Gareth Liddiard’s outbursts cancel culture ahead of national tour with new band, Springtime

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Bob Dylan might never have made it and Ricky Gervais wouldn’t be funny if the two were as afraid of tackling taboos as the entertainment industry is today, says the Australian music legend Gareth Liddiard.

Tropical Storm F**k [TFS] and the Drones frontman, who is gearing up for a national tour with his new outfit, Springtime, said the so-called cancel culture has left the industry afraid to take a risk on controversial work.

“Yes [comedian] Ricky Gervais has self-censored himself to make everything he says fit today’s puritanical conservatism, it wouldn’t be funny or insightful, and if Bob Dylan had done that back then, he wouldn’t have been good or even useful,” Liddiard said.

“Songs like Hurricane wouldn’t have been incredibly shocking and powerful.

“I saw people online condemning him for using the N-word in that song when he was just quoting African Americans who were criticizing the innocently imprisoned African American he was actually defending.”

Liddiard said that scouring the past for moral impurities was “a really weird pastime for a person, and that’s just that, a pastime.”

“Yet working for real justice isn’t fun and you don’t get a round of applause on the internet when you’ve changed a bedpan or just been hit by the meth user you were trying. to help”.

Neither Bob Dylan, however, nor Ricky Gervais, who came under fire for a joke deemed transphobic by some in late 2019, suffered from being “canceled”, although the general environment has made the industry much more reluctant to risk – especially for the lesser known. acts.

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You gotta walk the line

Liddiard is known to have sparked controversy, most notably with a scathing satire on elements of patriotism in Taman Shud of The Drones (2015), where the band wreaked havoc on taboos such as Australia’s glorification of Gallipoli and his fanboy picks up Ned Kelly.

“But with a song like Taman Shud, it’s not enough to spout a bunch of leftist stuff and then call it a protest song,” Liddiard said.

“They go attacking and then they go back with the punchline, so there’s that kind of risk taking.”

The Drones’ satirical song Taman Shud caused outrage in conservative circles in 2015. (YouTube: Recordings of Tropical Storm F**k)

hypocritical stone throwers

And that, said Liddiard, is what’s at stake in contemporary music and art, the courage to take a risk and stay the course in a time when controversy can lead to social media build-up and withdrawal. support from distributors.

“People are so protective of their brand and their career, it would be easier if they just toed the party line in its most draconian form and behaved,” he said.

He also considered it totally hypocritical because no one was perfect, including those who “thrown stones”.

“Everyone ended up and said some bullshit, but that’s what it’s like to be human,” Liddiard said.

“It’s so weird to extort ourselves about our own nature, which is to be imperfect little assholes.

“We all need time to grow and that means forgiveness is the greatest virtue, not punishment.”

TFS fights the state of fatigue

TFS released their third album, Deep States, in August, which arguably picked up where Taman Shud left off with his second song, Give a F**k Fatigue.

Three women and a man, mostly dressed in black, are seated in front of a yellow background
TFS faced repeated interruptions due to COVID-19 while recording Deep States.(Provided: Daydream Nation)

It has a similar feel that Liddiard describes as “sort of funky, but weird” and bristles with recurring themes of apathy, negative collective mindsets and paranoia.

The rest of the album continues with TFS’ signature chaotic, messy, sometimes electronic sounding rock, tackling themes such as state surveillance, the threat of climate change and imperialism, global fascination for resurgent fascism and a state of “contemporary panic”.

A first in the spring

A few months later, he released his second album of the year with a new outfit, Springtime, a self-titled debut album that begins by asking where and what lies behind people’s desire to dominate others in his rock single Will to Power.

Beyond its opening track, the album offers a distinctly different vibe and feel to Liddiard’s previous work, sounding more improvisational than usual, which, given its unique collaborators, isn’t so surprising.

Three men stick their heads out of a black curtain and make funny faces
Springtime is a collaboration between Jim White (top), Chris Abrahams (center) and Gareth Liddiard.(Provided: Jamie Wdziekonski)

Springtime features The Dirty Three’s Jim White, a unique and unconventional drummer who complements Liddiard’s jagged poetic style and seamlessly oscillates between rock, whirlwind ballads and atmospheric percussion.

It also features Chris Abrahams, the keyboardist of The Necks, an Australian band built on improvisation that can see an entire set – or an album for that matter – devoted to a single 45-minute song.

“Spring isn’t drones,” Liddiard said.

“It’s not happening to you in a really vindictive way, but we’re getting loud, and God, we’ve only done two fucking shows, so who knows what’s going to happen?”

Dealing with Womadelaide

Springtime is kicking off a nationwide tour next week, starting at Sydney’s City Recital Hall on February 24 before heading to six states and territories.

Blue and white glitter and lights as part of Skyscraper's Place des Anges above a crowd in Womadelaide.
The Womadelaide festival, pictured here in 2018, will host Gareth Liddiard for the first time.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Unique to Liddiard will be her first performance at Womadelaide, Australia’s premier world music festival, where White and Abrahams have previously performed in their respective outfits.

“I think they were a little worried that I was singing too aggressively or something and was going to yell at the kids.

“I’m not, but kids love it when you yell and swear.”

A stop-start year

Liddiard is also halfway through a national tour with TFS which has been postponed twice due to COVID-19 restrictions and developments.

It’s perhaps symbolic of the difficulties the band encountered while recording Deep States, sessions that were repeatedly interrupted by Victoria’s COVID-19 responses in a process that Liddiard described as “pushing the shit up”.

This contrasts with Springtime, which he said was “a really easy album to do”.

“In a two-week window, we started the band, wrote the songs, did two shows and then recorded it, because we only had that kind of window because of the shutdowns,” Liddiard said.

“2021 has been a weird year, because for a year I felt like I screwed up [due to restrictions]looking back, we’ve done a lot.”

The TFS tour has three dates in Victoria and Western Australia before ending in Adelaide in April.

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