Still heavy after all these years
Spiderbait have survived with their integrity and internal friendships intact.
IT'S been almost 25 years since Kram (nee Mark Maher), Janet English and Damian Whitty left the town of Finley in southern New South Wales for the big musical smoke of Melbourne.
''We wouldn't have become a band if we'd stayed [in Finley], because we wouldn't have had anywhere to play and none of the radio stations would have played us,'' Kram says. ''But I still get a bit sentimental when I go back there.''
Conceived in the afterglow of a Dinosaur Jr concert in St Kilda, Spiderbait released their first single, Circle K, on Au Go Go Records in early 1991. When the release of Nirvana's Nevermind later that year sparked a commercial feeding frenzy for so-called alternative acts, Spiderbait were swept up in the excitement, eventually signing with Polydor Records in 1995 to release their breakthrough record, The Unfinished Spanish Galleon of Finley Lake. In 1996, Spiderbait's frenetic single Buy Me a Pony made them the first Australian band to top Triple J's Hottest 100.
While many of the band's contemporaries succumbed to a mixture of commercial pressure, personality disputes and fleeting popular tastes, Spiderbait have managed to survive with their integrity and internal friendships intact. Kram puts the band's longevity down to serendipity and a laissez-faire attitude. ''We were too busy working out what we were doing,'' Kram says with a laugh. ''We were a fairly dysfunctional band, in a way - the main thing we'd try and keep together was the friendship and the equality within the band.''
Spiderbait's reluctance to commit to the gruelling regime of national and international touring has also helped to prolong their career.
''We tried to avoid the treadmill of endless touring and trying to crack overseas markets, but it wasn't because of a conscious decision,'' Kram says. ''But I'm not that talismanic to say that we did that because we knew we couldn't hack it - it was more that we were trying to deal with the circumstances that played out at the time.''
In 2004, Spiderbait's cover of Black Betty propelled the band back to the top of the charts. While a deal with Universal subsidiary Interscope Records allowed the band's album Tonight Alright to be distributed in the US and Britain, the label struggled to market its new signing.
''Each time we've been signed in America, there has been a difficulty in pigeonholing us, which has made it difficult for the label,'' Kram says. ''If the label doesn't like you, or there isn't someone in the label who can take the band and work it in the right way, then it's difficult, particularly if you're the type of band that's not jumping all over social media and promoting yourself.''
In between competing activities, Kram, English and Whitty have found time to begin work on the first new Spiderbait album in eight years. Kram has already been quoted previously suggesting the record would be a return to Spiderbait's original thrash-metal style.
''After we programmed Metallica and the Cosmic Psychos on Rage recently, I was thinking how you don't really hear heavy music like that on the radio any more, but it's also really pop,'' Kram says. ''I don't know if the record will end up like that, but so far it's been really fun making it.''
Spurred on by producer Francois Tetaz (Gotye, Bertie Blackman, Kimbra), Kram has also been paying greater attention to the content of his lyrics.
''It's going to be a really different record to ones that Franc's done in the past, and lyrics are part of his whole idea. He's challenged us in that regard, and I'm really enjoying it so far. But as far as having an overriding message, I can't really say.''
Spiderbait play the Espy, St Kilda, on December 31, with Something for Kate, Gold Fields, Dune Rats, the Murlocs, Regular John and more.