Models’ Sean Kelly Interview
I must have seen Models about 50 times in my early gig going days and rarely did they disappoint. In recent years there has been a couple of revisitations of Models legacy and they haven’t always been fulfilling. But in 2010 Sean Kelly has got the band back together and this time it’s the line-up that long time fans have wanted to see.
Sean Kelly, Andrew Duffield, Mark Ferrie and Barton Price may well be the definitive Models line-up and as Sean agrees there is something odd about that.
HHMM: It’s good to see you getting the band back together
SK: Yeah, we seem to have these kind of intermittent reunions. I dunno, I always think that maybe they are gonna last and so I’m thinking that again. Last time I did some work with this line-up it was really well received. We did a few shows in Sydney and a few festivals and it was a lot of fun.
HHMM: I read somewhere that you maintain the view that Models never really broke up which I guess is true. It’s kind of hard to break up with yourself.
SK: (laughs) Yeah, I was thinking about that because initially when we took that really long break in 1987 James Freud announced that we had broken up and I remember thinking, “Hang on, not only is that not true but its not really his call”, but the fact is I don’t think we did a single show in the decade of the nineties so it maybe is drawing a slightly low bow to say we never broke up. But you are right, I’ve kept doing stuff. Maybe we did do something sneaky in the 90’s but I cant remember it.
HHMM : How do you reflect on the fact that its now 30 years since the AlphaBravo album was released. It scared the shit out of me last night when I thought about it.
SK: I kinda dealt with that one because we had an unofficial thirtieth anniversary two years ago. It was actually something that a publicist came up with, it wasn’t our idea to be doing thirtieth anniversary shows. I remember at the time that there hadn’t been a gold watch or anything after twenty five years. I remember the early days so vividly but it is so long ago now and in fact a lot of our peers from that era aren’t even around any more. And I don’t mean just that they are not playing in bands but there are a lot of deceased old buddies. It’s an old cliché but it’s good to be anywhere and I wouldn’t be dead for quids.
HHMM : In recent days I’ve had quite a few people say to me that this line-up of Models is the definitive line-up which is quite amusing because I don’t think this line-up ever made a record together.
SK: You’re absolutely right and if anything by having Barton and Mark play together we are effectively creating something new from the essence of the band. It was particularly exciting when we did it two or three years ago because Mark like the rest of us has just kept playing and before he joined the Rockwiz Orchestra he had pretty much forged a niche for himself as a bluesman. We had worked together on a couple of projects over the years and I just love working with him. And Barton’s still my favourite drummer around so its really exciting to get something new out of the essence of the band.
HHMM : For my peer group our memories of models gigs revolve around suburban pubs like The Sandringham Commodore, The Prospect Hill and The Armadale. Were you conscious then of trying to get the band out to the suburbs because when you think about it now there isn’t a lot of gigs out there now.
SK: It’s interesting. I think it just kind of reflects the opportunities that were around then that aren’t around any more. If anything it was to a certain extent driven by our management and booking agencies because then we seemed to be on a never-ending tour any venue available in Australia really. Now we book something three months ahead and work towards it. But I think we were lucky to play in venues like that because quite often you were playing to pretty wild audiences you weren’t that interested in pop music or electronic music or punk music. A lot of performers and artists back then didn’t perform live that much, it was all about marketing records and stuff. I just think we were very lucky to have a circuit to work on and learn the tricks of the trade.
HHMM: It’s kind of ironic that after all that time battling with audiences who didn’t really like the music you were doing, when those suburban audiences finally embraced the band en masse, it was the beginning of the end.
SK: (laughs) Yeah, yeah, I see what you mean. It’s a long time ago now but you’re right. When I venture out to RSL’s with various retro projects and I tend to get more requests for Barbados than say Happy Birthday IBM.
HHMM: Would it be fair to say that the upcoming shows are a shameless attempt to capitalise on Mark Ferrie’s fame as a television star?
SK: (laughs) I’m surprised we didn’t think of that earlier as our angle. We could exploit that! No, it’s more about the unique interplay between the four of is musically. There’s definitely an excitement about the chances of developing it and perhaps re-inventing ourselves yet again. There is an expectation that we will play songs that people want to hear as well and we will but not all of them.
HHMM : My personal Models stalwart focus group have asked me to request Golden Arches, Owe You Nothing and Body Shop.
