You Am I
Fronting a band like You Am I was all
Tim Rogers had ever dreamt about as a 14-year-old. In the
past eighteen months, the Sydney trio have proved to be
one of the country's biggest acts.
The Hourly, Daily CD came in at No. 1 and showed honesty
and passion of Hi Fi Way was no flash in the pan. Their
hard touring has ensured that their success is deeply rooted
in the music, not based on hairstyles or image.
You Am I are firm believers that constant
live work provides a new band with an identity and with
some money. So when a record company offers a deal, they're
in a position to demand artistic control. As Tim points
out, with few opportunities for a new band to play live,
there's always a sad tendency to "manufacture an image,
or sell their souls to the record company." The guitarist
and singer would be the first to admit that being in a band
is a strange lifestyle.
"I only seem to know where I am if
I'm on the move," he says. "I haven't even got
my own house, I'm staying with a friend of mine at the moment.
Playing 200 shows a year is a hell of a way for someone
in his 20s to spend his life, but then again, that's all
I ever wanted to do."
You Am I are, after all, one of the major
names in the "new guard" that has taken over Australian
pop in the last 18 months. Their nine nominations and big
win at the ARIA music awards in September was a testament,
not just to the growing power of the trio but to the new
Interestingly, on the day of the awards
the multinational BMG bought out Sydney record company rooArt
whom You Am I are signed to. Rumours were that BMG primarily
bought the label to get You Am I. The rooArt people had
passion and vision for their acts. But they didn't have
the resources to break them overseas.
The day after the ARIAs, which You Am
I closed with a rocking version of The Easybeats' '60s hit
I'll Make You Happy, Rogers, Andy Kent, Russell Hopkinson
(and live member Greg Hitchcock) took off to Europe to tour
with The Lemonheads.
They're also starting to build up in the United States.
They still have not cracked radio airplay, but are signed
(for America) with the massive Warner Music. They also toured
on Lollapalooza, and their profile also went up when the
influential trade magazine Billboard featured them on their
Is Australian music on the verge of a
big impact overseas?
"Historically that answer would have to be no. It's
pretty obvious not many Australian bands have done well
in big markets overseas. It doesn't really bother us much.
It would be nice if it happened, but we're not going to
let it get us down. It took us four years here to get people
to actually come to see out shows. We're kinda used to being
"As for other bands, it looks like Regurgitator are
going to do really well in the States this year. Spiderbait
are going over. Obviously Silverchair will do well.
"It seems to me if bands do well, they can put out
records and be consistent. But when the overseas (factor)
comes into it, you've got to spend so much of your time
travelling that there isn't the time to re-evaluate what
you've done. We've been finding it hard to get back to writing
new songs at the moment because we haven't been off the
You Am I's '97 touring schedule kicks off with Oz dates
with good buddies Soundgarden. Both acts toured the US in
1994, and again on Lollapalooza '96.
All indications are that the next album
will be tougher, Hourly, Daily was a beautifully made record.
Half the songs were written on acoustic guitar, and the
demo's were made in Tim's bedroom in Sydney. While the first
two albums were made in New York, Hourly, Daily was recorded
in Sydney with local producers Wayne Connolly and Phil McKercher
and featured strings and horns.
But Tim is adamant it's time to make something
a lot more "scummier", as he laughingly puts it.
"It's a bit of a temptation at the moment, with the
profile of the band and me as a songwriter, to get all Costello-ish,
and write smarter chords. But really, this is the time to
think less and act on impulses and sounds of chords, rather
that make everything sound smart. So that's on thing that
isn't going to happen with this band. We are going to become
increasingly dumb and keep a little of that moving forward."
It took five years of playing in You Am
I for Tim to get the sound he wanted. "We had kind
of a shitty grunty sound early on. Then we were doing Hi
Fi Way and working with Lee Ranaldo (the Sonic Youth member
who produced their first two records), he brought in the
Tonemaster. He had a couple of Rickenbackers. I realised
that's how I could get the sound I always wanted. You know,
I could sound like (The Who's) Pete Townshend in '65, '66.
Suddenly it was all there. It's just (been a case) of refining
it since. The clang and attack are all there, not just the
His sounds come from Tonemaster and Telecasters, "and
a little home-made Rickenbacker copy. Very little pedals
and stuff like that. Very straight. Just guitars and amps,
and a whole lotta look."
Rogers has strong ideas on which records
influenced his work.
"The first Who record, The Who sing My Generation,
kills me in more ways than one. The first Move album. The
Rolling Stones records from '68 to '72 are perfect... Exile
on Main Street, Get Yer Yas Yas Out which was the first
Stones record I got. Today it is (New Orleans piano player)
Dr John's Gris Gris and Revival by newcomer Gillian Welch,
"a beautiful beautiful record."
What advice would he give young players
"Just not get swayed by what would be popular at the
time. If it moves you, then go for it. Playing with people
you bounce off well is thing, if you're in it to further
your career, it seems a bit silly. There's too much fun
to be had."
By Greg Segal and Mark Cromelin