Hailing from Sydney, Australia, the Vines rose to rock' n' roll prominence as purveyors of music heavily influenced by both the Beatles and Nirvana. The group's popularity benefited from the resurgence of punk-influenced garage rock led by such bands as Detroit's White Stripes, the Swedish band the Hives, and New York City bands such as the Strokes and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Each of these groups have professed an allegiance to the earlier work of the Stooges, the MC5, and the Seeds, which is characterized by simple chords, short songs, and minimal studio effects. The end result is a music that is visceral, immediate, and easily emulated.
The Vines formed in the late 1990s. The founding members—guitarist and vocalist Craig Nicholls, bass player and vocalist Patrick Matthews, and drummer David Olliffe—were schoolmates who also worked together at McDonald's. The trio took their band name from the Vynes, a 1960s' group that included Nicholls's father. The group recorded a debut single, "Factory," which helped them net a contract with the British record company Heavenly. Heavenly Artist and Repertory executive Robin Turner told Music & Media's Chris Barrett: "What attracted our attention was a 19-track demo—the first song sounded like the Stooges and the second The Stone Roses circa their debut album. I thought anyone that can cross these two boundaries within five minutes is staggeringly good." Turner traveled from England to Los Angeles to see the group perform at the Viper Room, and declared that "Craig is one of the greatest performers I've ever seen."
Through Heavenly, the group was signed to the American record label Capitol. The band left Australia in order to record in Los Angeles with producer Rob Schnapf, who had previously earned a considerable reputation as a producer of works by the Foo Fighters, Beck, and Elliott Smith. Schnapf helped the band hone its style; the producer had, after all, worked with former Nirvana member Dave Grohl as a producer for Grohl's band the Foo Fighters.
The group's debut full-length recording, Highly Evolved, prompted critical comparisons to Nirvana, due to the high-energy performances of the Vines. The album's 90-second title track was named "Single of the Week" by the British magazine New Musical Express in March of 2002. The following month they made their American concert debut at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. The Vines also toured Europe extensively before the American release of Highly Evolved in July of 2002. Olliffe, unhappy with touring, returned to Sydney and was replaced by Hamish Rosser. The group also added a second guitarist, Ryan Griffiths, freeing Nicholls to become a more outrageous performer. The group quickly gained a reputation for its incendiary live shows. The day after the release of their debut album, the group performed a highly charged show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Along with songs from their album, Nicholls covered a portion of the Outkast single "Sorry, Miss Jackson," which Hollywood Reporter critic Tom Terrell called "genius" for its re-imagining of "Outkast's Dirty South done as Aussie rock power ballad." During the performance witnessed by Terrell, the band also tipped its hat to the Stooges with a "giddily primal screaming '1969,' which, although an original composition of the band's, also is the title of a classic song by the Detroit punk progenitors.
Highly Evolved sold more than 650,000 copies, with sales spurred by creative videos for the singles "Get Free" and "Outtathaway." In the former video, directed by Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola, the group performs during a lightning storm. The latter video features the band being bombarded by food from audience members during a club performance. Both songs were noted for their similarities to the vocals of Nicholls and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The album had its share of critical detractors, including a reviewer from MacLeans's who labeled the group as "pretenders" to the "Saviours of Rock 'n' Roll title," and who compared the group's sound to a synthesis of "Offspring meets the Hoodoo Gurus." The reviewer declared that the album "veers wildly from grungy call and response to pretty neo-psychedelia," before delivering the damning-with-faint-praise assessment, "Unlikely to inspire any revolutions, but a welcome departure from Sum-182-Day's reign of pop."
People critic Carolyn E. Davis, however, felt that the album's Beatles, Kinks, Cheap Trick, and Nirvana influences were a winning combination. "The result," Davis wrote, "is an exhilarating mix of raw rock—as noisy as it is infectious—tempered by a smattering of dreamy, psychedelic rock that might have impressed John Lennon. Throw in some melodic ballads, skainfluenced bop and post-modern punk, and you're left with a debut disc that easily transcends other garage-band revivalists."
The band's second album, Winning Days, was released in 2004. The album was considered more eclectic than the group's debut. MTV.com assessed the group's new sound: "Depending on what song from their new album ... is playing, the Vines are snotty, post-grunge rockers; ambitious psychedelic poppers, jangly pop torchbearers; or heavy metal hotheads." Nicholls told the television network: "We've rolled a mixed bag.... There's a lot of country rock, and there's also a lot of heavy metal, which is untraditional, but we never think of traditional when we are playing in the Vines." The album's first single, "Ride," drew renewed comparisons to Nirvana. MTV scribe Jon Wiederhorn described the song: "On it, frontman Craig Nicholls plays searing guitars and shouts like his larynx is on fire. But between the ripping riffing and megatonic solos lie spangly guitars, handclaps and a harmonized chorus." To support the album's release, the Vines toured North America in the spring of 2004 with the Australian power rock group Jet.
For the Record …
Members include Ryan Griffiths , guitar; Patrick Matthews , bass, vocals; Craig Nicholls , vocals, guitar; David Olliffe (stopped touring with group, 2002), drums; Hamish Rosser (joined group, 2002), drums.
Group formed in Sydney, Australia, late 1990s; "Highly Evolved" single from debut album named New Musical Express's "Single of the Week," 2002; released sophomore effort, Winning Days, 2004.
Addresses: Website—The Vines Official Website: http://www.thevines.com.
The group's grueling touring schedule caused them to pull out of a planned 2004 summer tour with Incubus. The announcement came as no surprise to most fans, due to an incident that occurred on May 27, 2004, in Sydney. During a performance of the first song of the set, Nicholls kicked a photographer's camera, and Matthews left the stage shortly thereafter. The charges stemming from the incident were dropped later in the year, when Matthews was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. Despite the canceled tour, Nicholls's illness, and transparent ill will within the band, the group issued a statement that they did not intend to split up.
Highly Evolved, Capitol, 2002.
Winning Days, Capitol, 2004.
Hollywood Reporter, July 19, 2002.
MacLeans, July 1, 2002.
Music & Media, June 29, 2002.
People, August 5, 2002.
Trouser Press,http://www.trouserpress.com (August 6, 2004).
"The Vines," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (August 6, 2004).
"The Vines Archive," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com (August 6, 2004).
The Vines Official Website, http://www.thevines.com (November 20, 2004).
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