiths and tour manager Mark McCann after breakfast at Louis M’s Burger Lust.

“You can’t join us,” McCann says bluntly, nodding in the direction of an approaching Nicholls. Nicholls smirks merrily — yet silently — at your correspondent.


* * * * *

At 2:15 P.M., very much against medical advice, Blender is crammed into a car with a deliriously hung-over Nic Cester, Jet’s primary singer, guitarist and songwriter (and Chris’s older brother). We’re speeding to an interview and acoustic session at 89.7 The River, Omaha’s local community radio station. The Vines, needless to say, are not.

“Where the fuck am I?” Nic groans.

“I know that it’s the lamest cliché, but I’ve no idea.”

Last night’s post-show frolics ended surreally, as Jet and the Vines trashed their shared dressing room while whistling “Greensleeves” in unison. Chairs were piled on top of one another. A lamp was smashed and the slats of a wooden bench splintered as Chris Cester beat them with an ancient ghetto blaster. In the only moment of Nicholls-Jet interaction that Blender was able to witness in two days, a delighted Nicholls intervened to topple boyish Jet guitarist Cameron Muncey from the top of the chair tower. Things looked pretty bad, but then the bill came in — a measly $32 per band.

Now in another state entirely, Nic Cester and an equally game Muncey undertake the sort of promo that will help them sell records in America. This means being polite to extremely loud afternoon DJ “Spicoli” (real name Jason) and trying desperately not to cuss on the air.

“Are you gonna crank one out for us?” Spicoli yells on our arrival, unknowingly using Australian slang meaning “to masturbate.”

“Am I gonna crank one out?” Nick says, reeling. “What the hell kind of show is this?”

Stuffed into a broadcast booth with a bunch of sedated guests, Spicoli is keen to mine the cultural differences between Australia and America. Nic plays diplomat: “Well, you guys talk a lot louder. Other than that, America’s the same as everywhere — you get a lot of nice people, and you get some arseholes.”

A nimble program director manages to hit the bleep button in time.

“Shit!” Nic exclaims, still on the air. “I said arseholes!”

Back at the Jet bus, parked outside tonight’s venue, Omaha’s Sokol Ballroom, Chris Cester is pondering what it is in their past that drives his band forward so inexorably. The younger and more flamboyant brother (he’s still only 21) sports an enormous pair of burgundy sunglasses with faux-gold inlays, behind which he appears to be wearing eyeliner.

Chris’s first memory of Nic is of climbing into his playpen and “fucking his shit up.” Observers of their dynamic might wonder if this is still Chris’s role in life. To illustrate, here’s a verbatim exchange from the post-show drinking session in Lawrence:

Nic: We tend not to do interviews together.
Chris: We tend not to talk.
N: That’s bullshit.
C: It’s fuckin’ true. You just never admit it.
Blender: You don’t talk?
N: [Snotty] According to Chris we don’t.
C: It’s true.
N: OK, seriously! [Slams down beer bottle] Let’s fucking have this out right now!
C: Are you serious?
N: I’ll fucking kick your arse. Is this what it’s fucking come to?
C: Come on, then, let’s go!
N: What is your fucking problem?
C: Fuck off — I’m just going to laugh at you. [Campy] Let’s have an arm-wrestle!
N: What is it with you, pulling this shit in front of the interviewer?
C: Ahhh! [Kindly, while squeezing Blender’s knee] It’s good to be back.

Sixteen hours later, now sober, Chris will admit that he wanted to be the singer in Jet, but he concedes that it’s Nic who “sings like a motherfucker” and is prepared to do the hard jobs, such as firing the band’s old bassist (“He liked Primus and looked like William Shatner”) and, as he did today, getting up early in order to do a radio interview.

“Even so,” Chris adds, “it’s a strange thing to end up in a band with your brother. The last person you want to spend the rest of your life with, in any normal situation, is your brother, right?

“It’s hard to be four grown adults in each other’s faces all day,” he concludes. “Then you throw a lot of drinks in the mix, and fuckin’ a, it’s hard work. I always said that if I ever got to this stage I would never whine about how hard it is, because there’s always one little kid out there who wants what you’ve got more than anything in the world. But fuck that little kid, because he’s gonna get there and realize the same fucking thing!”

