In the days before Rambutan; when Molly Malones was years away and the AvTav was still dense bushland – there was Cranky Pants. The Townsville band is celebrating 30 years since its first lineup took to the stage, so we caught up with Andrew and Patrick ‘Paddy’ Higgins (guitar) and Paul Neilson (drums) for a trip back through the decades.
How did Cranky Pants start?
Paddy: Andrew and I have been playing properly in bands together for 30 years. I remember our first gig in 1988, Molly Malones used to be the Tattersalls Hotel. We were asked to do one set and payment would be 10 per cent of the door charge – so it turned out to be $60! At the time we were called The Impressions and there were five of us, so once we packed all our gear up, they gave us $12 each and we thought it was great.
And where did the name come from?
Andrew: Our first group, The Impressions, performed a lot of The Shadows’ instrumentals, then when we had a change in members we changed our name to Hotline. Our name was
always a decade or two behind where everyone else was.
Paddy: We took a few months off from Hotline and learnt a bunch of new songs so made it fresh with a new name. There were thousands of names we were choosing between – but then realised we didn’t like any of them. We were having a practice at home and said something about the song we were working on being hard, and one of our partners said ‘Well don’t get your cranky pants on.’ She just popped it out like that and we rolled with it. All that work we’d done for months and months choosing a name was thrown out!
Andrew: There were some good names in the mix! The Rub…
Paul: Three Men and Another Man…
Andrew: They have Band Name Generator apps now!
Paddy: It kind of says who we are now, though. It’s not serious, it’s easy to remember, and isn’t hard to spell.
Andrew: Even though some people still put a ‘z’ on the end of ‘Pants.’
What role does original music play for you?
Paddy: We’ve got a few originals, but we don’t rehearse or play them much – people just don’t want to hear them. You have to support the people that write original music, because they’re doing brilliant things. We unfortunately aren’t in that market, but it’s great to hear bands trying their own originals or even solo artists.
Paul: I think too we wouldn’t have done so many great gigs if we didn’t do covers, because that’s what people want from pub bands and in a place like Townsville, it’s what works. We’ve had some amazing jobs out of the fact we play covers, so it’s just the way it is.
Paddy: Places like Brisbane, there’s venues where all they want is original music, that’s all you’re allowed to play. Townsville’s just a little too small for that.
Andrew: Over the years, our most requested song has been The Gambler. That’s faded off a bit now to be replaced by Horses by Daryl Braithwaite, but the interaction with the audience has always been interesting. It was early in the night at one of our Finnegan’s gigs and a girl came up and asked us to play Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On!
Have you had some fans following you from the get-go?
Paddy: 30 years is a long time!
Andrew: Family have definitely always been there.
Paddy: And there are some good friends we have now who we met through the band, and who have stuck around all that time! 30 years ago there was no social media and Facebook advertising, so it was all really about word-of-mouth and what you read in the paper.
Paul: Back before the internet took off, the Thursday edition of the paper was what you needed, with three pages of ads about gigs that weekend around town. People would go out every weekend, there were always big crowds! But now … people go out if they see something special on Facebook, but don’t seem to go out on a whim like they used to.
Paddy: Part of that I think is stricter drinking laws – which are stricter for good reason –
Andrew: And I think there’s more drawcards for staying home now too, like Netflix and pay TV. It gives people reasons to stay at home.
Paddy: These days if you’re playing at a pub you see people come in, have a drink and leave. Some people will come to watch a specific band, but everyone’s really busy these days even when they are going out. It’s made a difference for performers, but no doubt there’s a lot of factors.
What’s some important advice you’d give to a band starting out?
Paddy: Play all the time! Andrew: And don’t sit around waiting! Chase gigs, or at least get out there busking. Nothing motivates rehearsals like when you have something coming up. That’s how you build your repertoire too. Have a good repertoire and chase the work, because no one’s going to ring you randomly offering gigs.
Paul: Getting along is so important if you do want to stay together; so many bands come and go because they don’t get on.
Andrew: You can’t give a good product if you don’t like the people you’re with.
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