Basics Instinct

Back in 2002, long before he was topping charts around the world as Gotye, Wally De Backer began sweating it out behind the drums with bassist Kris Schroeder as a duo, before linking up with guitarist Tim Heath in 2004. After releasing four studio albums and clocking up almost 1000 shows, the trio touted as one of Australia’s hardest-working bands called an indefinite hiatus. Like any great relationship, three years apart has yielded unanticipated results, each member returning to The Basics with an interesting story to tell.

Heath backed up his work on the film The Rise and Rise of Richard Latté with forming and touring his band Blood Red Bird, while De Backer picked up three Grammys, topping the charts with Somebody that I used to Know in more than 20 countries. On a less musical level, Schroeder spent 24 months working for the Red Cross in Kenya.

“I was essentially running one of the branches in a town called Machakos, which is about 100kms out of Nairobi. I worked in food security, youth empowerment, gender empowerment and water and sanitation programs, alongside the government of Kenya and The World Food Program.”

With the impending trial of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the political climate within Kenya is tense to say the least.

“I got in a bit too deep with political issues that were ongoing in the country and that was definitely the main motivation for me coming home.”

The boys’ reunion generated enough buzz to sell out most shows on the East Coast circuit. Whilst it’s undeniable that The Basics developed a huge fan-base through their consistent touring and solid album work prior to 2010, it’s hard to ignore the simple fact that De Backer’s Gotye project brings a new element into play. When asked if he felt his role with The Basics would be viewed differently following his success as Gotye, De Backer replies with utter transparency.

“I can’t really generalize about the public – but in terms of existing Basics fans – we saw a lot of old and new faces at our first show in Brisbane. Some people might have been prompted to come along because they knew my record and found they loved the show, and others to just catch up with old friends.”

Schroeder adds, “in terms of new fans, I think overseas that [Gotye] has had an impact, but as far as Australia goes I don’t see a huge difference. I mean, yes, there’s probably that excitement, it’s the combined thing of us getting back together and the fact that Wally is a part of it.”

Like old friends meeting after too long, the boys insist that it feels the same as it always did playing together. Even putting together their release Leftovers – a mammoth offering of 38 tracks from the catalogue – Heath notes that it didn’t particularly alter their outlook for creating new music.

Chief songwriter for The Basics, Schroeder chips in; “The half a dozen songs I’ve been working on came before Leftovers anyway, so I don’t think the compilation per say has had a great impact on the composition. It was just a reminder of the wide range of stuff we’ve attempted and pulled off to varying degrees, a reminder that can do a bit of everything.”

On the new sound that’s coming out, De backer jokes, “It’s the lovechild of The John Butler Trio and The Cat Empire, with the added element of The Red Cross.”

“What’s important is that we haven’t set any goals, we’re just taking it one step at a time. At first, we were just doing a couple of shows; we then added shows and new songs too. Maybe next we’ll take over the world…now Pinky and the Brain are off air it leaves that goal open without rivals,” Schroeder ponders.

The Basics are guest artists at this year’s Main Street Mornington Festival, Sunday October 20. They also feature on the bill for Queenscliff Music Festival, November 22-24.


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