After a lengthy hiatus and Gotye's mammoth success, The Basics are back on the road.
To put an end to the speculation, Melbourne trio The Basics never actually split up. There were never any internal dilemmas, there were never any creative differences, there was no animosity. When you’re justly tagged as one of the hardest working bands in the country, it’s a lot more simple than that.
“We were tired,” laughs co-founder Kris Schroeder, “we’d been working very hard.” In early 2010, after eight years of almost constant touring, along with releasing a slew of quality records, The Basics – bassist Schroeder, drummer Wally De Backer and guitarist Tim Heath – called a halt to proceedings, more of a time out rather than a hiatus or split.
“When a band like Radiohead takes three years off to do whatever else, they don’t call it a hiatus,” Schroeder points out. “I guess we’re just getting a bit older and spacing things out a bit more. We’ve just got other things on our plate… we just felt that was all we could do for now.”
Formed in 2002 by Schroeder and De Backer (initially with Michael Hubbard on guitar, before Heath replaced him in 2004), The Basics, united by their love of pop-laced rock ‘n’ roll, began to garner themselves a solid fanbase. Via audacious moves like tri-state monthly residencies (“We actually stole that idea from Josh Pyke,” De Backer laughs), retro rock records like 2007’s Stand Out / Fit In and 2009’s Keep Your Friends Close, and live shows that bumped and ground along with an almost religious fervor, they began to make their mark.
And yet, by the time they decided to rest, they’d never hit the lofty commercial heights they perhaps should have. A solid fanbase, yes, but with youth network Triple J not really getting behind the band, they found it hard to get their music to the wider audience needed to achieve that next level.
“Well, I guess that for every band that is lucky enough to get played on Triple J and connect with an audience, there are countless others that don’t enjoy that,” muses De Backer on this band bugbear, that Triple J allegedly ‘didn’t like them’. “I mean, obviously it would have been great… but we’ve done plenty of other things.”
“I’d say the industry is more at fault there,” chimes in Schroeder. “There are a lot of lazy promoters, managers, journalists that really won’t take any interest in you unless you’re played on Triple J. [But] I think the reason we haven’t been more successful isn’t just because of that, there’s so many reasons.”
Perhaps, now that the band is back – with a national tour booked from late September, along with a number of festival dates already confirmed – that will change somewhat, particularly because of what De Backer has been up to over the past 24 months.
During the three years the band took off, Schroeder headed to Kenya to work with the Red Cross, contracting malaria, twice, along the way. Heath worked with other bands and also on the film, The Rise And Rise Of Richard Latte. De Backer, on the other hand, went back to his side-project, an act most will know, Gotye.
His third record, Making Mirrors, particularly the song ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, scorched the earth, garnering him a plethora of awards, sending him around the world. And of course, Gotye was played, ad nauseum, on Triple J, and has been for years. So what does this mean now the three of them are back as The Basics?
“Well I wonder if it will be any different for our upcoming shows,” says De Backer. “We’ve [played a couple of shows already], and a thought popped into my head that maybe people would be coming along who were only aware of my material and who haven’t even checked out Basics records… but it didn’t seem like that.”
“I think [the Gotye factor] will only be evident at the festival shows,” adds Schroeder. “And maybe, from a distance, they’ll be judging us one way or the other, but our club shows, I don’t think it’ll make a great deal of difference.”
It remains to be seen if De Backer’s solo success rubs off on The Basics, whether that translates to Triple J play or more people at shows (not something they ever had to worry about), but regardless, for the band, it’s about the now, it’s about The Basics.
“Well, it’s early days,” smiles Schroeder on how the feeling is in the band at the moment, having cited “Wally and I listening back through some stuff and maybe communicating a bit more on a creative level,” as the reason the band is back in the fold. It’s easy to tell though, listening to the easy banter the pair have together, that they’re happy to be back in a place they know well, that they know works.
“I think we continue to surprise each other,” Schroeder goes on. “I have a lot of respect for Tim and Wally’s ability, but it’s the little things that Tim might play or say, or Wally might play that we can lock into, those hidden little moments… that’s what does it for me.”
“It’s the clothes [for me],” De Backer deadpans. “Kris and Tim keep impressing me with their pants.”
The Basics have always been known for their flashes of sartorial splendour, but it has of course been their music which has driven them, which has attracted so many. And those many will be happy to know that there are plans to record again, but as Schroeder says, “If we’re going to do another record, we need a good reason to make one.”
Samuel J. Fell