the AU interview: Andrew Kitchen of Antiskeptic (Melbourne)

Larry Heath catches up with Andrew Kitchen of Melbourne-based rockers Antiskeptic during the lead up to their Back In The Game Tour.

So, how do you feel about the upcoming tour? It’s been a while!

Really, really excited! When we first split I had that thought of “Well, we had our moment” you know, alongside the “What on earth are we doing!” thought. They kind of came back in tandem with the reunion(!). With every band practice though, we’re really tightening up so it’s becoming just as rad as the old days. The first rehearsal with the two new members (Tavis Wardlaw of No Love For Lexi and Ryan Mclerie of House Vs Hurricane) I knew that I didn’t want to come back and have people go “Oh…they’re not as tight as they used to be” or anyone thinking that we’re not as hungry for it, not as pumped, not as energetic. I don’t even care to make people say “Oh, they’re better”, you know? I want them to remember the old times and for us to match that ethos.

I take it the rehearsals have been excellent, then!

Yeah man! It’s been a lot of just tightening up, and going through the back catalog, finding songs, sorting setlists, that kind of thing. With each and every rehearsal that goes by I keep thinking to myself how close we are to being stage-ready, so by the time the tour rolls around I’d say we’d be quite rockin’.

How are the new members fitting into the group dynamic? Can you tell us a bit about how they came to be a part of the reunion?

Pretty magnificently! I originally met Tavis years ago through a youth music initiative called The Push, where he was part of a band called No Love For Lexi. He also has a history of studio session musicianship, so I said, “Right, well I’ll send you the songs” and he told me not to bother because he had all the albums already! He told me he already knew about three quarters of the set at that point, he said “They’re pretty easy, man”, so it was kind of like “Ooh! Ouch!” (laughs), but he’s just such a great player; he listens to something and then picks it up. In rehearsals he stands there with a music stand with sheet music written out of all our songs…not even I can do that because I can’t actually read music. So it’s quite amazing to see him pick the songs up so quickly so that it has time signature stuff going on, and moving bass lines; it’s been a massive triumph to have him with us. When Sean (Daly, original bassist) said he wasn’t as enthusiastic about moving forward with the band as Nick and myself, my first thought was Tavis.

Ryan was a bit of a surprise, because he’s in House Vs Hurricane, and they’re very successful; more so than Antiskeptic ever achieved. They’re doing a bunch of stuff overseas and doing massive shows locally as well. But Ryan is actually a brother of a friend of mine, and I’ve seen House Vs Hurricane play a bunch of times; he also used to come to a lot of Antiskeptic gigs back in the day. So it was a mutual friend who was talking to Nick who first brought up the idea of asking Ryan. So Nick asked me and I was like of course, why didn’t I think of that! We gave Ryan a call and he said he was heaps keen, and I told him to think about it for a bit first; it was the same with Tavis. We wouldn’t even think of asking them to break off from either of their homes so to speak…I told Ryan that it was much much less of a commitment than House Vs Hurricane. We’re not looking at getting back to the days of fifty gigs in a year, we’re just looking at bringing it back to maybe ten or fifteen depending on what opportunities come up. I think with the roster we have now, it’s certainly doable!

But with the rehearsals, it’s been going fantastically; I remember going back home to my wife after the first one, and she asked me how it went. I told her I couldn’t remember laughing so much as I did at the rehearsal; I mean, we obviously practiced all the songs, but the banter and the vibe…I was just having a lot of fun. Back in the day, Antiskeptic was always a lot of fun, obviously, not just musically, but now with the new lineup it feels like a brotherhood more than just a bunch of guys we brought in to play instruments. Which is how I wanted it; I’m not into the vibe of bands where in their media releases it says the band is two people or three people, and then on stage there’s five or six people playing. Even if someone is a session musician and you get them to play on stage, they’re a part of the band, a part of the face of the band. So I wanted to come back with full lineup for the duration of however long we stick around again, and be a band.

What does that bode for the future of Antiskeptic? Obviously you’ve got the tour, and there was a new song played at one of your shows last year; is there new music coming out of this iteration of the band?

Well, it’s going to be a bit of a suck and see at the moment. Nick and I are really keen, and we’ve been talking to Ryan and Tavis about it, but Antiskeptic is back. This isn’t a bunch of one off shows just for the heck of it. These are return shows because we want to come back and stick around. One thing that you just realize when you finish a band up is that it’s such a privilege to be able to write and perform music and have people who want to come and see it live, and buy albums and merch and stuff. That commitment over the years kind of becomes a given, and when it gets to that you don’t stop and pinch yourself that, you know, two or three hundred people…hell, even fifty people, have given up their night, have paid money to see you play; what an honor it is for people to come and give worth to your creative output. So we just want to be available again for people; things like the Back In The Game Tour, or at least us headlining, will probably be a rarity over the next year or so. I think majority of our work will be doing some festivals here and there, getting some support slots; we as a band want to be relatively selective about where we play. The response to that reunion show in April was so strong, and made me think that we could return and pick up on that interest, but we don’t want to make it so that we’re exploiting it. Because if we did, it’d be us hustling people into shows again, rather than that feeling of excitement that Antiskeptic are doing a gig, and giving that vibe that we do when we play live.

I think the key to keeping a strong audience base is regular contact with your audience and giving things that interests them and inspires them (rather than a wanky Facebook thing every so often), and then giving them a chance to see you play. But not too many opportunities! We want them to be really special shows.

But we are writing and performing new songs on this tour; I’d say three or four new songs, in additional to “The Kids Aren’t Scared”, the song we performed back in April.

So what can fans expect from the shows?

(long sigh) A blistering display of rock and roll that will leave them completely unchanged. (laughs) The issue with the big bands like the Foo Fighters or something is that you walk out and say “Wow! That was amazing! But I’m still the person I was three hours ago”, you know? People that think their life will be changed from one sole performance; we are but humble musicians (laughs) and we can perform our songs and we can engage our audience, but am I in the business of providing shows that will change a person forevermore? Nah, I’d rather have people just having fun and leaving an audience smiling and happy. That’s what I hope people feel when they see Antiskeptic play.