Violent Soho on ‘WACO’, lockouts, and the dangers of touring with Dune Rats

Violent Soho frontman Luke Boerdam tells JODY MACGREGOR about recording band’s new album WACO, the state of the live music scene in Brisbane and why you should never trust Dune Rats.

A friend of mine used to front a band called Fat Man’s Cleavage. They played in Brisbane at the same time Violent Soho were starting out, sharing a run-down rehearsal space in West End and a few gigs together including a 21st birthday at a Sunnybank high school assembly hall. That friend recalls the moment he realised Violent Soho had made it – he was playing The Sims 3 and a version of ‘Jesus Stole My Girlfriend’ came on in the game’s made-up Simlish language. Nowadays Fat Man’s Cleavage are another band only old Brisbanites remember while Violent Soho are, well, Violent Soho.

WACO is their fourth album, recorded with Bryce Moorhead at a Brisbane studio called The Shed that is located across the road from the lawn bowls club that inspired the song ‘Like Soda’ and served as the location for its video. Now that WACO is complete Luke Boerdam and the rest of Violent Soho are gearing up for a tour with fellow Queenslanders DZ Deathrays and Dune Rats. Boerdam talks about the recording of the album, and what happened last time they toured with Dune Rats.

What’s the music scene like in Brisbane at the moment?

To be honest I’ve been coked up in a – clogged up, not coked up – clogged up in a studio for eight months so I’m probably the worst person to ask right now. There’s been some awesome stuff coming through: Calexico, Sleater-Kinney, venues-wise it’s going pretty good. Crowbar’s getting some really good stuff coming through, High On Fire came through the other week. In terms of internationally touring bands it feels like there’s more than ever, you know, from 10 years ago when I started going out and seeing bands.

Locally there’s some really cool stuff going on. Blank Realm’s a particular favourite, the kind of band that’s started to get noticeably good spots on festivals and done some international touring. We’re pretty big fans of those dudes. There’s some good pysch/garage rock going around, which is pretty good. There’s a band called Dreamtime I really like. It feels stronger than ever, but I’m probably the worst person to ask. I just moved back into the Valley on the mall, so I’m pretty pumped now this album’s done and released I can actually get some time to go see some bands.

Is everyone worried about the lockouts getting moved forward?

“I just don’t think lockouts are gonna solve much”

It sucks because from what we’ve seen, personally my viewpoint on it is I just don’t think it’s gonna solve much. I’ve lived in the Valley for years – I lived in West End for a while while I wrote WACO but the rest of the time I’ve lived in the Valley. Most of my 20s, right in the Brunswick Street Mall in the McWhirter’s Building. I’ve seen a lot of drunken brawls and a lot of kids just going out to fucking start a fight and I don’t think closing the bar an hour earlier – all it’s gonna do is hurt business really. In terms of the bands I go see they usually finish up by midnight so I don’t think it’s gonna affect them too much but obviously it’s gonna affect a lot of EDM guys and girls out there who do DJ sets and all that stuff. In terms of music it can be really hurtful because if these venues start disappearing then there’s nowhere to play, right? That kind of sucks.

Those eight months, is that a long time for you to be working on the one album?

I should be clear, it wasn’t eight months straight. It’s just because I do demos in the studio and I’ve started to learn some audio engineering stuff for this record and basically there was six weeks off in the middle there where we did some touring. We released ‘Like Soda’ and made that video and then at the end we basically moved over to Bryce’s house because we hadn’t finished mixing. That was another month of me driving over every night so yeah, when I say eight months I don’t mean 14 hours, seven days a week, but it did take up a lot of my weekends. It was definitely a long time but that’s what it takes. Some of my favourite records took months to make as well so we’ll take months to make a record if we can pull together the money and make it happen.

You mentioned learning some new stuff, what kind of things did you learn and what kind of effect did it have on the finished album?

I’ve always done demos for the band as a songwriter – these days it’s pretty easy to pick up a copy of GarageBand, which I think is free, plug in your guitar and make a demo. I’ve always done that but I got really interested in the other side of it, all the engineering side of it. It’s not like I produced the record or engineered the record so to be honest the way it flowed through to the actual recording process was probably just some more involved discussions about how the album was mixed. Regardless of that I’ve always put the songs first and the songwriting first so it helped but it didn’t change the process fundamentally or anything. It’s not like I stepped in and said “I’m gonna produce this record!” That would have been a disaster. I’m still pretty green with the whole thing. Basically what we got out of it was demos that sounded a lot better and I had a lot of fun.


That break in the middle where you did ‘Like Soda’ and played some shows, being able to test some of these songs out live, was that helpful?

