am I treasures sartorial elegance as much as the music,
so they must be able to shop, right? Bernard Zuel carries
Maybe it's lucky Tim Rogers didn't hear
it. As he and Dave Lane, who joined Rogers's band You Am
I two years ago when he was just 19, were being photographed
inside Crown Street's retro-cool Route 66 clothing store,
a woman smiled benignly and said, "It looks like a
father and son photo".
And, you know, she might have had something there, even
if Rogers is only 32. After all, the Melbourne-based pair
were both dressed in blue jeans, check shirts, chocolate
brown 1970s jackets and outrageous sideburns.
Under his "all-day morning hairdo", the stringbean
Rogers is also wearing the biggest pair of reflector sunglasses
seen since the heyday of '70s motorcycle cop show CHiPS.
The sunnies on the equally shaggy and slightly built Lane
aren't exactly small either. Lane pleads innocence: "We
just turned up at the airport dressed the same."
Rogers, however, can be the nattiest dresser
in rock when he's in the mood. Which is why we suggested
trawling through the shops on Crown Street while the pair
were in town. You half suspect he made it a condition of
Lane joining the band that he be able to carry off the rock
'n' roll panache in everything from big arm flourishes to
retro suits and facial hair.
As a teenager, Rogers became as obsessed with trumpeter
Horace Silver's outfits as his playing: "Typical Rogers,"
he laughs. "Hear the music and get obsessed with the
As we thumb through some shirts in the Zoo Emporium, Lane
bemoans the return of retro and its consequent price rises.
"The kind of shirts I want to buy you can't get now
or they're $150," he says in his soft, small voice.
"I don't have that kind of money to spend on a shirt.
We get money for food [on tour]; there should be some kind
of clothing allowance."
He smiles as he says this, but Lane (who took a fabulous
white three-piece suit pulled together from a few op shops
on tour last year) does confess that style doesn't hurt
when you're thinking of joining a band. He also scrapes
together enough money to buy a smart '70s business shirt
while we're here.
"Apart from the music, that's one of the things that
drew me to You Am I in the first place: a band that can
play and doesn't mind taking care of its appearance."
Rogers later offers that beyond the songs there's always
been "a certain level of showmanship that attracted
people" to the group.
The band has been around for 13 years,
has released six albums (three debuting at No 1) including
the new album, Deliverance and won a swag of ARIA awards.
It boasts three long-standing members (bassplayer Andy Kent
joined in 1992, drummer Rusty Hopkinson in '93 later).
But there's something both intriguing and endearing about
the way You Am I, and Rogers in particular, have been reinvigorated
by the arrival of Lane.
Eighteen months ago, Rogers told me that after two traumatic
albums, fraught with overseas record company bastardry and
bad luck that saw the band off the road for an uncharacteristic
long break, the existing trio found itself drawn closer
together rather than torn apart as outsiders expected.
What partly explained the cohesion was
seeing things through the eyes of a new band member for
whom the studio, the road stories, the dead-end small towns
in midwest America were all fresh and exciting. "We
weren't looking for anybody, but when we met it started
making sense," Rogers says now. "And when Dave
and I played together we fell in and out of rhythm and lead
guitar naturally. We don't talk through everything in this
band; a lot it is left unsaid."
It also helped that when Lane met the band over a drink
he was the kind of fan who knew all the You Am I guitar
parts and had a friend who ran a You Am I fan site. By the
time Rogers invited him to join the line-up, Lane was two
days into a university social science course, but needed
"What was there to think about?" he asks. "It
shouldn't have been as easy as it was [fitting into the
band] but I'm still blown away thinking that I earn enough
money to pay my rent and buy drinks at the weekend just
by playing guitar."
"If you're going to be in a band you might as well
do it because you like that atmosphere, that combination,"
Rogers adds quietly.
"Otherwise, you may as well go out solo and hire a
band. For the past couple of years I've been saying, 'Look
at the four people we've got in this band, a lot of my character,
a lot of what comes out of my mouth is driven by them."'
That renewed enthusiasm for the band life comes at a perfect
juncture, now that music magazines around the world are
declaring that "rock is back" via bands such as
the Vines, the Strokes and the Hives. You Am I, who can
channel the Rolling Stones, the Who and a host of little-known
garage rock outfits without even trying, are almost the
quintessential rock experience, particularly live.
"If we wanted to change we would, but honestly, when
we get together we get too much enjoyment out of it,"
Rogers says. "We know how good it can get and we just
want to get back there repeatedly. We can't deny ourselves
"The only times when the band felt like it would implode
were the times when we were most successful. The way we
are at the moment, it's really easy to drink together, have
fun together, there's no pressure to pull that apart."
One of the oddities of the group's long
career is that not only has it inspired scores of imitative
local acts, but it has regularly given a leg-up to bands
that have gone on to attain the kind of massive success
that has eluded You Am I.
Silverchair (the name of which is an amalgam of a Nirvana
song, Sliver, and Rogers's Berlin Chair) were championed
by the band from the beginning. Two years ago You Am I took
a then-unknown band called the Vines on the road.
Last year, You Am I invited New York's the Strokes to open
on an Australian tour. But something odd happened. The Strokes
arrived just as they became that week's coolest band in
In my review of the Sydney show,
which was at the end of the tour, I suggested You Am I were
straining too hard, trying to show they could out-rock the
junior partners, when at their best they had it all over
the impressive, but more limited visitors.
That sense of insecurity is something Rogers now concedes.
"It's one of the unfortunate parts of my personality
that I'm quite ambitious. [On that tour] we knew we had
put together a great bill and we were trying figuratively
to rip the roof off each night and I don't think we're that
kind of band."
Did he feel he was having to work harder to win over the
audience because so many of the industry types were there
just to see and fawn over the Strokes?
"I only became aware of that in Sydney," he says.
"And that's a little frustrating because in a blink
of an eye suddenly you're on the other side. And it reminded
me of an early tour we did with the [Hoodoo] Gurus where
we could feel it.
"They were playing to most of the people, bringing
in the crowd, but we were in some ways 'hot' and I'm sure
that that bugged the hell out of [Hoodo Gurus'] Dave Faulkner.
"I've got that in my nature, but I walk away [now].
It's a bad part of my character that can be entertaining
to watch, but as a person and as a friend, as a dad, as
a husband, it's a pain in the arse and I've got to work
In the meantime, at least he'll be dressed nicely.