The Models are a synth-rock band from Melbourne and formed in 1978. This was a time when punk was on the way out and new-wave was seeping into the music world. Just to give you an idea of what was released back then, here is a list of band who released albums, some of them debuts – Talking Heads, Blondie, Devo, The Police, The Jam and Brian Eno. Their most creative period was right up 1988 when they disbanded. There have been a slew of reformations over the news with a handful of new material, but it’s the golden period between 1978 and 1988 that fans will be familiar with their music. In this time they released five albums and managed a number one hit here in Australia with the classic “Out Of Mind Out Of Sight” featuring the late James Freud.
Glam Adelaide’s Darren M. Leach joined the bands very spritely keyboardist, Andrew Duffield, on the phone from his home in Melbourne. He joined Models in 1979 after he left his former band Whirlywirld. It featured Ollie Olsen who is best known for recording an album with the late Michael Hutchence in the band Max Q and featuring on the Dogs In Space soundtrack.
One thing this writer noticed throughout the interview is a man of many stories. Here is hoping one day he writes a book on The Models early career especially the story of how when an unknown Men At Work supported them and got signed over them to a US deal. It involved Sean having a tantrum on stage and smashing his equipment. So there was no hope of getting signed that night.
The band have just played two shows in a row at the same venue in Sydney. I started by asking how they went.
“Really well thanks. The second night we did the whole set in reverse to the first night as we knew some people were coming back. It didn’t make any difference as we don’t do the obvious songs at the end of the show. We put the big ones throughout the set so if you reverse it doesn’t really matter and it kept it really fresh for us. The main thing is we are having a lot of fun with it. We don’t play as often as we used to back in the day, that whole pub scene where we play almost every night is gone, so to string together a few gigs is really good.”
After he left The Models back in 1985 just before the band exploded with the “Out Of Mind Out Of Sight” album he recorded a solo album, later joined Absent Friends and The Dukes (both with Sean Kelly after Models had broken up) and even ventured into the TV advertising world. Anyone remember the TV show Round The Twist, guess who wrote the theme tune?
“I’m no longer doing the TV advertising. I now teach at RMIT and have access to a home studio so I record there including Models stuff. So I’m still a full-time musician. I can’t complain as we’ve had a really good run and I’m really enjoying playing live. Lately I’ve been recording some music with Ollie Olsen who I used to play in Whirlywirld with. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I was young growing up but I knew art was going to be involved. I wasn’t a particularly good piano student and when synthesises became vaguely affordable and they dropped below the price of an electric guitar, it seemed the more attractive thing to play. Mind you, you could only play one note at a time on synthesises back then and that’s what Whirlywirld was. There weren’t any sequences back then, you had to play everything, so there were four guys on synthesises in Whirlywirld playing along with a live drummer. Brian Eno once suggested being a non-musician, you didn’t need to be skilled.”
The late James Freud joined the band in 1982 and the band recorded the “Pleasure Of Your Company” album which was eventually released in 1983. It was a move into a more radio-friendly area. And in 1985 with the release of “Out Of Mind Out Of Sight”, the band had gone completely commercial. Duffield left just after the recording of the hit “Barbados”, as he didn’t like the commercial direction of the band and had some disagreements with newly appointed band manager, Chris Murphy (who also managed INXS). I asked what it was like when Freud joined the band.
“The music scene was pretty tight in Melbourne so you kind of knew a lot of people. There was only a few venues to play so it didn’t matter where you lived in town, you’d all congregate at these few venues. But I knew James as he asked me to come on Countdown and play on “Modern Girl” which was the single of his at the time (1980). His keyboardist wasn’t available at the time so he asked me. But The Models were always a pop band in waiting. We were always mixing pop with alternative stylings. I always love Roxy music especially the first two albums; they’re fantastic and they’re very Brian Eno at his earliest. They’re really weird yet great pop records but with some really strange sounds on them and to me they are exactly what I wanted to do with Models; that guitar bass drums set up but with synthesisers. James was a remarkably good bass player, he was only recorded as just a bass player. He came back from England and on “The Pleasure Of Your Company” album he recorded some amazing bass playing. There’s even a bass solo on I Hear Motion. There are some tracks on that record that you won’t even know is a bass because it sounds more like a synthesiser. Its James being inspired by that great English producer Nick Launay, who produced our “The Pleasure Of Your Company” album. James slowly infiltrated the band making his presence known as a songwriter. That was challenging as the band had been around since 1978, so James’ first impression as a songwriter was “Barbados”, he really polarised the punters as well as me. The band were always on the cusp some kind of success but never quite reaching it.”
There’s been a couple of post 1988 releases – the simply titled “Melbourne” album in 2001, the “GTK” EP in 2013 and “Memo” EP in 2015 – all featuring tracks recorded between 1978 and 1988. But now that the band is back together I asked Duffield whether there would be new Models music.
“There will be some new music coming next year which I can’t wait for people to hear and hopefully the old stuff reissued but only if the record company come to the party as they own the copyright for those albums.”
By Darren M. Leach