singles and more: 1992 to 2017
Released on Record Store Day – Saturday 21 April 2018
All our singles, and more – remastered and finally together on vinyl
Available through FOUR | FOUR on double gatefold vinyl, CD, streaming and download
All 24 songs have been remastered for vinyl from the original mixes, taken straight from 1/2 inch tape, by Bryce Moorhead at Zero Interference.
With a renewed focus on dynamics and tonal range this is literally the best the tracks have ever sounded.
The tapes have been in storage since the albums’ recording sessions, and they were sent to Studios 301 in Sydney to be baked to optimise the digitisation process. Songs which appeared on Rocks On The Soul and Take You Apart were mastered directly from the original first generation studio mixes – as they weren’t recorded to tape.
Explore the sides:
Spirit level is an oxymoron.
Watching Screamfeeder for twenty-odd years is enough to give any sentient being back issues.
There is, of course, their band’s topography. Heights and diminutions existing adjacently, often on stages that could harm either variation of physicality, once a song’s pulse began.
We’d watch the two performers at the front of the stage with the tilt of the curious, until a song’s insistence took us, and then we’d look with the tilt of one appraising art, in its lustre, power and mystery.
A bass player who thrusts and parries like a fencer but with an instrument the comparative size of a battering ram jousts alongside her compatriot whose sleek, tense muscularity causes his guitar to look more like a similarly tubular tendon.
And when your patron’s gaze makes sense of what is operational in front of you, there is a puckish gentleman working in between and amongst straightening but stretching this music, as if the canvas is a wave.
There is and never was anything level about this band, but so much spirit.
Spirit that slaps itself on the cheeks and shouts at walls, that grabs the shoulders of its dear friends and cries in the armpits of their t-shirts. Spirit is what dwells in us that can be exalted or crushed right?
The same part of us we claw at the flesh of our guts to access in times of oppression, and pain.
Screamfeeder is, I now realize too, an oxymoron. For what that is screaming can be fed? (I did not realise the pun of the name until years after the first meet.) Desperate to be heard over the strangled riffs and rattling cage of drums on the earlier records was the anguish and then sudden tenderness of the singing.
As if a bound prisoner was using their charm for pleas of clemency before again recognising the brutality of their oppressor. The desperation that was difficult to listen to without a sharp intake of recognition, but relieved with riffs and melodies that were balms and bandages.
Smiles breaking through sobs. Thunder that was shot through with the sweet peals of joy. Of relief.
“I can’t see a pattern forming” was the incantation. “Hi Cs” was the song. If I got the lyrics wrong, well it wasn’t the first time. I hadn’t seen my acquaintances in years and there I was, with my head cocked and lips apart like a shrew in a flashlight.
The stage was level, spirits askew, a bassline that was as shrewd as a legal argument and drum fills that protested and revelled like the gallery for the defence. “I can’t see a pattern forming”. Fuck me. I never could.
I couldn’t foresee that after periods where the band were not performing they would cleave together, cleave apart, making vital, yearning music.
And when apart, get other wonderful combos together, be perennially supportive and encouraging of others attempting to eke out an opportunity to play, and live as they exist as a band – ethically, passionately ..spiritually.
And when this geometric anomaly of a band are together, whether existing on Ice Patrol, Above The Dove, Alone In A Crowd or as that lonesome figure that resigns “I Don’t Know What To Do Any More” they are the power-pop group who dunno clichés even when they stepped around ’em , but are led by their spirit, which will, at times, not know what the fuck to do, but these three humans respond to that enigmatic little mess within the lot of us – the one that boils, bubbles and sparks. Never still. Never broken.
Trust these people. And now, follow the lead: 1,2,3,4,5..
Sometimes time makes us take the beautiful things around us for granted.
That mountain view that was once so stunning becomes de rigueur, the beach vista that used to take your breath away becomes part of the daily shuffle if you’re lucky enough to live there, even the best qualities of the ones we love become shrouded with the onset of familiarity.
So it is with bands. I’ve been lucky enough to have followed the ongoing Screamfeeder saga since the early days following their inception, so I’ll recount to you the story of my relationship with them because it’s the only one I know.
I followed my heart to Brisbane from my hometown of Melbourne in 1992, leaving behind the southern capital’s thriving music scene – where it seemed there was a great band playing every night at every pub, and there were a lot of pubs – to live in the still newly post-Joh Brisbane, then a somewhat sleepy city exhibiting more hallmarks of a large country town than a thriving metropolis.
But as a fervent live music lover Screamfeeder (and their contemporaries like Custard, Budd, Midget et al) soon became my salvation. The Brisbane scene was bubbling away and would soon burst into bloom with the advent of acts like Powderfinger and Regurgitator and their ilk, but for now a raft of largely-unknown but routinely excellent bands were dominating the Valley and surrounds.
I wasn’t yet around in 1991 when Screamfeeder morphed almost by accident from the ashes of Townsville band The Madmen. Upon their demise that band’s Tim Steward (guitar/vocals) and Tony Blades (drums) were joined by friend and film-clip maker Kellie Lloyd (bass) to rush finish the album Flour that they’d been working on, which would eventually became Screamfeeder’s debut in 1992. But they sure hit the ground running and were soon a staple of this burgeoning live scene, from the outset their music edgy and gritty but bursting with boundless pop smarts and melodies that would etch into your brain.
