The Living End is not just another punk rock band; they are true Australian rockers with an astonishing career and celebrity status in their home country. But how and why did they get there?
“At the beginning.”
FIRST STEPS, A LUCKY BREAK
The name for the band can be traced all the way back to the mind-blowing nineties act Husker, who had a record named the same way. This might seem a small detail, but when 1996 Green Day Australian Tour came along, Chris Chaney and Scott Owens found out about it and put together a small package of DIY merchandise, including the band´s first EP, and sent it over with a note saying something like “Can we open for you in Australia?”.
Two months went by, and they received a call from an Australian producer who told them that Billy Joe Armstrong (a die-hard fan) got the package, loved the name of the band and the songs, and asked for them. They went from playing to 20 people in really small venues to playing 60,000 people in huge stages for their heroes. They didn´t have a record company or a manager and went right back to playing for 20 people the week after the tour finished but could ring anywhere in the country to get a gig for being “the band who did the Green Day tour”.
“Start of the career.”
THE FIRST EP & ALBUM, THE TALENT BREAK
They had by that time the status to start building a career in the music industry thanks to the chance they had just been awarded. What would Cheney and his school mate Scott Owen do with the attention? They set out to record some of their own material and designed an amazing EP that went on to be the biggest-selling single in the whole decade in Australia.
“Prisoner of Society” sold over 140,000 units and is still a go-to song for their massive mid match short shows. If the Green Day Tour put their name on the map, the EP put them in the ears of the whole country. The band continued to tour to support the early success and set out to make the best album of their lives; it became “The Living End” (1998), the second highest-selling rock debut album in Australia. This is a huge hit considering they were also competing against AC/DC and Silverchair, two major rock acts worldwide. The self-titled debut sold over 280,000 copies being Platinum Certified five times. That´s what we all call a huge success and an awesome way to break through into the big rock scene of their country and the English-speaking world, right?
“The second album.”
IN THEIR OWN TERMS
The next steps in the career of the band were a rollercoaster of fame, internal affairs, and incredible music. The ARIA Awards have nominated them 25 times, and they won the “Best song of the year” in 2008 beating no other than Nick Cave with the song “White Noise” that they performed live in the ceremony that same year. The thing about these Australian rockers is that they don´t play it safe, they are not conformists by any means, they kept taking chances and steering the wheel fearlessly throughout their entire career.
With their second album, they polished their sound moving away from the straight punk hostility and adding some wind instruments, additional voices, and percussion which are reminiscent of more Rock n´ Roll-oriented music. Many thought they were moving away from their original roots, but they were doing more of a comeback to their beloved Stray Cats, Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran and all their childhood heroes.
To me, the peak of their musical creativity came in 2008 with “White Noise”, but as Frank Sinatra once said, The best is always yet to come.