Tuxedos for Townsville

Two decades since the release of their debut album, Grinspoon are back from hiatus for the 'Guide to Better Living' National Tour. Grinspoon will perform at the Dalrymple Hotel on 11 August. IMAGE: Hugo Sharp

Grinspoon. A band that will go down in history as one of Australia’s biggest rock success stories.

With seven albums, 13 ARIA nominations and two ARIA wins under their belts as well as several national and international tours, Phil Jamieson (vocals), Pat Davern (guitar), Joe Hansen (bass) and Kristian Hopes (drums) will emerge from hiatus and hit the road again this June, celebrating 20 years since the release of their debut album, Guide to Better Living

Ahead of the band showing the Dalrymple Hotel how it’s done on 11 August, we caught up with Grinspoon vocalist Phil Jamieson to talk getting older, being coaxed out of hiatus by Jimmy Barnes, and underdressing for the movies. 

How does it feel to be celebrating 20 years since your debut album?

I feel old! That’s the first thing I feel! I probably haven’t listened to the record in 20 years to be honest – but we started thinking about this around two years ago; how we’d do it and if we’d even bother. So then I listened to it again and it was really fun to listen to. I’m absolutely stoked with Guide To Better Living – so whether it’s two, 19, 20, or 21 years since it was released, the year really doesn’t matter. When I listened to it, it didn’t feel old. The songs are so fun and timeless, so could still be on the radio today.

What would you have been doing on this day 20 years ago?

Well we recorded this in February 1997 and got the ball rolling from there – we were all still living in Lismore then, so were doing gigs locally and also touring – so could just as easily have been performing in Townsville!

Will this tour mark the end of the Grinspoon hiatus, or will you all crawl back into the woodwork come October?

I think a bit of both! I actually got called up by Pat [Davern] not long ago and asked to record some new stuff with him in Byron Bay. So I’m really excited to see what he’s written! We’ve done seven albums already, so if there ever is an eighth we’d want it to be good. It gets more and more challenging the more you release, there’s an expectation.

The last time you toured through Townsville solo, you were booted out of the cinema! Planning on packing a few singlets to try that again?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I didn’t even get booted out, I wasn’t allowed in in the first place! And that’s totally fine, I completely understand and respect them having a dress code, I just didn’t know it. One of the Townsville motorcycle shops lent me a bike while I was up there, it was a hot day so had a singlet – or not even a singlet, maybe more of a muscle shirt that was made for people with no muscles – and there was a movie I really wanted to see. So I googled where it was on and went there. The poor guy enforcing the rule seemed as embarrassed as I was and the line of people behind me all looked just as uncomfortable, haha. Lesson learnt though – the next time I go to the cinema will be in a full tux with tails and a top hat!

This tour is seeing you make a lot of stops in regional Australia as well as the usual cap cities – what inspired that?

Well we’re from regional Australia, being Lismore boys, so have always included those stops. It’s what we do. Even back in 1996 we played support for the Screaming Jets and they stopped in everywhere from Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton… And we just followed them in a van! The people in these areas appreciate good live music just as much as the capital cities, and if you do a national tour, you have to go everywhere. It’s never just been about the capital cities for us, but we love them just as much.

The last time you were here as a band was to support Cold Chisel in 2015 kicking off their tour – what was that like?

It’s REALLY difficult to say no to Jimmy Barnes – if Cold Chisel tell you to jump, you ask how high. We were happy in our hiatus phase, all doing our own thing and even then didn’t really have any plans, but then the call from Cold Chisel came and we had to find all our instruments and amplifiers and everything again and dust them off. We were all over the place and so was all our stuff! It was only five or seven shows, but it was so great to get back into it. After that our manager started talking to us about what we’d do for the 20th anniversary of Guide to Better Living and we spoke about releasing a vinyl and everything, and then it evolved into this tour.

What is it that drives you to keep going as a musician?

I’m not good at anything else! I can’t kick or throw, I’m an average runner and have a shoddy attention to detail. I have just always loved music and thought I was half decent at it – and I think if you get to a certain level of something and you’re good at it and love it, then that’s what you’re meant to do. So I kept going, and it’s made me some incredible friends and memories.

Would you do it all again if you had the chance?

I don’t know what else I would’ve done! If I had a Marty McFly-style time machine … I don’t think about that much. The time we’ve been a band has included some great moments and crazy twists and turns – while we were touring the States there were definitely some decisions I made that I don’t think I’d want to do again! But the band and songs have all been incredible, and wouldn’t change any of that.

20 years on from the original GTBL, what can audiences expect to be different?

Pat’s got a beard but no hair! At our show’s, we’re going to be playing the record start to finish in chronological order, then do something really adult and have an intermission before we come back out and play some of our more recent stuff. It’s going to be really special because it is all the same members who originally wrote and recorded it, just older! Often you go to shows and the bands do the fake walk off, so they can come back on for an encore. We’re not going to do that; we know performing the album start to finish will sap it out of us, and we’re going to need to sit down for some tea and scones before we keep going! We’ll straight out tell the audience ‘We’re having a break, we need it!’

Guide to Better Living is such a fast and furious record that is really intense to listen to and perform. So we’re really excited to be bringing all those songs back and playing at the Dalrymple Hotel.

Catch Grinspoon’s Guide to Better Living Tour when it stops in at the Dalrymple Hotel on Friday, 11 August. Tickets available from Ticketek.

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