Craig Nicholls is not the easiest person to interview. But as Tone Deaf’s Dunja Nedic found out, it’s not for the reasons you might expect.
While most interviewees are happy to regurgitate the same spiel to everyone, and generally only need a few open-ended questions to fill a 15-minute interview, Nicholls is markedly less chatty. He doesn’t sound displeased or irritable, contrary to some of his previous behaviour perhaps, but it’s more like talking to a somewhat awkward acquaintance you run into at a party.
Although recording The Vines’ latest album, Future Primitive, was completed in 2010, Nicholls explains that these are some of the songs he’s most looking forward to playing in a set spanning much of their back catalogue.
‘The ones off Future, Primitive, they’re the ones that are the most fresh. They’re feeling good.
‘Of course we can’t play everything but yeah, lots of old songs and lots of new songs and lots of songs from kind of our middle period. They all kind of sit together really well. At the moment, it’s the most fun to play the new songs because…some of them we have never done live before which we’ll be doing, which will be really cool.
‘[But] we’ve done some shows and yeah, it’s been really cool to finally play them to people.’
Whether a workaholic or just compulsively talented, Nicholls describes his songwriting as more of a constant, ongoing process rather than an event in itself; a collection from which the best can simply be plucked whenever the mood to make an album strikes. One notable example of this is ‘Autumn Shade’, originally a song on The Vines’ debut LP, Highly Evolved, but which has had continuations on most of their albums, the fourth of which can be heard on Future Primitive.
‘I was just writing this song and then it kind of turned into another song and then, it’s a quadrilogy…something like that,’ says Nicholls of the evolution of ‘Autumn Shade’.
‘Yeah I’m not sure why, I just know that I do keep returning to it. Hopefully [it’ll be] something good, it means something good but I can’t be sure.’
Despite The Vines’ considerable global success and impressive back catalogue, it is the behaviour of Nicholls himself that has typically drawn the most attention (as well as prompting former bassist, Patrick Matthews, to leave the band in 2004).
‘You would like the focus to be on what you’re doing and the reason…but I mean if you’re also behaving in the way that I have behaved, then maybe that’s hard to ignore,’ Nicholls says pragmatically, but is also very quick to stress that his main concern has always been to be a good artist, drinking up influence from many and varied musicians, particularly his beloved Beatles.
‘I really like The Beatles a lot, I think they’re the best band ever,’ Nicholls says with a notch of enthusiasm. ‘They just really changed everything and so yeah, I think because they did it first, it would be hard for anyone [to be better than them]
‘Doesn’t mean people should try but I doubt it,’ he laughs.
Perhaps it’s fitting then that The Vines, along with several other ‘The’ bands in the early 2000s, were being heralded as the saviours of rock. According to Nicholls though, he knew what he was in for.
‘I put myself in that position where I wanted to really do something with music, like make a statement and get out there and shake things up.
‘I was well aware of…the whole thing that goes along with music and just what you can do in life. We were lucky that we got that kind of success…we didn’t think we had to save music but we definitely thought well we’re doing something cool so we wanted a lot of people to know about it.’
Given that he’s managed to create five albums’ worth of material to date (as well as countless unreleased tracks), Nicholls obviously has no shortage of things to say; he just takes a little more effort. But that’s cool.
Thursday 1st September
Wollongong Uni Bar, Wollongong
www.bigtix.com.au / www.oztix.com.au
PH: 1300 762 545 or in person at The Uni Shop & Redback Music
Friday 2nd September
The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
1300 GET TIX (438 849) or from usual outlets
Saturday 3rd September
The Hi-Fi, Melbourne
Venue Box Office; www.thehifi.com.au
PH: 1300 THEHIFI (843 4434) or from usual outlets
Friday 9th September
The Gov, Adelaide
www.moshtix.com.au PH: 1300 (GET TIX) 438 849
www.venuetix.com.au PH: 08 8225 8888
Saturday 10th September
www.moshtix.com PH: 1300 (GET TIX) 438 849
www.heatseeker.com.au http://www.heatseeker.com.au/ or usual outlets