What is the lamest rock myth?

“The one about the godlike rock star who people don’t understand. Like the myth around Craig Nicholls. Fucking crock of shit. No one’s just ‘out there.’ They’re out there because they want you to think that they’re out there or because they take lots of drugs. You talk to the guy, and it’s really obvious what’s going on inside that fucking band.”


* * * * *

So what is going on inside the Vines? Is it just that Craig Nicholls smokes a lot of weed — as much, some sources allege, as a quarter-ounce a day? Or does he really think he’s better than the rest of us? In either case, what is he trying to achieve with all that horrible shrieking? Two hours before the Aussie Invasion’s Omaha show, Blender manages to pounce on shy Vines bassist Patrick Matthews. We try the last question first.

“He wills himself into a state where he really doesn’t know what’s going on,” Matthews contends in a genuine effort to help Blender understand the Vines’ live experience. “Like a fugue state. It’s not like he means to sing badly, but he’s out of control.”

In the summer, the Vines will begin a three-month stadium tour opening for Incubus. Despite the enthusiasm of their management company, neither Matthews nor amiable Vines drummer Hamish Rosser believes that this is a good idea. Matthews concedes that mainstream rock audiences will find the Vines difficult (“We look like pooftahs,” he says), and that’s before you factor in the shrieking. Can the Vines survive it?

“I always threaten — well, not threaten, but I always say I could go home,” Matthews says, taking an unexpected tack. “It really wouldn’t bother me. I’d like to make another record, but…it’s not like I’ll have to sign on the dole or go back and work in a factory.”

Because you’ve got enough money?

“Because I’ve got enough money. Plus, I’d like to go back to school and be a doctor. I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Matthews looks downcast, a condition he blames on “all this drinking.” He wears a blue sweatshirt on which Nicholls had scribbled now-fading ballpoint-pen slogans. One says TRASHBAG. Another is NEW YORK CITY SUCKS — a commemoration of the last time the Vines made a ruinous appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.

Does the Vines’ singer like anyone?

“Nah. He’s a good friend, but you can never guarantee that he’s not going to do something…bad to you. On tour, we’ve learned to minimize the destruction. At the moment, it’s all about leaving him alone.”

You mentioned earlier that he likes to say “I am an artist.” What does he mean by that?

“It’s just his excuse, I guess, for why he’s a separate case. Why the usual rules don’t apply. He doesn’t need to be polite. He must have pot, because he’s an artist. When we made the first record, he couldn’t do his own washing, because he’s an artist. Anything he doesn’t want to do.”

Matthews insists that, reviews notwithstanding, the current tour is the most fun the band has had in a while. They’ve certainly had worse.

Onstage in Boston last year, Nicholls hit Matthews with a microphone during one of his gear-trashing sprees, and the mild-mannered bassist flipped out, chasing Nicholls down the street outside until he was restrained by the Vines’ manager. “I would definitely have caught him,” Matthews says. “Craig’s not very fit, and I was very upset.”

Ask Matthews about the band’s future, and here’s what he says:

“Craig is the one person in the band who wants it to go on forever. The rest of us can definitely see an end to it.”


* * * * *

Two hours later, Jet and the Vines play the two loudest shows the Sokol Ballroom security staff has heard in 10 years. Jet begin with Nic Cester’s best Rod Stewart soul scream and proceed to transcend the music of their classic-rock touchstones — the Who, the Stones, Faces, the Beatles — in a furious boogie that peaks with “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”

More of a surprise to Blender, particularly given Matthews’s earlier fatalism, is the Vines’ set: It really is much, much better. Nicholls’s weirder improvisations are taken in good humor by a tolerant Nebraska crowd, and the sheer (albeit incoherent) grunge power of the closing “Get Free” and “Fuck the World” justly wipe the slate clean.

