Something For Kate: It’s not what people say or what radio station plays you…it’s the people you’re standing in front of

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Something For Kate: It’s not what people say or what radio station plays you…it’s the people you’re standing in front of

Something For Kate
Words by Tyler Jenke

It seems strange in hindsight, but 25 years ago, few would have expected that Melbourne’s Something For Kate would still be a going concern in 2022.

In fact, the first ones tell you that would have been the band themselves, which at the time comprised guitarist/vocalist Paul Dempsey, drummer Clint Hyndman, and bassist Julian Carrol.

A quarter of a century later though, Something For Kate have proved themselves wrong, and now they’re taking a retrospective look back at Elsewhere For 8 Minutes, the album that helped them to kick off an enduring, and beloved career. We spoke to their enigmatic frontman before  they perform the seminal album in full – as a trio – at Northcote Theatre next month.

Read Melbourne’s most comprehensive range of features and interviews here.

Looking back on those early days, Dempsey recalls the band’s formative years as consisting almost exclusively of “nervous energy and excitement”. Forming in 1994, they released a demo cassette in 1995, before their The Answer To Both Your Questions and Dean Martin EPs arrived in 1996. Months later, they were in New Zealand, recording their debut album with producer Brian Paulson (Slint, Superchunk, Wilco).

“The first couple of years, it just seemed like a lot of things happened really fast,” Dempsey remembers. “We hadn’t really been gigging around for a year before we started getting offers from record companies and things like that.

“It just seemed like it was just beyond what we had thought possible or realistic. When we started the band, we just wanted to play some gigs. We were three young guys who went out to see bands almost every night of the week and we just wanted to give it a shot ourselves.”

After only around “15 or 20 gigs”, the young band were already faced with the notion of writing and recording an album. However, given the trajectory other contemporaries had faced, it almost felt as though things would end before they’d even begun.

“When we did sign with Murmur, the initial deal was for two EPs and an album, and we kind of expected that would be it,” Dempsey notes. “Then we’d all have to get real jobs and we’d get dropped by the label because our record would bomb.

“That was sort of a cycle back then. Bands got signed, they made an EP and an album, and then most of them disappeared.”

Needless to say, no one in Something For Kate could have foreseen a career that would last almost three decades, comprise numerous chart-topping records, and both local and international acclaim.

“We just never thought we were that band. I think you could say we’ve always been the sort of band that doesn’t exactly fit anywhere, but even more so back then,” Dempsey notes. “We weren’t like the bands that were typically becoming big, successful, and well known.”

While their debut album was the start of something wonderful, it also was the end of something just as special, with bassist Julian Carroll making the decision to depart the band following the recording. For the accompanying tour, they were joined by Toby Ralph, before Sandpit’s Stephanie Ashworth solidified their final lineup in 1998.

While Carroll’s impending departure might have cast a shadow over the recording in some ways, it was a wholly amicable decision, and one that spurned the band on to make an even better debut.

“We decided that the right send-off for Julian would be to go to New Zealand and make the first album together, because we also thought it might be the last album,” he recalls. “So we thought, ‘let’s just see this thing through and let’s just make this record together’. And we finished the recording sessions in New Zealand, Julian said goodbye, and he got on a plane.

“But it felt good, because we felt we were doing the right thing by each other. We wrote those songs together, we totally understood Julian’s decision, and there were no hard feelings. If anything, we wanted it to be a good feeling that we completed this journey together.”

Upon its release, Elsewhere For 8 Minutes didn’t reach the Aussie charts (the band’s only release not to do so), but in true Something For Kate fashion, commercial success was the furthest thing from their minds.

”We were just watching our audience get bigger,” Dempsey recalls. “We weren’t all over the radio or anything like that, but that there was no change for us. The thing that was really measurable was that every time we went to Sydney or Brisbane or wherever, we were moving to a slightly bigger venue than last time.

“That’s always been my only kind of measure of anything. It’s not what people say about you or what radio station is playing you – none of that has ever mattered to me as much as the people you’re standing in front of playing to. That to me is the point of music.”

To celebrate the record’s silver anniversary, Something For Kate have not only reissued Elsewhere For 8 Minutes on vinyl, but they’re hitting the road for a trio of shows to play the album in full – much like they did with Echolalia’s 20th anniversary recently.

“We never saw ourselves doing this kind of stuff, playing an anniversary of a record,” Dempsey laughs. “This time around, we didn’t want to get sucked back into doing this whole anniversary thing where you’re always looking back because, as a band, we’re always looking forward.”

Notably, these forthcoming shows won’t see the group joined by bandmates Adrian Stoyles and Olivia Bartley, instead seeing Something For Kate playing as a three-piece for the first time since the ‘90s.

“Because it is such a stripped back, raw rock record, it occurred to me that this is probably our only record that we can just do as a three piece; just me, Clint, and Steph,” says Dempsey.

Initially planning a one-night-only affair, the rehearsal process soon inspired shows in Adelaide and Sydney. Due to the retrospective nature of the shows, it’s set to feature some songs which haven’t appeared on a setlist in over 20 years, or in the case of ‘Glass Timing’, never.

“There’s a lot of songs that are not common, but just to do it all just from start to finish is exciting, and fun,” Dempsey explains. “It’s just all going to be really exciting as well to just be on stage just with Clint and Steph, like it was in 1998, just the three of us.”

But while 2022 is predominantly featuring Something For Kate looking into their back catalogue, fans can rest assured the band won’t be becoming a nostalgia act any time soon. Rather, they’re here to celebrate an important moment in their career in a unique way.

“We’re really wary about playing on nostalgia, but it’s just going to be fun to bash this record out, and there’s going to be a lot of people who really associate this particular record with some point in their life or whatever, and that’s a good vibe; that’s fun,” Dempsey says. “And it won’t just be this record, we’ll round it out with some other things that are from that era of the band as well..

“But the main thing is just that it’s going to be sort of a return to three-piece Something For Kate, which hasn’t happened in a while.”

Something for Kate are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Elsewhere for Eight Minutes, at Northcote Theatre on August 26. Buy tickets here.

This article was made in partnership with Northcote Theatre.