Train were announced to be returning to Australia in June last month with their brand new record, California 37, in tow. As we get ever close to the mid-year mark, the hype for the San Franciscans is beginning to generate. Scott Underwood, the band's drummer, chats with me about the upcoming tour and why he feels that the band are currently at their best right now.
Hey Scott, how are you?
I’m great and how are you?
I’m good thanks. Thanks for chatting with me Scott, what have you been up to?
I had to get up at five in the morning and do a bunch of TV and radio press stuff!
So it’s been a long day.
It’s been a long six weeks!
Fair enough! Well on the topic, the band is coming over to Australia next month with the new record… I remember reading the tour announcement a few months back now; how are you all feeling about the trip now it seems we’re hurtling towards June?
Well you know, when we started booking coming down there, we were always excited to come to Australia because we’ve got a lot of friends down there now and we always have a good time. The first cool thing that happened was when we booked the Sydney Opera House; we got really, really excited about that because you know, it’s a global icon! The tickets are selling really well and the song is doing really well on radio and you know, better things are happening the more excited we’re getting!
It sounds it! I still can’t get over the Opera House score, that’s an amazing feat for any band to achieve.
Yeah I know, it’s crazy! That was the first thing I wanted to see when we first went to Australia in 2001 or whenever it was, it was a long time ago. It’s a pretty big deal!
A fair few of your fans out this way will be disappointed to see there’s only three dates on the tour – do you think the Australian crowds can expect to see Train stop by again after this tour?
Yeah, the thing that’s happening is that because it’s going to so well all over the world, we have to go all over the world! The more places we have to go, the shorter amount of time we get to have time off in those places. Those aren’t our choices, we don’t want to say ‘We only want to play three shows’; it’s just how they put it all together for us.
Yeah, it’s like you have to be everywhere at once!
Yeah but it’s really cool and exciting; it’s kind of tough too.
Fair enough. Now on the album; it is the band’s first since Save Me San Francisco – how much of a different place would you say the three of you are in now as a band, when you think about the last few years since that album’s release?
You know, the funny thing about that is, I think we’re the same guys since that and that’s a good thing because before that record, that’s when we made a lot of changes. When “Drops of Jupiter” became successful, I think our egos got really big and we went down the wrong paths, as far as this career is concerned; we had bad attitudes and really, after we took our break before …San Francisco, before we went to make that record, that’s when really changed our attitude. Now we know that this is very, very rare and very special and if ever get it again, let’s not lose focus on what’s really important, and that’s to appreciate it and love it and to respect and appreciate each other as a band.
I was really glad, because that record became really successful, I worried that we might get big egos again and kind of lose focus on staying grounded; on this record, we’re just very grounded and I think we made our best record. I think Pat [Monahan] is writing better than he’s ever written, his lyrics are really cool. They’re still funny, but where he’s at is just really, really great and I think as a band, we’re just the best we’ve ever been.
That led into my next question, which you’ve sort of answered; from everything I’ve been reading online, it seems like California 37 is a snapshot of the band at its creative best.
I’m not saying you can’t do any better from here!
Well man, I think that’s really cool because I feel the same way. When we were recording…you know, you wonder if, when bands make a great record, take The Rolling Stones or something like that. Not comparing us with them, but I wonder if they knew it at the time that there was something special? Some bands do and some bands are like, ‘Oh no, we don’t know’, but this record, if it gets really big, we kind of knew it while we were making it. The recording process was so fun and so effortless and it just felt really genuine and really cool and there wasn’t a ton of pressure; I don’t know, it felt like we really found our zone.
When I think of the band, I think of the huge hits you’ve had over the years. “Hey Soul Sister” blew up the charts and made platinum many times over, while “Drops of Jupiter” was also ridiculously successful. What do you think it is about these songs and the way they’re composed that resonates so well with the audience?
I don’t know, we’ve been asked that a lot and none of us really know exactly. One thing that I think is important is perhaps lyrics. Someone was talking to us about country music the other day and they said that it’s the ‘people’s’ music and what I think that means is that they lyrics in country music are usually very normal. It’s about normal life and simple things like hanging out with your dog or driving your truck or getting a beer at the bar; things that real people do.
Rock and roll and RnB and all this stuff has become about so much decadence and ‘I have so much more money’ and ‘I’m going to fucking fly to the moon with Richard Branson’ or whatever; ‘I’ve got giant diamonds in my ears’ and all of these things. I think that Pat is one of these guys who is still writing things about pretty normal stuff; I think he’s pretty humble, because he’ll name drop in our songs a lot, but when he does it… Like, we don’t know these people! We don’t know Johnny Depp and we don’t hang out with celebrities or do anything like that! I mean, we admire these people as much as everybody else does and we’d shit our pants if we met Johnny Depp and hung out, you know? So I feel like people can really relate to what Pat’s saying, and he says it with a sense of humour. Then also, it’s got to have a good beat and a catchy melody or a good guitar hook or whatever we do; you just try and make it so that people want to hear it.
I was going to say, there always seems to be one element of those sorts of songs that it so incredibly catchy.
Yeah for sure. Everybody seems to interpret the songs in their own way and they’ll apply it to their own life, that’s pretty cool. I think that’s what’s so great about that Gotye song; everybody knows what he’s talking about, everybody’s had that break up, you know? It’s cool; it’s really great. I love it.
Have you ever worried that the public/industry would turn at any point and Train would become purely a one-hit wonder type of band?
Definitely. Actually, when we made Save Me San Francisco, we were at a very low point of our career and we didn’t even think the world would care. We actually honestly… we weren’t thinking ‘Oh man, when we release this, everybody’s going to be so excited that there’s a new Train record out’. We were thinking, ‘When we release this, I hope someone wants to buy it’. We knew that that happens, we’ve been there and I don’t know, it could still happen to us; this could end right after this song, or maybe this song is a really great start. We’ve had songs that have taken off right out of the box but have then fallen apart a few weeks later, so we’ve seen everything happen. I’m glad that “Drops of Jupiter” wasn’t our only big hit and it’s really cool that it happened again with “Soul Sister”.
Back in the States we had a few other bigger songs than the rest of the world, but to have a global success like that is just a different feeling. Now, the cool thing is, we’re almost a 20 year old band! It seems that now, there’s a different type of status that we’re achieving, which is just to be one of those bands that has been around for almost two decades that people grew up with. That’s a really cool feeling for us.
Well yeah, 20 years is an achievement in itself! Considering especially that your career hasn’t been completely problem-free too.
The band bio that was set to me was written up by Pat and it was honestly quite a fun and refreshing read in comparison to some of the other more technical ones I get sent through. It seems like you’re all having the time of your lives promoting and bringing this record to life on stage.
Like I said, we had to get up at five in the morning this morning and we’re all still telling jokes and having fun! It’s a really good time! It definitely has its struggles, we’re all very homesick and we miss our kids and our loved ones and everything, but as far as us being together, we love being together.
We love our whole crew and this whole operation; we’re really lucky to have great people around us. The coolest thing is to come into these beautiful cities around the world and then just sell out a theatre or venue and then everyone in the world is really cool! We get to see all these different cultures and like, we know what Australians are like now and we know what Germans are like; you kind of just look forward to seeing those people again, you know? It’s just really fun and of course we’re having the time of our lives, because everyone wants to talk to us and play our music; how can that not make you happy?
Well yeah, that’s it! Well Scott, thanks so much for having a chat with me today, all the best for the tour!
Train begin their Australian tour in Sydney on the 7th of June, continuing until the 11th in Brisbane. For full details, visit www.livenation.com.au.