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Silverchair

Silverchair

Alternative rock group

Unlike the teenage pop acts of yesteryear, Silverchair comes across sounding far more mature than their relative youth and inexperience might allow. Dismissed by some critics who considered them unviable, the band's 1995 debut, Frogstomp, nevertheless sold four million copies worldwide and made them one of the most successful acts ever to emerge from Australia. Silverchair's success can partly be attributed to timing, while their very grown-up modern rock sound might be ascribed to the cultural pervasiveness of rock and roll—the teenagers of their age group, born in the late 1970s, were exposed to rock music at a precociously young age, thanks in part to music videos.

Silverchair came together in Merewether, a beachfront suburb of Newcastle, Australia, in the early 1990s. Daniel Johns, Chris Joannou, and Ben Gillies had known each other since they were in elementary school, and, as junior-high-schoolers, decided to start a band. They called themselves the Innocent Criminals. Johns told Rolling Stone writer David Fricke about their humble origins: "We just wanted to be a garage band. We started playing Black Sabbath and [Led] Zeppelin covers because we had nothing to do. We never expected to do anything." Eventually they started writing their own songs.

Teenage life in Merewether continued uninterrupted for the trio until June of 1994, when they sent in a demo tape to "Pick Me," a contest sponsored by a television music program in Australia. The first track was a six-minute-plus version of "Tomorrow," and it astonished one judge after another. Out of the 800 entries, their demo tape won first prize. The prize was a day in a real recording studio and the chance to make a video for their song. The shorter, more polished version of "Tomorrow" soon began receiving air play in Australia, and Australian record companies were begging to sign them. Yet it was not until two executives from the Sony-affiliated Murmur label came to see a live show in Newcastle that things clicked. Murmur cofounder John O'Donnell told Fricke that "they were literally playing to 15 people. … The important thing was they had good, well-written songs, and Daniel's voice was amazing. I remember how we tried to hide our excitement, because you don't want to look too uncool when you're trying to sign a band."

A name change was in order, and the band made one up by combining the Nirvana song "Sliver," which they accidentally misspelled, with "Berlin Chair," the title of another favorite song by the Australian band You Am I. As a result, the band's name changed from the Innocent Criminals to Silverchair. By the end of 1994 "Tomorrow" had reached number one in Australia. In January of 1995 they played the Australian equivalent of Lollapalooza, Big Day Out (in Australia, winter comes in June and July), and drew an enormous, enthusiastic crowd. Ironically, the day also marked the first concert that Johns, Joannou, and Gillies had ever seen. Murmur released Silverchair's four-song EP in Australia, and the band recorded a full-length LP in nine days over a school vacation.

Frogstomp was released in the spring of 1995 and made them stars elsewhere as well. The tracks included "Tomorrow," which would become Australia's fourth best-selling single in history, as well as "Pure Massacre" and "Israel's Son." The album would eventually sell four million copies and make the teenagers millionaires. Yet North American critics derisively sniped about their age and compared them to Black Sabbath and Nirvana. Unfortunately for Johns, he even resembled the late lead singer of the latter band, cult icon Kurt Cobain. In response to the negative comments about their age, when they won a 1995 ARIA—the Australian equivalent of a Grammy—the band sent their producer's seven-year-old to the stage to accept the award. Other critics took a more measured view, exemplified by Fricke, who declared that "the unpretentious vitality of Johns's singing and the precociously vivid ache he can summon in something like ‘Suicidal Dream’ is a genuine treat."

For Silverchair, being a major alternative act whose members were still underage and in school had definite disadvantages. Their mothers, who acted as their management team for a time, would supervise recording sessions. Furthermore, their fathers took time off from their jobs to chaperon the group's North American tour dates in late 1995 and early 1996, and served as the band's roadies. The trio struck a deal with Newcastle High School whereby they were allowed to complete their schoolwork while on the road. They even earned special credits in music. "It's really great because one of the requirements of this course is to give them a recorded piece of music," Gillies told Fricke. "So we can just give 'em the CD and go, thank you very much!"

Silverchair's Australian fan base grew to monstrous proportions. A group of Melbourne teenage girls formed a tribute band, and though Silverchair tried to limit press coverage to smaller magazines, canceling interviews with Australia's national music press, the coverage was still intense. Their manager, John Watson, informed Fricke that such press hassles are tough for anyone, let alone three unassuming teenagers. Johns was ambushed while riding his bike to school by a photographer who had bribed a classmate to ascertain his route. "It's breathtaking, man, and hard enough for you and I to deal with," Watson told Fricke. "Think about being 16 and having this."

