A lot of the ‘90s bands we knew and loved got lost in the passing of time. It’s rare to hear our old favourite groups rejoin to release new material – but that’s just what Aussie band Tumbleweed have done after 15 years. If you’ve wondered where they’ve been, they’ll share their Sounds from the Other Side with Tasmania at the Brisbane Hotel this January 25. Tumbleweed singer Richie Lewis fills us in on what we’ve missed.
The Tumbleweeds are classic Aussie stoner-rock. The boys got together in 1990 in Tarrawanna and made fame with their post-psychedelic grunge that landed them on the same stages as Nirvana, Mudhoney and The Lemonheads as a support act. After years apart, they have just released sixth studio album Sounds From The Other Side.
Richie says the decision to release new material was made in a moment of clarity, after realizing the band had been performing the same music for far too long.
“We thought, ‘what are we doing? Are we going to continue doing the same old set that’s nearly 20 years old for the rest of our lives?’. Bands, by their nature, create. So we sort of had to decide whether we were an act or a band.”
More than a decade has passed since the band turned out new music, but it hasn’t stopped the boys from doing what they do best.
“We tried to backtrack to when we were last together and pick up the pieces from that point. A lot of it happens naturally – we worked together as a collective unit and sort of feed off each other’s ideas.”
Richie reckons these ideas are even better than before, as each band member has brought back new influences and experiences gained from working with other musicians in different genres.
“In 15 years, you do learn a little more about what you do and the craft of your instrument and songwriting, and you’re influenced by a lot of different views. But it’s happened subconsciously. It’s natural growth as writers and musicians.”
“A lot of the differences we used to think were uncool and divisive in the band actually create the flavour and the energy. Those differences are what makes the individuals the individuals.”
Tumbleweed came up with 19 demo songs over two years for Sounds From The Other Side. Although the 13 that made the final cut are a mixture of older, unreleased songs and newly written ones, the consistency of sound came “effortlessly” to the boys and goes to show that some instincts can’t be swayed.
What has changed, Richie says, is his confidence in himself both as a musician and a man.
“I have a lot clearer idea about who I am and I think everybody else in the band has improved with playing. I think we’ve just improved as human beings – we’ve learned how to tolerate things. We’ve learned acceptance and how to exist in a good way, and also be able to enjoy music.”
Despite still making that good old Tumbleweed sound, the improvements that have stemmed from the years apart are audible in the new release. Through direct and honest lyrics, Richie sings with less restraint and is able to truly let go through his vocals. This is also due to the band’s matured outlook and absence of the “youthful illusions of grandiose.”
“Now, when there’s less pressure to actually make a living or a career, we can get together and enjoy the process of creating and the process of playing together.”
“This time, everything was in our court. We could sort of do whatever we want. There was no expectation for us to put out anything, so there was no pressure and I think it allowed for a little bit more freedom, a little less stress and a little bit more purity in the creative process.”
While the band weren’t too sure what to expect from their fans after so many years have gone by, Richie has found that staying true to himself as a musician has secured his listeners – and even inspired them.
“We’ve been really lucky to have some really loyal fans for a long time. I was really conscious of making something that wasn’t going to be too far removed from what we’ve done in the past and something that they’d be happy with.”
“They’ve embraced it as a part of our music just like the old stuff they fell in love with when they were teenagers or early 20s, so they’ve really sort of taken it on as another Tumbleweed record.”
“There’s a lot of people now that listen to Tumbleweed stuff that weren’t even born or were just getting born when our first stuff was coming out. They’re discovering the older stuff after they’re discovering this new stuff, which is really interesting.”
The joy his listeners get out of Tumbleweed’s new release is matched by the band’s positive experience making it, and the album was a way for Richie and the boys to get back to unfinished business.
“It was really a vehicle for ourselves. It was something to tie up a lot of loose ends. We really wanted to do something that was creatively satisfying for ourselves and make a record that we’re really happy with.”
Although a lot has changed since they last hit the scene, Richie says the band has no interest in keeping up with changes in the music industry.
“We were always rooted firmly in the past when it came to our influences. We’ve always lived on the periphery of the music industry and that’s something we’re comfortable with. We don’t want to compete. What Tumbleweed is what Tumbleweed is.”
Catch Tumbleweed at the Brisbane Hotel on January 25. Doors open 8pm and tickets are available from www.oztix.com.au.
BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
This featured in Warp Magazine January 2014.