Back in 1996, an Aussie band little known to the world was thrust into the international spotlight with the release of its third studio album, Ivy And The Big Apples.
Spiderbait became the face of Australian rock, and in many ways, the popularity of grunge took a step back to make way for them.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ivy’s release, Spiderbait are embarking on a nationwide tour. The tickets are moving fast, a solid testimony to the band’s success – and a state of affairs that the three members couldn’t have imagined two decades ago in their youth.
It’s a rare opportunity and a privilege to speak to vocalist and bassist Janet English, who readily admits that preparing to play Ivy in full onstage has taken a good measure of planning and rehearsal.
“Individually, we all kind of listened to the record again as none of us had listened to it for about 20 years,” she says. “We had to reacquaint ourselves with what was actually on the album and then went through and relearnt the lyrics, relearnt the song structure and the patterns.
“[Rehearsal] sort of triggers what the inspiration was, you know – what the song was written about,” she says. “It was a time where we were all share housing, so you know, there’s songs about people who were in share houses, of incidences that happened at that time.
“It was funny, because we spent a lot of time kind of reminiscing and not doing much work [laughs]. But you know what? Sometimes that’s absolutely necessary.”
One particularly fond memory for English is when the album’s lead single ‘Buy Me A Pony’ hit the number one position in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 1996. English recalls where she was at the moment Spiderbait found out they’d topped the countdown.
“My recollection is, we were on tour with Silverchair and we were in Tassie. I’d never heard of triple j so I didn’t know anything about them – I mean I’d heard of triple j, I didn’t know there was a Hottest 100, I didn’t know what that meant.
“I remember thinking, ‘What does it even mean?’ The others have a recollection that’s completely different – like, it’s all a bit of a blur, to tell you the truth, but I guess the main thing was we didn’t realise the significance of it at the time. For a small band from regional New South Wales, it didn’t really have much meaning.”
Of course, Spiderbait’s feelings around their success in 2017 compared to those of 20 years ago have changed, and so has their attitude towards their songs.
“It’s only in retrospect that you can kind of grasp that the ground really shifted for us,” English says. “We won the ARIA for that record that year and none of us went to the ARIAs, we didn’t really know anything about it – it was just a different time … Apparently Richard Wilkins took home our ARIA!”
Nevertheless, Ivy is a coveted record not just for Spiderbait, but their fans too. “It meant a lot to a lot of people, that record. It was sort of a rite of passage, or there was something about that time in people’s life that really connected.
“It was a chaotic time in our lives, because when you’re at the centre of a storm like that, and you are travelling constantly and playing… I mean, it’s such a cliché, but when you’re in the middle of it you just don’t appreciate it.
“It’s nice to look back and think of all of those lovely memories of being with my best friends and being in different places in the world, and looking across at each other and going, ‘Isn’t this amazing?’”
Spiderbait, along with The Meanies and Screamfeeder, play Enmore Theatre on Saturday March 18.