The last couple of years have seen something of a revival of the original stoner rock gods of the early 90s, as Sleep, Tumbleweed and Kyuss all reformed to play for old and new fans alike (and appropriately, Tumbleweed were the support act for Kyuss’ Sydney show).
But as Tumbleweed guitarist, Lenny Curley, tells Tone Deaf’s Dunja Nedic, Kyuss’s timing has a history of coinciding with their own.
‘It was a nice coincidence,’ says Curley. ‘It’s funny, a similar thing happened when we started, whereby we thought we were onto something really different and then we heard this Kyuss record. And when we kind of reformed, and we were doing shows around the place, suddenly they did the same thing and we got to play with them. So we have this weird similarity with those guys. I even talked to Nick Oliveri about it and he just said that we both incorporate Sabbath into our live bands and it’s as simple as that.’
This isn’t the first time Tumbleweed have drawn attention for being part of such a highly anticipated (legendary, even) tour, having also supported Nirvana on their only Australian tour back in 1992. Fortunately for the multitude of fans still obsessed with the grunge rock pioneers, Curley seems far from annoyed that their legacy is so entwined with that of his own band, and very willingly shares his experience.
‘I understand why people are interested in Nirvana, because they were so good, so interesting and so sad and their story is an interesting one so I don’t blame people for still harping on about it, and I like that it still seems kind of important.
‘We met a lot of American rock stars through the Big Day out shows and they came in two types. They were either really cool or they were real arseholes and Nirvana were really nice blokes, even Kurt. I kind of feel as though they were the last truly rebellious kind of phenomenon.
‘Kurt was the last guy to really stick it to the system, and it was really great to be a part of that. All these years on, it is as important as what the Sex Pistols did or what The Doors did in their day and that’s why I don’t mind people harping on about it.’
With titles in their back catalogue such as ‘Stoned’ and Weedseed, it’s no secret that little old Mary Jane played something of a pivotal role in the creation of Tumbleweed’s music, at least to begin with, although Curley argues that it’s hardly unique to them.
‘We were 18, 19 years old and just discovered it for the first time so we were in that initial inspiration that you get from that kind of stuff. Ten years later, it changes, but you know, we formed that image and it seemed to work and people really liked it too. I guess they felt they responded to it and had similarities in their lives, and it just seemed to click and there’s no escaping it for the rest of our lives.
‘There is a portion of the Tumbleweed audience who might smoke pot, but that’s universal with all forms of music, so it’s silly to really associate that specifically to this genre. Blues, jazz, dance…all music has that influence at a certain point and we don’t all smoke pot every day so it’s difficult to associate specifically with our band.’
In fact, the very term, ‘stoner rock’, is something of a point of contention.
‘I never really agreed with that stoner rock thing…[it] didn’t turn up until a good five, 10 years after we’d already established ourselves. It just seemed to get lumped on us.
‘When it was born, the idea of Tumbleweed, we were into this idea of incorporating punk rock with Black Sabbath, who we were getting right into. So it’s like a late 60s, psychedelic, heavy metal, punk rock, rock ‘n’ roll.
‘I love the idea that Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and all those guys had, where they got old blues musicians’ music and they heavy-ed it up. So it’s incorporating that whole history of blues and rock and delivering it with high energy to give it that excitement.’
Life for Tumbleweed these days is perhaps a little less rock ‘n’ roll, having to find time to practice and tour, whilst balancing the band with day jobs and kids. But with their tentative plans to record at some point in the future, diehard fans can still rest assured that the members of Tumbleweed have not lost their grit; one catchphrase became something of a staple throughout the interview.
‘Sorry, what was the question again? I had a big one last night.’