For the Record …

Members include Ben Gillies (born c. 1979), drums; Chris Joannou (born c. 1979), bass; Daniel Johns (born April, 1979), vocals, guitar.

Band formed in 1992, in Merewether, Australia, as the Innocent Criminals; demo tape, with song "Tomorrow," won national competition in Australia; re-recorded song and made video; signed with Murmur Records (an affiliate of Sony Music), released Frogstomp LP, 1995; toured with Red Hot Chili Peppers; released sophomore LP Freak Show, 1997; released Diorama, 2002; released Live from Faraway Stables, 2003; Young Modern, 2007.

Awards: Grand prize in "Pick Me," a talent search contest in Australia, 1994; 20 ARIA awards; 2 APRA awards; 1 World Music award; 3 MTV Video Music awards; 4 Rolling Stone awards.

Addresses: Record company—EMI Australia, 98 - 100 Glover St., P.O. Box 311, Cremorne, NSW 2090. Website—http://www.chairpage.com/.

Surprisingly, their status as rock stars was not an issue at school, to which they returned on a daily basis in 1996 to begin their senior year. "It's pretty much a non-subject," Gillies told Fricke. "People know to stay away from it, and we keep away from it as well." During 1996 the band returned to the studio to record a followup to their ultra-successful debut. Freak Show was produced by Nick Launay, who had done albums for Killing Joke and Gang of Four, and released in early 1997. Its title was a reflection of their intense experiences over the last few years. "Being in a band is a lot like working in a circus or freak show," Johns told a reporter from Guitar World. "You set up and play and then pack up and move to the next city."

The songs on Freak Show were also a reflection of a new maturity. Tracks like "Slave," "Abuse Me," and "Cemetery" showed a more introspective dark side as the band members emerged out of adolescence. "On the first album, we didn't have much input into how the songs sounded," Johns admitted to Rolling Stone writer Matt Hendrickson, and Hendrickson agreed that a shift had indeed occurred. "If Frogstomp was a sprawling slab of sound, Freak Show is more diverse, with bursts of guitar blending easily with strings, acoustic moments and quasi-Indian elements," Hendrickson wrote.

When Freak Show was released and began climbing the alternative charts, the band was set to graduate from high school. As 18-year-olds, they remained somewhat indifferent to their future. Gillies used to think about apprenticing with his father, a plumber, but decided he might head into sound engineering instead. Joannou knew that mechanical training awaited him should he grow weary of the rock-star scene. Their manager, however, pointed out that Silverchair's nonchalance was quite normal. "What do you really care about when you're that age?," he asked Fricke. "The only thing that mattered was that you looked good in the eyes of your friends. That you weren't a geek."

In 2002 the band released Diorama, which they hoped would dispel the image some had of them as a youth band who, Johns told Matt Blackett in Guitar Player, put out "an album everybody loves, and then is forgotten when the novelty wears off." The album, produced by Van Dyke Parks, featured lush orchestrations and complex chord patterns. Blackett wrote that it successfully took Silverchair to "the next level and beyond." Johns told Blackett that because the band members were so young when they recorded their first albums, "we wanted to play music that was like what we listened to. As a result, it came off as derivative. Now, I really struggle to write music that sounds fresh and new to me."

However, before the band could tour in support of the album, Johns became ill with a serious virus that caused him to have severe arthritis. He was unable to stand or play his guitar, forcing the band to cancel their North American and European tours. He recovered by 2003, and that same year married singer Natalie Imbruglia in a secret ceremony on a tropical island off the coast of Australia. (The couple split in 2007.)

The band went on indefinite hiatus in 2003, although they refuted media reports that they had split up. The members engaged in independent projects and said they were just taking time out and would get together again when they felt it was the right time. In 2005 that time arrived, with the sold-out WaveAid benefit concert in Sydney on January 29, 2005. The concert raised over $2,500,000 for the victims of the 2004 tsunami that ravaged nations across Asia. The members of the band enjoyed working together so much that they decided it was time to work together again, and they decided to fund the entire album themselves so they would have creative control of the project. That album, Young Modern, was released in 2007. On the group's Web site, Daniel Johns said, "Young Modern is all about acceptance. It's about embracing who we are as a band and just really enjoying ourselves because that's what really matters. Hopefully listening to this album will make other people feel what we feel when we play these songs together because I've finally figured out that that's a very special feeling."

