Aussie Invasion 2.0

Thirty years after Men At Work, INXS and Midnight Oil took over the world, Australian music is mounting its next challenge, writes DARREN LEVIN.

Danny Rogers is backstage at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival where the Temper Trap have played a headline performance in front of a 2000-strong crowd. It marks the band’s return to the limelight following an extended break, and their Melbourne-born manager couldn’t be happier. “It was great,” he comes bounding down the phone. “It’s kind of their first big show since they started playing live again.”

You could say it’s an important time for Rogers, the managing director of Lunatic Entertainment, an artist management and touring company with offices in Melbourne and London. On his roster are arguably two of Australia’s biggest overseas success stories in recent years: Temper Trap, whose 2009 debut Conditions sold nearly a million copies worldwide, and Gotye, whose ubiquitous single ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ spent eight weeks atop the US Billboard charts, not to mention 27 other countries worldwide. Contrast this with the early-2000s, when Rogers was trying to break a band called Gersey out of Melbourne. It was his first foray into music management, and the band had just released their third album Storms Dressed As Stars (2002).

“At the time there was such a small number of bands,” he recalls, “and you had such a small number of venues … I think since that time, there just seems to be so many bands, and I think that’s pushed it. There’s just better infrastructure set up for bands too. People are going out locally. They’re pulling strong numbers locally, as much as the international guys, sometimes bigger. I think the bands have just stepped up.”

“I think the bands have just stepped up.”

But the proliferation of venues and bands, says Rogers, is only part of the story when you consider the recent wave of Australian success overseas. The Temper Trap may’ve been the biggest name on the Great Escape bill, but Australia was represented by 19 other acts including DZ Deathrays, Chet Faker, Emma Louise, Jinja Safari, Last Dinosaurs, POND, Oliver Tank and Young Magic.

There were 50 Australian acts at South By Southwest and successful follow-up tours for most of the showcasing artists including DZ Deathrays, Twerps, POND and Husky. International labels, particularly boutique indies, are sitting up and taking notice too, with recent deals inked by Husky (Sub Pop), Emma Louise (French Kiss), Last Dinosaurs (Fiction Records), Oh Mercy (Rough Trade Benelux), Royal Headache (What’s Your Rupture?), The Jezabels (Mom+Pop), Hilltop Hoods (Fontana), Chet Faker (Downtown), Matt Corby (Atalantic/Elektra), Twerps (Underwater Peoples) and Jonti (Stones Throw). Homegrown hip-hop has been making great strides internationally of late, while Parkway Drive’s signing to Epitaph several years ago has opened doors for Australia’s heavy music scene.

As distinct from the mid-2000s, where you had three rock bands (The Vines, Wolfmother and Jet) leading the charge, the sheer breadth of Australian artists making strides internationally is unprecedented, Rogers says. “It just seems like a lot of people from Australia, who are obviously musically talented, are starting to get some amazing recognition. It’s a very, very exciting time.”

Next page