SILVERCHAIR: THE HISTORY
Silverchair are one of the most acclaimed and successful bands in Australian music history. They have had five #1 albums in their homeland, which is more than any other local group (Midnight Oil had 4, AC/DC and Crowded House each had 3). They’ve sold over six million albums and their most recent release – Young Modern – is the fastest seller of their extraordinary career to date.
The group’s members were all born in 1979 in the Newcastle surf suburb of Merewether. Singer/guitarist Daniel Johns and drummer Ben Gillies started making music together at primary school and schoolmate Chris Joannou later joined on bass. They got their big break in mid-1994 when they won a national demo competition conducted by SBS TV show “Nomad” and Triple J.
The band changed its name from Innocent Criminals to Silverchair and in August 1994 they released their winning demo – a track called “Tomorrow”. The song eventually spent six weeks at #1 on the Australian singles charts and 20 weeks in the top 10. In 1995 it became the most played song of the year on U.S. modern rock radio.
Silverchair’s debut album frogstomp, recorded in just nine days in early 1995, was a raw sounding slab of alternative rock. A #1 hit in Australia and New Zealand the disc went on to become the first Australian album since INXS to hit the U.S. top 10, selling more than 2.5 million copies throughout the world. As frogstomp and “Tomorrow” propelled Silverchair to music superstardom through 1996 the group juggled memorable performances on the roof of Radio City Music Hall and tours with Red Hot Chili Peppers alongside full time schooling commitments back home in Newcastle.
The trio also found time that year to record their sophomore album Freak Show which was released in February 1997. A more adventurous piece of work than frogstomp this disc yielded three top ten singles in Australia - “Freak,” “Abuse Me” and “Cemetery.” Global sales eventually exceeded 1.5 million copies in spite of the fact that the band had to juggle world tours while trying to finish their final year of high school.
After finally graduating from school, the band was able to spend much more time creating their critically lauded breakthrough, Neon Ballroom which was released in March 1999. The group’s songwriter, Daniel Johns had been battling personal demons as he attempted to adjust to Silverchair’s sudden success and he poured these experiences into his new batch of songs. Determined to shake the constant musical comparisons that had previously dogged his band, Johns created a truly original sounding album. Fusing heavy rock with orchestral flourishes and synthetic touches with powerfully emotional lyrics, the dark and haunting Neon Ballroom was universally acclaimed as a huge creative leap for Johns and his bandmates.
Silverchair toured extensively in support of the album, propelling it to even stronger worldwide sales than they had achieved with Freak Show. In Europe and South America it became the group’s most successful album to date due to the Comet Award winning “Ana’s Song” - a track about Daniel Johns’ battles with an eating disorder. Elsewhere, distinctive tracks like “Emotion Sickness” and the aching “Miss You Love” established the group’s staying power once and for all.
The band toured Europe and the U.S. throughout 1999 including appearances on leading festivals such as Reading and Bizarrefest. After all this touring Silverchair announced that they would be taking a 12-month break during 2000 to recharge their batteries.
Having fulfilled their initial recording contract the group was pursued by labels for much of this year off. At the end of 2000 they announced that they had signed new deals and as a result their former label released two compilation albums over the following years without the band’s involvement.
Silverchair’s one and only gig in 2000 was a sold out appearance at Australia’s Falls Festival on New Years Eve. It was followed on January 21, 2001 by the biggest show of their lives - 250,000 people at Rock In Rio - a performance which the band describe as the highlight of their career to date.
In June 2001 the band started work on their fourth album, Diorama. This time Daniel Johns set out to explore even more new musical territory. A range of other musicians were drawn in to contribute to the disc, most notably the legendary Beach Boys and U2 collaborator, Van Dyke Parks who contributed orchestral arrangements to three tracks including a lush epic called “Luv Your Life.” Also helping out again were Neon Ballroom sidemen, Paul Mac and Jim Moginie.
The album saw Johns embracing melody and combining it with brighter lyrics than most of his previous works. It was a huge creative leap, which also saw the band exploring a vast array of instrumentation and musical styles.
Diorama means “a world within a world.” It was a particularly apt name as this evocative work lifts you out of the everyday and carries you into a world of its own. According to Rolling Stone magazine in its four and a half star review, the album was “one of the boldest musical statements ever made by an Australian rock band.”
Diorama entered the Australian charts at #1 in April. It yielded the top 10 singles “The Greatest View” and “Without You” and the top 20 hit “Luv Your Life” as well as the airplay favourites “After All These Years” and “Across The Night.”
The album’s international performance was unfortunately impeded by the band’s inability to tour or do promotional appearances due to Daniel Johns’ ill health. The singer/guitarist spent 2002 battling a severely debilitating case of reactive arthritis from which he is now completely recovered. Nevertheless, even without any of the usual promotional support the album has reached #12 in Germany and the top 40 of numerous other countries including Holland, Sweden and Brazil. However, the group’s inability to tour in support of the release still made the middle of 2002 a very frustrating period.
This all began to change in October 2002 when the band’s work on Diorama won them six ARIA Awards (Australia’s Grammies) including “Best Group” and “Best Rock Album.” In a last minute surprise the trio returned to the stage to deliver a searing performance of “The Greatest View” which catapulted their album back into the national top 10.
The disc went on to be certified five times platinum in their homeland. In spite of the musical challenges presented by the album and the band’s inability to tour or promote it, in Australia at least Diorama still managed to attract the biggest audience of any Silverchair release.
