The Living End
The Living End
Bringing together a mix of punk, rockabilly, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll, The Living End became popular in their native Australia, then took their punkabilly sound to the rest of the world. They had success with multiple singles in Australia and the United States from their self-titled debut, then, continuing to grow and evolve, changed their musical direction slightly with their 2001 release Roll On.
The band formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1991 as a rockabilly cover band called the Runaway Boys. It started with high school friends Chris Cheney (vocals/guitar) and Scott Owen (upright bass). The duo continued to play covers until 1994 when they decided to change their name to The Living End at the same time that they began playing original music. They came up with the name after seeing the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll film Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley. At the end of the movie, it says, “The Living End.” Immediately, Cheney and Owen decided it made the perfect name for their musical project. “It’s a ’50s saying, if someone says, ‘ you’re the living end,’ it means you’re a bit wacky,” said Owen in United Magazine.
It was fitting that the band’s name came from the era of one of their biggest influences. As Chris Cheney explained to Dave DiMartino for Yahoo! Launch online, “We kind of borrow from lots of different genres, obviously, but there’s definitely a kind of passion thing there when we play live and a kind of energy that I think comes from the ’50s—originally the ’50s kind of influence, people like Elvis and Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis….”
Around the same time, they enlisted drummer Joe Piripitsi to complete their lineup, and began playing clubs and bars around Australia. “I remember one of the earliest underage shows we did,” Cheney told Cameron Adams in Australia’s Herald Sun. “It was the height of grunge, and we were treated like these Elvis impersonators playing mum and dad-style music.”
The Living End released the EP Hellbound in 1995 and It’s for Your Own Good in 1996. After the latter’s release, Piripitsi left the group and was replaced by drummer Travis Demsey, whom Owen and Cheney had met while he was working at a neighborhood music store in Melbourne.
The Living End band members spent a great deal of time playing anywhere and everywhere they could. “We’d drive for two days through the desert to do one show for 200 kids,” Demsey is quoted in a Yahoo! Launch biography. After sending a copy of their EP and a T-shirt to Green Day, they landed the opening slot on Green Day’s 1996 Australian tour. Once word about their music got out, they also opened for Blink 182 and Offspring.
The following year The Living End released another EP called Second Solution, which they recorded it in just two days to give them something new to sell at their concerts. The EP grabbed more attention than expected, however, reaching the Australian top 40. This publicity and the tours they had done with American bands in Australia gave them brought them international attention. They signed a contract with Reprise Records in 1997.
The Living End introduced themselves to America with Hellbound: It’s for Your Own Good in 1997, whose content was compiled from their EPs. On February 9, 1999, they released their self-titled American debut. By this time, the album track “Prisoner of Society” was Australia’s biggest-selling single of 1998. David Weiss wrote in his Alternative Press review, “The Australian punkabilly trio’s sonic agenda is decidedly non-violent, and their philosophy is simple: Rebellion is music; music is rebellion.”
The Living End reached platinum sales in Australia, while the band was still trying to prove itself in the States. The album included three other singles: “Save the Day,” “All Torn Down,” and “West End Riot.” The Living End continued to skyrocket to success in Australia in 1999, when they received three ARIA awards, the Australian equivalent to the Grammys.
The Living End did not stop their quest for worldwide success. After playing in the Vans Warped tour, the group performed at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in Britain, and completed two tours of Japan. From there they headed right back into the studio to record their next release, produced by Nick Launay. The
Members include Chris Cheney (born on January 2, 1975), vocals, guitar; Travis Demsey (group member, 1996-2002), drums; Scott Owen (born on February 14, 1975), upright bass; Joe Piripitsi (left group, 1996), drums; Andy Strachan (born on August 20, 1974; joined group, 2002), drums.
Group formed as a cover band called the Runaway Boys in Melbourne, Australia, 1991; changed the name to The Living End and began playing original music, 1994; released Hellbound EP in Australia, 1995; released It’s for Your Own Good EP in Australia, 1996; released Second Solution EP in Australia, 1997; signed with Reprise Records, released Hellbound: It’s for Your Own Good compilation in the U.S., 1997; released U.S. debut The Living End, 1999; released Roll On, 2001.
Awards: Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Awards, Highest Selling Single, 1998, Best Group, Best New Artist, 1999.
Addresses:Record company—Reprise Records, 3300 Riverside Dr., Burbank, CA 91505. Website— The Living End Official Website: http://www.thelivingend.com.au.
subsequent album, Roll On, took The Living End’s musical style in a slightly different direction. “A few years ago, the rockabilly label was appropriate,” Cheney said in a Yahoo! Launch biography. “Now we’ve moved on. We hate to be pigeonholed, and since we don’t know what direction we’re headed, we don’t see why anyone else should decide for us.” The album included more political themes with “Revolution Regained,” about the East Timor invasion, and “Don’t Shut the Gate,” about Australia’s immigration debate. “I think the first album—as much as I really like it—it’s definitely reminiscent of some of the bands that we’re influenced by,” Cheney told DiMartino, “but I don’t think you can say that about this one—I think it definitely sounds like The Living End.”
After the release of Roll On, the group returned to the road for several months. Just a few weeks after they had returned home for a break, tragedy struck the band. On September 22, 2001, Cheney was involved in a serious car accident on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, when an oncoming car struck Cheney’s vehicle. His right leg was severely injured, and it took more than a year for him to recover. “We were all ready to kick back and spend some time with our families when I heard about the accident,” Owen told Tim Scott in Beat Magazine. “We were all so shaken; it made us think about what we’re doing. We’ve been through a lot together and to think that one of us is lucky to be alive … well, I think we’ve always been thankful and put things in perspective, but something like this makes you think differently.”
By the time the band began to work on their next album in 2002 with producer Mark Trombino, Demsey had left the group and was replaced by drummer Andy Stra-chen. The single “One Said to the Other” was released in Australia even before the album had a scheduled release date.
As their musical career was just shy of a decade in the making, The Living End stayed true to their direction. “This is a 24/7 kind of commitment,” Owen said in a Yahoo! Launch biography. “But we have a clear goal in mind: just make good music.”
Hellbound (EP), 1995.
It’s for Your Own Good (EP), 1996.
Second Solution (EP), 1997.
Hellbound: It’s for Your Own Good Reprise, 1997.
The Living End, Reprise, 1999.
Roll On, Reprise, 2001.
Alternative Press, May 1999.
Beat Magazine, November 2001.
Herald Sun (Australia), May 21, 1999.
Teen Magazine, May 2001.
United Magazine, Summer 2000.
Utopia Magazine, May 2001.
“Artist Focus: The Living End,” Yahoo! Launch, http://launch.yahoo.com/artist/artistFocus.asp?artistlD=1034862 (January 29, 2003).
“Biography: The Living End,” RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/bio.asp?oid=5945&cf=5945 (January 29, 2003).
“The Living End,” Reprise Records, http://www.repriserec.com.thelivingend (January 25, 2003).
The Living End Official Website, http://www.thelivingend.com.au (January 25, 2003).
“On a Roll,” Yahoo! Launch, http://launch.yahoo.com/read/feature.asp?contentlD=205032 (January 29, 2003).
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