Interview: The Predators
Long time coming
Taking advantage of the circumstances that Covid through at them and the (relative) freedom afforded to Queensland residents over the last year, Brisbane based The Predators managed to final record a debut album 15 years after their first EP dropped. Made up of the three original members of Aussie legends Powderfinger, this project has been germinating for some time.
My conversation with The Predators starts out like so many others in the last 18 months. Vocalist/drummer Steven (Bish) Bishop has family walking around in the background, bass player John (JC) Collins has to get headphones as he's in his office in a bar/music venue, and I'm apologising for the state of my house as I'm moving the following day, and the noise of the dishwasher that's on next to my dining table. Standard Zoom fare then. What follows is not a standard story, but one of Brisbane music royalty finally releasing their first album.
John Collins: "We played a gig on Friday night. A sold out release show at the Triffid to about 400 people. It can normally hold about 800, but capacity's only about 400. Was good fun, eh Bish?"
Steven Bishop: "Yeah, it was a very good gig" replied Bishop. "Enjoyed it myself. Doesn't happen often!"
JC: "Everyone was just really stoked to be out. It felt like a real gig, like old school, it was really good."
SB: "And the supports as well, were very excited to be playing in front of people."
JC "The best part was playing some new stuff. I think a couple of years ago was the last time we played. And we stopped, we just needed some new stuff to play."
It turns out that the three Powderfinger originals had a plan to release an album all along. The Predators started as a side project after Powderfinger went on hiatus in 2004. 2006 saw them record and release their first EP, but not long after Powderfinger were back on, so The Predators were put on hold as JC and Ian Haug went back to work on that.
Even though an album was always the plan. The change in, well everything, thanks to Covid meant that it only took 15 years, rather than stay a dream. Bishop says that was a one positive out of a terrible Covid year. "We were all actually able to have some time out of our schedules, to actually write and record, stationery in one place to do that. The process was good as well, we took our time and did a few days here and there. Coming in, rehashing, writing, so, it wasn't a stressful experience."
JC: "It was something positive to do in a business so heavily affected by Covid. Mental health is a big issue in our industry, so for me, it was good to do something creative and keep me distracted from what were really tough times. So I really enjoyed it. Didn't I Bish? I was out there Thursday nights, staying in the studio at (Ian) Haugies place, and I'd get there with my esky full of beers and nice wines. It was like 'night off. Excellent'. Run away from the world. I meant a lot to me, quite honestly. To be with great mates who I've always enjoyed playing music with."
Most of what we hear on the album 'Everybody Loves' was written recently, but some were rehashed ideas that had been on ice for long time. Before Covid, JC would bring in some songs on guitar and they'd put down some drum tracks and drum machines. But Bishop was the one charged with writing and performing the lyrics.
JC: "After Bish went away to write some lyrics and come up with ideas, then we got in a room and played them and turned them into Predators songs. Like 'Taking Fire' was written on an acoustic guitar, but never intended to end up like that. And a couple of songs came out from jamming, we'd spend a couple of hours just playing and recording and if that sounded good thinking what could we do it. I think 'The Sea' was one that started like that, just a jam, a groove between Bish and I. You can sense it was a lot of fun, it wasn't really hard work, I think that was really enjoyable about that as well."
SB: "Without Covid it probably would have been more stressful and packed into shorter spaces of time. We probably would have done one or two long weekends and finished it quickly. So we defintely had a chance to go over the material, spend more time and pace ourselves basically."
JC: "Not like the luxury we had in Powderfinger where you had days and weeks, all-day everyday to spend on it. That was different."
SB: "I'm very proud of it. The whole album. Go to woah has cleaned up quite well. And the extra effort has paid off in my mind anyway. And you're always listening... And it was good also, having a lenient producer, who was open to ideas as well. Who could take ideas forward.
JC: "Becasue we're a bit older. We've got full time jobs, we're busy people. So to find ourselves the time to put a record together and be happy with it to. To push ourselves to make something we're really proud of. I think it's really original too - everyone says I can hear a bit of this or that - that's cool, because that's our influences. But at the end of the day I wouldn't say the record sounds like one particular band, or artist. It sounds like The Predators to me. It would have been really easy for us to do an alternative country record. To push ourselves to do something a bit more textured, I'm really happy that we did that."
SB: "Getting back in a doing an album has rejuvinated my musical journey. I've also got small kids, so it's really good to show them. I had drifted away a fair bit over the years. But now that I'm a bit older. it's actually nicer. I appreciate it a lot more. Appreciate being able to move forward and put out the album."
JC: "It was a great sign the other day to see you go out there and buy a new drum seat. Real committment. Nothing like a bit of retail therapy to say you're back."
The Predators debut album Everybody Loves is out now on all good streaming platforms. They've got a Christmas show lined up in Brisbane on 15 Dec if you happen to be playing MIQ bingo. They also promised they'd try and make it to New Zealand when things allow too.