The Adelaide Show Podcast putting South Australian passion on centre stage

349 – The Violets rise again

340 - The Violets rise again on The Adelaide Show Podcast

The Violets, the darlings of Triple J and Music SA in the 90s return with a new album

This is a bumper Easter edition full of audio easter eggs! It was inspired by the Easter theme of “new life”, which is why we’re focussing on:

  • The Violets – the band has reformed after a 20 year break
  • Frankly Gin – they’ve developed a gin that is perfect for drinking neat or just with soda – it means gin can rise again in our list of guilt free drinks
  • Michael Mills and Gemma Dandie – have collaborated to create an album of original songs breathing new life into the understanding of female palaeontologist, Mary Anning

GIVEAWAY: Plus we have a copy of The Violets new album, Smoke, Mirrors, And Other Half-Truths to give away. Simple rules. Create a social media post on Facebook in which you tell us what Adelaide street Matt Cahill was parked on when he first heard The Violets being played on Triple J – and make sure you tag @theadelaideshowpodcast and @TheViolets.OFFICIAL – first one wins.

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Running Sheet: The Violets rise again

00:00:00 Intro

Introduction to the show.

00:06:00 SA Drink Of The Week

This week’s SA Drink Of The Week is a new, award-winning gin from Frankly Gin. And Steve was lucky enough to do a tasting with one of the co-founders, Bernie Woods.

00:12:28 Matt Cahill, The Violets

I like to write my own introductions to interviews but the wordsmithery I’ve found online for the subject of this interview, the band The Violets, is so sublime, I’m just going to use it verbatim: From the day they first formed in Adelaide, back in 1990, The Violets were an enigma. Created from a fusion of shimmering guitar lines, sonic abstraction and an almost cinematic vision, they smashed together light and dark, and made beautiful agony dance cheek to cheek with pretty mystery. It was pop, it was prog, it was flat out indie rock but it was never quite like anything else. And I think we’ll discover that our guest today is quite like nobody else, singer/songwriter, guitarist, producer: Matt Cahill.

Before we start plucking the petals of the flower that is the story of the band and of the music industry, let’s stop and smell The Violets with Mary who?

MARY WHO?

This is where I start with a confession. I just wasn’t around in Australia in the 90s. I was living and working in Hungary and then moved to England (yes, dear listener, Alexis Cattely. take a sip – he has a drinking game based on how often I bring my time working for Radio Budapest into the conversation). As a result, the 90s really is a dark area in the map of my musical memory. That applies to everyone, for example, I only just discovered The Cat Empire in time for their goodbye concert. So, I am coming to this interview with no nostalgia, with no common points of reference, so I’ll apologise in advance for any awkward questions.

That said, I have recently been introduced to The Violets with your re-release of Leased Regret, and a special preview copy of your new album, Smoke, Mirrors, And Other Half-Truths, and I’ve become quite smitten. And because of your dramatic history from early success and Triple J airplay, then record company signings, then record company feuds, then the band dissolving, then the band reforming 20 years later, I feel like we have a rare opportunity for some musical palaeontology to help us deeply understand the workings of a band and the music industry.

So, Matt, can you take us to the beginning and piece together how The Violets came to be?

What did rehearsals look like? (And sound like to neighbours)

It’s very common for people to suffer from Imposter Syndrome and self-sabotage their creative desires (doubt their intrinsic qualities and vision). What was the internal journey like when it came to sticking your head up above the trenches and risking judgement by music lovers and entertainment power brokers?

So, what would you nominate as your first “break”? Would that involve the song, Ain’t Love Grand?

AIN’T LOVE GRAND

I recall watching the biopics of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and in at least one of them, they capture the moment when these fledgling icons first heard their music being played on the radio. Can you describe what it was like hearing The Violets on Triple J for the first time? And do you remember where you were and what you were doing?

Tell us about the South Australian Music Awards. What’s the process and what was the experience like?

Does a music award and airplay have a psychological effect in the writing process? Does it start making you double-think yourself (if that’s a term)?

Here’s my naive observations of 90s music. We had simple harmony vocals and drum/guitar/keyboard/(sometimes brass) in early country/folk/blues, then rock and roll simplified and made the sounds harder with some doses of strong hooks. Then things got more experimental as backing tracks and layers came to the fore in the late 60s early 70s. Then we got more sophisticated, clearer production sounds (big sounds) in the 70s (along with the emergence of glam and a smattering of punk). Then the 80s really brought high power and rock and roll and/or electric music to the fore (some of the sickly songs from the 50s and 60s were recreated or evolved but with modern sound engineering). Then the 90s. I see electric “fake” sounds dumped in favour of dirty, murky, emotional, throaty, frenzied masses of guitars, a token set of drumlines, and vocalisation that was not so much focussed on the lyrics but on the sound of the voice. You could say, there was a trance like quality to the 90s sound, punctuated and differentiated by little crumbs of vocal quirks to satisfy our desire for some confection amid this serious mining of frustration and expression. Your reactions?

