Maybe you're in a band that dreams of touring the world. Perhaps you're a never-say-die music fan who attends more shows a week than family dinners. But we're pretty sure you wondered what it would be like to see some (or play with) cool bands in different parts of the world. That's why beginning this week, altpress.com is launching a new series called PASSPORT, where we will compare and contrast the differences in how the punk scenes of various countries function.
Ryan J. Downey starts our series with a piece centering on Australia. And if you ever complained about driving two hours to see a band, imagine what it would be like to have to travel, say 13 hours for one show…
Australia has blessed us with AC/DC, Wolfmother, the Living End and plenty of other bands throughout the years, and in 2013, the AP generation is stronger and more dominant than ever in the place that spawned Russell Crowe and Soundwave. The Amity Affliction and Parkway Drive have hit No. 1 on the charts and racked up gold plaques in their native land, respectively, while earning international reputations alongside up-and-comers like Tonight Alive and Hands Like Houses.
Of course, a gold record in America means 500,000 in sales. In Australia, 35,000 copies will get you there. And yet, Parkway Drive are capable of playing 6,000-capacity venues in major cities—of which there are basically five in Australia, spread out by vast distances. Australian bands often have to eat humble pie getting paid $100 a night and fronting their own international flights, rental vans and hotels trying to make it in America. On the flipside however, moderately established American bands are treated like royalty visiting Oz with their flights covered, nice hotels, transportation and some extra cash for their trouble.
Perhaps nobody in the scene knows more about the differences between Australia, Europe and America than Jona Weinhofen. He's lived, worked and toured in bands on all three continents, first as guitarist in I Killed The Prom Queen in his native Australia, then as lead guitarist in Orange County's Bleeding Through, followed by a lengthy stint in the U.K.'s Bring Me The Horizon, which eventually led him right back to the land Down Under in the reactivated IKTPQ.
“A standard Australian tour only lasts about a week and usually covers five or six major cities,” Weinhofen says. “If you're a more successful band, you can tour up to a couple of weeks. But in the USA, you can be on tour for three months! I've done just about every type of tour you can do, from DIY tours in tiny venues to clubs, arenas and festival tours. It's awesome having this much international experience under my belt and definitely makes touring in Australia a lot easier.”
Graham Nixon has been part of the scene since the early '90s, when he befriended the hardcore band Toe To Toe, whose singer started a store specializing in punk and hardcore music and skateboards. Nixon ended up running the place. Resist has also branched into a record label and management company; he's represented Parkway Drive for many years. “When the band released Killing With A Smile [in 2005], getting people to pay attention outside of Australia took patience and perseverance,” Nixon says. “Fortunately enough, as we did things in Australia, it created buzz overseas. I made contact with a lot of labels and decided to take a trip to the U.S., thinking the face to face approach would benefit the band getting attention for a licensing deal. As I was about to leave for the airport, Brett Gurewitz from Epitaph sent me an email, so when I got to the U.S., that was literally my first meeting.”
The UNFD label has followed suit in the last two years, working as the Australian management and license owner for the Amity Affliction, Dream On Dreamer, Deez Nuts, Buried In Verona, I Killed The Prom Queen and more, while working with labels like Roadrunner, Rise, Metal Blade, and even Warner Bros. in other territories. Owner Jaddan Comerford also has Destroy All Lines, who as promoters, have brought Descendents, the Ghost Inside and Dropkick Murphys (among many more) to Australia. “The isolation and hard work involved in being a successful touring band helps make Australian music special. I really believe that,” he says.
Taper Jean Music's Andrew Perumalla, who briefly worked for Soundwave and has struck up a relationship with the Australian arm of the Artery Foundation, has brought Jonny Craig, Norma Jean, Demon Hunter and the Chariot over as a promoter. He puts out records and is also involved in managing Australian acts like Storm The Sky and For All Eternity.
“Thanks to Parkway Drive, the Amity Affliction and others, the industry is paying more attention to Australian bands,” Perumalla notes. “The biggest barrier toward breaking bands overseas is financial. The Australian market is so small that touring consistently without overplaying the markets is difficult, so the bands have short amounts of time to accumulate any money. Overseas managers and labels want the acts to spend months on end in America and Europe, which is understandable, but starting over in those new territories making virtually nothing per show and spending money to get there is tough.”