INTERVIEW: Grinspoon

Grinspoon are a name that Australian rock fans are well acquainted with. The dynamic four-piece from Lismore have had a successful career that spans over 24 years. Through the release of their seven studio albums they have extensively shown a growth and a willing to experiment with their sound. To celebrate their long career the band will be hitting the road for massive national tour in October and November as well as release a greatest hits vinyl called ‘Chemical Hearts’.  

I recently chatted to Grinspoon lead singer Phil Jamieson about the resurgence of vinyl, the sonical growth of the band over the years and the crazy antics the crowd encourage during their energetic live show. Check out the chat HERE; 

TB: The Chemical Hearts Tour is shaping up to be an exciting celebration of your career with a bit of a greatest hits element. You will be coinciding the tour with a Vinyl release that also captures this. How did you guys decided what songs best suited this celebratory collection and best describe who Grinspoon have become as a band?  

PJ: The long answer is; lots of arguing, lots of long emails, lots of songs that people loved that didn’t make it on and lots of songs that I loved that didn’t make it on. 

We did put a favourites collection out in 2005 called ‘Best In Show’ which was a lot more songs. Where as I wanted to make ‘Chemical Hearts’ a little more specific. Some of the songs that made it on the record didn’t actually appear on albums as such, they were just favourites of ours that we played live.

But the short answer is; with tremendous difficulty *laughs*. 

TB: What was a song that didn’t make it on the record that you really wanted to?

PJ: I really love ‘Secrets’ from our second record ‘Easy’ which didn’t make it onto ‘Chemical Hearts’ but I got ‘Black Friday’ so there was a bit of trade offs. 

TB: The greatest hits collection will only be released on Vinyl. Why did you guys decide to exclusively release it on Vinyl only?

PJ: There are a number of reasons I guess. Firstly vinyl is nice *laughs*, you can put huge artwork on it and it’s something you can physically hold. 

Reflecting on our career, Grinspoon came out in the CD era, so we released a lot of physical CD’s and CD singles. So when Vinyl had a resurgence Grinspoon were on hiatus, so we kinda missed the whole thing *laughs*. So it was really nice to collaborate on this project and finally do something like this. It’s a lot of fun!

TB: I personally love the packaging of Vinyls and how they’ve really stood the test of time as something unique. What do you personally love about vinyls or it’s resurgence into the industry?

PJ:I love that you have to listen to the album from start to finish on vinyl. There is no way to skip songs, so you really have to take in every moment. You and I can listen to any song we want on streaming platforms right now but there is quite a romance surrounding vinyl. It’s like a typewriter, there is process to it as there is a physical machine. It’s just really nice. 

TB: Your crowds are just as energetic and wild as you are on the stage. One of my friends even broke their tooth on the barrier on your ‘Guide To Better Living Tour’ Ipswich.

PJ: WHAT! That’s crazy. I’m so sorry that she broke her tooth, that’s awful.

TB: It was like a couple songs into the set and she stayed on the barrier for the rest of the show because she was that committed *laughs*.

PJ: *Laughs* that is dedication! I actually love her, pass on my best *laughs*.

TB: So what is one of the craziest things you’ve seen happen in the crowd while you’ve been on stage? 

PJ: Well we were on that ‘Guide To Better Living Tour’ and we went out to a place called Wagga Wagga because we were playing a lot of regional areas. So we were playing at this Uni bar and one of the chaps climbed up into the rafters and decided to take his pants off *laughs*. So his bum was facing the back of the crowd and I got the full frontal nudity. I was in the middle of a song and I was so distracted *laughs*. I was like “dude put your pants on”. I couldn’t get it off my mind. 

So many bizarre things have happened on tour and that one is definitely one of them. There even is a shot of him on my Instagram *laughs*. It was just such a weird thing to do in the middle of a song. 

