Operator Please’s Big Day Out

Queensland popsters Operator Please are barely out of high school and have already taken the world by storm, having played UK, Europe and Japan in their short career, releasing their debut album Yes Yes Vindictive, and winning an ARIA in late 2007.

Forming at school, quintet were brought together by vocalist Amandah Wilkinson, who wanted to form a band to enter a Battle of the Bands competition. ”…We played a few covers, and that’s kinda where we started off,” says bassist Ashley McConnell, “and we just kept playing from then on.. that’s kind of brought us up to where we are now.”

Operator Please have been hard workers since day one. “We played a fair few gigs [before we were noticed]… we did an EP ourselves, and we used to book all our own shows and drive ourselves everywhere for a long time before anything came along.. So we’re defintely firm believers in the DIY approach, because that’s kind of where we’ve come from.”

When asked if it’s hard being in the industry at such a young age (their ages range from 16 to 19), Ashley gives me this burst of wisdom: “It’s all relative; its how much strength you have in the industry. You could have been in it for 5 years and still be ‘younger’ than some one who’s been in it for 2 years. It’s also about how mature you are and how much you can handle it, because everyone’s really different. Personally, it doesn’t faze me.”

Even though Taylor Henderson, violin] and Timothy Commandeur, drums] are only 16 and 17 respectively, the members of Operator Please are no longer in school. Says Ashley, “No one goes to school anymore. Me, Amandah and Sarah Gardiner [keyboard] all graduated before things kind of got busy, and Tim & Taylor… Tim would have finished this year, but they quit at the start of the year to make this their priority. All of us are free to do this fulltime now.”

What do their parents have to say about it? “I guess they’re proud and happy that all of us are happy with what we’re doing.. They’re all really supportive, really intrigued by what happens and they love getting filled in on what’s going on. I think they’re generally quite excited about it all, as much as we are.”

Winning an ARIA for Just A Song About Ping Pong was “the scariest thing ever”, according to Ashley. “The performance side of it was easy in comparison, because it was like, ‘come on, we do this all the time’, and we kind of just went into ‘live show’ mode. I forgot there were cameras there, and I think that’s how we got through it fairly well.”

On top of all this, they’ve managed to score a place in the Big Day Out lineup, for not just one state, but the entire run. Are they excited about it? “Yeah, totally!” says an ecstatic Ashley. “I love Big Day Out. I’m really glad we’re on for the whole tour… So we get to watch Arcade Fire like, six times!” As well as Bjork, Spoon, LCD Sound System, Battles… “I cant remember anyone else of the top of my head…” (Oh, to be in that position.)

He couldn’t have imagined any of this happening 3 or 4 years ago, though. “I’ve only been playing an instrument for 3 years, and before that, I wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing anything like this. But now that we’re doing it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And we’ve just been so grateful. We’re still really grateful for all the opportunities we’ve been given.”

Ashley credits the band’s success to their fans. “I guess if they didnt like our music, we wouldn’t be anywhere.” It’s refreshing to hear some humility in a band with this kind of success.

Operator Please will be around for a long time to come, I think.

Appearing at all Big Day Out events

Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland Jan 18

Parklands, Gold Coast Jan 20

Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Jan 25

Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne Jan 28

Adelaide Showground, Adelaide Feb 1

Claremont Showgrounds, Perth Feb 3