Some examples:

Somewhere has that hook – somewhere in the back of my mi-iind (play snippet)

Are golden hooks like that planned when you write the song, or do they emerge in the studio, or can they sometimes be the prime idea?

NERO – has that really full throttle, guitar intensity (play snippet)

Does that feel good just going full bore?

Mood seems to be given its due in the 90s, especially the mood of despair or melancholy. Can you explain why? Or am I misinterpreting things?

There is a raw honesty, an open reflection in some of your songs that lets us get closer to your inner world that we might expect to be possible in polite society. Pretty Hate Machine is very self-critical, almost confessional. Can you take us through that writing journey?

PRETTY HATE MACHINE

Everything’s going great for The Violets. You were a touring/recording act from Adelaide that was signed to Phantom Records for 13 years and then you secured a deal with KRELL/SHOCK records. Amazing. But that giddy height was where you became embroiled in a Record Label war, ultimately leading to you playing your last show in 2001. I can hardly imagine how bittersweet that must have been, walking away from such an enriching enterprise. Can you take us through that time?

What did you do in your “in between” years? Our listeners will know of Evoletah (you can hear one of your tracks in episode 323, Run With The Hunted.

Last year, you re-engineered and re-released your first album, Leased Regret. How and why did that come about?

What was it like writing new songs together?

We’ve already featured one of the songs from your new album, Sideways – which you can hear in episode 348 – but the first track I’d like to play from Smoke, Mirrors, And Other Half-Truths, is called Love Lies In The Rain. And the reason I want to start with this is because when you sent me the link to the album and I was listening while cooking, I found my random email sent to you while in my apron and with the sizzling of the oven behind me. I wrote: “Love Lies In The Rain is a stand out to me.” Shall we set this song up?

LOVE LIES IN THE RAIN

Discussion about the artwork for the video for Sideways.

Something I noted was how evocative this album is of my vague recollections of 90s music but also hints of some of the more complex 80s sounds (I’m thinking early Cure, Simple Minds, early U2). There’s a noisy quality that is for your ears what scrambly busy artwork is like for the eyes; it demands stillness and application and rewards those who sit with it. Is that fair?

Having said that, one thing I note in the new album is how much the “noise” aspect is actually more refined; we have more definition of the specific instruments and voice. Is that just a moving of the style, or is it about modern recording techniques?

April’s Fool, from the new album, is an example of the delicate qualities in this album. It has modern, adult music, but the lyrics contain snatches of kids’ rhymes and allusions. Can you whet our appetites for it?

APRIL’S FOOD

It’s 2022, how are things sitting?

Given the long break and the curse of biology, you guys are older than many of the other bands vying for “ear” time. Do you think that will influence your experience over the next few years because US commentator and comedian, Bill Maher, recently said to the 90 year old William Shatner, that ageism is the one remaining discrimination that our society turns a blind eye to?

Something else I’d love your comment on is the band name. I’ve found a UK band with the same name and a young band from WA called The Violets that seems to have started in the early naughties while you guys were in hibernation. Does that cause any confusion?

Where and how can people support you?

Finally, I found another quote from a random email I sent you while cooking and listening to your album: All Went South is brilliant- am thinking of a full episode actually. Watch this space. Well, we have not only watched this space, but we’ve filled it with story and music. Thank you, Matt Cahill. Would you mind doing the honours and introducing the song that will take us out?

ALL WENT SOUTH

01:28:18 Musical Pilgrimage

In the musical pilgrimage, we’re going to listen to a couple of tracks from a new album featuring Professor Flint and Gemma Dandie, These Curious Things.

The tracks we’ll hear are, My Dog, Trey, and the title track, These Curious Things.

Michael Mills shares some of the back story and Gemma shares what working with Michael is REALLY like 😉

Here’s the best link for this project: Professor Flint linktree link.

Here’s this week’s preview video

This week’s preview video.

SFX: Throughout the podcast we use free SFX from freesfx.co.uk for the harp, the visa stamp, the silent movie music, the stylus, the radio signal SFX, the wine pouring and cork pulling SFX, and the swooshes around Siri.

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