Melbourne’s Backyard Surgeons have to be one of Australia’s most undervalued melodic punk bands. A band that have used nothing but hard work and the DIY ethic to get their music out to the punks in Oz with no expected returns. Doing what they do best, the band are taking themselves from the safety of Australian democracy, putting guitars in cases and heading out on a extensive tour of Asia. Guitarist, Ryan Melder, had no qualms in taking time out of their Tasmanian tour to sit down and discuss the expectations and assumptions that the band have about traveling to places in the world that many other bands wouldn’t tread.
Read the full interview, here.
For many people, Backyard Surgeons, won’t be a familiar name. Ryan cut down what is a long story into the main events that happened to bring the gents together. “Honestly it’s just us meeting each other in really random places. I moved down to a place in South East Melbourne and I met Morgan down there. I knew him from another band he used to play in but I didn’t know he was living in Seaford at the time and I just met him walking home from the train station. Then we got talking and he was looking for a band so we did some demos. We needed a bass player and I knew Trent through a few people so I got him on bass then we were looking for a guitarist for ages. Morgan was working on a worksite and he heard Matt singing NOFX so he just started quizzing Matt about bands and stuff and he just happened to play guitar so we got him in and he fit. We had a drummer, Andy, who was a mate of mine who left then we got Adrian. It’s really just a bunch of dudes that happened to know each other.”
After two years together and weekend tours around the Australian countryside, September will see the band take their gear and venture into the unchartered lands of Asia. Whilst it is not uncommon to find Australian bands, heading to Asia it was with one conversation and no fear that Backyard Surgeons decided to take it upon themselves to make the tour happen.
“We’re trying to remember the other day, why the hell we actually decided to go. I think it was when we were driving home from Adelaide and we thought how cool it would be to play overseas. Just even one or two shows. I just put it out to the guys and everyone was pretty stoked on it and we were so keen to get over there with AirAsia flights so we’re kind of treating it as a holiday. So we thought let’s book some shows and go and see what happens. I emailed a few promoters and they were stoked and wanted to book us straight away. One of the promoters in Indonesia offered us a tour of China. We were suss on it at the start but we thought ‘how many bands get to tour China? Let’s just do it!’ Then what happened was the China tour fell through and we were bummed so we decided to book it ourselves. At the time we didn’t know how much work it would be. “
Whilst now the shows are booked, venues are on board and visas are sorted, it initially wasn’t all roses trying to get this tour off the ground. The band ran into several issues, the language barrier being the hardest to conquer. Not letting this be a deterrent, they went ahead with booking the shows themselves which turned out to be more challenging than expected.
“Honestly, I’d probably never, ever do it again. Very little people speak English, which is fair enough, it’s China. It was at the point where I was like ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ because no one was responding to my emails, I bought phone cards and I was ringing up venues in China trying to talk to them and they couldn’t understand what I was saying so I was about to throw in the towel. I spoke to my brother and was telling him and he had a mate into punk rock in China who might have been able to help us out. This guy, Tom, has taken over the whole tour and booked all the shows so now it’s alright but I wouldn’t recommend any band trying to do a DIY tour of China because it will probably never happen.”
Having nothing to go off, except maybe Backstage Passport, Ryan and the gents have no idea what to expect from the shows. “We don’t expect massive shows. We always said from the start that we don’t care if we’re playing to two people, as long as we’re having fun. At the end of the day, on stage, as long as we nail the songs that we’ve practiced and have fun then who cares who we are playing to. It doesn’t matter to us.”
Whilst treating the whole event as holiday with shows in between, in three and half weeks the gents will play 18 shows in 20 days covering China, Malayasia and Singapore in their trip. “We made it like that because we don’t want to be hanging around doing nothing. We still want to do all that touristy stuff like the Great Wall. It’s always going to be more of a holiday than a tour.”
While five mates causing havoc elsewhere in the world is to be expected, some band members had to sacrifice their jobs to take their chances on this tour. “It got to the point where we were like ‘screw it’, we’re all taking time off. Trent is quitting his job for this. They said ‘if you leave you don’t have a job’ then he just thought screw it. ‘I’m never going to get the opportunity to tour China again so see you later’. Matt has quit his job as well. We’re not expecting anything from this but a good time. It’s one of those things where you do it or you don’t and they decided that they wanted to do it so we’re happy to do it with them. It’s an opportunity you can’t pass up, you don’t want to regret something like that.”
They’ve already set sail, playing their first show in Hong Kong on the 2nd of September. They’ve also got a friend in tow with a video camera to shoot a doco of their experiences and possibly a film clip while their over there. Stay tuned to DS and the Backyard Surgeons blog for updates about the tour and their misadventures.
Godspeed guys and fingers crossed that no one ends up in the Shanghai Hilton!