Many sonic touchstones were thrown around in the early days and they fared endless comparisons to bands like The Who, The Jam and The Replacements – all quite relevant or prescient – but to me their early marriage of intensity and melody always evoked post-hardcore legends Hüsker Dü, a view shared by many.
My first Screamfeeder purchase was 1993 single Fingers & Toes – whose b-side cover of Elvis Costello’s Oliver’s Army perplexed at the time, but makes perfect sense now – followed quickly by the Burn Out Your Name album from whence it came, and a relationship was off and running. From here things happened quickly, with their first four albums tumbling out in a frantic four-year burst, their music morphing subtly but significantly over the journey but always in an entirely organic manner.
Somewhere between the slacker aesthetic of 1995’s Fill Yourself With Music and the flurry of radio singles found on the following year’s Kitten Licks Blades was replaced behind the kit by the inimitable Dean Shwereb and the “classic Screamfeeder line-up” came into being, ushering in a whole new era for the band.
In this post-Nirvana landscape it seemed the trio had the world at their feet, indeed I saw them play so many nights in so many rooms and they never failed to bring that indefinable it. The chemistry between the three was clear and constant: Tim always seemed to be gently steering the ship, but it appeared a democracy rather than a dictatorship and mutiny never looked on the cards. That glorious amalgam of riffs, feedback, snaking basslines and intertwining vocals was distinctive and intoxicating, and the disparate songwriting styles of Tim and Kellie always complemented each other perfectly.
In 1999 the Home Age covers collection proved a revelation, exposing their influences to include not just staples like Weller, Bowie and The Beatles but also more obscure artists like Come and Neutral Milk Hotel (and even Sesame St).
When they played an instore at the much-missed record store Skinnys where I was working for 2000’s Rocks On The Soul – that album’s release delayed years due to legal ructions with a US label that sadly stalled them from building upon Kitten Lick’s momentum – I got to meet them properly for the first time, the group as friendly and unassuming as any you could imagine.
Although at the following year’s Big Day Out when Tim doused his guitar with lighter fluid before setting it alight and smashing it to smithereens he seemed the epitome of rock’n’roll, affability replaced with genuine fire and brimstone.
This didn’t stop me approaching Tim for a chat between bands at a Paddington house party a couple of years later and finding out that his band were without a label, and soon enough the small indie imprint I ran with friends was releasing Screamfeeder’s sterling 2003 opus Take You Apart, an honour and privilege which still makes me pinch myself to this day. By this time Darek Mudge had expanded the line-up on guitar – he still adds heft occasionally to this day – his presence filling out the sound and allowing a pleasing versatility to envelope proceedings.
Following that burst things began to slow down: they were still around but shows were fewer and farther between, with life seeming to intrude on band plans. I remember seeing them smash out a fine set at the 2007 Pig City celebration during the period when Steph Hughes (Dick Diver, Boomgates) was filling in for Dean on drums, their presence a prerequisite at a festival ostensibly celebrating Brisbane’s rich rock’n’roll heritage.
In 2011 I recall conducting a lengthy interview with Tim on 4ZZZ when the rights to their back catalogue reverted and they digitally released the 40-track b-sides collection Cargo Embargo (there’s gold in them there hills).
That same year I penned an impassioned cover story in the Time Off street press publication for what was mooted as potentially the final ever Screamfeeder gig – Dean was heading overseas again, and the future was uncertain – and was present when the ‘Feeder, Violent Soho and Tape/Off tore Fortitude Valley venue Woodlands a new one in a bittersweet display of Brisbane bonhomie.
Of course it was Bob Mould who drew them out of retirement two years later: who else was going to support the veteran as he revisited his Hüsker Dü and Sugar catalogues throiughout Australia? It was like the full turning of the circle, and seemed entirely appropriate. By this stage Tim and Kellie both had other productive projects at their disposal, but Dean was back in town and the chemistry was intact and they all just seemed to have so much fun when they played together, their songs still rife with that timeless appeal.
From here it was no surprise that new music eventuated in the form of 2017’s Pop Guilt, nor was it a shock that the album’s songs were alive and vital and up there with anything they’d concocted over the entire journey. Upon its release they played a career-retrospective instore at my new record shop, which I got to witness vicariously through the fresh eyes of one of my old Melbourne mates from before my move northwards, who was blown away by both the performance and depth of the catalogue on offer (thus in a weird way completing my own full circle).
Anyway, that’s just my Screamfeeder story, but as the great Paul Kelly is prone to say, “let the part tell the whole”. I’m proud to have been a fan, proud to be a friend, and proud to have been there for just a part of the amazing musical adventure that was and is Screamfeeder.
It didn’t matter whether you saw them sharing a stage with outfits like Pavement, Swervedriver, Sonic Youth, Rollins Band, Ride, Sleater-Kinney or The Breeders, or on any of the massive festival stages they rocked – or indeed on any of their sojourns to America, Europe, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand or basically any stage in Australia known to host rock bands – they were always resolutely their own band, and always a defiantly Brisbane institution. They did things their own way and constantly stayed true to themselves, and everyone involved was richer for the magic that inevitably ensued.
They don’t just represent the old guard of Brisbane’s amazing music scene but they’re our standard bearers, a rock-hewn bridge between disparate eras that’s been trodden by generations of ensuing bands who’ve looked up to Screamfeeder for guidance both musical and spiritual, a beacon of kinship and integrity.
I hope you enjoy Patterns Form for both the great music it contains and the lifetime of toil and inspiration that it represents, and let us never take this wonderful band for granted,