Graveyard Train

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Graveyard Train

He once compared going out on tour with fellow bandmates as being like Christmas lunch with family: they drink too much and bicker. But these days frontman Nick Finch is singing a different tune. “So far everything’s been great! I just got back after being away for five days. The shows have all been really fun – we’ve had great crowds, but it’s been nuts! There’s still some heavy drinking going on but we’re not screaming at each other, we’re just having a really good time together. Hopefully it lasts!” Nick joked.
Suddenly I hear something in the background that explains his happy mood even more: “Oh sorry, that’s my daughter Wanda. She’s just learning to talk and she missed me when I was away so she won’t let me put her down!”
Fatherhood clearly agrees with the seasoned musician and it’s abundantly clear that time away from the road and each other was the saving grace for the band and the catalyst for their fourth studio album, Takes One to Know One. “We just really needed a break. Things were getting out of control but I feel like we have it back now.”
If you’ve been aboard the Graveyard Train you’ll know and love their spooky brand of alt-country, but I think you would agree that their latest release is a little different. “Maybe it’s because we were writing apart from each other this time, but it’s definitely a lot less schlock horror, oogity-boogity monster music!” That reply elicits a giggle from little Wanda and suddenly I feel I’m witnessing a tender daddy-daughter moment featuring the man who wrote the lyrics on The Drink, The Devil and The Dance (Graveyard Train’s second LP, 2010).
After he put his daughter down for a nap Nick continued: “It’s just been a natural progression for us, though I definitely feel like the songwriting has matured. It’s a bit less over the top.”
That reminded me of another light-hearted comment Nick had made about the prospect of starting a new band. Nick and the guys once joked that they’d contemplated forming a band called The Normal Men, writing songs about mundane things like forgetting the shopping list. “I don’t think we’ll ever quite become The Normal Men after all!” he chuckled. “That was a funny idea we had at the time. We’re always going to write darkish lyrics as Graveyard Train, although honestly, this band came from a drunken idea long before we even picked up any instruments!”
The men of Graveyard Train are truly men of the renaissance – exceptional musicians, friendly and up for a laugh; the kind of guys you’d like to have a beer with. Most recently, they’ve become clever and innovative businessmen since self-funding their own independent record label, Black Hat Rackets. Nick is forthcoming about its inception. “We’d had some problems with our old record label, which is a pretty typical story for bands I guess. It’s a tough industry. There’s not much money in it and it seems even less money ends up in the band’s pocket. So we started our own record label to release this record [Takes One to Know One] and re-release our other records.
“We’ve been doing this thing for a while now and I don’t think anyone that starts a band starts out to create a small business, but to gain some control we had to do it ourselves. With this label we plan to help out some local bands, mainly the bands that Josh [Crawley – guitarist/banjo player] thinks are his babies, like Eaten By Dogs, and there’s an American guy we’re thinking about putting out as well. But it’s just small stuff. We’re not trying to make a big record label, we just want to use a bit of our experience to help out some bands that might not be able to help themselves. It’s fun.
“I guess we’re getting a bit older and don’t want to be touring as much as we used to, so it’s kind of another way to stay within the music industry and do what we can to help the Melbourne music scene.”
The band has a few regional dates coming up and recently played a show in Geelong (a place they spoke about fondly) with a band called Cherrywood. “One of the guys in the band is actually helping out at Black Hat Rackets and we’re going to be releasing their music if all goes well. They’re pretty nuts. We took them up to Tamworth and some redneck offered them fifty bucks to leave town! They’re pretty raucous and wild. We played with them up in Brisbane on the weekend, too.
“Those shows were crazy and there was a woman up there that had a hammer and chain tattoo done just before our gig! Also there’s a lady in the Czech Republic with the lyrics to one of our songs tattooed down her back. We have some pretty nutty fans – they’re a little weird but it’s great. I can’t tell you how much we’ve been enjoying these shows. We’re looking forward to being back on the road, which wasn’t always the case, and we were getting to the point where we were just dreading it. Of course we always love it when we’re on stage, but we’re actually really enjoying hanging out together, so the shows are extra energetic!” Nick promised with a smile.
When&Where: Old Hepburn Hotel, Hepburn Springs – June 29; Theatre Royal, Castlemaine – July 4; and The Loft, Warrnambool – July 6
Written by Natalie Rogers