An interview with The Triffids: David McComb’s spark reignited at Melbourne Music Week

An interview with The Triffids: David McComb’s spark reignited at Melbourne Music Week

The Triffids
Words by Amelia Szabo

“On one of his songs there’s a line 'We could’ve been someone' - well they’ll find out he was someone,” asserts The Triffids' Rob McComb, discussing his younger brother David McComb.

He was a man who personified the nexus between intensity, drive, and vulnerability, while also having an astonishing command over language. He was a man who contributed significantly to the Australian and international music scene. He was a man who died tragically in 1999 at the age of 36.

Speaking with Rob as well as Graham Lee – both former members of the Triffids – it is clear that despite his premature death, McComb’s cultural footprint is still very much alive as explored through Jonathan Alley’s documentary Love in Bright Landscapes.

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As one of the final events of Melbourne Music Week, a screening of Love in Bright Landscapes will be featured on February 5, 2022, at the Capitol Theatre. The documentary will be followed by a live music showcase titled The Songs of David McComb + The Triffids, featuring Evil Graham Lee & Rob McComb (the Triffids), J.P. Shilo & Rob Snarski (Blackeyed Susans), Mick Harvey (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey) and Romy Vager (RVG).

The documentary has been developed over the past thirteen years and explores McComb’s life and legacy through the eyes of those closest to him including family, friends and former bandmates – many of whom have since passed away.

Additionally, his personal poetry and letters are read by Man Booker prize-winning Australian novelist, DBC Pierre. McComb praises Alley’s respect for “the significance of Dave as an artist” and notes that “he’s done a magnificent job pulling all the threads together.”

The iconic Australian musician was a force to be reckoned with, however despite his front man duties in numerous bands as well as solo projects, it is evident that his natural genius lay within writing. “Not necessarily songwriting, but words,” differentiates Lee.

The documentary highlights McComb’s true aptitude for words with Rob remarking that “the depth of his ability is staggering” while also summarising David as his “genius brother” – two words that not only highlight the bond between the two and Rob’s respect for his brother but also the weight of such a loss and how “it still feels very raw” even 22 years later.

The audience can ultimately expect a celebration of McComb’s life. Although Lee notes that most people who are coming to see the documentary “unfortunately know the ending,” he hopes that the showcase following the screening “will make people realise… why Dave was here”.

The setlist for the showcase will present a variety of songs within McComb’s catalogue, including pieces from the Blackeyed Susans era, the lost songs of David McComb featured on the Truckload of Sky record, as well as work by the Triffids and McComb’s solo repertoire. Rob ensures that each song has “earned their place in a very tight set.” Fingers crossed for a certain song about a street that happens to be broad and vast…

Both Lee and McComb have highlighted the necessity of keeping their friend and brother alive through music with Lee remarking that “This is the only way to honour Dave and to preserve his memories”.

The team that contributed to Love in Bright Landscapes alongside Alley, including Danielle Karalus and Tait Brady, have given the public an opportunity to discover or rediscover an iconic musician.

The accompanying showcase also allows the audience to experience the songs they just learnt about, ultimately giving a greater depth of understanding and appreciation for the art and the artist.

Although one may be tempted to mourn the loss of a musician so inherent to Australia’s culture, it seems rather fitting that when thinking about David McComb, as opposed to playing the bittersweet game of ‘what if…?’, we cling onto Rob’s outlook when he simply expresses, “I’m enjoying playing the game of ‘look at what he’s left.'”

You can read another interview with The Triffids from our archives here.

Check out the amazing David McComb tribute and the Melbourne Music Week program here.