Russell ‘Rusty’ Hopkinson’s favourite festival memory is a recent one, “It was a blast,” the You Am I drummer recalls of the band’s performance at Bumbershoot in Seattle last year.
“We had a great show and saw lots of good stuff like Charles Bradley, Thee Oh Sees and The Jim Jones Revue. The night ended with us, my lovely wife Boonge and a bunch of mates drunk as skunks, dancing to Hall & Oates.”
After an uncharacteristically quiet year, You Am I will play Queenscliff Music Festival this weekend, alongside Missy Higgins, The Cat Empire and Something For Kate.
Besides a warm-up gig in Ballarat the night before, Queenscliff will be their first Australian appearance since a standalone show at Perth’s Rosemount Hotel in February.
That’s not to say the members of You Am I have been resting on their creative laurels though.
In August, frontman Tim Rogers released his acclaimed solo record, Rogers Sings Rogerstein. He’s also been dabbling in theatre and was the face of an AFL TV ad campaign. More recently, Rogers announced he would be part of the recently formedforming The Hillbilly Killers, an all-Aussie country supergroup with Bill Chambers, Catherine Britt, Shane O’Mara, James Gillard and Michael Muchow.
It’s no wonder there hasn’t been time for You Am I.
“Man, Tim’s just the busiest fucker on the planet, it’s very inspiring to see and hear what he’s been getting up to,” Hopkinson says. “We haven’t seen each other very much this year. It’s gonna be great to catch up for a bash and get back to discussing the important things in life; haircuts, trousers and choice of post-rehearsal refreshment.”
Apart from Rogers, the rest of the band – bassist Andy Kent, guitarist Davey Lane and Hopkinson – have all pursued projects of their own.
Lane is bunkered down preparing his debut solo outing (Hopkinson says it’s “tremendous”), Kent is managing Rogers and watching over his touring company, Love Police, and Hopkinson has spent his time playing with a “psych-o-delic monster” called The Treatment and helping his friends at Brooklyn based soul and funk label, Daptone Records.
Hopkinson says You Am I are currently getting “back up to match fitness” in preparation for the Queenscliff show.
“I can assure you we’ll be all very excited, it’s the first chance we’ve had to play together and hang out for quite a while,” he says. “I imagine we will be playing a boisterous rock ‘n’ roll show in the tradition of our spiritual forefathers and mothers – full of sweaty joy, loud guitars and off-kilter harmonies.”
You Am I have long been renowned for their festival performances, having remained an Australian summer staple since impressing punters at the very first Big Day Out back in 1992.
Hopkinson says he doesn’t understand the criticism of music festivals, most notably from artists such as Jack White and Spiritualized linchpin Jason Pierce. White called festivals a “necessary evil” while Pierce went a step further, labelling them “the death of art.”
“Let’s face it, no one’s saying to these guys, ‘Play my festival or I drown these puppies’,” jokes Rusty. “I’m sure they get paid a decent fee and are treated like royalty when they do a festival show so it’s hard to take those statements seriously.”
“As a punter I’m not a fan of festivals and don’t go to them very often,” concedes the drummer, “apart from Boogie out in Tallarook, I’d go to that any time – but if someone wants us to come and play a festival and there’s a decent level of organisation with good people, loud foldback and some drinks back stage, then I can’t really see the problem.”
“Give me a club show any day but really, playing festivals ain’t that bad,” adds Hopkinson.
You Am I’s live return is sure to spark talk of a new album among fans. Since the release of their eponymous You Am I in 2010, Tim Rogers has used press interviews to feed speculation on their next full-length, suggesting there might be another singer in the studio or that it would be a hardcore album.
With the band seemingly no longer the sole focus, there have also been fears a tenth record would never eventuate. Hopkinson has good news for those concerned.
“We’ve been talking about doing some recording at some stage in the not too distant future,” he reveals.“I reckon some time in the next year or so there’ll be a new album. Whether it’s a hardcore record, I don’t know, you’ll just have to wait and see.”
“Beyond that, we don’t have too many clear plans. We tend not to plan too far ahead, stuff just happens. When the time is right we’ll all appear in the same room together and make a record and then all jump into a van together and go out and play it to folks,” which means that – for the time being – Queenscliff Music Festival may be your best chance for some time to catch the veteran rock band.
“You Am I is great like that,” finishes Hopkinson, “it’s always there when we wanna jump in and take it for a ride.”
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