SK: Whoah! Well there is a very good chance we will be looking at those three. We are probably going to play some stuff from Alpha Bravo that we have never played before. We are not going to play the same set we did together a year or two ago. There will be a bit of a new feeling to it and a few surprises from yesteryear.
HHMM: The songs that made their way on to the Models Melbourne compilation certainly bought to light some live favourites that never got recorded. Were you involved much in that album.
SK: The main impetus behind it was Mark Burchett. Basically in collaboration with me he complied those songs. We had about twenty on it and we’d culled that down from another twenty possibilities. There was talk for a while that the band had a bunch of songs that could have been our first album because when we did Alpha Bravo we pretty much dumped a lot of material and recorded new stuff. But what is significant about the Melbourne album is that it not only had evidence of that but also of the period between Local And/Or General and The Pleasure of Your Company. There was also a transition going on there and yet another bunch of songs that could have been an album. So Models Melbourne album actually has songs from those two periods not just the pre-Alpha Bravo songs. And the songs between Local And/Or General and The Pleasure of Your Company are songs that kind of smoothed the transition. If one is interested in that.
HHMM: Given that good songs did slip through the cracks is there one Models album to you that best captures the band? I’ve had people suggest that its actually the mini-album Cut Lunch that best does that.
SK: It’s interesting, to simplify things I’ve always thought of us as having the Sydneycentric line-up and the Melbourne centric line-up. We actually moved to Sydney in about 1984 and we were based up there until we stopped working together. So for convenience I’ve referred to them as the Melbourne and the Sydney line-ups. It’s really hard to say what is the definitive release from the Melbourne line-up although Cut Lunch probably is a good contender because it has the link to the post-punk era and yet it has the completely unorthodox chordal structures and strange lyrics and vocals etc. I like the fact that we can be considered quite eclectic because there are songs from that era that were quite poppy and catchy as well. I’m thinking of songs like IBM, Two Cabs and 2 People Per Sq KM.
HHMM: Atlantic Romantic?
SK: Oh yes, of course. I forgot that one but we always get requests to play that one. Significantly the record company made our catalogue available on I Tunes in the last year or so and its been kind of fun checking that out because you can see what songs people are buying when they can buy them one song at a time. I haven’t checked it out lately but I think it was those ones we mentioned that people were buying.
HHMM: Would you be a wealthy man if you had a dollar for every time someone described you as “quirky”.
SK: (laughs) Yeah, I think I would be. I’m comfortable with that because I don’t really like mainstream, homogenous songs kinda stuff. I like to try and be unconventional and play with the parameters that one is facing when you are writing music. I am lucky because I got to work with a lot of very creative and artistic musicians. I’ve always focussed on the music but I’ve worked with people that really cared about the graphics and the image of the group.
HHMM: My small but very well informed Models stalwarts focus group express the view that half the fun of going to the shows was to see what Sean would say between songs. Were you aware of that?
SK: I’d probably forgotten that, but I remember that now. The weird thing now is that when I perform these days I actually try to enjoy myself and look like I’m having fun. I think its an easy way to get through these high pressure situations by diffusing them with some humour. I actually played Cut Lunch with a band at a party last weekend and people weren’t really into it. People would be dancing every now and then, but when we played Cut Lunch it was a really stark rendition and not very appropriate for a party. I had a brainwave during the song and came up with one of my best back announcements for ages. As the last chord was fading out I said “Makes you feel like MasterChef”. I may try and develop that with Models and pretend that I have submitted it as a potential alternative theme or something.
HHMM: It’s interesting that this line-up of the band consists of musicians who have never stopped playing which is a bit surprising when you consider that the band started out as this left field avant garde, inner city kind of band…
SK: …who couldn’t really play! There was an attitude back then that suggested you didn’t have to be able to play, just get up and make a bit of noise. That didn’t really apply to us. Although I couldn’t play very well back then I had been learning for a few years and I think that goes for the other guys in the band. With this line-up we’ve all continued for a decade or so playing performing and practicing we have all improved a lot and when we play these old songs they do sound as good as they did. They are chords and arrangements and we attack them but if anything we can inject a little more finesse to them now.
MODELS are performing 2 shows in the near future
You can catch Models at the Espy Gershwin Room. Friday Aug 6 with support from Clare Moore’s new all female outfit The Dames plus the Minibikes.
Models also appear as part of a special literary/musical mash-up with American author Brett Easton Ellis at the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney on Tuesday 10th August.