With their riffs deliciously chunky, their solos all kinds of searing and their vocals hitting hard and fast like a drunk lad in Kings Cross, The Southern River Band are one of those acts that seemingly come out of nowhere, grip you by the eardrums and make you wail, "Good goddamn!" There's a '70s-channelling Mötorhead-ish twist to their punchy brand of pub anthem, but at their core, the Fender Supersonic-driven ménage-à-thrash of Cal Kramer (vocals), Dan Carroll (guitars) Pat Smith (bass) and Nathan Sproule (drums) is a rock 'n' roll rhapsody all of their own.
Ahead of the August release of their debut album, Rumour And Innuendo, we caught up with Kramer to riff on where The Southern River Band plan on taking us throughout their journey to the top of the charts, and what to expect when you first witness their soul-altering live show in the flesh. And trust us: after lending your ears to the roaring new single "Chimney", you'll want to make your way over to one sooner than later.
First thing’s first: congratulations on this ripping new single! What’s the backstory behind “Chimney”, and how did this little scorcher of a tune come about?
Ah man, you’re too kind! Your bribe is in the mail. You know those kind of people that, like, sort of define the whole "battler with a heart of gold and a dud hand" story? Well take that, make the last words of lines two and four rhyme, and put it together with a blow-your-tits-clean-off riff.
So the new album, Rumour And Innuendo, is out in August. Would you say “Chimney” is a good representation of what the rest of the LP sounds like, or do you have a few curveballs up your sleeves?
"It's the new sound, maaaaaaan!" Nah, but for reals, right – "Chimney" is dolphinately the heaviest track on the record, but they’re all grounded in rock ‘n’ roll in one way or another. It’s like taking public transport from Hound Dog Taylor up to Iron Maiden, stopping at all points in-between.
What were you going for in terms of the specific tones and musical flavours that you wanted to explore on Rumour And Innuendo?
“Oi [insert song name here]! Where do ya wanna go? Alright, well here’s the keys, you drive!”
“Ah, f*** yeah, Quo!”
Rinse and repeat, depending on the destination.
The guitars on “Chimney” alone sound absolutely f***ing enormous. What guitars were you wielding in the studio for this album, and what amps and effects were you going through?
It was an original ‘57 or ‘58 some f***ing bullshit, and The Young Brothers' first ever plexi that came to us by way of Mossy losing a game of pool against my Dad at the Charles Hotel in 1982. You put ‘em together and they just play themselves, y'know?
How about onstage? What does your live rig and pedalboard look like?
A nice, clean Fender Supersonic with a couple of tube screamers making it earn its keep, and a wah pedal given to me by one of my guitar heroes, John Bosely.
Do you have a go-to guitar at the moment?
I got a USA Deluxe Strat for my 18th birthday, and it accompanies me on all of my attempts at establishing myself somewhere between Eddie Van Failin’ and Stevie Ray Forlorn. My earliest living memory is literally at about three years old, glued to the screen watching Live At El Mocambo over and over – from there on out, I knew I was gonna play whatever Stevie had in those big ol' hands. I later found out that was called a Fender Stratocaster, and to me, they’re absolutely f***ing perfect. Fast forward a few years, and I found out you could get these things called humbuckers in them, too. That’s when the pants started getting tighter.
As we’ve seen from your sets at Groovin The Moo and on your sold-out national tours, the live show is a huge part of The Southern River Band’s charm. Was this album written around the idea of the songs being played live, or does that part come after they’re all laid down?
Well, here’s hoping we can play ‘em all live – we’ll see about the choir of Sitars we put on "Journey To The Spiritual Trees And Shit". Most of the tunes, yeah, but we also want people to be able to listen to the record and love it for what it is – whether they’re in their car, on the train, sucking piss with their mates, courting that special someone, going through a breakup, cleaning the toilet... You name it. It’s gotta be able to cover all bases and become a soundtrack to someone’s life – including, but not limited to, a life-changing live rendition.
For someone that hasn’t seen The Southern River Band live before, how would you describe the experience?
Righto, so imagine there’s this bloke or lady that you’re dead keen on, and have been for a real long time, and you’re starting to really get somewhere after a couple of dates and all that bullshit. And you’re all smitten, but you’re yet to seal the deal, so now you’re a bit nervous because you realise it’s about to happen, and you’ve built it up in your head, and you don’t want to let them down and f*** it up. But then it turns out to be the best night of both your lives and you fall even deeper in love, get married and have some kids who turn out to be absolute assholes that ruin everything, and drive you right into a really bitter and malicious divorce. Well, depending on the day, we can be either that first root or the divorce.
Aside from making the mullet sexy again, the most impressive thing about your performances, Cal, is how absolutely intense you get when you’re in the moment during a song. What’s going through your mind when you’re up there onstage, just pouring your heart and soul into a jam?
It’s not a mullet, though, it’s a mane – king of the jungle sort of shit. But I’ll take the compliment! When we step out onstage, for me it’s like we’re going to war. You never know when it’s gonna be your last, so you’ve gotta give every single bit of whatever you’ve got to give at all times – whether it's to five people or 5,000. I think it goes right back to El Mocambo again, being brainwashed by that tenacity and precision... I just didn’t really grasp the whole 'precision' thing.
Anything else you wanna say to the readers of Australian Guitar?
Huge thanks to you guys for having us! Reckon you could put in a word with the Fender team for your mate Cal now that he’s got some national media exposure? Also, check out our Spotify and all that bullshit. Come to a show when we’re near you – we promise it’ll change your life forever.