The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard on why music and politics are inseparable
It’s not every day that musicians choose to write about current political and social affairs, but Perth rockers The Drones have been doing just that for almost 20 years.
Led by founding members Rui Pereira and Gareth Liddiard, who met in high school, The Drones have been churning out unorthodox hits since 1997.
On the phone from Melbourne – his current dwelling place, frontman Liddiard reminisces about the good old days when it was common to see them sitting around drinking a few beers, playing songs we’ve all now come to expect from the group.
“For the first three years we were just in a lounge room, making a few recordings, which I’ve been trolling through lately,” says Liddiard.
“Our first gig was in 1999 and everything since has gone at a real slow pace – going with the flow almost. Then when we came to Melbourne, we pulled our socks up and got a bit more competitive just so we could get gigs because we’d driven 4,000km.”
Since then The Drones have released a string of studio albums, EPs and singles, with their seventh album Feelin Kinda Free released in March this year.
“We always try to check ahead of the boredom curve and just do things differently – the funny thing with the last album was that people kept telling us it was completely different, but it’s actually really similar to what we were doing before we ever played a show.”
The funny thing with the last album was that people kept telling us it was completely different, but it’s actually really similar to what we were doing before we ever played a show.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the group though, with members coming and going over the years – although Liddiard assured Music Insight this didn’t worry them too much.
“It hasn’t felt like a different band – the change has always been quite gradual,” he says.
The new record encompasses their customary sense of controversy, where Liddiard’s lyrics are filled with barbs aimed at authority figures and the injustices of the world. The music itself is brimming with an almost chaotic intensity, and yet they make it work.
“As each year passes you reconceptualise things – something that meant something to you in 2005 might mean something completely different in 2016,” says Liddiard.
The band doesn’t shy away from the issues plaguing society and aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers in the process. Lead single Taman Shud off the LP is a fine example of how unsatisfied the band is with politics and those who are in a position of power.
“Everything’s become so polarised, it’s almost as if the far right get a real look in these days,” Liddiard explains.
“The left just sits there and doesn’t really do anything about it, because they believe being remotely aggressive or being a man is somewhat evil – it’s not. Being a sexist, chauvinistic, bigot of a man is evil, but you are allowed to yell at people.
“We can’t even call someone an arsehole anymore when they’re being one – that Taman Shud thing is simply saying just that.”
The frontman believes it’s strange that more Australian bands don’t write music with a social and political awareness.
“If you sat down with these bands at a pub or café and you had a chat, you would inevitably talk about political shit,” he says.
“Public Enemy were great on a Saturday night, The Clash were great, so was Bob Marley – that’s all really political but it’s huge pop currency and I’ve never heard anyone complain about them.
“Most bands are left-wingers – you have to be creative and a bit of a daydreamer in this field. If you were that uptight and frightened of everything you wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
The Drones will be on tour from November 3, starting with a gig at the Fremantle Town Hall as part of Fremantle Festival.
More info and dates can be found on the Drones’ Facebook page.