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Screamfeeder guitarist Tim Steward hasn’t played a backyard party in at least 20 years.

Screamfeeder guitarist Tim Steward hasn’t played a backyard party in at least 20 years. After Screamfeeder graduated from the smouldering early 1990s Brisbane scene to grace the stages of mid-sized venues and festivals in Australia, coupled with the occasional overseas tour, Screamfeeder would’ve struggled to fit in the backyard of trucking magnate Lindsay Fox’s Toorak residence. "I reckon the last time we played a backyard party was in 1990 in Brisbane," Steward recalls. "We did a few parties, wearing dresses, that sort of thing – I think we did a few of those. In fact, one of the guitars I still use has a setlist written on the back of it from a gig we did around then with a whole bunch of Nirvana covers," he laughs.

Screamfeeder return to Melbourne this weekend to play two shows, comprising of a gig at The Tote on Friday night, followed by a set at the Applecore Festival, the latter staged in a backyard in Thornbury.

It’s a far cry from when Screamfeeder’s prolific live and performing period in the 1990s, when Screamfeeder, alongside fellow Brisbane bands such as Custard and Regurgitator, bucked the historical trend that saw Brisbane bands move south to Sydney or Melbourne for the sake of artistic and financial survival. "We were right on the tipping point of bands having to move to Sydney to live, and not having to do that," Steward recalls. "We were lucky to be able to stay in Brisbane, and just go to Sydney or Melbourne once a month, which was a bit of a novelty."

By the early 1990s Brisbane was gradually emerging from the shadow of Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s hillbilly dictatorship, a political and cultural legacy that Steward struggles to recall, let alone empathise with. "I remember being at Livid one year and Mudhoney announced from the stage that Joh Bjelke-Peterson was going, which generated this enormous roar from the crowd," he laughs.

Steward had formed Screamfeeder with bass player Kellie Lloyd and original drummer Tony Blades in the early 1990s (Blade eventually left in 1995, to be replaced by current drummer Dean Shwereb). Initially the band went by the name of The Madmen, the title of Steward’s previous outfit. After sending a demo tape to Waterfront Records in Sydney, Waterfront co-owner suggested a change of name was in order. "Around that time there were heaps of one-word bands around," Steward says, "so we wanted to pick up on that idea."

Screamfeeder released their debut album, Flour, in 1992, followed by Burn Out Your Name in 1993. But it was the release of Kitten Licks in 1995 that provided the quantum leap to propel the band into something approaching popular consciousness.

A relentless regime of touring, punctuated by visits to the studio to cater for the band’s desire to keep recording, saw Screamfeeder maintain a high profile for much of the 1990s. Steward isn’t able to identify a particular moment in time when he realised that his band had ‘made it’. "To be honest, throughout the Screamfeeder times in the 1990s, we were so busy we didn’t have time to stop and think about what we’d achieved," Steward explains. "We had such a hard working mentality that we didn’t sit around to think about."

Shortly after the release of Burn Out Your Name, Screamfeeder had signed a deal for the release of the album through Tang! records in the United States; a planned American visit to capitalise on the deal unfortunately fell through. A few years later Screamfeeder were approached by Timebomb Records to release Kitten Licks. It didn’t take long for Screamfeeder to release the deal was problematic.

"That was a strange experience," Steward recalls. "Timebomb had signed us by fax or email, and without talking to us directly. They thought it was going to be a really breakthrough record, so when it was released and that didn’t happen, they were really disappointed." The label insisted Screamfeeder hold off releasing any new records to allow Kitten Licks to gain a foothold in the market. "We already had Rocks On The Soul ready to record, and we were getting impatient," Steward says. "So we decided we had to get out of the deal, which we eventually did."

Despite spending considerable time on the road, Steward says there were only very occasional moments when the fun went out of playing and making music. "There were very brief moments when it wasn’t fun, like if you were playing in Geelong and it was zero degrees, and there were only three or four people at the gig, and you didn’t have enough money to buy a can of coke on the way home – but generally there was always fun," he nods.

In 2005 Schwereb announced he’d had enough and signalled his intention to leave Screamfeeder. Steward and Lloyd considered breaking up the band, but decided instead to put it on hold while each pursued separate projects. Steward released a solo album, formed The Whats, while Lloyd indulged in other projects, including The Warm Guns. Eventually Schwereb approached Steward and said he was ready to return to the Screamfeeder fold. "18 months after he’d left, Dean said he wanted to come back," Steward recalls. "And by that time things had slowed down a little." Playing with other bands and other musicians helped Steward realise both the depth of talent around him and the qualities of his Screamfeeder band mates. "It changed everything," he admits.

In 2010 Screamfeeder arranged what the band thought was a one-off gig in Brisbane to play Kitten Licks through in its entirety. The response was so overwhelming that it led to shows around the country. "Initially it was just going to be in Brisbane, but then someone in Sydney heard about it, and asked if we’d do a show there, then the same thing happened in Melbourne, and Adelaide and Perth," he relates. "We played the album completely straight – it was excellent. We had an absolute killer time!"

My final question is completely unrelated to Screamfeeder, but important, nonetheless. Is it true, as asserted deep in the Screamfeeder website, that Steward loves cheese? Steward laughs at the inquiry. "Yes, I really do love cheese," he replies. "My favourite cheese at the moment is Roquefort. When we on tour in France in the mid-1990s, we’d be served up these big platters of cheese, and Kellie and I would eat so much of it, and put on lots of weight, which probably wasn’t so good!" he laughs.

SCREAMFEEDER play The Tote this Friday February 25, before tearing up the APPLECORE BACKYARD FESTIVAL along with Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, The Blueness (NZ), Kim Salmon, The Ancients, Laura-Jean, Frankie Alibi & The Fugitives, Lowtide, New Estate, Matt Bailey and The Olivettes – which takes place in Pender St, Thornbury this Saturday February 26.