As Nicholls undertakes his usual destruction of the drum kit and Rosser sprints offstage cradling his precious new snare, you could almost call it crowd-pleasing.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:04 pm

Vines Intervention
by Alicia Broderson
Redbackrock, September 2002


They’ve played just one official headline show in their home country, but Sydney band The Vines are currently one of the biggest bands on the planet. Across the world, their album Highly Evolved is being heralded as the debut of the year.

But if you believe the band, they have no idea how all this happened. It sure beats working nine to five at McDonalds, though...

Here we have the first of our two part feature on the boys who still call Australia home, but prefer to fart around the old dart..

"Is it a job?" we asked bassist Patrick Matthews when we met up with The Vines in May. "NO!" he declared boldly, for the record. "It’s a mission!" So what’s your mission statement, then? "Um… I don’t know!"

For The Vines to say they’ve, at the very least, been "surprised" about the events over the last year of their lives would have to be one of the great understatements in recent rock’n’roll history.

In February they were a relatively unknown group doing support slots to a handful of people and a final first-ever headline gig in Sydney before heading overseas - in truth, a fantastically shambolic group of twenty-somethings laying their first fledgling shows as a four-piece. Last week, they performed at the MTV Music Video Awards in New York, and are currently leading an internet poll over The Hives as to which live band blew the place apart on the night.

Backtrack to a Manhattan afternoon in May, and we’re sitting in New York’s infamous (in truth dank and grotty with decades worth of cigarettes and stale beer ground into the floorboards) Mercury Lounge, unofficial birthplace of The Strokes, with one-quarter of The Vines. The group who, as the NME predicted in January, may well be the "most exciting band on the planet in 2002."

We’ve been warned beforehand that interviewing the two original members of the band together – lead singer Craig Nicholls and bassist Patrick Matthews - means the latter probably won’t get a word in edgeways. So we decide to start with Patrick, currently worse for wear after a late night out boozing in SoHo which culminated in him vainly attempting to explain The Vines to their English tour manager.

"It made me more drunk, ‘cos I was going ‘Look, you don’t understand!’" he laughs, re-enacting the whole sorry saga by blindly banging his fist on the bench between us. "‘You don’t understand! See, the first thing is The Beatles, you’ve got to understand about The Beatles!’ And I was hitting the table, and telling him how good The Beatles were…" Craig will later tell us it’s not so much the music of the Fab Four - but their general ethos of being ambitious - that The Vines like to adhere to.

So what’s happened here? Just how did we come to be sitting in a club in downtown New York with The Vines on the eve of yet another sold-out show, when just four months ago they played their first ever headline gig as a four-piece (with new drummer Hamish Rosser and second guitarist Ryan Griffiths) in a mid-sized pub in Sydney? Don’t ask Patrick. He doesn’t know.

It’s a "fluke", he guesses, buoyed by the ever-excited UK music press and the fact that they recorded their upcoming debut album Highly Evolved in Los Angeles last year (where original drummer David Olliffe left the band) after their demos were sent to Beck producer Rob Schnapf, on the strength of which they were signed to America’s Capitol Records by president Andy Slater before anyone in Australia had heard of them.

"You Am I never broke in England," he offers as another avenue of explanation. "And everyone’s been telling us it’s because, like, they came over to England with a big Australian fan base and that wrecked it, because their shows there were just full of Australians."

He’s not saying it to be disparaging, just pointing out the problems the English press see with any band that ventures into a British capitol full of Antipodeans. If anything, The Vines continuous struggle with homesickness has them desperate to get back here (conscious of the track Homesick on their album, we’ve smuggled a packet of Caramelo Koalas through customs - Patrick is grateful but "what we really need is vegemite…"). So unintentionally, they’ve somehow managed to do the whole thing backwards, and those at home have been forced to live vicariously through the overseas music press (who quickly picked the band up on the strength of UK-only single release Factory last November), watching from afar as The Vines juggernaut spins beyond their control.

But the band are crossing their fingers for a permanent return home by the end of the year, and want to record their second album in Sydney mid next year.

Back in NYC as the support band starts their sound-check, we move to The Vines tour bus, just above street level where the occasional group of honest-to-goodness real life New York homies walk past and whoop it up at our bemused faces trying to avoid eye contact from the windows.

