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RedHook: A good eye for bad decisions

RedHook have a long history with the UNIFY Gathering.

As a music journalist herself, frontwoman Emmy Mack has become well acquainted with the festival’s backstage area, bumping shoulders with many of the bands performing as she’d ask what they were most keen to get up to in the campgrounds, what everyone could expect from their sets, and if they had any tips for surviving the weekend. Now she’s on the other side of the mic, answering those questions for herself as she prepares to wreak havoc on the mainstage with her own band – which, throughout 2021, has catapulted from local scene underdogs to national punk luminaries.

April saw the band launch their debut EP, Bad Decisions: an incendiary six-tracker that danced freely through genres, defiantly shaking up the pop-rock formula with endless plot twists and powerful aplomb. Not only did the EP do gangbusters on streaming platforms (as it damn well deserved to), RedHook also managed to take it on a full tour of Australia, hitting some of the country’s most revered live music hotspots on a jaw-dropping stint of largely sold-out shows.

BLUNT caught up with Mack to vibe on that run, RedHook’s impending UNIFY debut, and what else the band have up their sleeves.

Who are you personally most keen to see at UNIFY 2022, and what song do you really hope they play? 
I think I’m most hyped for Dream On Dreamer’s set – the dudes brought the absolute goods in 2019, and this could be one of the last times we ever get to see them live since they announced their retirement just before COVID struck, but haven’t been able play any of their farewell dates! I’m really hoping they pump out a career-spanning set and treat us to a few old faves off Heartbound!

So I know you have a history with UNIFY both in the campgrounds and backstage, but this will be your first year actually on the stage – how does it feel to be making that last big leap up to performer status? Has this been a dream of yours for the past six years?
There’s no denying it, we’ve been salivating over that stage for a long time! Flash back to three years ago when RedHook first launched and Craig and I brainstormed a list of short-term career goals, playing UNIFY was definitely up there in the top three. It might have even been number one! 

And now, well, let’s just say we’ve been a band in a pandemic just as long as we’ve been a band not in a pandemic. COVID pretty much reared its ugly head at the exact time our career had started to take off, so it’s been pretty scary and nerve-racking, not knowing whether we’d be able to pick that momentum back up again once the world rebooted. 

So I guess to have this opportunity to smash into the post-COVID era by playing our favourite festival for the very first time, and tick that long dreamt-of goal off the bucket list, that means a whole lot to us. And it’ll be a much more impressive debut as well, as far as the live show goes. We’re not nervous little greenies anymore, and we can’t wait to make some big waves on that mother effin’ stage.

As a UNIFY veteran, what should newcomers know about the festival to get themselves ready?
Pack for all possible weather conditions, including extreme heat and cold – it’s climatic Russian roulette down there! And wear your party pants, but also pace yourself – it’s really easy to get overenthusiastic, go too hard on the first night and then wreck yourself for the few days. Keep an eye on the time, too, in case you accidentally miss a band that you really want to see because you’ve gotten carried away jousting with wizard staffs in the camping area. It’s a legitimate risk!

RedHook were one of the few bands to not only head out on tour in 2021, but pull off a giant headline run across the country with a stack of sold-out shows. What can you tell us about the run? What were the highlights?
Oh man, we were so damn lucky to pull that off, hey? It’s nothing short of a miracle. And honestly, all those memories are what’s been sustaining me through this three-month lockdown nightmare! It was insane. Multiple sold-out shows across the country, often two jammed into one night because of COVID caps, finishing every night with the venue looking like it’d been smashed by a snowstorm because we’d had a huge pillow fight in the pit and the fans just ripped them all to stuffing and shreds. 

The musical mateship was also pumping. We had so much fun collab-ing with all the support bands who got up to sing along to ‘Bad Decisions’ at every show, plus mates like Amy from Vilify and The Beautiful Monument, Callen from Days Like These and Mason from Pridelands getting up to do the live feature part in ‘Kamikaze’. We even had an entire horn section jump up to play a very special arrangement of ‘I Don’t Keep Up’ in Sydney. 

“It’s been nothing short of incredible, watching that whole EP – and the title track in particular – connect and resonate with people…”

It was wild, dude. But honestly, as lame as this is going to sound, my favourite part of any show is always getting to meet all the fans at the merch desk afterwards, hearing how much fun they had and what the music means to them. That’s why we do any of this at the end of the day, to help people and hopefully make their lives a bit better.

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that RedHook have one of the most unique performing styles out there right now. For someone who’s never seen it, how would you describe a RedHook show from your perspective?
Thank you! I guess we always just aim for the live show to be memorable in multiple ways – kind of a rollercoaster of vibes and emotions. [it has to be] more than just “watching a band play a show”, you know? You’re happily boogying along one minute, aggressively charging into a wall of death the next, and then you’re whipping your phone light out for a sad, heartfelt singalong. From pillow fights to saxophone solo circle pits, we’ve got you covered. Also, I just turn into a full blown psycho when you let me loose on a stage, so there’s that!

How did you develop that style? Was it something you had to sort of bend and mound into shape, or did it just come naturally to you guys?
I think it’s just sort of evolved naturally over time as we’ve written more songs and become more comfortable and confident with who we are onstage, both individually and as a collective. Structuring the setlist so that it flows cohesively and naturally between the emotional extremes of our songs is also key!

How do you get yourself into the zone before a set? Do you have any pre-show routines or rituals?
I like to go to a quiet place and reflect on every fuck-up I’ve ever made over the course of my entire life. [Laughs] Nah, I don’t have a very exciting answer for this one! I still tend to get super nervous before I go onstage, so I like to start getting ready nice and early to limber up, make sure my voice is warmed up, check that no technology is going to fuck out on me and that I can move okay in what I’m wearing – learnt that one the hard way! Then have enough time left over to forget about it all, relax, chat, chug a couple of vodka Red Bulls and hang out with everyone.

Although during the Bad Decisions tour, this went out of the window a few times. Instead, I could be seen frantically lugging two monstrous sacks full of Big W pillows while waiting for an Uber on the side of the road with 30 minutes ’til showtime as the Mission Impossible theme song played loudly inside my head.

So we’re coming up on half a year since Bad Decisions hit the circuit – how do you feel being on the other side of it? And what was your take on the reception?
Ah man, it’s been nothing short of incredible, watching that whole EP – and the title track in particular – connect and resonate with people. I can’t even explain it. I poured so much pain into those songs, and the impact they’ve had on people makes it all feel worthwhile – like it all meant something. ‘Bad Decisions’, the song, has really taken on a life of its own now, too. Every day for the past few months has been its biggest streaming day ever on Spotify. It’s nuts. Thousands of people are discovering our music every day because of that one song, and that is very, very cool to me. 

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UNIFY Gathering 2022

The Amity Affliction
Violent Soho
Alpha Wolf
Banks Arcade
Dream On Dreamer
The Last Martyr
Ocean Grove
Short Stack
Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers
Teenage Joans
To Octavia
Yours Truly
+ More to be announced

Thursday January 20th – Sunday January 23rd
Tarwin Lower, South Gippsland VIC
Tickets: Ticketmaster