OK, slightly vague on the ‘catchy’ title there, but for ex Screamfeeder/Madmen frontman Tim Steward, his latest album The Haze with his band We All Want To is the real hook.
Speaking to Glam’s Music Editor Dazz Hassan, Steward is a great conversationalist and never skips a beat when discussing his musical past. Having begun with The Madmen in Townsville during the mid-late eighties, he then moved to Brisbane and formed Screamfeeder with some mates, and it was during this period that Steward’s songwriting really started to grab attention and some airwaves. For the true Indie fans out there, the 1996 album Kitten Licks was a staple for anyone who listened to Triple J. The first single off the album Dart was a crowd favourite and showcased the band’s diversity as well as bassist Kellie Lloyd’s natural vocal talent. The 90’s were a defining decade in shaping the Australian independent sound, right off the back of the Seattle Grunge scene that brought us Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Mudhoney to name a few. We’d found our own identity and bands like Died Pretty, The Falling Joys & Screamfeeder were making their presence felt. They worked hard and made the most of every opportunity, often doing a lot of ‘grunt work’ to get there. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have Internet and relied on good old-fashioned methods to promote and publicize. Screamfeeder were no exception to this, as were most acts that went on to succeed. It was tough work, and meant that the bands were pro-active in selling themselves. Without the internet and social media to distract them, they likely had more time to focus on the real business of playing good music to a discerning audience. For Steward, this was a major factor in his success as an artist. “I think we worked harder in those days, we made our own way and had to be creative to entertain ourselves, “Steward says.
We All Want To’s The Haze is a fantastic return to Steward’s Indie roots, and is a series of musical masterpieces that do well in shaking off any pretence of trying to sound ‘Indie’, serving the genre with integrity and honesty. (Take a listen to The Haze HERE)
Having traversed several bands, I ask Steward how much he feels he’s changed musically since the days of The Madmen given the trend of artists constantly trying to reinvent themselves. He takes a breath and replies, “It’s barely any different for me, it’s really the thing I do and enjoy and as far as the musical side or inspiration goes, it’s exactly identical. I still just want to sit down and pick up the guitar and make music- that’s how it is.” I also ask where the songs come from, and of there is any specific catalyst for the lyrics. “ I listen to a lot of the 90’s Screamfeeder lyrics and they don’t really mean anything or at least it feels that way, they’re a little obtuse and you can read a lot onto them and make of them what you will. Now I take more time with my lyrics and have them tie together so it’s consistent and makes sense. If it’s a lighthearted song, I try for a twist. It’s not all about being emotional but putting something thought out into the song.”
Steward wrote The Haze in 2014 after a burst of writing and was eager to get it recorded. The feel of the album is vibrant and uplifting right from the first track Eileen Afternoon through to Party Girls and Wish You Didn’t Go Straight. It paints a picture of carefree, simpler times and is well constructed in its flow.
“We didn’t over think the songs on The Haze, and it’s easy to do that in a studio, but with our album we tried not to be too nitpicky ,” Steward says. On what constitutes Indie music these days, we discuss the blurred lines of that title and how much the term has been expanded. Anyone can pick up a guitar, sing a song, put it on YouTube and suddenly claim to be an Indie artist and of course some are quite good, but the former meaning has shifted as times change. “The term Indie came about mainly in the late 80s as Independent labels sprung up in the US & UK (although there were similar things in the 50s/60s). It meant much more back then because the record industry was established, and to set up your own label was a challenge. The industry has changed a lot and the model of an Indie label doesn’t have the same impact- it was about a sound and style that was non-mainstream.” We agree that some music genres have shifted in their meaning, R & B for instance, and that Indie now has a new identity.
We candidly discuss Aussie music and acts that are grabbing his and my attention, and far from being politically correct about who’s good and who’s not, Steward has a realistic view of the scene formed from around 30 years of being involved with it. “I’m only one person and my opinion really doesn’t matter. On the whole though, musicians can be the bitchiest people regarding other bands (laughs).” He doesn’t bitch though, but rather articulates the realities of the music business and the egos that go with it. Steward isn’t known for being a prickly persona, far from it, so it’s no surprise that even his harshest criticisms come with a positive slant.
And what of Screamfeeder? Will there be a reformation or upcoming gigs? Steward says that he’s in touch with Kellie Lloyd and Drummer Dean Shwereb, but nothing definite despite interest from all three in playing some more music together again. A definite maybe? Let’s just keep our fingers crossed!
But back to We All Want To– who will play at The Metro in Adelaide this Saturday May 30 as part of their The Haze tour. Their new album is well worth a listen and if anything to go by, their live performances will be great.
Having seen Tim Steward perform in his other bands The Madmen and Screamfeeder over the years, We All Want To are a band that will no doubt allow one of our better singer/songwriters another opportunity to flourish in what he does best, and that is to make some decent Aussie music.
Go see this band- You Know You Want To!
Interviewed by Dazz Hassan
The Haze album launch
Adelaide- Saturday May 30, 2015 8pm. + Charlie Monsoon + Avant Gardeners The Metro 08 8231 5471
Further dates: http://www.weallwantto.com