The music industry has changed. In some ways that sucks: bands don’t make money off recordings any more, audiences are fragmented, the album-as-art-form is under siege from the quick-hit single in a way we haven’t seen since the mid 60s. But in amongst the tumult are plenty of good things: bands are making themselves more accessible to fans than ever, they’re touring more, and they’re playing more unique and interesting venues. Case in point: the Twilight at Taronga and Melbourne Zoo Twilights concerts presented by ANZ. This year’s series has already featured the reunited george, Warpaint, Killing Heidi and Paul Dempsey, and next to take the stage are The Living End, with Dan Sultan and the String Sirens, supported by Gabriela Cohen.
“It’s such a different thing,” The Living End drummer Andy Strachan says. “I’ve never been to one of these shows but from all reports it’s amazing. Such a cool, chilled out vibe and a nice way to see rock’n’roll. We’re going to set the tone to fit into the environment a little more as well. We did a little photo shoot with some little llama-lookin’ things that were quite amazing. They were jumping all over us and being all affectionate and adorable. The zookeepers have the best job in the world. They seem to really love what they do and the animals seem really happy.”
So what kind of preparation goes into planning a show at a zoo? It’s gotta be different to a sweaty pub gig. “We’re gonna have elements of both, I think,” Strachan says. “The idea was to stretch ourselves a little bit and we’re going to do a bunch of stripped-back versions of songs. We have a couple of special guests. Dan Sultan is going to join us in Melbourne and we’ll have Josh Pyke and Jimmy Barnes in Sydney to jam with us. We’ve got a string section that’s going to join us for a few songs. It’s very, very different for us and a bit of a challenge, to be honest, but we’re really looking forward to it.”
From a logistical standpoint, Strachan will be playing a smaller kit: an 18” kick drum, a choked-up muffled snare drum with one cymbal and a pair of hot rods. “There’ll be acoustic guitars, and obviously Scotty’s bass is pretty much an acoustic instrument anyway, so we’ll be playing up that bluegrass kind of element. And I suppose that’s the challenge, at the end of the day: if it sounds good on an acoustic guitar and someone tapping along on their lap, when a song translates well in that way then it’s a good tune. But we really haven’t done this before. We’re just going to have as much fun as we can with it, and hopefully bring the house down.”
After these shows are in the rear view mirror, The Living End are hitting the road for an extended Australian regional tour. “We’ve got a bunch of shows coming up,” Strachan says. “We go straight into a regional tour to places that we haven’t been in seven or eight years. We’re going to Cairns, Geelong, Woollongong, places like that which we don’t often get to. We’re playing some proper rock’n’roll pub shows, and then a bunch of shows in Europe, a massive show in Hyde Park with Green Day, Rancid and a bunch of other bands and we’re very fortunate to be a part of that. Then we’re going to Spain, a festival in Canada and all sorts of places. And then I’m sure there’ll be another lap of Australia or maybe some festivals after that. There’s already talk of doing another record but when that happens, I’m not too sure. There’s still some fuel in the tank.”
As for the Zoo Twilights, the series continues with Kurt Vile, Tegan and Sara, Martha Wainwright and The Specials. All proceeds from the summer concert series go towards the zoo’s conservation work: Zoos Victoria have been fighting the extinction of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, playing a key role in the recovery of the species, increasing community awareness and building programs to reintroduce it to the wild.
The Living End are touring nationally throughout March and April, for more information visit thelivingend.com. Shift is out now through Dew Process.