It is an undeniable fact that at some point in every Australian’s life, they’ve at least heard a Hoodoo Gurus song, if not had every memorable lyric ingrained in their minds from childhood like an honourary national anthem. They’re a national treasure in every sense; as Aussie as a Bunnings snag and a tin of VB, and as recognisable as your Aunty Bev’s Christmas pav.
The Gurus are headlining the jam-packed Under The Southern Stars festival in January alongside longtime peers like You Am I, Eskimo Joe and The Superjesus. Even though it’s a casual soirée with some of his best mates – not to mention, the Gurus are a force to be reckoned with on their worst days – guitarist Brad Shepherd is veritably shitting bricks over the whole affair.
“We’re all good friends and we’ve played shows with every single one of those bands,” he says. “But when you put us all on the same bill, at the same time… We’re all competitive people, so it gets pretty brutal. Nobody wants to suck on the day. You don’t want to stick around after your show and think, ‘Well, they got the better of us today.’ Everyone’s aware of that, so everyone brings their A-game and there’s a sort of knock-on effect where everyone is trying to outdo each other. We’re up against some of the best bands in Australia at the moment, so I need to start getting ready now to be on fire in January.”
He’s excited though, of course. Music is Shepherd’s life, and though he’s been blessed to call it his 9-to-5 for almost 40 years, not a day goes past that he takes it for granted. As such, he isn’t kidding when he says he’s already started practising for the shows.
“I just want to be good,” Shepherd says. “That simple philosophy has motivated me throughout my entire career. If you think about the Hoodoo Gurus at all, our consistency might be a big part of how you perceive what we’re about. It’s extraordinarily rare for us to play a show where we truly suck. There’s always the potential for that with any live performance, because there’s no hard drive flying in our performance for us. It’s four blokes playing their instruments, so there’s always the chance that you can fail spectacularly, but we’re still pretty consistent, and that’s because what motivates us is our desire to be consistent.”
At face value, that’s what keeps the Gurus from disintegrating into the void of acts whose peaks have long since rounded. We’re nearing a decade since their last full release, but they’ve managed to avoid becoming the band you catch at a festival for nostalgia’s sake. They’ve got no formula. There’s no magic key to Shepherd’s alchemy nor a single trick up his sleeve – not because he’s simplistic in his performance, but rather because he outright refuses to rest on his laurels.
“That’s exactly what we’re about,” says Shepherd. “We want to blow you away. We want to blow people’s minds. We’ve been around for so long that we’ve kind of seeped, in some regard, into the collective consciousness. You might have a vague perception of what the Hoodoo Gurus are, but my favourite thing is when you can feel in the audience that someone thinks they know what we’re all about, but then walks away having their perception changed – that they were more than pleasantly surprised. They leave going, ‘Woah, these guys that have been around for four decades were ferocious, and intimidating, and defiant.’ That’s another powerful motivation for me.”
As motivated today as he was in his pub-grinding ‘80s heyday, Shepherd sees a long road ahead for the Gurus. Take this next bit with a grain of salt, but they might even have a new record out in 2019. “No-one’s talked about a new album yet,” Shepherd admits, but adds, “We’re all creative people. You can’t really turn that off.
“I’ve got hundreds of ideas on my computer. Some of them are just half-baked, two-note riffs, and some of them are fully formed epics. We haven’t had any proper discussions about it, but I suspect Dave [Faulkner, vocals] equally has some places to start with regards to Hoodoo Gurus songs. I anticipate that we may have that conversation before too long, and next year seems like the right time to start looking at it. It’s been almost ten years since our last album, after all.”
Hoodoo Gurus are touring Australia in January 2019 as part of the Under The Southern Stars lineup.