Silverchair broke up five years ago today – will they ever release that sixth album?
When Silverchair went on hiatus five years ago today in 2011, they hadn’t played a show in over 12 months. There was to be no final lap around the country. No posthumous release. Just a dry statement from the band that blindsided the international music media when it hit inboxes on May 25. “If the band stops being fun and if it’s no longer fulfilling creatively, then we need to stop,” the statement read.
Not fun anymore? Creatively unfulfilling? Er, weren’t they supposed to be recording a new album? Just 12 months earlier – ahead of a run of festival dates that would prove to be their last – bassist Chris Joannou had sent out a note to fans saying that things were going … actually pretty well. “We are really excited with the sounds emerging from the studio and everyday is a new surprise,” he told fans.
Two new tracks were aired on that tour. A song called ‘16’ and ‘Machina Collecta’, which one FL forum member accurately described as “Daft Punk fucking Optimus Prime”.
Frontman Daniel Johns even joked to triple j about playing the album “from start to finish” at the band’s last ever show at Darwin Amphitheatre for Bassinthegrass on May 22, 2010. And if covering The Beatles’ joke song ‘Yellow Submarine’ on “Like A Version” was any indication, they still looked like they were having fun.
But somewhere between triumphantly closing their final set with ‘Freak’ (flagship single ‘Tomorrow’ was a conspicuous absentee on the tour) and calling it a day almost a year to the day later, things started to go awry.
While some 2009 studio footage shows the band clowning around with producer Chris Townend, Daniel Johns told Rolling Stone Australia that things began to “fragment a bit” towards the end of those sessions. He was getting deep into experimental dance music, and subconsciously extracting himself from the band he formed with his high school mates back in Newcastle in 1992.
“I wanted synths and layers and textures that don’t have any rock’n’roll history,” he explained in a 2015 interview with Fairfax. “I didn’t want to hear real drums, I didn’t want bass guitar, I didn’t want guitar. It was never going to work, you know? I was firing myself as well.”
While the words “indefinite hibernation” were used at the time, Johns has been a bit more definitive about the band’s status in recent interviews. He described it as a “dissolution” in a 2015 interview with FL, and said Silverchair wouldn’t even reform for a “million bucks” amid rumours about a potential comeback to support AC/DC. Yeah, right!
Bandmate Ben Gillies – who has since recording music as Bento – remains hopeful. Speaking to Tone Deaf, he said they had just “hit a brick wall” and were taking some time away to replenish their creative stocks, before finishing that elusive sixth album. “We just need a bit of distance from it to move forward,” he explained, optimistically.
So what are the chances of it ever seeing the light of day?
“It’s becoming less likely,” Johns told Rolling Stone last year, leaving the door slightly ajar for a proper full stop. “I didn’t want [2009’s] Young Modern to be our swan song, so I felt like we had one real weird arty album. I wanted it to end on a real weird note.”
Never say never, right?
Silverchair: Where are they now?
Daniel Johns (vocals/guitar)
After spending four years in his house with the blinds drawn, Johns began making music again. His debut solo album Talk – a record influenced by R’N’B, hip-hop and indie electro – came out last May through EMI. It featured collaborations with Julian Hamilton of The Presets, Lorde producer Joel Little and Melbourne production duo Damn Morodor. Its first single ‘Aerial Love’ came in at #161 in this year’s Hottest 100. Johns never toured the album, playing just two shows at Vivid LIVE in Sydney. He has since recorded new music with Perth duo Slumberjack and friend and fellow artist Jake Meadows.
Ben Gillies (drums)
Recording as Bento, Gillies released his debut solo album Diamond Days in 2012. Produced by Gillies and Eric J Dubowsky (The Rubens, Chet Faker), it featured cameos from “an array of Ben’s muso mates”, including former Papa Vs Pretty frontman Thomas Rawle. Gillies described it as “an album of self-discovery, of finding myself”. More recently Gillies has been a regular character on The Real Housewives of Melbourne, which stars his psychic wife Jackie. The pair have launched a range of “premium alcoholic beverages” called La Máscara.
Chris Joannou (bass)
Joannou returned to Newcastle and is now co-owner of The Edwards, a cafe/restaurant/bar that was built on the site of his parents’ dry-cleaning business in Newcastle West. If you’re lucky he might even pour you a beer:
Photo: The Edwards/Facebook