Interview: Ash Naylor Talks 25 Years of EVEN + Scene & Heard Festival

Interview by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer

There are bands from the 90’s that (thankfully) are still going strong today. One of those is Melbourne rockers, Even. Formed in 1994 by Ash Naylor, Matthew Cotter and Wally (Meanie) Kempton, the trio are this year celebrating 25 years of Even! The tour includes the Scene & Heard Festival which hits Brisbane this Saturday, November 2nd at Eatons Hill Hotel along with a mixed line up of musical talent featuring the likes of The Dandy Warhols, Wolfmother, Butterfingers, Sneaky Sound System and more.

I had the pleasure and honour of chatting to frontman and guitarist, Ash Naylor today about the festival, celebrating 25 years of Even and how a song of theirs was strangely inspired by a nursery rhyme. Naylor is not only a founding member of Even but he also plays with Paul Kelly as part of his touring band as well as for the Rockwiz band, then there is his other band, The Stems and he also does solo shows. With all that and more, Naylor’s days and nights are busier now than he was when Even kicked things off in the booming music scene of the 90’s.

Thanks for taking some time out to chat to me today Ash! Good Call Live are based in Brisbane which means we get to see you this weekend for the Scene & Heard Festival! We are really looking forward to that, you guys must be too?

“Thank you! Yeah, we don’t get to Brisbane as much as we’d like. So, getting to play a festival with all these other great bands, it’s like the 90’s mate! it’s like the good old days, you know?”

Absolutely, yes! Bring back more 90’s style music festivals! The festival is being held at the Eatons Hill Hotel, which is quite a stunning venue with its intricate high ceilings, do you like playing the venue?

“Yeah I have played there a few times, I played there with Dan Sultan and for the ‘Easy Fever’ tour with Tex Perkins, Chris Chaney, Kram and that mob. It’s a great room. It’s a really ornate kind of beer barn, it’s really cool.”

That’s a good way of explaining it, an ornate beer barn, I love that! The line up for Scene & Heard is quite eclectic, there is a really good mix of bands. How do you feel about a mixed bill for a festival?

“I think it’s fantastic. One must assume that people aren’t homogeneous, they like different kinds of music, even if it’s all under one umbrella, if its rock and roll or electronica, there are subtle difference between each group. So yeah I am all for it!”

You are celebrating 25 years of Even! Which coincides with mates of yours, The Dandy Warhols 25th Anniversary also! I had the pleasure of chatting to Peter from The Dandy’s recently and he speaks very highly of you. How did you originally meet them?

“That is very sweet of him, he is a lovely man, Peter. We met them 21 years ago. We met them at the Prince Of Wales in Melbourne. They were doing a headline show for ‘The Dandy Warhols Come Down.’  We opened up for them and they just took us under their wing. They loved us and it was great. It is very flattering when an international band takes a shine to you. We toured with them 6 times between 98 and 2004, we were their go to band. We played with them in Amsterdam and Paris. We’ve done some killer shows with The Dandy’s, we just became buddies you know. We don’t get to play with them much these days, but the friendships have endured. We don’t see each other a lot, but there is a nice connection there.”

It must be pretty special celebrating 25 years alongside such good mates?

“It is pretty cool actually. I mean, we are going about it in different ways. But we are actually opening for them on two occasions for their own tour so it’s very cool! You know, as we all get older and our lives sort of drift into different areas, it’s nice to reconnect. To be able to reconnect at a festival on this sort of milestone year is pretty awesome.”

The first song I heard of yours was Stop And Go Man which was released in ’96, it is a banger of a track; do you recall the day you wrote that song?

“It’s bizarre *laughs* I think I do. I was in South Melbourne, I think I was going to pick up a tape from recording or something, that was when we used to use tape. I was walking along a street and a sort of nursery rhyme melody came to me, it is sort of a bit of a lift from Three Blind Mice. It was a little bit Three Blind Mice-esq *laughs*… *sings* “Three Blind Mice, See how they run… I’m a stop and go man now, I guess I made it somehow” *laughs* So yeah I remember, it must have been about ’95 and I was walking and…actually another credit, my mate Dave Buchannan who actually lived in Brisbane for a good part of his life, he used to refer to you know those men and women on the highways who have the job holding the stop and go sign, which is now stop and slow, but back in the day it was stop and go. We sort of joked about ‘when I grow up I want to be a stop and go man’ *laughs* Just hold a sign for the council and have a well paid job. Hats off to them for doing those jobs though.”

Reflecting back even more to those times, mid 90’s – I was addicted to watching Recovery and attending Big Day Outs and Livid Festivals. The music scene in Brisbane was booming back then! Whilst we will never get those exact times and that except vibe back, we are seeing an increase in music festivals again, Scene & Heard being one of them. What are some of your memories from festivals back then and how is it different to playing festivals now?