TB: One thing I love about Grinspoon is the diversity of projects you guys have done throughout your career. You’ve had mainstream success with songs like ‘Chemical Heart’ and ‘Hard Act To Follow’ and you’ve had pure rock hits and success. And then on the side you’ve done musical theatre and stepped into different realms. So what is something that you would like to do as a band or solo that you haven’t done yet? 

PJ: Yeah, there are many projects that I want to do. I’ve had a very ambitious couple of months as I’ve been writing a lot so there is definitely something there but I just don’t know what it will be 100% yet as there is a lot of content there that I’m trying to make sense of. 

I would love to write a musical, I’d love to write a play, I’d love to write a fictional book, I’d love to do a solo album and I’d love to write new Grinspoon material. I’m just trying to get my brain together as I’ve spent the first 6 months of this year concentrating on just writing words on a pad. That is a different approach for me. Just like vinyl, it has a romantic side to it. All the spelling mistakes are there and I’ve tried to take a very organic approach to it. 

I think my time in the theatre was so rewarding because I learnt to experiment even more with my creativity and learnt more about myself with the discipline of doing 100 shows of musical theatre.  

TB: This tour is all about playing the hits and favourites. So is there any songs that you haven’t played live for a while that you really want to bring back?

PJ: Yeah! I can’t remember the last time we played ‘Black Friday, so that’s definitely in the set list. That will be really fun to play. 

I’m working on the setlist as we speak and sending ideas back and forth to the rest of the band. This year celebrates the 20th anniversary of our second album ‘Easy’ so I would love to play some deep cuts off that because some of our hardcore fans are a bit angry that we aren’t doing a celebratory tour for that anniversary. And I would love to give back to them as they’ve been there from the very beginning. 

TB: You’ve been releasing music and touring for over 24 years now. Is there any song that have become a bit monotonous to play that you’ve tried to switch up to get that fresh feeling with?

PJ: Look, some songs benefit from being worn in and some songs benefit from be switched up. But because we tour so infrequently, all of our material feels pretty fresh when we play them. 

TB: One thing I was super impressed about your ‘Guide To Better Living Tour’ was the level of production you brought. So with these upcoming shows and playing huge venues like Hordern Pavillion, The Forum and the new Fortitude Hall, how are you planning on stepping up the production? 

PJ: It’s so exciting Thomas! I have lots and lots of plans for this production but I’m not allowed to tell you yet as I will get in trouble *laughs*. I’ve got really big ideas for the production and I’ve sent it through to management and they are like “no that is going to cost to much, no that is too crazy” and I’m just like “COME ON! IT WILL BE FUN!” *laughs*. So we are just figuring out what we can afford and how crazy we can go because the ‘Guide To Better Living Tour’ production was amazing so I want to step it up and create something bigger and better. 

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.

PJ: Sure!

TB: Our pre show pump up song is…

PJ: ‘Rasputin’ from Boney M

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

PJ: Necessary!

TB: The emoji that best describes Grinspoon is…

PJ: I’m into the saxophone emoji cause it looks cool, so I will say that one *laughs*

TB: How does that represent Grinspoon though? You guys don’t even use saxophones *laughs*

PJ: Well exactly! It’s a random question so It’s a random answer *laughs*

TB: My go to snack on tour is…

PJ: A green smoothie

TB: The messiest member of Grinspoon on tour is…

PJ: Oh definitely me! I walk into a hotel room and destroy it before anyone else even gets in. I just need to make it feel like home *laughs*. I’m very messy, there’s no doubt about it. 

The ‘Chemical Hearts’ vinyl will be released on October 11

Chemical Hearts Australian Tour

Friday 11 October – Metropolis, Fremantle 

Saturday 12 October – Metro City, Perth

Wednesday 16 October – The Forum, Melbourne

Friday 18 October – UC Refectory, Canberra

Wednesday 23 October – Odeon Theatre, Hobart

Saturday 26 October – Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide 

Thursday 31 October – Waves – Wollongong,

Friday 1 November – Newcastle Entertainment Centre 

Saturday 2 November – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Thursday 7 November, The Star, Gold Coast

Friday 8 November – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane