The BBC may well be a national treasure, but ‘Auntie’ has fuck all idea about what makes great rock ‘n’ roll.
Today, we’re in the corporation’s headquarters at London’s White City for the sanitised spectacle that is ‘Later…with Jools Holland’, the respectable face of music television. Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones plays an acoustic reading of Billy Davey’s Daughter. Del Amitri croon about heartbreak with a string section. Host Holland joins Badly Drawn Boy for some tinkling schmaltz from the soundtrack to Hugh Grant’s new film About A Boy while author Nick Hornby taps a toe. It’s every thirty-something, middle class Islington dinner party wet dream come to life. How very nice.
And then four young Australians in tight fitting T-shirts are given their cue by the floor manager. A squall of feedback splits the air, a snare drum spits forth an angry tattoo and we’re pitched headlong into a raging blast of rasping attitude pop, all raw-throated angst and rough and tumble guitars. It’s like Nirvana trying to get through the Beatles’ entire Star Club set in under two minutes, and as the skinny-ass frontman crashes to the studio floor while wrenching out a brutally concise solo, it’s most definitely ‘a moment’. This is The Vines. This is their forthcoming single Get Free. And this is pretty fucking awesome.
“It’s overwhelming that people should compare us to Nirvana, because they were amazing,” frontman Craig Nicholls insists as he sips water before the taping in a London hotel. “ We are hugely influenced by them, but we’re not trying to be the new Nirvana. I think with this band we can do everything..”
‘New Nirvana’ or not, The Vines could not be any hotter right now. On the strength of just two singles, last year’s low-key Factory and all 93 squealing seconds of their current UK hit Highly Evolved, they’re being tipped as the band of 2002, this year’s Strokes. As a result, their two week stay in London has been a whirlwind of promotional activity, tonight’s ‘Later…’ performance coming on the heels of two radio sessions, recordings for ‘cd:uk’ and ‘Top Of The Pops’, three London shows in six days and interviews with every media outlet in the city. For their shag-haired, baby-faced skate-kid singer, the past days have been “pretty frenzied”, and in truth Craig Nicholls looks fucked today, his pale skin bearing the ravages of too much fast food and too many late nights. But, despite the fact that most of his answers tail off with the tired, distracted words ‘Sorry, what were you asking?’ or ‘What was I saying?’, he’s understandably enthused about the buzz surrounding his band.
“It’s an exciting time,” he admits, “not just for us but for bands like the White Stripes and Strokes too I guess. The band succeeding to me is just about having great songs and having the freedom to play whatever we want to play. I can only write the music, everything else is out of my hands. It’s cool that people like us, but I can’t too caught up in what other people say.”
What people are saying is that The Vines – completed by Patrick Matthews (bass), Ryan Griffiths (guitar) and Hamish Rosser (drums) and named after Nicholls’ father ‘60s garage band The Vynes - are going to be massive. You only have to hear the pin-point power of Highly Evolved or the woozy, psychedelic charm of B-side Sunchild or the escapist fury of Get Free to understand why. Yeah, we know there’s a new ‘Next Big Thing’ along every month. But honestly, you’ll adore the quartet’s irresistible energy and ability to distill five decades of rock ‘n’ roll history into feral, visceral slices of perfectly judged guitar pop. And despite Craig Nicholl’s humble protestations that he “doesn’t really have anything to say” the charismatic, puppy dog cute singer is just tailor made for rock ‘n’ roll superstardom.
“I’m just going on instinct,” he says with the nonchalant ease of a true Aussie beach bum. “My dad said just to have fun and we’re doing that.”
Tomorrow The Vines fly back to LA to tidy up artwork details for their eagerly awaited debut album. The prospect is daunting for their singer, who hates flying and almost got arrested on the inbound flight for leaving his seat to throw up in the toilet as the plane touched down. But he knows that it’s all part of the job of being an international rock band, and he’s bullish about the band’s prospects for the year ahead.
“We want to take this band as far as it can go,” he says simply. “I think the album shows what we’re capable of right now, but we’re just starting out. It’s going to get more exciting still.”