On the wall above Patrick is a poster of Iron Maiden that current or former occupants have redecorated so all members are forevermore standing - faces etched in permanent snarls - bedecked in daggy texta y-fronts. Later, we’ll sit and watch Morrissey and Clash videos, and Hamish will emerge sleepy-eyed from one of the bunks to confirm excitedly that he’s heard The Strokes are coming tonight (bassist Nikolai Fraiture does, for the record, materialise at the end of the gig).

It’s strange surrounds for a band who would still be playing toilet venues in Sydney had they not signed to Capitol late last year - and for the past four months The Vines have been having a very strange time indeed.

Sitting here, it’s hard to remember that at the moment the world has gone crazy over 90 seconds of music – the frantic single Highly Evolved being their only official worldwide release up until this point. But a few nights ago they sold out a gig in Toronto anyway, while 200 people waited outside hoping to score a ticket.

The week before they played the Coachella Festival (their first) in Los Angeles with Oasis and The Strokes. And during March and April Vinesmania doubled their original amount of ‘introductory’ shows in Britain to eight, selling out every single one. In the four months after our interview, they’ll go on to do two more tours of Britain and America, book in their first series of headline shows in Australia (the first two Sydney and Melbourne gigs selling out within 24 hours of going on sale), reach the Top 15 globally with their debut album, nab their second cover for NME in two months, grace the front cover of American Rolling Stone (the first Australian band to do so since Men At Work in 1983), play the Glastonbury and Reading Festivals and destroy the entire stage of The Late Show With David Letterman.

To say the situation is stark-raving bonkers is an understatement. To say Craig is still trying to get his head around it is another thing entirely.

"I feel…" he stumbles, having wandered onto the bus clutching a large plastic cup of Coke and trying to sum up life since they left the comfortable obscurity of the Australian suburbs. "Nervous, excited, scared, overjoyed, tired, energetic… and… happy and suicidal." Saying you hope it’s not the latter only brings nervous laughter from both of them.
"We’ve been surprised," Craig continues, unconvincingly enough for us to think he always knew they’d come to something. "I mean, we were really happy with what we were doing and we still think we can go even further. What everyone else was saying [before then] never really mattered to us, we liked playing in a band and writing music… it wasn’t about being famous, we wanted artistic satisfaction first."

And maybe just a bit of fame and fortune? They already appear to have the trappings on a plate, whether they like it or not. Take for example, the whopping big tour-bus; two separate lounges, sound and TV system and sleeping quarters in between… "Oh yeah," laughs Craig rolling his eyes. "Make sure you put that in. They’ll probably kick our arses when they hear that shit!" or London’s Evening Standard papers declaring The Vines have ‘snotty sex appeal’ "Snot’s not sexy!" he guffaws. "Well, we always wanted to be sex symbols, so we feel pretty good about it. We always thought that we were quite sexy…no, we’re going to have to cut this shit right now!" (for the record, we did ask and no – Craig doesn’t use anything on his hair. The Scarecrow-effect just is. "I don’t pay attention to how I look," he frowns. "I just make art.")

"Someone asked me before… ‘Someone said you’re the saviours of rock music, what do you think of that?’" Craig cringes. "And it’s like; people, if they want, they can buy the album and make up their own mind. Because it could be the greatest thing in the world to someone, it could be the biggest piece of crap to someone else. So… it’s all… objective."

"Subjective," corrects Patrick.

"Subjective, thank you," he concludes, mind wandering. "It’s all obsessive. Compulsive."

Inside The Mercury Lounge three hours later, there’s an almost unbearable air of anticipation as that very same subjectiveness is put to the test. The Vines arrive unannounced and launch into the edgy seizures of Outtathaway! but the crowd don’t move - Craig’s microphone has mysteriously been turned off at the mixing desk. Mid-way through the track the voice suddenly comes careering through the speakers, forcing the front row to take a step back and the people around us to emit an audible gasp of "ahh!", instantaneously getting it. It’s a virtual rock’n’roll tsunami, hurtling above the heads of uber cool New Yorkers.

