You Am I - Beat Interview

You Am I are the band that have somehow managed to bridge a gap between the 60s TV show Go-Set and the Triple J audience. Older musos respect them and the kids think they’re alright.

They say the proof is in the pudding. You Am I are the band that never let you down. They always deliver their best live and just keep on getting better. In the mid 90s it seemed the Australian Music Industry had invested a lot of hope in them to break internationally, and it did almost happen a few times. There was no shortage of critical acclaim overseas and at home they fared well commercially too.

The hype-o-meter is now buzzing around New York band The Strokes, who You Am I brought out to Australia to play some shows. A month ago no one had heard of The Strokes, now they are international sweethearts. Their debut album Is This It? came out one week ago, and today it is on top of the Alternative Albums chart.

The two bands had not met before, but it was not long before there was mutual musical appreciation between. On the last night of the tour in Sydney The Strokes moshed up the front during the You Am I set and left the country raving about their Australian friends."They are on a real high at the moment," says Tim Rogers of The Strokes. "How great it is to be in this rock n roll band? It is really great to see that they appreciate it. I hope it works out for them. I am sure it will. What an amazing situation. The most important thing is they stay friends."

But having been there themselves, the hype surrounding You Am I died down a few years ago. Perhaps with reduced pressure came the freedom to be a great rock n’roll band.

Do You Am I ever get sick of touring after seven or more intense years of international jet-setting? "Absolutely not," insists Tim. "We are living out a dream. It was so melodramatic. Why am I getting so upset and so elated? Because you are starving, you are drunk and you are hungover. You are depriving yourself of all that stuff that keeps you sane. It was great. I look back on it really fondly. A lot of gigs were hopeless and pathetic, a lot of fights we had and brilliant times."

"I just wish the band was like it is now and we had the same attitude six or seven years ago. We were playing overseas trying to put on the best show possible."

You Am I returned to basics on the #4 Record of 1998. They took an extended break from touring during most of 2000 to record their latest and finest album to date Dress Me Slowly.

Tim Rogers, Russell Hopkinson and Andy Kent also took time off to get hitched. "That has been commented on," says Tim about the coincidental synchronised marriages. "We influence each other a bit in lifestyle."

Earlier this year Rogers became a father. He is very open about his happiness as a family man and spends as much time as possible with wife Rocio and five month old baby Ruby. He loves staying home with Ruby and introducing her to good music.

The guys in You Am I have always been music enthusiasts. Playing in the background is a Flaming Groovies record and Tim talking up the new Motley Crue biography that he is currently reading. "I just bought a Van Morrison record, he is very popular for the reason that he has fifteen records that are all amazing. Why not actually investigate those guys and not avoid them because they are vastly popular? They are popular for a reason. Rusty sometimes disagrees with me here. He would insist that a 1966 Taiwanese psychedelic record is amazing. Somewhere between me and Russell is where the band lies. I am such a populist, the Barbara Streisand of the group and Rusty is the Russ Meyer. What he brings into the bands is so out there."

You Am I’s drummer Russell Hopkinson has started a small record label, Illustrious Artists. He has just released a 7 inch vinyl single You’ll See/Don’t You Wanna Know by The Pictures, You Am I guitarist Dave Lane’s other band.

Andy Kent has also dabbled in a tiny bit of production work out side of You Am I. "I don’t know if we’d produce the next You Am I record ourselves," offers Tim when asked if they have considered it. "Andy and I would always butt heads on that. I think he is naturally an inquisitive person and want to push it further and contemporise the band. I will always be the one shying away from it, through ignorance more than anything else, but that is the way we have always gone. If I produced the next You Am I record the most contemporary instrument on it would be the mandolin."

Although Tim Rogers is a prolific songwriter, he admits he does not have the concentration span to collaborate with other songwriters. "But then having said this, David Ceasar, the director of Idiot Box and Mullet is doing a new film called Dirty Deeds which is set in the late 60s and early 70s. He wants a hard rock soundtrack which is indicative of that era and I reckon that is something I might do," reveals Rogers who co-produced the Idiot Box soundtrack.

"I met Billy Thorpe at the Apra Awards and we got on really well and I had a bit of rapport. I was thinking maybe You Am I could write some songs and get Billy to sing them all. I could handle doing something like that." You Am I recently recorded a song with Indigenous artist Vic Simms for the Corroboration album. But due to business between Simms and Jimmy Little’s management the track Back In The Shadows has unfortunately been left off. Some advance promotional copies of the compilation do carry the You Am I track.

But over the last few months You Am I have been focused on playing live. This week You Am I commence their third run of Victorian shows in as many months.

They have been generously offering audiences almost two hours of raw and varied rock every time they play. "I like to present the band as the last great rock n’roll band," explains Tim. "Whenever we get together, it is us against the world. The reality is that we relate best when we are playing."

Everyone seems relaxed on stage now, a few years a go the band seemed a bit nervous and tense on stage.

"I try to take it easy. That is deliberate. We used to get as drunk on as much Guinness as we could before shows. Now I find I want to carry the show through and if the show is going bad, let’s make the show good. Give people something. Rocio says it is amazing when you guys smile at each other on stage what it does to the crowd. I love it when we smile at each other, bash in to a song, it such an amazing feeling."

The new single is Kick a Hole in the Sky from the album Dress Me Slowly is out now on BMG. You Am I, Even and Dan Brodie & The Broken Arrows play Monash Uni Clayton on Thursday August 9; The Inferno in Traralgon on Friday 10; the Chapel, Ballarat on Saturday 11 and the Corner Hotel, Richmond on Sunday August 12.