The Badloves’ Michael Spiby reflects on the band’s iconic debut album, ‘Get On Board’

The Badloves’ Michael Spiby reflects on the band’s iconic debut album, ‘Get On Board’

Words by August Billy

The record will be released on vinyl for the first time ever this April.

The Badloves’ debut album, Get On Board, was released via Mushroom Records in July 1993. Nearly three decades on, the album is being released on vinyl for the very first time, hitting shelves this April courtesy of Warner Music. 

To celebrate, The Badloves are marking a trail around regional and metropolitan Victoria, on a tour which includes a headline performance at Arcobar’s Rock the Lawn festival in March. 

For Badloves frontperson Michael Spiby – the band’s only remaining original member – the vinyl pressing of Get On Board is a long time coming. Despite emerging amid the ’90s alt-rock boom, The Badloves have always drawn influence from soul, gospel and R&B artists.

“Subconsciously, I’m referencing my vinyl collection when I make decisions about everything from equalising an instrument down to mixing, down to mastering,” says Spiby. “When we’re recording, we’re using as much analogue gear as humanly possible. So it’s incredibly exciting to hear a test pressing of an album that should always have been on vinyl.”

Get On Board was originally recorded at Metropolis Audio in South Melbourne, which has since closed its doors. It was 1992 and Mushroom Records was one of the biggest labels in town. But the label’s acquisition of The Badloves was more of a lottery pick than a premonition of big things to come. 

“We had a beautiful big studio, Studio 1 it was called, that we set up in. And because it was a very low budget affair and we were wonderfully low priority within the record company – no one checked in on us,” Spiby says.

“I remember thinking, ‘Well, this is really lovely, they trust us enough to let us do the things we need to do, the way we want to do them…’ When really, it was just that they didn’t particularly care and they didn’t expect anything to come of it.”

Whatever the case may have been, The Badloves’ zeitgeist-evasion didn’t prove to be a hindrance. Get On Board peaked at number five on the ARIA Top 50 Albums Chart and remained in the charts for more than a year – by then it had been certified Platinum. 

“Despite all efforts to ignore us, the record got picked up at some point. We were the most bemused of everybody at how it went,” Spiby says.

Along with their independent spirit, Spiby believes The Badloves’ robust live credentials were key to the album’s success.

“We had played the Espy and Station Hotel and tiny little pubs like that for years and years, really unscathed by the audience or industry. That was a positive for us because we realised we were out on our own and therefore we were free to explore without constraints or anyone trying to superimpose stylistic considerations on us.”

Get On Board was indeed out of step with the bulk of Australian guitar bands dominating triple j at the time – acts like You Am I, Custard and Spiderbait, to name a few. But being part of the in-crowd was never the plan for Spiby. 

“The seed of that band forming was my frustration with the ’80s and feeling like I was completely out of sorts,” he says. “I’d just discovered old gospel music, and of course soul and R&B were ever-present since I was a little kid. So I wanted something that was real. And with the gospel thing and the soul thing came the Hammond organ, so I was mad on that.”

Despite Get On Board’s commercial success, The Badloves released just one additional album, 1995’s Holy Roadside, before breaking up in the late 1990s. However, having recruited an all-new lineup comprising guitarist James Ryan, bassist Kit Riley, organist Samuel Cope, drummer Jeff Consi and backing vocalist Susie Ahern, Spiby says the band is back at peak capacity.

“It totally feels like home with the lineup that we have. They’re incredible players – it’s very humbling to be able to play with these people. The fabric’s knitted tight. It’s just like having conversations on stage, which is very exciting.”

The Badloves hit Arcobar for Rock The Lawn on Sunday March 21. Grab your tickets here