Onstage, the threat of Craig violently self-combusting is never far away. The epileptic facial expressions, demonic screams and flailing limbs are in a constant battle for possession; the gig ending with him balancing on the kick drum and playing his guitar above and behind his head before scissor-kicking off awkwardly and booting the guitar across the floor.

The whole thing is exhausting, cementing Craig’s earlier claim that "it takes you over, mentally and physically". Patrick will later tell us that Craig often seems like he’s in a trance, while the others members of the band tune in and out. "I think singing really transports him to another place," he says. "But I remember [You Am I bassist] Andy Kent said once that when he was playing he was thinking about whether he was going to catch a bus home or get a taxi. I’m like that." (no joke - me)

‘Do you own the songs or do the songs own you?’, we’d asked that afternoon. "Both, or I can’t tell anymore," Craig had answered, screwing up his face. "Yeah. Yeah, I mean, they’re our songs, and the songs are us… this is what we do as people, we play in a band and we’re consciously trying to make head music. And sometimes, the faces I pull, [it’s] just because that’s what it’s like to get a certain note – I want to apologise if it’s pretty ugly sometimes…" he’d trailed off, laughing self consciously. "It’s mental."

After the gig Craig is nowhere to be seen, having apparently bid a hasty exit back to the bus. He’s neither one for drinking or the traditional after-gig trawling of nightspots with the other band members, managers, girlfriends, road crew and extra hangers on; "I usually come back to the bus and listen to a CD and watch tv," he tells us. "We’re over here to let people know about the album, it’s just a ‘thing’ we’re doing. It’s just part of the game that we have to play before we can get back in the studio."

Rewind to a few hours earlier, and that’s exactly the point he’s pushing. He’ll tell us over and over that "it’s all about head music" and that touring part is "fun" but the band "would prefer just to make albums." Every question, be it about which Beatle they like the best (Patrick empathises with Paul "a lot", Craig goes for John, and says "I think we have a similar relationship to Lennon and McCartney - we hate each others guts", but currently vetoes the idea of marrying a Japanese conceptual artist and moving to New York), life in LA where they currently reside, or whether they’re getting complementary food from McDonalds – where Craig and Patrick famously met while working a decade ago - for all the free endorsement ("It doesn’t matter," shrugs Craig. "We don’t want to encourage the use of McDonalds.") is steered carefully back to what Craig likes to talk about best.

Ask him any question and he often doesn’t answer specifically but indirectly, using songs, riffs and lyrics as stepping-stones. Make no mistake – for The Vines everything, simply, is about The Music.

Take, for example, the fact that the next album is already written. Their New York set-list reads exactly the same as the one they played at their last gig in Sydney, but they have been playing new songs live recently including Fuck The World and years-old Drown The Baptists (which appeared on the Factory single). They had 40 songs available when it came to recording Highly Evolved.

"We have all the songs ready to go," Craig smiles wistfully. "We’re really ambitious to make the second album a lot better."

‘Better than this one?’ we wonder out loud, thinking of the blissful harmonies on Autumn Shade and violent riffs of 1969 and being quite surprised he doesn’t seem to acknowledge the perfection in any of it.

"Yeah, yeah, that’s the way it goes, you know," he berates us, like a father laying down the facts of life. "The goal, for us, when we were kicking around in Australia, and I wasn’t [doing anything] except writing songs and watching TV… we wanted to make an album, and we’ve done that now. So we’re playing, it’s fun, but we don’t want to be playing these songs every night for years on end."

How those songs sound is not as simple as ‘Nirvana Reincarnate’ as every music hack worth their weight in clichés is appraising. Unless you’ve been living off the remote coast of Greenland for the past few months (thought goodness knows, they’ve probably heard of The Vines even there), you’ll already know Highly Evolved encapsulates elements of grunge, but that’s added to by the massive burning pyre of pyschedelia, blissful stoned harmonies, garage, punk, retro and raw rock’n’roll burning in the background.

It is, as Sydney street-press Drum Media put it, the kind of music that could well see "The Doors bumped as the futures bucket-bong soundtrack."

