You Am I are a band that needs no introduction – however, this would be a much shorter article if it didn’t have one, so let’s recap for those who weren’t paying attention up the back.
Formed in the late ’80s in the suburbs of Sydney, You Am I have evolved into an establishment of Australian rock in the quarter-century and change they’ve been around, scoring several number one albums, a cult international following and more sold-out shows across the country than most folk have had hot dinners. They’ve never glanced too long in the rear-view, either – after an acclaimed run of dates playing their classic LPs Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily in full, the band began work on what was to become a tenth studio album, Porridge & Hotsauce – a cycle that didn’t come as easily as it has in the past.
“For a record that’s so joyous, it wasn’t necessarily an easy process,” begins lead vocalist, guitarist and founding member Tim Rogers. “We recorded at Daptone Studios in Brooklyn – there was a week free and we had connections with someone who worked there, so we put together a backline and made our way over. It’s the perfect kind of studio for us – it had the right kind of vibe and the right kind of sound. Having said that, you’re not exactly in the right mindset to record at your best when you’ve just flown 20 hours for the privilege.”
At this point, Rogers stops and ponders his statement. There’s a pause – long enough to give off the impression that the line has dropped out, but short enough not to get the operator’s attention.
“Well, maybe you are,” he continues. “I don’t know… there were a few different things factoring into this album. We weren’t working with someone we knew intimately – we’ve recorded our last few albums with our old friend Greg Wales, and this time we were working with Wayne Gordon, who is the in-house producer at Daptone. He’s a very talented producer and songwriter, and he’s also the most handsome man I have ever seen in my life. I’m a heterosexual man, but bloody hell…” Rogers laughs, before once again losing track of his thoughts. “I guess the point I’m making is that we were all adamant about impressing him. It put us on edge, and it took a lot for us to relax – we’d have to go for four-hour lunches and bring cases of beer back to the studio. I think we impressed him, though – well, I hope we did.”
Porridge & Hotsauce marks You Am I’s first album in just over five years, following on from their ARIA-nominated eponymous LP of 2010. It’s an album that bounds out of the speakers with the devil-may-care attitude and energy of musicians less than half their age, as well as making notable use of the band’s wider palette. There are big rock’n’roll numbers, cut-throat punk numbers, slow-and-sad numbers and even a couple that dare to mess with Mr. In Between. It’s reflective of the fact that – according to Rogers – there was no game plan apart from celebrating You Am I for what they are.
“I think the main thing I wanted out of making this album was for Davey [Lane, guitar/vocals], Andy [Kent, bass/vocals] and Rusty [Hopkinson, drums] to write more,” he says. “I was looking to them more for the start of a song – something to build from and form into something fully formed. The record shows that I’ve been the one that has written most of the songs in the history of this band – I was worried that my direction was too much of an influence on the way that the rest of the band was playing; that maybe I was overshadowing them. I feel like the rest of the band deserves as much credit, if not more. That’s why I was encouraging them to put more in – and it absolutely worked.
“Davey is prolific as hell – I brought in something like 40 songs, and he had 50! Andy and Rusty wrote a bunch of songs, too. The best part was that each song that everyone brought in was genuinely really great. I didn’t want it to just be me waving my arms and going, ‘Hey, look, it’s me – Tim Rogers! Australia’s 123rd best songwriter!’”
It’s at this point one can’t help but enquire as to who takes out the 122nd spot on this alleged list, to which Rogers cackles: “Like fuck I’m telling you that!”
You Am I are now officially in the double digits for both their lifespan and their discography, which leads to the question of what keeps the band going after all this time. “When we started, we didn’t have an intent,” says Rogers. “We were just a bunch of clowns playing Aerosmith and Hard-Ons covers. It was just about the next show, the next tour, the next free drink. It’d be disingenuous of me to say that it’s the same motivation now – but in a way it kind of is. We didn’t take out a bank loan and go to New York to make an album for our profile – we did it because it was just the next thing to do. We’re still just here to muck around, really.”