It’s been one hell of an interesting ride for one of Australia’s much loved and respected bands. There was always a sense of unfinished business when they split in 1987. Things have come full circle, however, and now there is a warm sense of completion.
The original Stems line-up of Dom Mariani, Richard Lane, Julian Matthews and Dave Shaw will perform around the country for a final time in October 2009.
THE STEMS epitomized 80’s indie rock, giving it a wider currency. They are one of only a handful of bands (among them the Hoodoo Gurus and The Sunnyboys) that cracked the mainstream charts with an indie approach in the 80’s.
Initially THE STEMS released a series of independent records on Sydney’s Citadel Records with each release reaching #1 on the Australian alternative charts. But it was their debut album, released on Mushroom records, AT FIRST SIGHT VIOLETS ARE BLUE in 1987 that received national and international critical acclaim and would be one of the best selling Australian albums of that year despite an almost total lack of commercial airplay in the corporate FM dominated 80’s.
Rolling Stone named their album “At First Sight” one the top 100 releases of all time. It eventually went Gold some and continues to sell strongly today.
Appearances on Countdown, magazine covers, sold out shows – the world seemed at The Stems feet – however due to the pressures of non-stop touring and the usual “personality differences” the Stems mysteriously imploded on the eve of a massive European tour in late 1987…
Rising from the ashes of their 1980’s breakup The Stems reformed in 1997 to perform a reunion show in their beloved hometown of Perth to an enthusiastic response. This event would see them return to the live scene in 2003. It is fair to say they were all surprised – even amazed – how popular they still were. They toured Australia, Europe and the USA including an incredible one off show at the invitation of Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist (and Sopranos TV star) Little Steven, who lists himself as one of the Stems biggest fans, where they shared the stage with Iggy Pop, Bo Diddley, Big Star, Nancy Sinartra…, and 60’s underground bands The Chocolate Watchband, The Pretty Things, Creation and the Electric Prunes that were an influence on their sound in the early days.
Things seemed to gain momentum. At the urging of Little Steven and a host of others the band made plans to record an Album of new material ultimately titled HEADS UP – released on Shock Records in late 2007. Recorded in Perth on all analogue equipment and mixed in Cincinnati by producer John Curley (White Stripes, Afghan Wigs, Greenhornes and Ronnie Spector) the album was released to rave reviews and sells solidly around the world.
“It’s incongruous to think that Heads Up is only The Stems’ second full length album, and the band’s first new release in twenty years. Incongruous not just because The Stems remain one of Australia’s most virtuous garage and power pop bands, despite a playing and recording history that lasted a mere few years in the mid 1980s, but also because Heads Up is so pure, fresh and potent that it could have been recovered from recording sessions shelved at the height of the band’s original popularity or – better still – found lying dormant on tapes discarded at the apex of the halcyon days of the 1960s garage rock era.”
PATRICK EMERY (BEAT MAGAZINE 7 NOV)
“Comeback albums, even if they’re done by legendary acts, are hit and miss; either it’s great or it doesn’t measure up to they’re earlier days. Heads Up is telling you to listen again, or if you listen for the first time, you’ll hear your new favorite band, but the announcement seems both internal and outward. The reason for that is because Heads Up is loud and wild, but comparable, if not better than their earlier work, which is seminal. In other words, this is a great album, but it also shows how great The Stems ARE, not were. They haven’t missed a beat during their long hiatus. Instead, they’ve returned with an album that shows a real band that rocks better and harder with age. There are few, if any bands like that which come to mind.”
THE UMBRELLA (AUSTIN TEXAS – March 2008)
The promotion of HEADS UP began in earnest Around Australia in late 2007 with a sold out “CLASH OF THE TITANS” tour with Radio Birdman and the Hoodoo Gurus. Two successful tours of Australia soon followed.
Since then they have played their brand of R & B based 60’s garage rock in around the world touring overseas extensively. Highlights include sold out shows in Spain, Italy, The UK, The USA, Norway and a two amazing sold out tours of Japan where it seems fans have only recently discovered them. In 2008 the Stems also played at Austin Texas’s SOUTH BY SOUTH WEST Festival to much acclaim.
A local review by an Austin writer during the SSW festival proclaimed “Seeing them at South By Southwest this year was a life changing event. For many of you who were lucky enough to see them or at least, heard them for the first time this year, you might feel the same”.
Don’t miss your last chance to see one of Australia’s legendary bands strut their stuff one last time.
THE STEMS FAREWELL TOUR OF EUROPE!