It’s been an emotional ride for Australia’s Violent Soho. The troupe—Luke Boerdam, James Tidswell, Luke Henery and Michael Richards out of Brisbane, Queensland—has gone from trying to grab the attention of America in 2010 to moving back in with mom and dad and applying to McDonald’s to recording a gold-selling album and landing as a premiere Australian pop punk band. They released their fourth album, Waco, in March, and are set to promote it in America this fall in cities like Toronto, Denver and Salt Lake City on Sept. 2. They’ll be taking another chance here since their last American endeavor six years ago, but this time, with a larger catalogue, they seem more confident—they know what it’s like being in a band that’s seen the absolute worst situation and, also, the absolute best.
Frontman Boerdam, was just waking up in Australia to discuss the new album and how the band feels about returning to North America. “You know, our American leg, we didn’t end of up doing another record on that label,” says Boerdam. “We did 200 punk shows in America; we lived in Brooklyn in some shitty apartment, you know?” After finding some success in a mid-2000s Brisbane, the band thought they would find something similar in U.S. However, they weren’t able to catch that same spark they had in Australia. They went state to state but found that not many had caught on to the noise that they were making. “We did a lot of work and we kind of felt we’d given the boot, and we ended up living with our parents again and we just like, ‘What the hell was that for?’”
But when they returned home, they noticed there was a difference in the atmosphere. The Brisbane punk scene they had left was beginning to evolve into something new. “There was something that happened, 2011–’12 in Australia,” Boerdam says, “where there was just this resurgence of like people starting to get interested in guitar music again.” Groups such as DZ Deathrays and Dune Rats had emerged onto the scene with thrashy dance anthems and had filled the void in punk music Violent Soho had left behind. These groups were selling out huge venues, finding success in Europe and helping to give Brisbane a reputation as an alcohol-fueled hub of parties and house shows. “This whole shit about EDM is gonna take over; guitar bands won’t exist anymore,” says Boerdam, “it was like, ‘Nah, that’s just not true, and here’s all the proof.’”
As exciting as this new phenomenon was, though, the band was still out of money, out of resources and out of steam following their shortcomings in North America. However, come 2012, the group began to find themselves again. On his way to apply at McDonald’s, Tidswell was informed that the band’s second, self-titled album had been nominated for an ARIA—an Australian Recording Industry Association music award. Shortly after the nomination, Violent Soho was able to sign to I Oh You, the same label as DZ Deathrays, and began working on what would be their biggest release yet. Hungry Ghost was a homegrown record released in 2013 that went gold a year later. The single “Covered in Chrome” instantly became a cult favorite, and the record gave them a chance to revitalize themselves in Brisbane’s punk scene. They now stood with DZ and the Dune Rats as part of the three figureheads that would lead the new movement.
The three bands would eventually realize that touring together would be what truly fulfilled their movement. Under the light of new singles and Violent Soho’s latest album, Waco, they would embark together on a national Australian tour May 2016. “We’re all so likeminded and we’re all mates, but it was the first time it literally became this kind of powerhouse tour because it was like, well, all we had, you know?” says Boerdam. “Dune Rats had just released a single recorded with [Zac Carper of FIDLAR] called, ‘Bullshit.’ [laughs] … DZ … had just released a single … ‘Blood on My Leather!’” It was a tour of copious amounts of booze and laughter that would promote not only the bands and their new releases but a scene altogether. “It’s so good to tour with bands that you’ve grown up with,” says Boerdam, “and it was funny—we were saying onstage: ‘Four years earlier, you literally could have seen all these bands at a house party for free!’ [laughs] You know?”
The release of Waco itself, however, has been an excitement of its own. It debuted at No. 1 on the ARIA Charts and picks up right where its predecessor Hungry Ghost left off. The term “hungry ghost” itself is something Boerdam derived from Kalle Lasn’s book, Culture Jam, which roughly means, “empty consumer.” Lasn talked about this master reality that fools and distracts people with products rather than allowing them to answer who they really are or what purpose they even have. It’s a concept that Boerdam in past has scratched the surface of but dives deeper into with Waco. “The songs all kind of have to deal with escaping that reality and escapism,” says Boerdam. “So then finding a place of solitude—or is there a place of solitude? Is there a way out of this thing?” He fears that life is nothing more than products and wasteful expenditures that only drag a person away from who they really are. “It was just like, ‘No this is really fucked up.’ [Laughs]”
Regardless of his deep, dark suspicions, Boerdam is still able to laugh about most anything. And he has even more to smile about: His band has won an uphill battle finding a way to release Hungry Ghost, they just got off of a “powerhouse tour” with their mates from Brisbane, and Waco is engaging and doing incredibly well with its audiences. Violent Soho is about to head into the U.S., exploring the length of the country from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Catch them here in Salt Lake City Sept. 2 at Kilby Court with Meat Wave and Problem Daughter.