"Well, you know… I never took any drugs," Craig begins cautiously, when asked about the perfect space-rock of Mary Jane and the fact Patrick told nme.com earlier in the year that In The Jungle may have "a bit of acid in the lyrics." Immediately, his band mate splutters "HA!" and Craig is forced to backtrack (and given the wide-spread coverage afforded his obsessive pot smoking since, it seems almost a miracle he doesn’t smoke – anything – during our entire conversation).

"Yeah. Well, I feel that, you know… like, the laws have got to change!" he starts again, laughing. "I cannot tell a lie, I’ve listened to music stoned before and it hasn’t killed me, it’s been enjoyable."

"But music’s nothing if you have to be on drugs," concludes Patrick. "Like techno, it sounds fucking great if you’re having fun at a rave or whatever. It’s nothing if you can’t listen to it straight, really."

The Vines...part two

...So back to the schizophrenic ‘sounds like’ list. Patrick thinks this conglomerate is to do with the "isolation" growing up in Sydney has afforded them, whereas bands from London or New York usually have music at their fingertips.

The Vines never played many gigs because Sydney’s unfortunate wave of ‘Pokie fever’ in the mid 1990’s was closing everything down, just as the band were attempting to start something up.

So instead they recorded at home and played friends parties, coming to the attention of their three-man management team, Winterman and Goldstein, when they were interviewed on a Sydney community radio station.

One of the directorate, as luck would have it, was listening in his car and happened to hear the band play a track called In The Jungle. He was interested enough to try and find out who they were – after all, the fact that he thought they sounded like Aussie punk band The Lime Spiders was apparently more exciting to him than anything.

This last fact is almost understandable if you’re familiar with The Vines’ original bleedingly raw demos, which were handed out at You Am I support gigs last May – but these in turn have caused ‘traditional’ fans dismay at the switch from that to the polished product Highly Evolved has become. Craig is unapologetic.

"Things change, you know?" he reasons, nonplussed. "There were some songs that were ‘the demo’s really good, we’ve got to get that’, so we did that lot of songs and those songs turned out completely different – you’ve got to realise that. I mean this is all we had at the time; we just had a four track recorder and we wanted it to sound really crystal clear and everything to be ‘up’ there.

We don’t have anything against highly produced music as long as it’s good music and it’s been written by the people who are playing it."

So in the end, all this just might be a fluke (managers having the radio on, demos on the right tables at the right times and guitars being back in fashion just when they release their debut album), but you don’t get on the front cover of NME twice or have Manic Street Preachers front man James Dean Bradfield describe you as "absolutely fucking amazing" by doing nothing.

They know it and they’re thankful for it – Craig says with all honesty...

"There are bands in the world that I wish had more attention, whether it’s here or England or back in Australia. But it’s a good… it’s definitely not ‘Why are people saying this’ and ‘Why are they paying attention to us’.

It wasn’t about being a big band and making lots of money and being famous, it was about being a good band, good albums and everything else after that - we can’t control it."

Some have even ventured to say he is set to become one of the most important songwriters of his generation, a Lennon, Dylan or Cobain. Songwriters who tended to systematically ride the highs and lows of rock’n’roll’s fickle fringes, mentally and physically. So keeping in mind the lyrics to Highly Evolved – "I’m feeling happy/ So highly evolved/ My mind’s a riddle/ That will never be solved" and John Lennon’s quote "I’m either a genius or I’m mad", where does Craig stand?

"I am most definitely both… yes," he confirms, laughing wildly. "Well no, I’m probably more mad. I’m just a madman. I’d like to be a genius someday, though."

Patrick laughs. He’s been partial to the workings of Craig Nicholls’ mind for nearly ten years now, and doesn’t look entirely convinced this is going to happen any time soon.
"I’ll put it in my diary," he smirks, shaking his head.

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PostSubject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)   Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:04 pm

THE VINES
Rockfeedback, Spring 2002

Brief description: just before they debut in the charts, they speak to us
location of interview: Oxford, UK

The Vines are the latest media-luvvies: four young, hard-rockin’ Aussies with a set of tunes and live-set to rival anything produced within the last few years. Or, as some are saying, to rival anything since Nirvana.