Selected discography

Frogstomp, Sony, 1995.

Tomorrow (EP), Sony, 1995.

Freak Show, Sony, 1997.

Diorama, Sony, 2002.

Young Modern, Independent, 2007.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, August 17, 2002, p. 47.

The Buzz, August 1995.

Canadian Musician, July-August 2003, p. 58.

Guitar Player, August 2002, p. 46.

Guitar World, February 1997.

Rolling Stone, February 22, 1996, pp. 44-47, p. 64; February 6, 1997, p. 17.

Online

Silverchair Official Web Site, http://www.chairpage.com/biography/ (February 17, 2008).

http://mtv.com

http://www.eonline.com, December 31, 2003.

—Carol Brennan and Kelly Winters

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Silverchair

Silverchair

Alternative rock band

Catapulted to Rock Stardom

Balanced High School and Rock Star Lives

Recorded Follow-up to Frogstomp

Selected discography

Sources

Unlike the teenage pop acts of yesteryear, Silver chair comes across sounding far more mature than their relative youth and inexperience might allow. Dismissed by some critics who considered them an unviable band, the bands 1995 debut, Frogstomp, nevertheless sold four million copies worldwide and made them one of the most successful acts to ever emerge from Australia. Silverchairs success can partly be attributed to timing, while their very grown-up, modern-rock sound might be ascribed to the cultural pervasiveness of rock and rollthe teenagers of their age group, born in the late 1970s, have been exposed to rock music at a precociously young age, thanks in part to music videos.

Silverchair came together in Merewether, a beachfront suburb of Newcastle, Australia, in the early 1990s. Daniel Johns, Chris Joannou, and Ben Gillies had known each other since they were in elementary school, and, as junior-high-schoolers, decided to start a band. They called themselves the Innocent Criminals. Johns told Rolling Stone writer David Fricke about their humble origins: We just wanted to be a garage band. We started playing Black Sabbath and [Led] Zeppelin covers because we had nothing to do. We never expected to do anything. Eventually they started writing their own songs.

Teenage life in Merewether continued uninterrupted for the trio until June of 1994, when they sent in a demo tape to Pick Me, a contest sponsored by a television music program in Australia. The first track was a six-minute-plus version of Tomorrow, and it astonished one judge after another. Out of the 800 entries, their demo tape won first prize. The prize was a day in a real recording studio and the chance to make a video for their song. The shorter, more polished version of Tomorrow soon began receiving air play in Australia, and Australian record companies were begging to sign them. Yet, it was not until two executives from the Sony-affiliated Murmur label came to see a live show in Newcastle that things clicked. Murmur co-founder John ODonnell told Rolling Stones Fricke that they were literally playing to 15 people. The important thing was they had good, well-written songs, and Daniels voice was amazing. I remember how we tried to hide our excitement, because you dont want to look too uncool when youre trying to sign a band.

Catapulted to Rock Stardom

A name change was in order, and the band made up one by combining the Nirvana song Sliver, which they accidentally misspelled, with Berlin Chair, the title of

For the Record

Members are Ben Gillies (born c1979), drums; Chris Joannou (born c1979), bass; and Daniel Johns (born April, 1979), vocals; guitar.

Band formed in 1992, in Merewether, Australia, as the Innocent Criminals; submitted demo tape, with the song Tomorrow, to a national competition in Australia; won contest, re-recorded the song, and made a video; signed with Murmur Records (an affiliate of Sony Music), and released Frogstomp LP, 1995; toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers; released sophomore LP, Freak Show in February 1997.

Awards: Won the grand prize in Pick Me, a talent-search contest in Australia, 1994; received an ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Award for Frogstomp, 1995; voted Readers Choice award, Best New Band, Metal Edge magazine, 1996.

Addresses: Record company Murmur Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

another favorite song by the Australian band You Am I. As a result, the bands name changed from the Innocent Criminals to Silverchair. By the end of 1994, Tomorrow had reached number one in Australia. In January of 1995 they played the Australian equivalent of Lollapa-looza, Big Day Out (in Australia, the seasons are backwardwinter comes in June and July), and drew an enormous, enthusiastic crowd. Ironically, the day also marked the first concert Johns, Joannou, and Gillies ever sawThe Screaming Jets, the headliner act. Murmur released Silverchairs four-song EP in Australia, and the band recorded a full-length LP in nine days over a school vacation.

