James Tidswell on Violent Soho’s chaotic Australian success, returning to the US & the importance of touring

The first time I remember seeing Violent Soho perform, I want to say it was in one of Adelaide’s smaller CBD venues. Truthfully, all I remember from the night was beer flying and Boerdam almost becoming enveloped by the crowd as he dared to launch into us. The energy was palpable, sweat flinging, noise threatening unprotected ear drums. A great insight into what this band was still to become. The way in which this band’s career has travelled in the past few years alone has been wild to watch, one can’t imagine what it must’ve felt like to produce an album like Hungry Ghost and have the momentum whip itself up as frenetically as it did for them.

Regardless, the Brisbane locals have held things down incredibly well and have surfed that wave of success in becoming one of the country’s most beloved bands. Their Amphitheatre set at Splendour in the Grass this year brought out a crowd I hadn’t fully conceptualised Soho being able to pull, until I saw the thousands streaming in and out.

Credit: Sam Charlton Photography
Credit: Sam Charlton Photography

“Two years before it was similar,” guitarist James Tidswell remembers. “There were so many people in 2014. That one was weirder for us because we had no idea at all that that many people even knew of us. We weren’t even slightly ready. With this one, we didn’t want to get our hopes up but we were pretty prepared. It was easier to play and just enjoy it, rather than freaking out. It was awesome; I think it’s the only show where we’ve all collectively walked off stage and gone, ‘That was a good one.’ There’s always someone who’s like, ‘That was shit, I fucked up here,’ but that was a good one, it was all about the atmosphere. The crowd was just unbelievable; we’re still coming down off it too.”

Of course, Violent Soho has thrashed their way into a new chapter with their 2016 release, WACO, an album that’s brought the band further acclaim and attention from abroad, as well as from a now fiercely solid Australian following. With a US and Canadian tour taking 16 dates beginning next week, Tidswell admits that Soho’s American return was one the band approached with caution.

“We felt like we didn’t want to ram our band down people’s throats,” he says. “I guess now, that’s what’s ended up happening [in Australia], but it’s the same with America. We made that decision based on previous touring over there. We didn’t even tour there for Hungry Ghost, mainly because [with] what’s happened in Australia and the amount of people we get to play to, we’re stoked that we ended up getting that support from Australia without really pushing that.”

“People always talked about ‘the machine’ [in the US],” Tidswell explains. “I was like, ‘Yeah, fuck the machine!’, but I didn’t have a clue what it was – I was just a kid being an idiot. Over there, I got the experience and I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is out of this world,’ – it’s something you can’t compete with or participate in. We came home with our tail between our legs, but we were happy to have it there. We carried on with our band the way we wanted to do it here in Australia. To some degree, that’s what we wanted to do with America so with this [tour], we’re just letting it happen.”

It’s been some years since Violent Soho have played out in the States but they needn’t have worried about losing any steam or traction in their time away. Now with two albums ready to be toured out there for the first time, Violent Soho have found themselves in a great position of returning with one hectic arsenal of new music behind them.

“We just booked our own little tour,” Tidswell says. “We hadn’t been back there in six years and we’ve sold more tickets already than any other city that we went to six years ago when we were touring then. We’re stoked with how it’s gone. It’s still word of mouth over there and that’s how we like the message of our band to be spread around.”

“We were offered a lot of tours that I can’t even believe we said no to,” he adds. “Some of them were our favourite bands growing up, but we weren’t chasing or trying to expose our band to that many people. We didn’t want to end up in a machine that we just couldn’t work with.”

While Violent Soho have become solid chart favourites in Australia, Tidswell still remains a strong believer in the value and worth behind live touring, regardless of how big the crowd is. An obvious drawcard when it comes to the band in general is the popularity of their live show, but behind each hectic night on stage is a work ethic and approach to how their music is delivered live that is rooted in growing up watching bands establish themselves in the same way.

“We grew up in the Fat Records generation,” Tidswell says. “Your favourite bands would sell out 1500 seater rooms without being played on the radio. Lagwagon or Propaghandi or whatever. I think that we were really lucky to grow up in that way; your bands weren’t the number ones on the radio. The generation just before us, that’s what they had. Even with Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, even Rage Against the Machine, those bands were in the charts. We were really lucky to grow up just after that, where bands weren’t in the charts, because it’s about playing music.”

“I still consider any band successful if they’re up there playing, regardless of the amount of people watching. If 30 people are watching, I think that’s amazing. It’s hard to do anything and get 30 people’s attention. We’re stoked with how it’s building over there in the States, but I’d hate for people to think that we’re super ambitious or trying to take over the world. These are only 300-350 capacity sort of clubs, so they’re not huge. We’re stoked, though.”

Credit: Kerrie Geier
Credit: Kerrie Geier

Earlier in the year, Soho took on some of the largest venues they’d headlined around the country, with the WACO album tour seeing them wrangle a national run of shows with DZ DeathraysDune Rats and The Gooch Palms, somehow coming out the other side in one piece. Taking to theatres around the country with some equally as raucous bands (especially with the reputations these acts have) would be enough to strike fear into any tour manager, but as Tidswell mentions, it’s all manageable even if it’s exhausting.

“It’s really easy when it’s your friends,” he says. “We don’t just base it on the amount of hype, it’s also about the quality of people that they are as well. Everyone’s got this idea about Dune Rats but at the end of the day, they’re super polite and lovely people. Those are the sorts of people we like to work with and even be friends with in general. It’s not as daunting as what it seems, because everyone is super polite and humble and happy to be there. It’s always really refreshing and re-energising on a tour.”

“I think that doco was even toned down a fair bit, to be honest.” he laughs, mentioning the mini tour doco, above. “I’m still not recovered; I just mentally tried to make it through until Splendour and then I just crashed. I’m only still picking myself up now. I need to get on to it because we’re about to leave for America. It was an awesome tour and again, it was insane for us to play to that many people. The Thebarton Theatre [for instance], what a venue. That gig was insane, I will remember that show for the rest of my life, 100%.”

The mint tour bills and huge capacity rooms are continuing to line themselves up for Soho and fans alike too, with their next Australian tour set to kick off in October alongside The Bronx and two of Australia’s best emerging acts, Luca Brasi and Tired Lion. Predictably, this is one the headliners are particularly amped for.

“We’re only trying to have the time of our lives, we don’t know what anyone else is going to think or expect.” Tidswell laughs. “The things that people are pretty pumped on, like the upcoming Bronx tour, it’s good for us because we just wanted to tour with them again! They’re the band we’ve played the most shows with out of any band in the world; after this tour, we would’ve done like, 50 shows together, or just under. We know them really well and we get along, it should be good.”

“Luca Brasi’s album this year is my favourite album of the year. It’s flawless. I love them. Tired Lion as well, I can’t get enough of them. It’s so rad that they’re able to do this tour as well, I’ve never seen them live. I’m gonna get to see them like, five times, so I’m pretty stoked. Whenever we’re choosing bands and line ups, it’s always a thing where if they’re not our direct friends, it’s a band that we personally want to see live. Even in the States, we choose bands based on who we’d want to see, that we’d never get to see in small towns. That’s what a show is for us and we just hope everyone else likes it.”

WACO is out now. Catch Violent Soho on the road with The Bronx, Luca Brasi and Tired Lion this October and November. Soho will also be appearing at the Spilt Milk Festival in Canberra on December 3rd.

October 28th | Riverstage, BRISBANE
October 29th | Hordern Pavilion, SYDNEY
October 31st | Festival Hall, MELBOURNE
November 4th Entertainment Centre Theatre, ADELAIDE
November 5th | Red Hill Auditorium, PERTH





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