‘We were doing exactly what we wanted to’: Grinspoon looking back for their Easy Detention tour

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‘We were doing exactly what we wanted to’: Grinspoon looking back for their Easy Detention tour

Credit: Jess Gleeson

As Grinspoon prepare to revisit their Easy and New Detention albums for an upcoming tour, frontman Phil Jamieson looks back on the albums that changed the band’s lives.

It’s been a few years between albums for Lismore rockers Grinspoon, so it’s only fitting that – almost three decades into their career – recent happenings have been focused around album retrospectives.

While 2019 saw the release of their Chemical Hearts compilation album, the group first broke a few years of silence in 2017 when they looked back on their debut album, Guide To Better Living, for its 20th anniversary.

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“It was a big tour; we did a lot of dates,” Phil Jamieson remembers on a rare day off between solo shows. “That record worked well from start to finish as a piece of proto-punk energy, we had Hockey Dad on the road with us, and it was altogether a celebration.

“A lot of people did have a lot of fond memories of that record, so it was well-received and it was quite a nice way to introduce ourselves back into the touring circuit,” he adds. “Whilst it may be a little bit nostalgic, those songs are pretty wild even to today’s standards, in my opinion.”

Fast-forward a couple of years, and Grinspoon had missed the emerald anniversaries of their following recordings. While 1999’s Easy was overlooked in favour of their Chemical Hearts tour, last year the 20th birthday of 2002’s New Detention passed by with little fanfare.

Now in 2023, the group are making up for lost time, not only reissuing the records on vinyl, but embarking on the fittingly-titled Easy Detention tour with Private Function and Cupid & The Stupids.

Unlike their Guide To Better Living tour, these shows won’t see the albums played in full, but rather approached as a vehicle with which to revisit classic singles from the albums alongside deep cuts. As Jamieson recalls, the first of these records was born out of a time of great exhaustion following the band’s North American sojourns in the late ‘90s.

“It was pretty wild and furious recording Easy,” he remembers, “It’s my favourite Grinners album because we were doing exactly what we wanted to do.

“I think the theory was if you were to take the bull by the horns, you’d release a record that would be palatable for American audiences, and we kind of did exactly the opposite of that and it was never released in America after Guide.

“We kind of fucked that up,” he laughs. “The American version of Guide didn’t have Just Ace on it, so I don’t think they really understood what we did. They were trying to put us into either alt-rock, which we were too heavy for, or metal, which we weren’t heavy enough for.”

Regardless of American responses, Easy performed well in Australia. It debuted at #4 on the charts, spawned singles like Ready 1, Secrets, and Rock Show, and was nominated for Best Rock Album at the ARIA Awards.

While Jamieson does recall some slight flaws in the record’s production and performance, things were only getting started for Grinspoon, who would again enter the studio in late 2001 to begin work on their third album, New Detention.

“There was a big shift in the paradigm of what we’d done by that stage,” Jamieson notes. “We’d done three EPs, two records, and had toured constantly since 1997, so we weren’t going to be doing the same record again.”

Indeed, New Detention was a new era for the group. Though Easy had provided songs like Signpost which – fittingly – served as a marker of how their songwriting would evolve and mature for album number three, few could have seen how it would be received.

Debuting at #2 on the charts, generated four singles, including Lost Control, No Reason, 1000 Miles, and Chemical Heart – the latter reaching #2 in triple j’s Hottest 100 that year, and the other three appearing in the top 50. It also nabbed them five ARIA Award nominations, including Best Group, Best Rock Album, and Single Of The Year for Chemical Heart. Needless to say, it changed everything.

“People were like, ‘You’ve obviously sold out,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, we’ve never been commercial’,” Jamieson remembers. “It hasn’t ever really defined us; it just happened. We were a bit bored with yelling and screaming at people at that point.

“But it changed everything in relation to Chemical Heart becoming a very successful crossover single, which had eluded us to that stage, realistically. The likes of Powderfinger and Silverchair really led the charge in that realm.”

While Grinspoon have never been a band who were in it for the acclaim, the success of New Detention arguably provided a sense of validation for the group, and allowed them to feel more comfortable within the space they occupied in the Australian music scene.

“I think the third record is a very important record in anyone’s trajectory, unless you’re King Gizzard and you’re putting out 17 records a year – which are all amazing, by the way,” he jokes. “But no, I think it was important and it was validating.

“I think we wrote 50 songs for that record, it was heavily demoed, and there were a lot of opinions about what should be on the record,” he recalls. “But it was wonderfully validating and we were able to tour more extensively and make more friends and fans along the way. So it was cute.”


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Notably, the re-release of New Detention also sees the album’s original artwork returning, with its initial cover (featuring a slipcase which placed a crosshair over an image of school desks) being replaced by an image of the band shortly after its release.

Though questions were raised about the album cover promoting violence, the actual story is far less juicy, with a sly nod at schools being Grinspoon’s target audience being derailed when it was discovered that Universal Music Australia had only licensed the original image for a number of copies far below what New Detention would go on to sell.

In the end, nothing could stop New Detention garnering legendary status. Now, as Grinspoon get ready to celebrate some of the most acclaimed records in their career by taking them around the country, Jamieson exudes a sense of excitement which will undoubtedly be matched by fans, and teases what might occur as a result of these upcoming shows.

“We played Splendour In The Grass last year at 6pm on Sunday on the main stage, and there were kids that had never seen us before or might have never heard of us before,” he remembers. “We’d been playing these songs for so many years, but none of these kids were born then.

“We changed some minds that day.”

Grinspoon are touring Australia between October 29 and December 23 with shows selling out very fast. Grab tickets while you still can here.

This article was made in partnership with Grinspoon.