Yeah, it was awesome. It was just a lot of fun, really. We were touring New Zealand for the first time, we played the opener ‘How To Taste’, played songs like ‘Evergreen’ for the first time to people, and the reaction seemed to be good so it was a bit of a bonus. Lot of fun. It was kind of weird because you’re living in your studio bubble for months, two or three months before we went on that tour, so it was pretty cool to get out there and actually play them live and play them in front of a real audience. It was a reminder of “That’s right, this is where it actually lives.” The song doesn’t get made in the studio and live in the studio, that’s where it actually gets shown to people and that’s where it actually lives its life. That’s where the songs end up. It was cool to expose them like that early on while still making a record. Bit of a jolt of energy is good.

When the the actual full WACO tour starts, when you’re on the road with Dune Rats and DZ Deathrays, what do you have planned?

We’re itching to play a lot of these new songs from the record. We won’t leave stuff from Hungry Ghost completely high and dry, it’s not gonna be the record front to back, we’re definitely gonna mix it up. We’re gonna play our pick of the tracks from the record so far and make sure we just have a lot of fun with it. There’s gonna be a lot of new sounds and guitar pedals being purchased to make it happen, which I’m pretty excited about. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to guitar pedals. I’m pretty pumped to rebuild my pedal board.

They’re the biggest rooms we’ve played on our own tour so it’s gonna be a lot of fun, especially to do it with two mates’ bands. We’ve been trying to get that lineup together for six years pretty much since we met Dunies and DZ, maybe four or five years. We’ve known these guys for a long time and it’s amazing it hasn’t happened yet. As Dunies and DZ get more successful and start internationally touring it’s gonna get harder and harder to ever do it again so we’re all very lucky we could line it up. We just feel completely… “honoured” would be the best word to have those guys support us. It’s gonna be great.

I heard when you played with Dune Rats in the past somebody got injured, and it involved a kettle. Can you tell me that story?

Fucking Dune Rats! We were on stage and [Luke] Henery went over to Brett [Jansch] and he just said, “Can you get me a drink from our backstage room?” It was our tour, we weren’t being demanding, but no one else was there and Henery just said, “Can you grab me a beer from the room?” As a joke the Dune Rats heard this and they started bringing out every single thing from the backstage room and putting it in front of Henery’s feet. The Doritos, dip, the deli platter, all the beers they could find, literally laying it all out for him as a joke. They thought it was really funny. Then they also brought out the kettle and put it on the ground. Henery for some reason, when he actually needed to have a drink when the song had finished, decided to grab the kettle, thinking it was full of cold water, and splash it on his face – not realising I had just used the kettle to do vocal warmups with Mānuka honey and stuff. So he then poured boiling water over his face.

“We’re thinking of giving Luke a taser so he can tase the Dune Rats if they start bugging him too much”

I literally heard this girl scream and I was like, “Why is she screaming?” I didn’t see what was going on because Henery was way over on the left, I had no idea. I remember hearing this girl scream when it happened, then there was this break and Henery had a towel in his hand, I just thought nothing happened, I thought he got his hair caught in the head stock or something. Something silly, because he wasn’t jumping up and down or moaning in pain or anything. We played the last three songs and walked off, then Henery’s got boils on his face and had to go to hospital. And it’s because Dune Rats decided to put the kettle on stage. That’s what happened.

It was their fault but Henery also decided to pour a kettle of water on his face and they didn’t realise he was going to do that, it wasn’t like a planned trick. A bit of misunderstanding. When we told our tour manager this tour was going on he was horrified. He’s like, “They’re not allowed near the stage!” We’re thinking of giving him a taser so he can tase the Dune Rats if they start bugging him too much. Just ZZT! Tase them out.

I’m impressed that he played the last three songs.

Me too! To the point where I had no idea anything had happened. He didn’t flinch, didn’t say, ‘Hey, dudes, give me a second.’ I remember having to wait about a minute but I also went and grabbed my own beer and tuned my guitar and stuff, and I looked over and saw a towel on his face for a minute, that’s all I saw and we kept playing. I didn’t find out till afterwards.

I hope nothing that serious happens this time when you play together.

We’ll see!

WACO will be released on Friday, March 18 via I OH YOU

Violent Soho, DZ Deathrays and Dune Rats tour

Tuesday, May 10 – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+)
Wednesday, May 11 – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+) Sold Out
Friday, May 13 – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+) Sold Out
Saturday, May 14 – Forum Theatre, Melbourne (18+) Sold Out
Sunday, May 15 – Forum Theatre, Melbourne (18+) Sold Out
Monday, May 16 – Forum Theatre, Melbourne (18+)
Thursday, May 19 – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide (All Ages)
Friday, May 20 – Metro City, Perth (18+)
Thursday, May 26 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All Ages)
Friday, May 27 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All Ages) Sold Out