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Violent Soho: The future’s looking A-OK

It’s kind of morbidly ironic that Violent Soho’s fourth album, Everything Is A-OK, came out last April.

It was about a month after the pandemic truly erupted, panic at an all-time high as countries en masse were rapidly struck and buckled by the first major surges of COVID-19. Everything was not, in fact, A-OK. Adding to the sting was the fact that just months prior, Violent Soho had returned from a hiatus; 2016’s WACO shot them into the stratosphere as theatre-packing, festival-dominating rock warriors, and after two giant years of world touring, the Mansfield monolith tapped out for some well-earned respite. They started 2020 duly refuelled, prepped and primed for another, even bigger and bolder assault on the world stage.

When shit hit the fan, they slipped back into hibernation – except this time, it wasn’t by choice. That nearly broke Violent Soho, as frontman Luke Boerdam tells BLUNT. They couldn’t do the COVID-era sitdown shows, because Violent Soho aren’t a sitdown band – even when they play clubs, they’re an intensely massive act, with moshes that stretch from wall to sweaty, beer-stained wall. They were forced to get “real” jobs, realign their trajectory and ponder if, should the pandemic continue to rage on, they should just throw in the towel altogether. 

Thankfully, there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. As the world slowly recovers from the eye of COVID’s storm and Australia’s live music scene starts to rebuild, Violent Soho are ready to hit the stage once more. Their second shot at a comeback lies just around the corner, with a headlining spot at the next UNIFY Gathering set set to deliver an explosive celebration of all the punchy, pit-ready fervour that defines Everything Is A-OK. Beyond that? A stacked slate of headline shows and potentially even new material.

The world is Violent Soho’s oyster, Boerdam says, and having almost had it yanked away from them last year, the band keen to shuck the hell out of it in 2022.

Who are you personally most keen to see at UNIFY 2022?
Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers. James produced their record and I haven’t seen them live yet, so that will be pretty rad. 

Having played virtually every major festival in Australia, what would you say is the key to getting the most out of the experience? Do you have any tips for survival in (and around) the pits?
Gumboots, and basically don’t be a dickhead. Look out for each other.

You guys also played the UNIFY Gathering in 2017 – what’s drawn you back for a second run at it?
All our touring plans got thrown out with multiple waves of COVID. This just seemed like a realistic plan for a festival to actually go ahead. With the amount of shows we’ve had to book and then cancel in the past 18 months, we’re pretty stoked to have something locked in, that’s planned for a COVID world, and seems to be fair to punters. It actually has a backup date and booked all Aussie acts. It’s a great size for a festival, loads of fun and yeah, we’re pretty keen to get back out there. By the time UNIFY comes around, it will be out first show in Victoria in two years. 

We know Soho like to party, and I feel like it goes without saying that next year’s UNIFY is going to be the biggest party in recent memory. Out of the four of you, who tends to go the hardest after the show’s done and you’re free to let loose, and who’s the chillest of the group?
Maybe our partying has slowed down a bit after doing this for nearly 20 years. I think I might have the track record for being the “chillest” by default. This is because after losing my voice on a few tours, I realised that rest and recovery and my vocal cords are somewhat connected. But I can honestly say we’ve all had our moments over the years. We don’t really look at it like that now though – we’re all pretty chilled, I guess. We just want to play a show and then maybe go to the beach or something – kinda like Parkway Drive.

We’ll be making the trek down to UNIFY by road-tripping from Sydney, and we’re in desperate need of tune suggestions. What are your go-to road-trip anthems?
I’m just going to list the ones that got a few plays back in the tour van that comes to mind. It’s pretty random. This is BLUNT, so I’ll aim for a heavier list.