Frogstomp was released in the spring of 1995 and made them stars elsewhere as well. The tracks included Tomorrow, which would become Australias fourth best-selling single in history, as well as Pure Massacre and Israels Son. Frogstomp would eventually sell four million copies and make the teenagers millionaires. Yet North American critics derisively sniped about their age and compared them to Black Sabbath and Nirvana. Unfortunately for Johns, he even resembled the late lead singer of the latter band, cult icon Kurt Cobain. In response to the negative comments about their age, when they won a 1995 ARIAthe Australian equivalent of a Grammythe band sent their producers seven-year-old to the stage to accept the award. Other critics took a more measured view, exemplified by Fricke in Rolling Stone who opined, the unpretentious vitality of Johnss singing and the precociously vivid ache he can summon in something like Suicidal Dream is a genuine treat.

Balanced High School and Rock Star Lives

For Silverchair, being a major alternative act whose members were still underage and in school had definite disadvantages. Their mothers, who acted as their management team for a time, would supervise recording sessions. Furthermore, their fathers took time off from their jobs to chaperon their North American tour dates in late 1995 and early 1996, and served as the bands roadies. The trio struck a deal with Newcastle High School whereby they were allowed to complete their schoolwork while on the road. They even earned special credits in music. Its really great because one of the requirements of this course is to give them a recorded piece of music, Gillies told Rolling Stone writer Fricke. So we can just give em the CD and go, thank you very much!

Silverchairs Australian fan base has grown to monstrous proportions. A group of Melbourne teenage girls formed atribute band, and though Silverchair have tried to limit press coverage to smaller magazines, canceling interviews with Australias national music press, the coverage is still intense. Their manager, John Watson, informed Rolling Stones Fricke that such press hassles are tough for anyone, let alone three unassuming teenagers. Johns was ambushed while riding his bike to school by a photographer who had bribed a classmate to ascertain his route. Its breathtaking, man, and hard enough for you and I to deal with, Watson told Fricke. Think about being 16 and having this.

Recorded Follow-up to Frogstomp

Surprisingly, their status as rock stars was not an issue at school, to which they returned on a day-to-day basis in 1996 to begin their senior year. Its pretty much a non-subject, Gillies told Rolling Stones Fricke. People know to stay away from it, and we keep away from it as well. If you talk about it, people think youre acting like Oh, Im in a band, Im really cool. It sounds pretty dumb. During 1996, the band returned to the studio to record a follow-up to their ultra-successful debut. Freak Show was produced by Nick Launay, who had done albums for Killing Joke and Gang of Four, and released in early 1997. Its title was a reflection of their intense experiences over the last few years. Being in a band is a lot like working in a circus or freak show, Johns told Guitar World. You set up and play and then pack up and move to the next city.

The songs on Freak Show were also a reflection of a new maturity. Tracks like Slave, Abuse Me, and Cemetery showed a more introspective dark side as the band members emerged out of adolescence. On the first album, we didnt have much input into how the songs sounded, Johns admitted to Rolling Stone writer Matt Hendrickson, and Hendrickson agreed that a shift had indeed occurred. If Frogstomp was a sprawling slab of sound, Freak Show is more diverse, with bursts of guitar blending easily with strings, acoustic moments and quasi-Indian elements, Hendrickson wrote.

When Freak Show was released and began climbing the alternative charts, the band was set to graduate from high school. As 18-year-olds, they remained somewhat indifferent to their future. Gillies used to think about apprenticing with his father, a plumber, but thinks he might head into sound engineering instead. Joannou knows that mechanical training awaits him should he grow weary of the rock-star scene. Their manager, however, pointed out that Silverchairs nonchalance is quite normal. What do you really care about when youre that age?, he posed to Fricke. The only thing that mattered was that you looked good in the eyes of your friends. That you werent a geek.

Selected discography

Frogstomp, Sony, 1995.

Tomorrow (EP), Sony, 1995.

Freak Show, Sony, 1997.

Sources

Periodicals

Buzz, August 1995.

Guitar World, February 1997.

Rolling Stone, February 22, 1996, pp. 44-47, p. 64; February 6, 1997, p. 17.

Online

http://mtv.com

Carol Brennan

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Silverchair." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Silverchair." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/silverchair

"Silverchair." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/silverchair