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For most touring bands, coming all the way to Australia to play a round of shows might as well be lumped next to ‘Disposing of a shitty ring in Middle Earth’ in terms of effort. We often forget that our own little slice of hemispherical paradise is literally situated on the opposite side of planet from the mainstay circuits of American & European club shows and festivals, and for this reason, it can take many years for a band to decide to jump across the Pacific pond. So when we ask David Sandström – drummer for Swedish experimental rock outfit Refused – how he feels about returning to Australian shores, his response is suitably elative: “Ridiculously excited.”
With their last turn on the Aussie stage a part of their much-publicised, worldwide reunion tour in 2012, Sandström explains the band’s motivation for returning four years later, and why Australian audiences are such an appealing drawcard. “Towards the end of that leg in 2012, before one of the last shows, we were just looking at each other, going ‘I wish we could keep doing this for another couple of weeks,’” says Sandström with genuine enthusiasm. “Because, you know, in the music world, in America and a lot of Europe, there’s a lot of meekness and anxiety and stuff like that; they’re all ‘too cool’, or ‘not cool’, and we’ve always been those people who only care about the music. It doesn’t matter if it’s trendy or hip or whatever,” he says. “And it seems like, to us at least, that what we saw of the Australian music scene, it’s pretty devoid of any of that. It really just seemed like people cared about the music, and so they came out to see a band that played music, and it was very passionate. That’s the thing about our music: we expect audience participation, and that’s what we got. So, we’re really, really excited to go.”
We don’t really spend a lot of time contemplating it; if anything, our next album will be a lot more visceral and violent than Freedom, and it will probably scare some people away. But we’ll definitely keep changing, that’s for sure.”
[ David Sandström ]
After the dust and euphoria settled on their whirlwind reunion tour, Refused sequestered themselves away, taking another short-lived hiatus from the live circuit to work on their fourth studio album, 2015’s Freedom. When asked how tracks from the latest Refused record will be received Down Under, Sandström is unwavering in his optimism. “Elektra has definitely become a staple of our live set now; people love that song and go absolutely crazy for it. And Dawkins Christ is the same, along with Thought Is Blood, because they’re both really intense and connect with the stuff that we were doing before,” acknowledges Sandström. “Those are the songs that go for the gut reaction, which work best in our live set. Whereas songs like 366 or Old Friends / New War are arranged almost like pop songs, so we basically just play them all and switch them around. But I’d say at least 3 or 4 of them have made it in, and become regular parts of our set.”
For most bands of any relevance within the punk and hardcore community, taking a 17-year gap between records would equate to an efficient death sentence. However, that’s exactly what transpired between the band’s genre-defining, third album The Shape of Punk to Come, and Freedom. But if anything, absence only served to fuel the band’s legacy and make their appeal almost universal. “For our early days, a lot of the people who were in to Refused, were classic, hardcore-punk type people, who wanted us to sound like Sick Of It All or Cro-Mags. But as we kept changing, you know, some of those people go away and we found new listeners. And I think it’s that same type of progression that’s going on now,” admits Sandström. “I’ve definitely noticed a change from when we released Freedom, to the last few American and European tours that we did almost one and half years later. It’s a very eclectic record; I mean, it’s almost progressive rock at some points, and then at others it’s very stylised. So, I think that attracts a certain element of music-going people.”
However, regardless of attendance, Sandström assures us that when the band returns to Australia in January this year, they’ll only have one thing on their mind: the music. “We don’t really reflect on how the audience might respond. We’re only interested if the music excites us,” he says. “We don’t think about it; we just go where we feel the excitement is. We don’t really spend a lot of time contemplating it; if anything, our next album will be a lot more visceral and violent than Freedom, and it will probably scare some people away. But we’ll definitely keep changing, that’s for sure.”
Freedom is out now through Epitaph.
Refused are touring Australia this month with special guests Sick Of It All & High Tension, tickets available here.
Friday January 20, The Tivoli, Brisbane QLD – 18+
Saturday January 21, Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW – Lic/AA
Sunday January 22, HQ, Adelaide SA – 18+
Tuesday January 24, Prince Bandroom, Melbourne VIC – 18+ (SOLD OUT)
Wednesday January 25, Prince Bandroom, Melbourne VIC – 18+
Thursday January 26, Metropolis Fremantle, Fremantle WA – 18+