Australian Rock Collective Walks Along Abbey Road Once More

Alice Worley

Davey Lane of You Am I, Kram of Spiderbait, Mark Wilson of Jet, and Darren Middleton of Powderfinger. These are the four Aussie rock legends that make up supergroup Australian Rock Collective (ARC), and what a supergroup it is.

Fresh off their highly successful Abbey Road tour of 2019, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the iconic Beatles album, the boys are back for round two.

How does a band like this come together in the first place? I had the pleasure of chatting to Davey Lane about how the guys got started.

“Darren got an offer to put a band together for the World Cup in 2014. We were hanging out and he asked if I was around to join him for this show in Brazil, and as if I’m gonna knock back an opportunity like that! Mark Wilson from Jet and Kram were super keen too. So we went and played at the World Cup and then not too much after that.”

But word-of-mouth was bringing people’s attention to ARC, and they simply needed to do another project together.

Abbey Road came up. Kram and I were just talking around the end of 2018 and I was like, ‘Well, the 50th anniversary is near,” and Kram is, in a lot of ways, the motivating force behind the band. He’s a ball of positive energy. So he’s like, ‘Yep, we gotta do this! We gotta do this!’ so he was all gung-ho and got the ball rolling.

The tour was immensely popular and critically heralded, so the guys wanted to keep it going.

“It all came together and went well and the offer came up to do another little lap around, maybe to go through a few more regional places. And our sights are set on doing a different kind of show later this year too.”

The Beatles themselves had quite an impact on musicians from their era and onwards. I wondered if Davey and the rest of the band felt that they shaped their own musical styles, and why bringing this album to the forefront was so important to them.

“I think I can speak for all of us and say The Beatles were a pretty fundamental influence on all of us. We all knew the 50th anniversary was rolling around, and for me it’s a landmark record in their career because it was the last one they recorded. There’s something kinda magical about that record, we’re always up for a challenge, and there’s pretty challenging material to replicate live on that album. The Beatles never played it live, obviously. We figured we might as well give it a crack.”

Despite the album’s half-century age, the songs exhibited were well before their time and absolutely deserve a 21st century reimagining. Davey spoke of where this masterpiece could be taken, and where it was taking him and the other members of ARC as they performed it.

“The technology to replicate that stuff live wasn’t around in 1969 anyway. There’s something magical about playing those songs; it’s something that, once you have the parts in your head, you just lean into it and let the music propel itself. It’s a feeling like no other.”

The Beatles came at a time when pop music didn’t really have a structure or a formula. There weren’t any rules, as such, as to what a pop song was supposed to sound like. It’s because of this that their music is so attractive to such accomplished musicians, like the members of ARC. It’s given them some intriguing material to interpret, as Davey elaborates.

“The ‘60s were an era of breakthrough experimentation where things were done for the first time. From about the ‘80s everyone was doing different versions of things that have been done before. When you listen to pop radio nowadays, everything’s just so formulaic; you can predict what chord is coming next in the song and what the hook’s gonna be. Not to say there isn’t amazing music being made out there, but what’s on pop radio isn’t that challenging. That’s what’s exciting about The Beatles; it is challenging. Not watered down by any means.”

Aussie music fans may remember Davey and Kram’s other project together: The Wrights. Along with other legends such as Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger) and Phil Jameson (Grinspoon), they were a tribute to former Easybeats frontman Stevie Wright, and their 11-minute cover of his hit Evie became popular all over again when they performed it for the first time at the 2004 ARIAs. 

But Davey makes you realise that ARC is something much bigger.

“We only really did that one single and that was it. There wasn’t a plan to do more. We don’t really have too much of a plan with what we’re doing now, per se, but we’re keeping the ball rolling. There’s rumblings of recording our own stuff but nothing’s set in stone. As long as we’re all enjoying each other’s company and having fun doing this. We’ve all got other bands as well, but we’ll take each opportunity as it comes.”

So while the supergroup doesn’t have any cemented plans after Abbey Road, they’re not calling it quits any time soon. I, for one, am very interested to see what this gathering of iconic music masters are going to show us next.

Abbey Road Live featuring Davey Lane, Kram, Mark Wilson, and Darren Middleton is at Canberra Theatre on Saturday, 22 February. Tickets on sale at canberratheatrecentre.com.au

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