Yes, they’ve been tipped to be 2002’s phenomenon, their large-scale appeal originating from material that’s brave enough to touch the harmonies and melodies of the finest Brit-groups, the cranked-up amps of the US’ best exports, and an energy and passion that is distinctly, well, Vines.

Music-fans have shown their admiration in the early stages of their development, too, what with the group’s debut, limited-edition 7” single, the roughly-recorded demo of ‘Factory’ – released last year on Rex Records – selling out instantly, and demand to attend their first ever UK shows being extraordinary. Also, as the band lounge around and prepare themselves for tonight’s final UK gig ‘til the summer – a packed-out affair in Oxford’s Zodiac – little do they know that, tomorrow, The Vines shall crash right into the UK’s top-40, with their inaugural single-proper, ‘Highly Evolved’.

Such achievements so early on can’t merely be down to luck; so, what about the talent behind the enterprise? From meeting each of the quartet, it doesn’t take a genius to recognise their cool intelligence, which extends beyond such antics as throwing electrical-devices out of hotel-windows. More likely, you’d find The Vines unwinding together, exchanging conversation and listening to their favourite artists. In fact, when we barge into their dressing-room before show-time, they are doing just this, with Pulp’s classic LP ‘A Different Class’ spinning on their CD-player. Sadly, though bassist Patrick Matthews, drummer David Olliffe and acoustic-guitarist Hamish are either on their way out to investigate the local eateries in the nearby town, or merely hovering around the venue preparing themselves for tonight, occasionally dipping into the conversation and offering a few words. However, here throughout is frontman and guitarist, Craig Nicholls.

Now, it’s fair to say that you know when you’re in the presence of a special person, because they seem just too different to anyone else you’re knowledgeable of. This is the case with Nicholls. As he sits and answers questions, he stares around the room peering for inspiration, as if his responses are plucked from the high ceiling above, his eyes darting about so rapidly whilst you can only wonder what he’s truly thinking. His speaking-voice is unusual, too; aside from his otherwise conventional Australian accent, there’s a halting in his sentences and elongating of certain words that adds effect to what he’s saying. The overall impression is that you’re meeting someone with a well-reasoned discernment on what he should speak of, and, in the least patronising sense possible, possessive of a naivety that is remarkably refreshing.

Possibly less refreshing, however, for Nicholls is the arrival of another interview today, yet we try to avoid repetition. But, what do they most commonly get asked about from probing reporters during press-duties?

‘Usually, it’s how we got started, what our influences are,’ sighs Craig. ‘They don’t really need to ask me anything... If they want to listen to the songs, that’s cool, and if they wanna come and see us play, that’s great, too...’

What he’s just said is essentially the bottom-line essence of The Vines. The band are not about debauchery or cliché, but instead, perhaps quite strangely for current times, just writing material and playing to appreciative audiences. So, incidentally, what are the key variations between making a record and playing on concert-stages?

‘They are two different things,’ he returns, pinning down the dissimilarities. ‘It’s just fun playing loud, but then there’s the studio-thing where you concentrate on more – and we love doing that because there are more possibilities...
‘When we play live, though, we’re certainly not trying to reproduce the album or studio-tracks in exactly the same way... But we wanna make albums, really – that’s what it all means to us. Playing live is not secondary, but it is a totally separate part of what we’re doing.’

And, when people hear The Vines, in an ideal world and either on record or in a live-setting, what is it that you hope people pick up from your music?

He spends little time trying to ponder potential reactions. ‘I’d just hope that they think it’s good music! Also, maybe that it’s intelligent, but simplistic at the same time, and mostly that it’s with real instruments and imagination, with the songs having diversity...’

From a writer’s perspective, this is where covering such an act gets a bit difficult. When you describe artists in reviews, the most immediate and effective way of getting across to the reader just what they sound like is via comparing their music to other musos of relevance. Musicians that The Vines are said to sound like? Well, there has been that Seattle grunge-band which emerged during the early-90s, not to mention The Beatles and many other key British combos. However, if Craig were in a journalist’s position reviewing his own band, what would he report on?

