“Well, first of all, it’s good for us as a band because we actually get to be excited about shows,” he laughs. “When we were playing and touring all the time, there would be so many shows, so much happening that the entire thing would just blur into one big crazy show and that can also get old fast. Doing a handful of shows here and there, every now and then, you get to savour it more and really get excited about it. And yes, we are aware that there seems to be a real sense of nostalgia lately with bands going, ‘Hey, someone is willing to throw a big pile of money at us so we’d get back together again’ – but trust me, for us, for me, I just can’t do that. In my opinion, The Cruel Sea’s music has a timeless quality about it that I don’t think it would recall some big ‘90s nostalgia in particular anyway. Even though I’m sure that will be the case to some people.”
Whereas there was once a time where Cruickshank claims The Cruel Sea flat-out refused to play a few of the classic tracks from the band’s back-catalogue – “namely, The Honeymoon Is Over,” he notes – playing rare shows means the chances of fans getting to hearing those tracks are better than usual.
“Seriously – we did have a period where if someone started calling out for a song, we would immediately drop it out of the set,” Cruickshank states. “It wasn’t because we were trying to be nasty or anything, it was just that we wanted to be wary of becoming defined by one song or something. For a while we dropped Honeymoon because it just started to feel mechanical. It actually caused a great deal of outrage for people who saw the whole thing as paying good money to hear their song – and we didn’t play it. These days it’s actually fun to play it!”
As any die-hard Cruel Sea fan will tell you, however, The Honeymoon Is Over was by no means the only hit the legendary Aussie rockers came up with during the ‘90s. Nor was their fame and popularity fleeting – with the band going on to win a whopping five ARIA Awards and more recently making the Triple J Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time thanks to The Honeymoon Is Over record. And while Cruickshank is grateful for the recognition, he claims he is just as suss about any kind of accolades dished out by members of the music industry.
“To be honest, when I hear that a band has won an award for this or that, I immediately think they must kind of suck big time,” he chuckles. “It’s kind of like, ‘Hey, I’ve won an award so I must be great, I guess’. I can’t explain it…It’s like buying a bottle of wine just because it has a medal on it. It’s nice to get recognition from your peers, especially because we’ve always been just a scruffy bunch of inner-city Sydney boys who managed to transit the big production acts, but you can’t take it seriously. Like, the Hottest 100 – two of Powderfinger’s records made the top ten out of ‘top 100’ Aussie albums! Are you serious? It should be re-titled ‘The Top 100 Aussie Albums As Voted By Teens With A Mobile Phone’! With the ARIAs, sometimes I just think they kind of got to the point where there was no-one else around at the time to give it to – like, ‘We can’t give it to Barnsey yet again, so let’s give it to someone new, yeah they’ll do’.”
It may sounds somewhat cynical, but in reality it’s mostly tongue-in-cheek as Cruickshank admits. Sure there’s plenty to complain about when it comes to the music industry, but at the end of the day, as long as one is happy with their own project, nothing else really matters. And while Cruickshank admits that The Cruel Sea have absolutely no intention of reinventing the musical wheel any time soon, a possible new album at some point is not out of the question either…
“So much of the music industry is attached to fashion and everybody only cares about the spunky new things – it’s never been about some old guys coming blazing onto the scene! Music has always been the realm of young people and new things. Sometimes it’s good stuff, sometimes it’s shit – like, ‘Oh wow, okay, you’ve found your dad’s record collection, fucking awesome…’ But it’s nice for a band like us to still be able to play music in a climate like this – and do so with grace and dignity and without having to pretend we’re 18. Just because you’re over 30 and don’t go to bars anymore doesn’t mean you don’t still enjoy playing music. I’ve been doing it most of my adult life and I want to keep doing it. When you’re in your twenties and thirties, you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m going to the top baby!’ But then life gets in the way…There are ridiculous pressures to become popular in the music industry – you’re either going somewhere or you’re going nowhere. You’re either ‘so hot’ or you’re ‘so over’.”
Luckily, when it comes to The Cruel Sea, this has never been the case. Over two decades since their formation as an instrumental trio prior to the joining of frontman Tex Perkins and drummer Jim Elliott, the Aussie rock legends are still as relevant today as ever, proving they’re still very much in demand with their upcoming tour.
“It seems like these days you can’t take two fucking steps without tripping over a festival somewhere, though!” Cruickshank laughs. “For me, I don’t think that’s such a great thing because it just means that the event becomes the experience rather than a particular band. They can just say they saw all their favourite bands in one place at the same time and how do you savour something like that? The festival thing has taken a lot out of the pub scene. We had an organic upbringing in that we would play a venue and then you go back to it three months later and there’s twice as many people there! It was hard work and they were great shows, it’s not the same anymore. Now it’s like, ‘Let’s get a cool t-shirt design, let’s get played on Triple J and we’ll be rocking the main stage of a festival in no time!’ It’s a very different experience for bands now and I really do feel that we came up in a much more word-of-mouth, honest way.”