Incendiary instrumental Perth trio, Storytime, are reuniting with some new material to join Shihad on a run of dates kicking off on Thursday, June 23, at Settlers Tavern, Margaret River; Friday-Saturday, June 24-25, at the Rosemount Hotel; and Sunday, June 26, at the Newport Hotel. BOB GORDON chats with guitarist, Ben Frichot.
Storytime first came to prominence when you entered (and won) the National Campus Band Competition in 1993. What was the story up until that point?
Well up until that point we were just three kids that grew up together and jammed every chance we could get. We were still teenagers when that happened and it really took us by surprise. My father had suddenly died in a car accident right before that happened and I was really burying myself in the music at that point. The band were my best friends and my family at that point so we were playing and running about like a gang with no tomorrow.
How much did the State and National wins at the Campus Band Comp fast-track what you were doing at the time in terms of profile, touring and recording?
It certainly gave us a start, but a lot of the ‘Music Industry’ at the time were really not into us. Michael Gudinski flat out said he wanted another band he had just signed to win when he handed over the award at the final in Melbourne – a band never heard of again. We were a real underdog and we didn’t fit any box or stereotype. People seemed stunned by our music and the fact that we were instrumental. We were a genuine art house band playing music from our heart and imagination with feel and energy.
It only began there – you worked bloody hard didn’t you?
Once we had a chance to do what we loved we grabbed on with both hands. We played over 200 shows a year, toured six—to-eight months a year and rehearsed five days a week when we weren’t on the road. We loved it.
The music was often intricate and the delivery very physical – what did you want to bring across? From the outside it seemed like a trio of ironmen against the world, but having a great time with it?
I think that description is spot on… except the iron man part! We were a band of brothers then and we still are today. We grew up together, played and toured for years. We have known each other for more of our lives than we haven’t! Its crazy how quickly the energy and the chemistry has come back now we are playing again. It’s the same fun and brotherhood, but I think we are better players and thinking with a more musical mind – less just about the skills.
The chemistry of the people is so important in a genuine band. There is definitely some kind of energy between us that seems to fire up when we play. I think the physical part of the show was just us rocking out to the music and getting right into it. Fuck holding back, we were all in, and firing up for every moment like it was our last. We have been talking about that energy a lot for these shows coming up. I think the attitude is the same but perhaps a bit more positive and less dark. We just want to play well and fire up.
A great deal of Storytime’s music was used for surfing movie soundtracks. What did this do to spread the word?
Our music and style was really embraced by the surfing community and that was a real honour. Ironically none of us are surfers but the surf people really went ape-shit at our gigs. We even had world champions like Tom Curren inviting us to jam and record when he was in Australia. We are really grateful for the support and enthusiasm that the surfing world gave us. We tried to surf many times but it was pretty clear we should stick to playing music. Surfing is super cool, I think the energy of the ocean and the freedom of surf must have some connection to our style of playing.
After a line-up change and final CD release, Sumo, the band split. Was it simply time?
We definitely reached a point where our personal lives were getting more complicated and we needed to take a break. After Sid (Paul Sanbrook, bass) left the band I think we wrote some great stuff with Sumo, but the energy was never the same. Again that dynamic between the people involved is so important on levels that we didn’t even realise at the time. It’s really great having him back and us getting to write and play again.
What, organically, did Storytime teach you that you have utilised over the course of your continuing music career?
Storytime was a real baptism of fire and a super hard-working, hard-playing band. As musicians we got to play and tour with some of the greatest acts in the world from Faith No More through to Suicidal Tendancies or even INXS. We played with a very diverse range of musicians and I think we were learning a little from all of them. And we had a lot to learn! Still do. I think personally we learned how important it is to not sell out or sell your self-respect just for fame or a record contract or some such bullshit. We never for a second flinched on our belief in staying dedicated to the unique values of our own band. And even though that made no sense to a lot of people we were never into it for money or fame – we loved what we were doing! I think that meant the world to us. Of course we could have had a lot more commercial opportunities if we got a singer, but over the years we have all remained proud of the band because we never sold out – never drifted from our original vision. We never sold our self-respect and somehow I think we felt more intact because of that.
So I guess what I learned going into (present-day band) Day Of The Dead was if you love what you do and you have a cool crew in the band then it doesn’t get much better than that! I can understand there are artists out there that play because they want to be famous or they want money, but that’s not what I’m about. Never was, never will be. I just love the music and love to play. I’m in it for the freedom. It is a pure joy and privilege to be a part of both Storytime and Day Of The Dead.
Was it a big decision to bring back the band like this? How are the older men going about playing the songs of the younger men?
It’s funny how this all came about. We were actually invited to play by Shihad. I was super surprised that the guys agreed to do it! But they did and it was like old times. Crazy rehearsal schedules, new tunes and everyone all fired up. It was a lot more work than I bargained for. I am also the artist for the band so I had a whole lot of design work to do on top of the music. It’s been a crazy workload but it’s also been a really exciting process for me.
Regarding the old/young thing, the boys are playing better than ever and I have never stopped, so I’m a whole lot more of a guitar player than when I was a puppy. We had a lot of songs to choose from and we have pulled together our favourites – plus we have been brewing up the new tunes like Air Raiders and Red Planet. I think we are focused on high energy and uplifting tunes. Not so much dark stuff, that’s the biggest difference so far.
You’re in the midst of rehearsing for it, describe Storytime 2016?
Fun, tight, heavy, melodic, rock that makes you feel like you are flying.
And what are the future plans for it?
We have had a huge amount of support and some very interesting offers come in for the future. We will be focusing on some high quality shows and trying to deliver some big performances. And as always, we will be grateful for getting to play and do what we love doing.
Stay updated on all things Storytime at Storytimeband.com.