“Well I guess back then we were in our 20’s and we were a young band. Wally had done a few festivals with The Meanies so he was experienced in that regard, but Matt and I had never really played festivals before.  It was like a potential instant audience. Once we got the triple j airplay, we got on all these festivals. When you’re playing to a sea of people, even if one percent of those people like you then it is kind of a ready-made audience. It was exciting to be playing in front of lots of people after years of playing to no one at bars and pubs and stuff. It was such a thrill and it’s a thrill that never loses its impact really. It’s different now because we are older. For us to play a festival, it is probably harder for a band like Even to get on a festival now. So, it is more rewarding when we actually do because I think we go over pretty well in that kind of environment.”

You are also playing a solo headline show in Brisbane tomorrow night at The Milk Factory! Such a funky little venue, I love the vibe there. How did the solo show come about?

“A guy called John Peddicks, emailed me out of the blue and asked me if I’d like to do a show and I said, ‘yeah sure!’ I am up there with The Stems this weekend as well. With Radio Birdman. Because I play in The Stems as well, so he saw that and thought ‘yeah let’s put on a solo gig!’ So yeah, that’ll be nice. It was sort of a last-minute thing, but it will be great!”

The last few years have been busy for you, your 7th album ‘Satin Returns’ was released last year, you’ve got your 25 year anniversary shows which include Scene & Heard Festival plus your solo show and your shows with The Stems as well as lots more things you have had going on! Are you busier now than you were in the early years of Even or has it just been a constant whirlwind?

“I am busier now than I have ever been. That’s the challenge that I have to manage, to maintain mental and physical fitness throughout the whole situation. Even were really busy back between ‘96 and ‘99. And then from 2000 onward we have been sort of, very sporadic. But over the years I have been very fortunate to join Paul Kelly’s touring band and the Rockwiz band and a few other things which keep me busy. But at the moment I am busier than I have ever been, which is a good thing. I just have to try and keep my head and maintain focus. It happens in chunks you know; I will tour for weeks on end then I will have a few days up my sleeve where I can just be a regular Joe.”

In August you released your latest single, Mark The Days, can you tell me a little about the track?

“Well this one was recorded in Brisbane actually. With Jeff Lovejoy (Blackbox Recording), at his studios. That was our first time recording with him, we have known Jeff for over 20 years. I just felt we needed to put something fresh out which is a bit of an indicator that we’re still active and that this is what we sound like and we are not trying to reinvent ourselves, we are not trying to reinvent our music, we just want to put out a good single, a good digital single. And you know, it might be a starting point for some people. That often happens with bands, people they come in through the outdoor *laughs* they might hear this as the first song from Even and then they go backwards. I feel that the song stacks up with any other singles we’ve put out. I guess it’s about living in the moment and taking note of the days and enjoy moments man, cos we all know that everything is fleeting.”

I noticed that the ‘Saturn Returns’ album was released on limited edition hot pink and black vinyl; I love brightly coloured vinyl! I also love that so many bands are releasing their albums on vinyl now. Do you have a vinyl collection?

“Yeah I have got more vinyl than any other format, that’s my main format.”

What is your most treasured album that you own on vinyl?

“Oh geez, that’s an amazing question, I have got so many! Ok, alright. I will give you one. I have got a copy of Led Zeppelin‘s, self titled debut album signed by John Paul Jones. So yeah I am going to put that in number one.”  

Oh wow. That is certainly a special one! …Your tour wraps up on November 10 at the Scene & Heard Festival in Newcastle. So what’s next for Even?

“We do two shows over Christmas, or pre-Christmas, we do the Lansdowne in Sydney and The Mallard in Melbourne, they are separate shows from the tour. And we have already penned some gigs in for 2020. We are hoping to record a new record sometime in the next 18 months so this batch of shows will put a bit of an exclamation mark at the end of this 25th Anniversary business and then we will carry on as a functioning band that wont be sort of treading on milestones for a while *laughs* It is just good to play you know? whether it is to 50 people or 500 people, it is just good to play music. As you know, it is such a magical thing to be a part of, so you’ve just got to keep doing it.”

I could not agree more with these sentiments. Music IS such a magical thing to be a part of and I am so glad Even are still bringing us the goods! Catch them this Saturday at Eatons Hill Hotel for the Scene & Heard Festival! More details below.

Follow Even on Facebook HERE.

Follow Ash Naylor on Facebook HERE.

Follow Scene and Heard Festival on Facebook HERE.

Link to event page for Scene & Heard Festival – Brisbane HERE.

Link to Ash’s solo show at The Milk Factory Brisbane HERE.

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