Grinspoon’s Phil Jamieson talks Spring Loaded, alt-rock nostalgia and the band’s triumphant return to performing.
Aussie alt-rock festival Spring Loaded has landed, making its explosive debut at Sydney’s On The Lawn at Royal Randwick last month on May 8th. With eight more festival dates booked across Australia, including its original final show in Mornington Peninsula on Saturday, November 27, and the newly announced finale at the iconic Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on Saturday, December 4, the event is shaping up to be an authentic showcase of Australia’s rich alt-rock track record.
Featuring performances from some of Australia’s most iconic rock ensembles, Spring Loaded is rocking around Australia in a bid to pay homage to some of the country’s most beloved festivals gone by, including Big Day Out and Homebake.
Following the festival’s 2019 debut in Queensland, the 2021 follow up features their biggest lineup yet, including Aussie staples Grinspoon, You Am I, Regurgitator, Jebediah, Magic Dirt, Frenzal Rhomb, Custard, The Fauves, The Meanies, Tumbleweed, Screamfeeder, Caligula and MC Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall.
We spoke with Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson to discuss the thrill of hitting the stage again after a long hiatus, and the joy of watching Australia’s live music scene flourish once more:
Prior to this tour, Grinspoon’s last show before COVID was Fire Fight Australia back in February of 2020 then going 12 months between gigs, is that correct?
Fire Fight was the last show we did in 2020 before COVID hit. After that, everyone went their separate ways. I started doing some solo stuff, just trying to spin my wheels. We played in March at A Day On The Lawn in Hobart with Ocean Alley and some other acts. We had to do a bunch of practising because obviously, we hadn’t seen each other in over a year! We’ve only done two shows since Fire Fight; one in Tasmania and the other in Sydney for Spring Loaded.
How did it feel to get back on stage after over a year?
I was tremendously excited to get on stage again and perform with the band. The loudness, that visceral rush of the guitars. These are tunes that I’ve loved for over two decades now!
There was a fair amount of ‘wanting to be good’ and also worrying if we’d practised enough. For Grinspoon, we call that ‘pre-production’ but for 50 per cent of the band that just involves drinking heavily and talking about sport. Which is great! I approached it with a huge level of excitement, but at the same time, I was hoping I wouldn’t make any mistakes. Which I didn’t, and it was a great show!
You’ve already performed one festival date in Sydney, with your next one coming up in a couple of weeks. How did the first one go?
It was actually really funny! We got to see all of these people we grew up with, though of course, everyone’s physical appearance has dramatically changed since 1997, myself included. You’re wandering backstage and you’re thinking ‘Is that…? That can’t be… It is!’ It was basically this massive catch-up. It almost felt like a big battle-of-the-bands backstage.
What really struck me about that gig, physical appearances aside, was that the songs really hold up. We had Jebediah, Frenzel Rhomb, Magic Dirt and Tumbleweed at that show with us in Sydney, and I love all those bands. I love all those songs! Magic Dirt in particular was so good – so powerful. Jeb had those beautiful indie-pop melodies that they do so well… Tumbleweed brought that sludgey, metal sound… And Frenzel – well, they’re Frenzel! It was just great to hear those tunes again!
Spring Loaded aligns itself as an ode to festivals gone by like Big Day Out and Homebake. How do you think it stacks up to those festivals?
I don’t know about Big Day Out, I think that’s a stretch. Big Day Out had Prodigy. It had the boiler room. The lily pad. It was very much a broad arts and entertainment gig. And this by no means discredits Spring Loaded, I think Spring Loaded is Fantastic! But it’s a lot more similar to Homebake to me. If you’re going to compare it to Big Day Out, compare it to the 11am-4pm main stage. That’s when all the Aussie bands played! [Grinspoon] didn’t get to play at Big Day Out until 2000, but I went there many times as a punter. I guess it’s pretty similar. Maybe I’m being a bit protective of Big Day Out since there’ll never be another one.
What’s your favourite part about Spring Loaded so far?
Spring Loaded is a celebration of what I consider to be a great time in Aussie music. It’s great that these bands can all tour to a level that is pretty impressive considering we’re so bloody ancient! We’ve been touring again since 2017, but having Regurgitator, Jeb, Magic Dirt or all of them together is a big deal. I’m a big fan of this line-up. I’d go even if I wasn’t playing! If that’s not a ringing endorsement of it, I don’t know what is.
It looks like you have a lot of shows ahead of you! How does it feel to get back to a busier schedule?
It’s fantastic! I’m not going to lie, I kind of went nuts last year not being able to tour. There’s a part of me that is super over-the-moon about it, and there’s a part of me that pumps the brakes a bit, so I don’t get too ahead of myself. I have to avoid getting too enthusiastic about something that may or may not happen – that happened a lot last year. People ask if I’m excited; well, I’ll be excited when I walk on stage!
Spring Loaded is set to land in Victoria in November and December, when was the last time you toured here?
I did some solo shows in Victoria around March this year at the Leadbeater Hotel, but it’s been a hot minute since Grinspoon has been there. I’m always sniffing around Melbourne if I can, just to get a gig. They have such an incredible live music scene. They’re a listening crowd, they’re really into their music. It’s where I want to play if I can.
Can we expect to hear any new music from Grinspoon this festival season?
Not live at these shows, unfortunately. We recorded some new stuff in 2020 but we ended up hating it! The short answer is, we’re trying, but we all have very specific ideas about what constitutes a good Grinspoon song. There’ll be no new material at Spring Loaded this year.
But hey, never say never!
Spring Loaded is taking over Sidney Myer Music Bowl on Saturday, December 4. Tickets are on sale from 10am AEST Wednesday June 30 via Ticketek.