Pantera – ‘I’m Broken’
God – ‘My Pal’
Refused – ‘Rather Be Dead’
Hatebreed – ‘Doomsayer’
Pavement – ‘Ranch Life’
Magic Dirt – ‘Horror Me’
Gyroscope – ‘Doctor Doctor’
Built To Spill – ‘Liar’

Bar that one-off Brissy show back in May, it’s been hot minute since we’ve seen Soho in action. What have you guys been up to for the past 18 months? Has the topic of LP5 come up at all?
Not really an LP5, but there is something… We don’t want to let out all the secrets just yet.

Can we get a play-by-play of that Riverstage show from your perspective? It must have felt pretty triumphant to finally have that chance to give Everything Is A-OK the monolithic launch it always deserved!
Yeah, it was awesome. Brisbane went into lockdown the weekend our album came out in 2020, and like a lot of other people, we thought, “Wow, this is all pretty heavy, but I guess we can get going around new year at the latest.” So over 14 months later, to finally play a hometown show was absolutely awesome. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It was great to play some of the new songs, but we really just scratched the surface.

“I think with everything opening up, there will be a huge energy around seeing live music – especially from punters who have been “cooped” up for two years.”

UNIFY is probably the “heaviest” festival in Australia, so I think we’ll get a chance to explore that side of the record more. This will be the third show we play after the record was released, so I’m pretty pumped to get to more new material off the record. There will definitely be a debut or two of songs we’ve never played live from the new record. 

If there’s something I’ve learnt from this, it’s that recording is only half a record. The other half is touring with it – that’s when it really connects. So playing the Riverstage really was the first time I felt like I heard the new record. 

I don’t want to sour the vibe, but I’m curious about how last year’s sudden pause to the music industry impacted yourselves in particular. Before that short-lived comeback at the end of 2019, Soho had already been on a lengthy (semi-)hiatus. How did you reckon with being thrown right back into that? Was it easy to settle back into your non-musical lives, or was it a particularly heavy blow?
It turned everything upside down. Like you said, we were already coming back from a “semi-hiatus”. We had a new record, new tours, a whole year of work lined up – we even had a world trip with sold-out shows in London, Amsterdam, New York and LA… And then COVID happened and the whole thing collapsed. 

We all had to go and find work eventually. It was devastating, especially with how quickly it unfolded. We considered doing stuff like sit-down shows or really small gigs, but it didn’t feel right – especially with the energy we like to have at our shows. We made the call that if it wasn’t a Soho show and people were being too restricted in the audience, we simply weren’t going to do it. It was brutal in terms of income, especially with the other three having families to support, but we simply have to put money last because we know that if you start doing stuff you don’t feel comfortable with – especially after 18 years – you’re going to have a pretty miserable time. It’s simply not worth it.  

It feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel now, but I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t had a permanent effect on our outlook for the band – probably a lot of artists, really – and it is difficult to have your momentum shift continually. At the same time, it’s something Violent Soho can always survive, because at the end of the day we’ve just learnt to not treat it like a job. We’ve been through a few ups and downs over the years – mind you, nothing like this – but we’ve learnt to keep our heads down and just focus on our music. I’m hoping in 2022 we can give A-OK the shows and touring its meant to have.

What are you looking forward to getting up to in 2022? What’s keeping you excited about music at the moment?
I think with everything opening up, there will be a huge energy around seeing live music – especially from punters who have been “cooped” up for two years. I’m excited for the community to really get behind bands on a local level. We all lost a huge chunk of income and it was heartbreaking to see how venue owners, techs, bar staff and the like were so heavily affected. 

Seeing places like Crowbar in Sydney, the Tote or the Zoo being able to book a full year of music will be amazing. I feel like I took for granted how special and important these places are to our local history. If we don’t take care of that “social fabric”, we’re going to lose a lot of good people and a whole platform for alternative music. Violent Soho was supported by all of those small venues for years. It’s where we “grew up”. We used to stay in bunk beds at the Great Northern and sleep on the floor of the Annandale, like heaps of bands before us. Without that platform, there would have been no Violent Soho, simple as that. So I’m excited to see these venues pull through, and for there to be a bit of resurgence next year.

>> KEEP READING: The Fresh Squeeze: Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers <<

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