The 90s were a music lover’s paradise. You’d be lying if you didn’t pump some of the those era-defining tunes in your car at least once in the past six months. That era also brought us grunge, a genre that shook up the traditional punk scene and experimented with a sound that was almost unheard of at the time.
A little known fact is that a small band from Brighton in England named The Levellers were doing just the same, and gearing up for the release of their most successful album to date, 1991’s Levelling The Land, which has been credited with inspiring a new wave of British pub rock, something frontman Mark Chadwick is extremely comfortable with.
“If a record can have any influence at all, you always know you’ve done quite well,” he says. “That record is so powerful and probably makes more sense today than back then, because political issues are much more pressing nowadays – the environment, the fear of the right, it’s really something we’re proud of and can call timeless.”
Since its release, Levelling The Land has managed to reach platinum status, and is revered for its superb songwriting and instrumental innovation. The album led to the band headlining the iconic Glastonbury festival in 1994 alongside the likes of Elvis Costello and Rage Against The Machine. The Levellers had played Glastonbury before in 1992, however not on the main stage, and Chadwick says even though the band has toured extensively since those days, the songs are never tiresome to play because of the continuously overwhelming crowd response.
“They’re such good songs that we never get sick of playing them,” he says. “They just work. When you see that reaction of a live audience, it’s always good. We don’t see it as being about us, it’s all about the audience and the vibe.”
The unpredictability of the 90s saw bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam skyrocket to the top of charts around the world, and put inevitable pressure on bands to adhere to a heavier and fuller sound. While Chadwick heavily denies the band ever wanted to alter their uniqueness, he says the band were inspired by the Seattle sound, and believe it helped pave the way for music lovers to gain an appreciation for raw and emotion driven music that had been lost over time.
“We were actually quite big fans of it at the time,” Chadwick says. “We really got the whole thought process behind that music, just the raw emotion and that whole Neil Young style. We identified with it so much, and it became something that we looked up to and admired. It truly was an amazing time and changed music for the better.”
In recent years, the band has been working on an upcoming album that is planned to be the pinnacle of their almost 30 year career, a throwback to the glory days. Chadwick claims it’s something they’ve worked extremely hard on for the past year, and will be another stern political message to a volatile time in the world’s history.
“No one’s really holding their breath for the new Levellers record, so it’s going to be something that we’ve put a lot of effort into. It will sounds like us, just a better version. But we know that this one has to be good.”
In amongst all that, the band will be travelling to Australia to play Levelling The Land in its entirety, in what will be their first ever shows on our shores. Chadwick says the band are more than chuffed about the previously unheard of reception that they’ve discovered in recent years through social media.
“Back in the day it never happened, and we just got further and further away from it. Now with the Internet and social media, we’ve actually realised we have quite a large fan base there. For the last ten years we’ve tried so hard, and now it’s finally happening.”
Written By Benjamin Potter
Photo by Judith Burrows
When & Where: Max Watts, Melbourne – October 9