‘I’d maybe describe what the songs are about, the feeling of it,’ he utters interestingly. ‘Also, I’d just think about what the band and the music is...’ He then pauses momentarily, before explaining his views on the scenario. ‘The truth is that it’s hard to put it into exact words, and that’s why I’m attracted to music...’

What do you think the fundamental differences are between yourselves and other guitar-acts?

‘I can’t really say because there’s a lot of great bands around at the moment,’ Nicholls replies, diplomatically. ‘It’s possibly to us more about having internal success with the music rather than anything else... I was at home recording with a four-track not long ago, and that was enough for me... We just kept writing songs, and kept recording so we just had all these demos of all these songs which have evolved naturally...’

Aside from the songs and their backgrounds, there’s of course Craig’s fascination and application of the vocal-howl, in the form of rock ‘n’ roll screaming. Yes, much like a primal Robert Plant, when Nicholls yells, he steams up glasses, crumbles buildings and whips crowds of all sizes into a riotous frenzy...
He grins on hearing the subject. ‘It’s featured in the heavier songs, and they’re there because it is rock music. I don’t consciously think about it, but it does represent a kind of freedom... Luckily, it’s not too much of a main part of what we do; this is why the heavier songs will still be kind of melodic and about something... It won’t all be abstract and personal all the time – maybe, but not totally all the time...’
Something that extensive press-attention attracts are misconceptions and misunderstandings on where the band are coming from, spiritually and musically. What are the most common mistakes that observers of The Vines seem to be making?

‘Well, I’m not really sure about it,’ Craig answers truthfully. ‘I just don’t want people to think that we’re trying to compare ourselves with any other bands... Also, it’s not important what we look like, and it’s not important what we say outside of the lyrics and songs...’

What about their being from Australia – is this a vital factor of their song-writing process?

‘I think it may have something to do with the way our music sounds,’ he replies, seeming proud of his heritage. ‘I think that it’s a cool place; it was peaceful where I grew up. I loved music and listening to different stuff, and the band just developed from that sort of idea...’

From the way he reacts to each question and the wavering levels of confidence he generally displays in providing responses, Craig seems slightly uncomfortable acting as the recipient of questions within interviews. It’s a shame, because what he comments on can occasionally touch on a side of thinking and logic that’s not necessarily as commonly used by others.

‘Yeah, they (interviews) are just not as much my light as making music,’ agrees Craig, slightly more relaxed once this fact is shared. ‘With the band, there is more thought behind it, and we have so many influences that have helped us, aside from The Beatles and Nirvana, like Supergrass, too...’
If you weren’t in such an environment, though, what else would you be doing in life?

‘I dunno,’ he provides, baffled by the possibilities. ‘Maybe painting, or drawing...’ Then, suddenly, his eyes light up. ‘Or skateboarding!’ (god bless him - me)

The idea of merging skateboarding with playing music live onstage excites a passing David Olliffe.

‘I like that,’ he exclaims enthusiastically, his imagination allowing his mouth to continue, ‘It would be cool to have quarter-pipes on either side of the stage!’

Yes, quite. But, on to possibly the most important topic of discussion – just what is the mission of The Vines..?

Craig thinks to himself for a second and reveals the hidden truth. ‘It’s about just not worrying what other people say, and about creating a world within the music... It’s all art to me: the songs represent different paintings, different stories – fictional or not, it makes no difference...’

We leave at this point, allowing the singer and band to have a break in order to compose themselves for the evening’s show.

By the time they arrive in front of hundreds of eager fans later on, all that’s been written about them is instantly found to be true. Live, the wonderment of their anthems, ‘Highly Evolved’ (also the title of their upcoming LP) and second single, ‘Get Free’, the beguiling beauty and effervescent charm of ‘Mary Jane’ and ‘1969’... The crowd-applause to such numbers is understandably rapturous. Their impact signified a band greatly yearned for, and hugely needed.

... Expect the same when they play a show near you... And expect to hear one of the finest works of art of the year when their LP graces your ears; after all, rock-music is seldom provided so exquisitely – or from such intriguing characters.

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