Monday, March 02, 2009
He may inhabit the mind of serial killers and wield a flame-thrower but, as END OF FASHION’s JUSTIN BURFORD tells ANDY HAZEL, not everyone gets the joke.
It’s been several years since the catchy-as-hell O Yeah plastered airways from Cape York to Cockle Creek but it’s creators have been going through a subtle reinvention, something not all of us may be up to date with. Personnel changes and a realisation that with a sense of humour, you can pretty much get away with anything, even if it is challenging have left End Of Fashion stronger, yet more isolated. A place that singer Justin Burford feels is part of a longer trek.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously and that’s risky business nowadays when people want a safe commodity,” he explains enthusiastically. “A song like Fussy [in which Burford inhabits the mind of a serial killer] isn’t meant to be taken literally. We actually had some TV promo shots pulled because they thought we were too dark and strange. Two years ago I was dancing with girls in bikinis, this year I’ve got a flame-thrower – it’s all fun y’know. It’s still End of Fashion.”
This change of tone that accompanies their latest album Book Of Lies hasn’t been greeted with the open arms that the band were hoping for. Without naming names, Burford, it’s safe to say, was surprised at the change of attitude from some areas of the Australian music industry. “As far as the success of the record is concerned, we’re really happy with the product we made. The first album, what that did for us, was amazing, but here’s a weird perception that we’re a hungry commercial pop band and that certainly affected this record. We had a lot of support for the singles of the first album from places that have shied away from this one. The stations that we thought we were going to be embraced by again, for whatever reason, didn’t. That has an effect on album sales and people’s awareness; the message hasn’t been delivered to them. This year we’ve swallowed that, dug our heels in and decided to get out there back to what we do best which is playing live and we seriously forgot how much fun we have at a show.”
While Burford is thrilled with how the gigs are going and the way the crowd is responding to the songs, there are some illusions he’d like people to be free from. “People have this perception that you have a song on the radio and this means that you have Ferraris and a cliff-top mansion. That may be true in America where you have to get half a percent of the population to like you, but bands here have to work really hard to maintain the audience, because of that some radio stations have to help this. If a band is perceived to cross over or go commercial - if anything that’s a reason to get more involved. We really want to focus getting our Australian audience back and at being part of the legacy of the Australian music industry, we feel a little guilty for having a mild success and then headed overseas. Even in Perth community stations stop playing you once you get on commercial radios: ‘what, when did we stop being a Perth band?’ This attitude absolutely influenced our decision to record in Perth with people who’d been there from the beginning. Some songs on the first album suffered for the production, others really stepped up. This album was a completely difference experience. The songs weren’t as familiar so we didn’t have as much time to get complacent with the songs so there was a real sense of ownership over the whole process that wasn’t there for the first one. We wanted to capture the quirk and edge that was ironed out on the first album. [Producer] Magoo was there on our first EP and he knew the band from early days so he understood that everything we do is injected with this sense of humour and cheekiness. Some people get it, some people still need to have it explained.”
Explaining seems to be something that Burford has had to do a lot of with Book Of Lies. The band’s decision to record a raw, up-tempo and gritty album with the odd intentional mistake after a slicker breakthrough album was always going to be a tough call. Burford, though, has his eyes set on the big picture. “Whether it sells well or not, this is a beginning of a career for us. I like to think about ‘what will people think of EoF in 10 years time? I’d like to be one of those bands where people say ‘EoF have a new album out, I wonder what the hell it’s going to sound like’. It’s a big positive that we’re not formulaic. You can put this up next to O Yeah and ask is it even the same band. It does sound that different. There’s a thread that runs through it that keeps things EoF, but we can do whatever we want and still be EoF. We wanted to make this huge departure, we’re not O Yeah, we’re this crazy strange act.
Does this mean minimalist electronic compositions are in the offing? “Well we’re a very live oriented band, that’s how we started that gives us a positive limitation. The next record will be really big and ambitious with over-the-top songs. We’re doing a lot of preproduction for it, just to see if it can be done. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! was done in four days and that’s partly because Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are a really tight band. Alternatively, anyone can make anything sound great with enough overdubbing, but on the next album - which we’ve sheepishly titled Ben Hur – we want to see if we can make something sound enormous without strings and without synth pads. It will be interesting to us, we may return with our tails between our legs, broken and saying ‘It can’t be done!’ either way it will be fun.
Something that seems to have improved since the O Yeah days is the predominance of facial hair in the band. “Yeah well...ahh...beards were born out of, wanting to show people there is another side to the band, I’ve since shaved and had a haircut, but it’s important to us as artists, because we are artists and I think that gets forgotten. We’re allowed to form, invent and reinvent at our own prerogative. It’s risky business nowadays; people want to understand bands in simple terms. We still like to fuck with peoples heads and that’s not gonna change.” Got it?