“It’s been a really crazy eighteen months – the last twelve months especially. We’ve gone from playing on the floor of The Gem to playing the Enmore Theatre.” So says Nick Finch, guitarist and vocalist with local horror-country troupe Graveyard Train.
“It’s been a really crazy eighteen months – the last twelve months especially. We’ve gone from playing on the floor of The Gem to playing the Enmore Theatre.” So says Nick Finch, guitarist and vocalist with local horror-country troupe Graveyard Train. Describing Graveyard Train’s recent evolution in popularity as “very surreal, and very stupid”, Finch is comically self-deprecating. “We’re just a bunch of idiots,” he admits. “We made our own instruments and half the guys hadn’t been in bands before. It’s like The Commitments – I’m just waiting for that big horrible split. But I’m sure that won’t happen!” he laughs.
It was at a gig earlier this year that Finch realised just how far Graveyard Train had come. “At the start of this year we had a really good show at the Northcote Social Club – playing at that venue was a big thing for us. It’s such a great venue, and there are so many good bands that have played there,” he nods. “The fact that they even gave us a gig was amazing,” he chuckles. “It was a great gig, and a great line-up – that made us realise that people actually liked us.” Any risk of inflated egos, however, was promptly addressed when the band headed out into the regions. “The next night we were on tour and we played in a pub in this little country town. There were about ten people there – it was a humbling experience. There’s like ten loggers there with their arms crossed, glaring at us,” Finch laughs.
And then there’s Graveyard Train’s peculiar love-hate relationship with the crowd at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. “We go up to Tamworth every couple of years, and there are old guys up there who just hate us,” Finch smiles. “We’ve had guys flipping us the bird when we’re busking, and the council tried to kick us out of the festival – but that just make you try that much harder.”
But that which does not kill you, makes you stronger. “We’ve found that after a week of getting harassed by rednecks, you come back to Melbourne and you find that your stage show is so much better. You’ve learnt all these tricks to make people not hate you as much,” Finch explains. “Going to Tamworth for us is like going to war. It’s really fun – we hire out a school room and sleep on the floor. It’s really hot, and people don’t like you. But there are quite a few people up there who do like us. Last year we saw a few people wearing our t-shirts, so it’s not all bad.”
2011 also saw Graveyard Train undertake their first overseas tour, heading across to Europe for dates in the UK, Holland, Belgium and Germany. “It was really great,” Finch recalls. “We were expecting it to be like a regional tour with ten people rocking up who didn’t like you. But all of our shows were packed and people really got into it. It was a big surprise.
“We were there for three weeks, and we had two nights off – we’d play just about every night and drive every day.”
While Finch concedes the logistical preparation for the tour was fast and loose, things worked out very well. “In Europe there’s such a different vibe,” he notes. “Over here you might get three pots on your rider, but over there they give you dinner, they put you up and you might get amazing Belgian beers on your rider. They treat you with respect – we rocked up to a soundcheck and there was a fruit platter and Tiny Teddies,” he laughs.
Having started out blending schlock horror licks with spicy country tunes, Finch says Graveyard Train may yet move into different musical territory. “The music is definitely evolving,” he nods. “It started out as a concept band – a weird concept. But we never wanted to be like Weird Al Jankovic or those two guys from New Zealand. We wanted to try and write serious music, and have a bit of a theme. On the last album there were quite a few songs about death, and gospel music. But we do chuck in the occasional schlocky song. We haven’t really thought much about getting the new album going. We’ll start writing the new songs pretty soon. I’ve been on a real death thing recently, so we’ll probably go away from writing songs about zombies to writing more about the idea of death,” Finch muses happily.
At some point Graveyard Train may be forced to confront the reality of a diminishing pool of horror country ideas, however. It’s a risk the genre demands be ridden out. “We’ve also used up all the big monsters – zombies, werewolves. There are only so many things you can do before you have to take some different avenues,” Finch chuckles. “But I don’t think we’re going to start writing songs about being dumped by your girlfriend or love songs – or maybe we will, who knows?”
There’s even a more radical thought hatching in the band members’ minds – a white bread, normal band, devoid of errant shtick. “While we were in Europe we were actually thinking about starting a new band called The Normalmen, and we’d just write normal songs,” Finch says. “No chains, so washboard, just keyboard and a couple of guitars. All the songs would sound like Live or something like that, and they’d just be about really mundane things like forgetting your shopping list when you go shopping. So maybe when we run out of material for Graveyard Train we’ll start The Normalmen.”
This weekend Graveyard Train will headline a weekend of shows at The East Brunswick Club as part of the band’s Christmas celebrations. “It’s our annual Christmas party,” Finch explains. “We’ve got some very good bands playing. There’s this guy called Archer – he’s a 26 year old guy who lives in rural Victoria. We had to write him a letter ‘cause he doesn’t have a phone or the Internet. We’ve possibly bitten off more than we can chew playing two nights, but we’ll see how it goes.”
In 2011 Graveyard Train will start the arduous task of preparing for their next overseas sojourn when they head to the United States in May. “We just got a whole bunch of shows booked in America in May,” Finch explains, “so we just need to work out how to get there. We’d apply for another grant, but I haven’t handed in the reconciliation for the last grant. So I better do that in the next few days, or otherwise we won’t have a chance,” he laughs.
GRAVEYARD TRAIN’s awesome latest album, The Drink, The Devil And The Dance is out now through Spooky Records.