From March to June of 2003 Silverchair finally got to play the album live. Their “Across The Night” tour sold out around their homeland in minutes and was the largest of their career. The band also played multiple sold out shows in South America, the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
This remarkable tour capped a roller coaster year for Silverchair – a year which in many ways traced the journey of Diorama itself – from bleak times into a much happier new dawn. The event was captured in a multiplatinum CD/DVD set called Live From Faraway Stables that was released in late 2003.
The band then went on an indefinite hiatus. Daniel Johns collaborated with Paul Mac to create an acclaimed gold selling album as The Dissociatives and the group toured Australia and the UK. Chris Joannou was nominated for an ARIA award for his production work with The Mess Hall while under the banner of Tambalane, Ben Gillies recently recorded an album with some friends that showed his longstanding love of James Brown style funk. Throughout this time the group repeatedly refuted media reports that they had split up – pointing out that they were just taking an open ended break and that they would make music together again when the time was right.
That time finally came when Silverchair and their management helped pull together the unforgettable Waveaid benefit concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground on January 29, 2005. The event drew a sold out crowd of 55,000 people and saw a ‘who’s who’ of Australian music raise over $2,500,000 for the victims of the Asian tsunami. The undeniable spark that the band felt together in the rehearsal room and onstage at that extraordinary show rekindled their desire to start making another album together later that year.
And so the decision was made to regroup but to “remove all the pressure” that had surrounded the band since the explosive reaction to their first CD. Not only did that involve an unhurried and quite secretive creative approach, it also meant the band taking the highly unusual step of choosing to fund the entire album themselves so as to avoid a repeat of the creative clashes that occurred with their US label during the recording of Diorama. The focus was on the three guys recapturing the “sense of endless possibilities” that they had when they first started out.
The group did a few big Australian shows in March/April ’06 to roadtest some new songs and to help build a warchest to fund the venture. Then they headed to another house in LA where tracking commenced in a backyard studio called Seedy Underbelly. The album that eventuated – Young Modern - melds elements from each of the band’s previous works while somehow seeming more cohesive than anything they’ve done since their debut.
The disc was released in Australia on March 31, 2007 and like all of their albums it debuted at #1. It also rocketed past double platinum sales faster than any of the previous releases propelled by the lead track “Straight Lines” which became their biggest hit since “Tomorrow,” racking up a month at #1 on both the singles and airplay charts. Young Modern is scheduled for release in the US on July 24, 2007 through Warner Music Group’s Independent Label Group (ILG).
On this new album Daniel shared the producer role with Nick Launay who had helmed earlier ‘chair albums Freak Show and Neon Ballroom. Diorama producer, David Bottrill was brought in as mixer Paul Mac was again on hand for keyboard duties as he was with the group’s two previous albums and legendary Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks reprised his Diorama role penning orchestrations for three songs. In keeping with the free spirited nature of the process his sections were recorded in Prague … as you do when you’re seeking 80 piece orchestras.
(By the way, this seems as good a place as any to mention that in addition to being a fine summary of the intent behind the album, “Young Modern” is also the nickname that Mr. Parks has used for Mr. Johns since they first met.)
Silverchair’s intent is clear from the brash guitar wail and the pounding drums and bass that give liftoff to the album’s opening track, “Young Modern Station.” “The band is back together” exclaims an exuberant Daniel Johns a few seconds into the song and it’s impossible to argue the point.
Then it’s straight into the slow burning epic “Straight Lines” before things take a memorable left turn with the deranged dreaming of “If You Keep Losing Sleep.” Glorious sweetness follows with “Reflections Of A Sound,” the three parts of “Those Thieving Birds” and the beautiful “Waiting All Day” while a more twisted and edgy band steps out on ‘side two’ with rougher tracks like “Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Mind Reader,” “Low” and “Insomnia.” Then to top it all there’s the album closer “All Across The World” – a warm final embrace that’s made to measure for the spirit of this album.
This new album is the latest step in an extraordinary journey. Even though the members of Silverchair are still only 27 years old the trio has already had five consecutive number 1 albums in their homeland. They’ve received 39 ARIA Award nominations over the last 12 years and they’ve sold over 6 million albums around the world. Their music has evolved hugely since their teenage years and they’ve grown into critical darlings – a feat that seemed highly unlikely back in the mid-‘90s.
To top it all, just a few months back they were the only artist other than U2, Radiohead and The Beatles to have three of their albums make the top 100 most popular Australian CD’s of all time in a big ABC TV poll (Diorama came in just behind Midnight Oil’s classic 10…1as the most popular Aussie album on the list).
But the challenge of living up to this amazing history is not one that Daniel Johns finds daunting.
“It took me a long time to realize that the sound Ben, Chris and I make when we play my songs is something special,” says the Silverchair frontman. “I’ve been thinking a lot since we finished the album about were this fits into the other stuff we’ve done. The way I see it the first album was naivety, the second one was anger, the third one was depression and the last one was escapism. Young Modern is all aboutacceptance. It’s about embracing who we are as band and just really enjoying ourselves because that’s all that really matters. Hopefully listening to this album will make other people feel what we feel when we play these songs together because I’ve finally figured out that that’s a very special feeling.”
For more information please visit:
Amanda Cagan @ ABC PR – 818-990-6876 – email@example.com
Andrew Steinthal @ ILG – 212-707-3086 – Andrew.Steinthal@WMG.com
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