Features Interviews

Interview: Flickertail

Following the success of their debut EP Hurry Up and Wait, Australian rockers Flickertail will be heading to UK shores in October for an extensive tour. Dubbed as “Sydney’s finest malt rock and roll export”, there’s no doubt that they have the ability to take over the world. 

So, who are you?

Liam Whelan – singer, guitar player, songwriter and possessor of the best haircut in the Australian rock outfit called Flickertail.

Where are you from?

Australia, land of long drives and loud guitars. We have a strong tradition of guitar rock in this country – AC/DC originally played so loud because there was no fucker around for miles, so you have to have your amp all the way up just to be able to be heard.

How long have you been together?

We were formed in a World Cup year, so it must be four long, gruelling years now.

How long have you been playing music?

All my life. My first ever performance was singing ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ over a backing tape in year one at my school talent show, so I can proudly say that rock has been in my blood since day one.

Why should people listen to your band?

We are waging a four-man war on musical mediocrity. For too long the airwaves have been clogged with lyrics rhyming “fire” with “desire”, or soundalike Free-but-Heavier Sabbath wannabe copies. This is rock and roll like it’s meant to be played, with energy, melody, and burly words. Rock and roll needs rescuing from the grasp of those who would dip it in formaldehyde and preserve it in a hall of fame. I hear the singer’s got a powerful set of eyebrows too.

What is your ideal touring line-up?

I’d have mid-70s The Who, 1996 Oasis and 1978 Thin Lizzy on the same bill. Maybe drag Freddie Mercury out for a guest spot now and again.

But realistically, for me, the ideal would be touring with the three other boys in the band. Bad food, good tunes, and plentiful craic will do me just fine. If we can make it so that involves Reading & Leeds, Wembley and Slane Castle, I reckon I could make it work.

What does music mean to you?

Music is the universal language. Have you ever watched footage of bands like Oasis playing in South America, where none of the audience speaks English, let alone Mancunian, but they somehow know all the words to ‘Roll With It’? That’s the power of music.

Music is like the Force. It penetrates us, envelopes us, connects us all. It provides a conduit between people who have never met and allows for the exchange of raw, ugly human emotion.

It also means I get to wear unfathomably tight trousers, sink beers, get chatted up by beautiful women and get paid for it. Bloody ripper.

What was the first record you bought when you were younger?

I grew up in the post-record era. In fact, I grew up in the post-music-buying era, in that bizarre twilight between CDs and Spotify. People risked giving their computer some kind of e-syphilis just to download the latest My Chemical Romance tune from Limewire.

I do not view this period with rose-tinted glasses, however, and stubbornly committed to buying music even though I absolutely had no dosh at all. My first CD was a Sex Pistols best-of called Jubilee, and I taught myself all the songs by ear.

What artists first inspired you to start playing music?

My big penny-drop moment was hearing Thin Lizzy for the first time. The musical and emotional wallop that band wielded, forever toeing the line between unfiltered sincerity and cliche, Phil Lynott’s tough-guy-with-the-heart-of-a-poet schtick and the searing guitar harmonies knocked me over like a ton of bricks. Phil had a way of le mot juste, picking the right word, or phrase, to get his point across. Who else could get away with “I always get chocolate stains on my pants”? I played the guitar and sang before I’d heard them, but once I heard Thin Lizzy I tried my hand at writing songs, and look where I am now! Answering interviews from the other side of the globe.

What’s the most aesthetically pleasing album cover that you have in your collection?

The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. It’s a crotch shot, decades before the Instagram era. A rare instance of foresight from a group obsessed with looking backwards and plundering the glory years of others, and, eventually, themselves.

What kind of movie genre do you think your music would best be the soundtrack for?

Probably a sports movie, one about boxing or mid-70s football hooliganism. You know when hooligans wore flares and bum chiller jackets while the bricked cops in the mouth? We have the right balance of aggression and tenderness to achieve the necessary pathos. We’d get the audience onside for a team of plucky underdogs who have very little money, but a whole lot of heart, and a coach who really bloody believes in them. That or the rough-and-tumble brawlers whose leader has the heart of a poet.

Recommend us a record, a book, and a movie…

For a record, Black Aces’ Anywhere But Here is essential rock listening this year. Don’t think about it. Just buy it. And our Hurry Up and Wait while you’re at it.

Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals is my current favourite read. Practical, and it comes with pictures so the rhythm section of the band can follow along as well.

For a movie, watch Braveheart. Matt goes off like a frog in a sock for Patrick McGoohan’s Edward Longshanks.

Any last words for the readers of Highwire Magazine?

Burn your post-reunion Aerosmith records, your Coldplay and your Royal Blood. We’re coming to deliver some heartfelt rock and roll right to your doorstep this October.

Flickertail will be appearing at the following dates in October:
14 –  The Spinning Top, Stockport
15 – Fiddler’s Elbow, London
18 – The Dog and Whistle, Hertford
20 – Victoria Bikers’ Pub, Leicester
21 – Fab Cafe, Manchester
24 – Trillian’s, Newcastle
26 – Alma Inn, Bolton
28 – Mulberry Tavern, Sheffield
30 – Market Bar, Inverness

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