The Vines

“It’s a hard life,” said Patrick Matthews, bassist for Australian “It” band The Vines, as he sipped a beer around the block from San Francisco’s famous Slim’s nightclub before one of the last dates on the band’s recent headlining tour.

Matthews, frantic singer Craig Nicholls, guitarist Ryan Griffiths and drummer Hamish Rosser, collectively referred to by U.K. fanzine NME as “the new Nirvana,” have been enjoying a bright spotlight cast with religious fervor by the British press.

Plucked from relative obscurity in their home of Sydney on the basis of a few incendiary live shows and a couple of singles, The Vines exploded worldwide, except, perhaps, in the land downunder.

“I guess everyone thinks it’s strange, and it is strange, that we’re sort of equally well known anywhere as our home,” Matthews told POLLSTAR. “But that’s the way it worked out.”

The path began in 1994, when then-fast food workers Matthews and Nicholls decided to pool their love of Nirvana and the Beatles into a band. Their first gig was at a friend’s birthday party, followed by a self-promoted show at a local bar.

Eventually, The Vines, who had developed a sound melding post-grunge intensity with Fab Four melodies, were able to garner enough of a following to land the support slot on an Australian tour by You Am I. Despite the relatively high profile and large venues of that jaunt, few industry watchers or audience members were paying attention.

” … Depending on the city, we had between 100 and maybe 400 people watching us every night because we were first on and there just weren’t crowds turning up to see emerging acts,” Matthews said. “At the Melbourne show, it was like a cavernous place but there were 100 people in there maybe.”

The band began working on its debut album, Highly Evolved, in Los Angeles for Capitol Records during the second half of 2001. Around Christmastime, Matthews said, they signed with The Agency Group for Europe and Creative Artists Agency for North America.

“We didn’t really even headline a show until maybe two years ago, and that was really only by accident because the band that was actually at the top of the bill didn’t want to play last. And even still, we hadn’t made top bill until this year, when we played a few shows in Sydney. It all happened in a rush toward the end.”

To further illustrate: “Once we began touring, we started off in England playing to like 200 people. And then the next time we went back, we were playing to like 400 people,” he said. “The last time we went back, we played at Glastonbury.”

Admittedly, the British press can be an awful lot like a good drinking buddy who declares his love for every woman he lays eyes on; eventually, you come to discount his taste as a mite too indiscriminate. And, more than one “next Nirvana” or “next Beatles” has made it to the “next bargain bin” in a matter of months, sometimes due to the impossibly high expectations placed on the artists and their work.

The Vines

“Hype touches different people in different ways,” Matthews explained. “You’re a journalist, so you read other publications and you see this band The Vines getting mentioned a lot. Most people fans, kids or whatever only read Rolling Stone like once every three months. They notice that we get played on MTV2 six times a day.

“I guess some people are expecting it to go over the top and then we’d be the next Gay Dad,” Matthews said with a laugh, noting that the former buzz band turned “Where Are They Now?” candidate’s ex-road manager was sitting across the table. “I’m not particularly worried.”

The Vines’ live U.S. debut was at April’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. The album was released in July during a club tour of the States that wrapped August 10th with two nights at Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre.

“The tour was extremely successful,” CAA’s Rick Roskin said. “The notion was to go out and play 500-capacity rooms and introduce the band to most of the major markets throughout the country and play through the hype. In some of the more metropolitan cities, the English press bled into the country. That was certainly the case in Canada, where it really took off before anywhere else.

“I think we were pretty close to selling out every show, even some that exceeded our expectations, like selling out the (1,100-capacity) Metro in Chicago” before the record came out.

Roskin said The Vines’ team has made steps to ensure that the boys don’t get lost in the buzz shuffle.

“What the label and what the band and management have done which I think is extremely beneficial is that during this whole process, they’ve relocated the band from Australia to Los Angeles,” he explained. “Some of the bands from overseas only get in once in an album cycle and end up playing only a handful of dates. The Vines have already played one full tour of the country and done a couple other shots at the major markets.

“Our intention is to get them back one more time around before the end of the year, and just step it up very gradually, playing 1,000-seaters and developing a fan base. From there, we’ll see where it unfolds for next year.”

After playing the Reading/Leeds weekend in the U.K. August 23-24, The Vines are headed back home to Sydney for six-week break.