Violent Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo.
Violent Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo. Cathy Adams

Violent Femmes improve with age

AS VIOLENT Femmes head to Falls Festival for the inaugural Byron Bay event, the question is who wears the age better, them or their music.

Brian Ritchie, the band's bassist, errs on the side of the music.

The band, originally formed in the early 1980s in Milwaukee, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut, self-titled album this year. The album, turned out to be their most successful, selling millions of copies worldwide. And as they joke on their website, their latest only sold hundreds.

The album features the band's most recognisable songs including Blister In The Sun, Kiss Off and Gone Daddy Gone, and attracts the band new fans no matter what year it is.

There's no doubt the music has aged well.

"At the time we made that first album, rock'n'roll itself was only about 30 years old, maximum," Ritchie says. "Thus, nobody could predict that people would be listening to it attentively decades onwards.

"But we certainly thought we were making a rock gem at the time and that if anybody would bother to listen in the future, the music would age well. Even if we haven't!

"But at least we can still get up on stage and play the songs with the same fervour as we did when they were new."

Ritchie, who now lives in Tasmania with his wife, says he met Midnight Oil at The Piggery - now known as The Brewery, Byron Bay - on their first Australian tour.

"I remember hearing a lot of rumours that the punters would all be on mushrooms," Ritchie says. "The gig was incredibly packed, loud and sweaty."

He is now in a band, The Break, comprising three members of the Oils, Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey.

The Violent Femmes were announced on the Falls Festival line-up earlier this week, alongside Chet Faker, The Cat Empire, Crystal Fighters, Flight Facilities, Vampire Weekend, The Wombats, London Grammar and more.

The Femmes have played Byron Bay several times, including shows at Bluesfest and The Northern, and are looking forward to heading back for New Year.

"We expect to get the usual dose of bohemian charm," Ritchie says.

"The people in Byron and those who visit its various musical events are sophisticated music people. Perhaps this is a result of the healthy doses of music they ingest during the year."

The band is set to play its debut album in its entirety at Falls Festival as well as a few extras. And while us punters will be thinking about our teenage years as Gordon Gano sings, "When I'm walkin' I strut my stuff, man, I'm so strung out...", Ritchie will be thinking about something else.

"For me personally, the bass parts are still challenging and fun to execute, and the improvising we do as a group keeps things fresh," he says. "We have been playing those songs so long now that they are just part of our chemistry and for that hour we're on stage it's easy to immerse oneself in that attitude.

"Afterwards we might think it's strange to be singing songs of adolescent confusion while we're in our 50s, but if it's good enough for the Stones and Iggy it's good enough for us."

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