Tradition suggests that musicians get quieter as they get older, as the volume beloved by youth is replaced by gentler leanings. If you’re banging out noisy riffs as a young adult, there’ll probably become a point where you want to break out the acoustic guitar.
One man bucking the trend is Australian singer and guitarist Dom Mariani, who first found fame with The Stems, a magnificent Perth band whose full debut album At First Sight, Violets Are Blue is rightly considered a garage rock classic, a triumph of chiming guitars and wistful, power-pop melody. Although The Stems are still an occasional concern, his main focus these days is Datura4, an altogether more powerful beast. Named after a particularly noxious hallucinogenic plant (the ‘4’ was added because another Datura got there first), they’re a riffing machine with a heart full of psychedelia. And there’s more Australian rock royalty in the band, as Mariani is joined by You Am I and one-time New Christs singer/guitarist Greg Hitchcock. The line-up is completed by Warren Hall on drums and bassist Stu Loasby.
“I’ve always been into heavy sounds,” says Mariani. “Zeppelin, Hendrix, Sabbath, Purple, Australian hard rock pioneers like the Masters Apprentices and The Coloured Balls are all in there as part of my musical DNA.”
The band’s second album Hairy Mountain - the follow-up to 2014’s Demon Blues - is released now, accompanied by a video for driving rocker Greedy World.
“It’s full tilt boogie stomp that was written before the recent turn of political events,” says Hitchcock. “Greedy World offers up satirical observations and commentary on the current state of the world. A world where material pursuit and the cult of the individual rules, obsessed by possessions and with total disregard for humanity and the environment. A world where billionaires rule and wealth is looked upon as the epitome of success, and, like a bad movie, where the greediest narcissist on the planet is the leader of the so called free world!”
Eager to learn more, Classic Rock spoke to Dom Mariani about the band.
How would you describe Datura4 to someone who’d never heard them?
Unashamedly ‘ROCK’! We take the old, make it new and make no excuses!
Datura4 are heavier than your earlier bands. How did that come about?
As a young guitar player these bands and many others from that era were an inspiration to me, and through these guys I discovered the great blues players. I guess I’ve come full circle and back to my roots. The things I listened to as a teenager haven’t left my heart.
How is Hairy Mountain different from Demon Blues?
I see it as a progression from Demon Blues, but not all that different. Demon Blues has a distinctive jam feel to it. We were doing takes and going for the spontaneous live feel to where some of those songs would eventually go to. Hairy Mountain has some of that too, but there is more of a classic song writing thing going on. I guess my years in the quest to write the perfect pop song might have something to do with the way some of the songs are structured, but ultimately it’s all about capturing the right feel/groove and keeping it live, loose and heavy to get the idea across. I’ve always believed in the song.
What can fans expect from your upcoming tour dates?
We are about to embark on our first east coast tour of Australia and we’re also looking to head to Europe in June. Spain, France, Italy,… hopefully The UK. In a live performance, I like to think we take the songs to another level. There’s a fair bit of jamming going on, which creates an intensity and keeps it fresh.
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The Stems. Radio Birdman. The Lime Spiders. Celibate Rifles. The Scientists. What is it about Australia and garage rock?
I’m not really sure, but the bands you mentioned all came out of an inner city pub culture that was a big part of Australian music in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. It was thriving and each city had its scene. The pubs were full and the bands were raucous. Blood sweat and beers, as Murray Engleheart [respected Australian music writer] puts it!
What’s your favourite riff?
Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog – Jimmy Page wrote the book on killer riffs. But then there’s Rick Derringer’s Rock and Roll and Roll Hoochie Koo, The Masters Apprentices’ Children of Our Nation and Black Sabbath’s Supernaut. Tough question.
Are there any other bands from Fremantle we should be on the look-out for?
Pond, Tame Impala and Peter Bibby’s Dog Act are all fine bands from the Port City.
Hairy Mountain is out now on via Alive Naturalsound Records. The limited hand-mixed starburst vinyl can be purchased at the Bomp Store.
Australian East Coast Tour Dates
Mar 02: Wickham Park Hotel, Newcastle
Mar 03: The Factory Floor, Sydney
Mar 04: Cherry Bar, Melbourne