The year 2013 was a defining moment for Brisbane four-piece Violent Soho. Channelling an era of music pinned in DIY and angst, Hungry Ghost catapulted their sound onto the airwaves; with ‘Covered In Chrome’ compacting their grungy and aggressive stylings into a neat, tight package for the Australian music scene. With new listeners and long-time fans flocking to their sentimental and playful attitudes, Hungry Ghost was the record Australians craved for, it’s bone-crunching, unpolitical and likeable revision of ’90s grunge, calling back to Cobain and modernised licks. Built up by fans and critics alike, it came to no surprise that WACO had been an anticipated release.
“I guess it’s a companion piece [to Hungry Ghost], of course, but only in the way that we’re still the same people, and still dealing with basically the same subject matter,” lead guitarist James Tidswell tells me about WACO, which was released on March 18th. Thematically, WACO delves into “the culture of make believe” in the modern world – a sentiment that resonates heavily with the album’s title – which makes reference to a Texan city with a dark history. The city was home to a religious sect; The Branch Davidians, who were involved in a 51-day siege with the FBI. 76 people were killed, including sect leader and self-proclaimed ‘prophet,’ David Koresh. “People believed in the world in which they were living in. They believed that this guy was Jesus and the second coming. They lost their lives to something that was completely fabricated.”
“Hungry Ghost was dealing with what we’re being fed and being spiritually starved… It was looking at how we were this way, now [with Waco] we’re looking at why we’re this way.”
Hungry Ghost was dealing with what we’re being fed and being spiritually starved,” Tidswell explains, “It was looking at how we were this way, now we’re looking at why we’re this way.” While speaking to me, it’s clear how fascinated Tidswell is by the entire concept, showing that the group are keen on tackling some of the bigger issues on life and modern society. “How does this happen and what are we being fed that we would believe something that’s fabricated?”
That being said, the group aren’t trying to take themselves too seriously, despite the new album being “a little bit darker” than before. “We have a pretty light-hearted approach to everything,” he explains, linking to the music video for latest single, ‘Viceroy’, which is an impressive and humorous long-take clip of the band performing the song. “We take everything pretty cruisy… I think that’s what we really wanted to come across in Viceroy.”
With a dedicated fanbase behind them, Violent Soho’s newly announced album tour sold out within minutes. The situation, however, led to a well-publicised battle with online ticket scalpers, which truly demonstrated the sheer respect and love the band has for their fans. Sticking true to a punk ethos, Soho called out the “selfish individuals” who were scalping tickets and told them to “kindly fuck off.” Tidswell’s tone turned noticeably sombre when I asked him about this. “It seemed like the people that go to shows we’re the only one’s talking about it, rather than the people who run the shows.”
“All we can do is just be us. We’re just trying to stick to the way that we make music and if people like it then that’s just the best possible thing to happen.”
“We understand that the people that support our band are exactly the same as us. They don’t have $200 to come to a show. We honestly thought that $50 was a bit too much. To have people just go online and have tickets up instantly for four times the value was just not okay.” Working hard to shut down the scalpers, new shows were added to the tour, allowing fans that missed out to have a chance to see them. “There’s only so much that we can do being the band. A lot of stuff is out of our control. It just sucks.” It was a situation the group could understand personally, as Tidswell outlines, “I’ve missed out on tickets before, so I totally get it. I don’t think there’s been enough regulation put in place [for online ticket sales.]” Touring with two other Brisbane bands, Dune Rats and DZ Deathrays is a highlight for Violent Soho, a tour that’s been in the works since 2011. “It was just so hard to do, people touring overseas at different times, venues not being right,” but luckily, things finally linked up in 2016.
“The craziest thing for us, man, is that all of these bands have gone from house parties in Brisbane to playing in theatres around the country. I think the thing we’re most proud of is there’s gonna be these three Brisbane bands going ’round the country playing shows that you could’ve seen playing house parties.” For Violent Soho, WACO is the next chapter, but the musical process is largely unchanged. It truly has been a massive journey for a band who started out playing house parties in Brisbane, and now boasts a profound mutual devotion and respect with a growing fan base. “All we can do is just be us. We’re just trying to stick to the way that we make music and if people like it then that’s just the best possible thing to happen.”
WACO is available now via I Oh You Records.