I don’t know exactly when I last saw the Greasers play, but it has to have been more than three years ago. Since then, a hole has been left in the Melbourne music scene that’s gone unfilled. Until now.
This Saturday night, the trio of Dom Byrne (Little Red, New Gods), Rich Bradbeer (Eagle and the Worm, New Gods) and Sam Raines (New Gods) will reunite for one night only as the greasy, grungy group that provided the soundtrack to my formative adult years.
“We haven’t done a set in more than two years!” Dom mused earlier this week, when we checked in to find out how the guys were preparing the reunion. “The last time was – not since New Gods,” he says, of the quintet he formed upon the disintegration of Little Red, because he “wanted a more epic sound [than The Greasers].”
For all their similarities, one significant way in which the Greasers differed from New Gods was their scrappiness; they represented a mischievous counterpart to the more wizened New Gods and the polished crowd favourites Little Red – not unlike the reputation earned by their namesake band of slick-haired punks. “Greasers was always such a fucking haphazard affair,” Dom explains. “It came from something I was really passionate about at the time. Doo-wop and Cadillacs and that whole thing.”
Dom is hesitant to discuss the beloved band that rocketed onto mainstream radio stations a year before its members went their separate ways. But, retrospectively, his feelings about the band are as affectionate as they are nostalgic. “The year before we started Little Red, there was a real American, Beach Boys feeling that I had, and it was so strong. Looking back now, I can see that as it went on, all the shit we were doing [in that band] was coming from a really pure place. Then I kind of started blocking myself into thinking, ‘Little Red’s doo wop’, and I needed something else to play. That’s where Greasers came in. Mainly I really wanted to play with Rich and Sam.”
Greasers only released one record during their time together. Night To Night, Dom says, was recorded in one five-hour stint “in my front room, with [producer] Steve Schram and my four-track machine. It was fucking great.”
During their last gigs together, very few of the tracks from the record were being played live, so prolific is Dom as a songwriter. “We had enough songs for maybe two more albums, but we never made another one, which was dumb,” Dom ponders. “I kind of regret not doing it now. But maybe it’s better this way.”
Tomorrow night, Greasers are playing Night To Night in full, in support of Them Swoops’ EP launch. “Dave from Them Swoops was a fan of the album, and he asked Rich if we might play. Practicing the songs with [Rich and Sam] has been really fun. We haven’t played all these songs in one set since before we recorded!”
To prepare for the show, Dom and I revisited the record, picking favourites and discussing the similarities between Game of Thrones and Melbourne grunge from 2008 along the way. You can download Night To Night for free, here.
A brilliant album opener, full of dirty blues guitar. What begins as dirge-like reminiscences about wanting the "freedom to change, despite everything I’ve done," soon evolves (or should that be morphs? Zing!) into a rollicking rock track that is sure to have the crowd at NSC mourning the end of this set before it’s barely begun.
The lone piano melody that opens ‘At Night’ is one of the most exciting sounds on this record, mainly for the anticipation of what’s to come. It’s soon met with a hasty snare beat and Dom’s ode to what goes on once the sun sets, from finding “too much time for cheap wine” to teenagers in the park getting blazed.
‘No Love Left’
A song about a crumbling marriage, this one’s racked up the most plays in my iTunes library over the years, purely for the familiar, depressing imagery it conjures up: “There’s a swimming pool and a fireplace/ There are five separate bedrooms and plenty of space/So she can be in the kitchen while I’m at my desk / in the hallway between us there’s no love left.”
“That’s a pretty rough one,” Dom explains of the fact there’s no happy ending for the protagonist, Jenny, and her husband; despite him telling her “You don’t want me always bringing you down,” they will stay where they are, wasting away in the suburbs. “It’s something we’ve all seen,” Dom says.
This song, I tell Dom, is like what I imagine Arya Stark is singing to herself when she’s not repeating her kill list over and over. “Oh yeah, the whole album was inspired by Game of Thrones,” he tells me. “It was a concept album. We got an early version of the script; it was sent to the wrong address.” To Ivanhoe, rather than HBO – an easy mistake to make. “But they didn’t end up using any of it because the sound quality wasn’t good enough for TV.”
‘Down In The Basement’
This marks a good spot in the proceedings to top up your drink (you’re gonna need the extra hydration in a minute, trust me). While it’s one of the least danceable tracks on the record, ‘Down in the Basement’ sees the band at their grungy best, recalling times when, “We hang around in his room with the TV on ‘til we all pass out.”
‘Shelley (Likes To Fuck)’
The surefire crowd pleaser, usually reserved for encores, tells the tale of a wayward teenage girl who “gets in for free with a fake ID to all her favourite bars.” This track is best served at around midnight to drunk 19-year-old girls on a Thursday night (trust me).
“We practiced this once with Little Red,” Dom tells me. “We had so many songs that we’d do that a lot; ‘Stare in Love’ [from Little Red’s debut album Listen to Little Red] could’ve been a Greasers song. We didn’t play Shelley for the last couple of years, but we really liked it ‘cos of the swear words, really.”
‘Remember The Words’
Unless you’re looking to have an existential crisis about your self worth, maybe just dance blindly and don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics of this one. It’s especially harsh on the actors/dancers/singers/any people whose faces give them a leg-up in life. “When you dance on the floor, you’re the star of the show… but it’s all make-up and blush, sparkling dress and dyed hair. When you take it all off, there’ll be no-one who cares.” Stay in school, ladies.
The mirroring themes between this track and its predecessor are not coincidental; “I was definitely keenly aware of that when we recorded,” Dom explains. “They’re not the same musically, but the stories are. It sounds like they’re sexist – and I guess they kind of are in some ways. But it wasn’t meant to be about girls and being shallow. We started playing gigs at [Melbourne club nights] Click Click and Streetparty and I was like, ‘Whoa, these people are getting fucked up. These people are concentrating on the wrong things.’ With the fake IDs and everything… it was just about youth."
‘How Strong's My Love’
The Greasers’ opus, this track showcases some of Dom’s best songwriting and the band’s skill at responding and playing off one another. Despite not having heard it live in years, I still hold onto vivid memories of that extended guitar breakdown and the one set when Rich – fresh from what must have been a riveting excursion to Fish Creek – changed the lyrics in the breakdown from “freeeeeeeeeeee” to “Fish Creeeeeeeeeeeek.”
‘The Evening Sea’
Grab your significant other for some cheek-to-cheek during this one. Or, if you’re desperately lonely, just pop out for a quick ciggie.
‘Miles And Miles And Miles...’
And then it’s all over. Leaving us for another undetermined number of years with “a recurring dream I can’t recall…a distant feeling and that’s all.” When I ask why he names this his favourite track on the album, Dom muses, “It’s a little too short. But that’s because it’s got a little bit of magic in it. I like the simple arrangement, and I thought it was this really otherworldly idea. It’s not really about anything tangible; it’s just a dream world. Sometimes I like those ones.”
FOR BONUS POINTS: At the more loose gigs, it was not uncommon for Greasers to get a drunken request shouted from the back of the room for ‘Metcops’, a scornful and never-recorded punk track about ticket inspectors on public transport. During instrumental breaks, Dom would pass the mic to audience members keen to relay tales of sticking it to the man. “People would ask us to play it if they got fined that day. We should do a thing where you bring your old Metcards and get in cheap. No! Bring your fine and get in for free. Oh man, we should’ve done that!” Maybe you’ll have to play another show to do it, I suggest. “Yeah, maybe we will.”
Posted on Everguide, June 14, 2013.