I first saw Lewi when he was up front with the Vice Grip Pussies. It was a wonderful time that early mid 2010s period, with the Pussies and Bitter Sweet Kicks in St Kilda. It seemed like the two best live acts where located in this neighbourhood. It was probably a bit after the Pussies stopped playing I became mates with Lewi, but before that I already knew his brother and frequent collaborator Stacey and also mum and dad Liz and Billy. There all solid people and blessed to call the Pommers mates. Aside from the Pussies Lewi also had a brilliant short lived punk three piece called the Head kicks, and is now on bass duties with Stacey and Dan (Black Alleys) in the Bloody Rascals. And with the recent addition of solo shows it adds another side to Lewis music CV. His solo stuff is more poppy as opposed to the outta control rock n roll he has played in his other outfits and shows he really is a musical genius and can play anything thrown at him. We met at the Mail Exchange on Bourke Street, where a security bloke told Lewi to take his hat off, despite some fool in shorts and a singlet being allowed to roam wearing a hat.
Munster : so you play guitar and bass, any other instruments to your cannon?
Lewi: yeah, I sing, play a bit of keys. And as a person from a drumming family I can’t play drums to save my life.
Munster: well coming from a drumming family, did you stay away from drums because you wanted to do your own thing, or you just weren’t interested in drums?
Lewi: yeah probably the later. I’m no grown up, but early on I wasn’t interested in playing music. I think my parents through I’d be the one to go and get a proper job and do the family proud (laughs). Didn’t happen. I started on keys when I was seven at school. And quietly quit that because I didn’t care about it at the time. Then later as a teenager I got back into playing. I only played for two years before I moved to Melbourne and joined the Vice Grip Pussies, trying to make it as a professional musician, its strange, I didn’t really know what I was doing, just got in there and did that.
Munster: When did you move to Melbourne from Queensland?
Lewi: end of 2009 just over ten years ago and Stacey had been here for a few years, he moved down just before he turned 18 after he finished school and I did the same. Finished school and two days later came to Melbourne to be a rock n roller (laughs)
Munster: Had you stayed in Queensland would you still be playing music?
Lewi: probably not, there’s not too much of a scene up there. Having said that I could not see myself not playing
Munster: growing up in Queensland, your dad Billy was a teacher in the bush?
Lewi: we lived out in the bush for a little bit, when he finished his teaching degree we went out and he did his rural service, we lived in a town called Dirranbandi, a mostly Aboriginal community, which had a population of around 700. So very small town. He was a teacher at my school, but I never had him as a teacher. We were out there for three years, then we moved to the Cold Coast and we were there for a good while before coming to Melbourne. Queensland was not a good place to grow up as a rock n roll guy. I’d have groups of people following me to beat me up because I had a leather jacket and long hair, and all that shit
Munster: I saw the Hard Ons in Coolangatta and had the feeling I didn’t belong from the looks I got from some of the punters.
Lewi: yeah I was keen to get out
Munster: Now your dad Billy I consider a great mate, he of course was in the Johnny’s, but your grandfather was a really well respected jazz drummer?
Lewi: yes, his dad is my pop he went to a really prodigious Jazz drumming school. I never saw him play until his 70th birthday. He got up on the drums and he said I don’t know I haven’t done this in a long time and he blew the room apart it was incredible.
Munster: We were talking about Spencer P Jones once and you said growing up you referred to Spencer as uncle Spence, was it the kind of household where musos kept coming and going?
Lewi: not so much early growing up as we were in Queensland and most of them were in Melbourne. Every now and again someone might pass through and have diner. It wasn’t so much growing up in a music family situation as some might think until we moved down to Melbourne, at that point we had Spencer coming over. Growing up at times people would pass by and dad would play with him. Like once Paul Kelly got him to play at the Charleville, I can still remember chasing Pauls daughter round the pooltable. So growing up knowing those people as people that was pretty cool, for me I saw my dad as someone that plays drums, we played music but in Queensland but it wasn’t that big a deal, just a normal family.
Munster: So the Vice Grip Pussies, how did you come to join the band, was that then reason you moved to Melbourne?
Lewi: Stacey moved to Melbourne without ever visiting…
Munster :had you visited?
Lewi: Yes, by the time I came down I had visited him twice. My first time, I knew, this is where I need to be. Stacey was here for 2-3 years before I moved down and he had Sonic Dogma and that broke up and from that he started the Vice Grip Pussies, and they went through a lot of line up changes, just couldn’t find the right mix, Stacey wanted to be the singer and they couldn’t find a good enough drummer. That went on for two years and just before I moved down, he said do you want to be the lead singer? I’d seen em rehearse and knew they were a kick arse band, so I said hell yeah. Move to Melbourne straight in an awesome band. It was a rad time for the next four years
Munster: what were your memories of that Cherry residency you guys had mid week?
Lewi: Not many (laughs). A lot of madness. Probably the best way to describe it. Wednesdays was always good, was the day the more regular people would be there it wasn’t just crazy Saturday, super wild. On Wednesdays all the rockers and crew would be there, Bitter Sweet Kicks would be there. we would do everything together back in the day. Used to play the set and DJ after, for free shoots. Was a wild time, and for an 18 old kid do to that straightaway, I was living the dream.
Munster: The Pussies had a great 7 inch split with the Bitter Sweet Kicks and played a ton of shows together, how did the two bands become equated?
Lewi: Stacey knew em from when he first came down, saw them at the Pint on Punt. I met both Jack and Brendon on my two visits. I met Jack first and after meeting Brendon, Stacey turned around to me and said do you think that’s Jack and I said yeah, isn’t it. Nope (laughs) back then they were hard to tell apart. At the time when I moved everyone was hanging around St Kilda, there was more of a community
Munster: and on top of Cheery you guys had some killer gigs at lyrebird
Lewi: that was more wild times on a smaller scale. I think it was 2010/11 new year’s eve and we packed it out and there was more people on the streets then in the bar. The police came and cornered off the whole street was a whole scene police holding arms keeping people back. Was cool
Munster: You and Stacey obviously have grown up together because your brothers and known each other forever does that help with the dynamic within a band?
Lewi: yeah we know what the other person is gonna do. He gives you a real senses\ of what he’s going into next, even with jams. If you jam with him for a bit you pick it up so easy. He’s the most solid drummer I’ve ever played with, playing with other people I find it hard sometimes because if someone fucks up they fall apart. I know Stacey is solid, if I fuck up I know where to come back in because he has it down beyond belief. For a recording and everything the way we record is he does the whole song on drums, done. That’s it. Then you record to it. Brothers probably have a better length then other people
Munster: What’s something Stacey taught you and something you taught him?
Lewi: there’s been a few things I’ve taught him on guitar maybe he’s learned stage wise because he was behind me for so long, doing the front man thing he wanted to do. He’s taught me a million things, most of what I know. Other than technical aspects of playing guitar and that kind of stuff. Just being in a band and the things it takes to do it, I’ve learned from him in that regard.
Munster: a few years ago you had a great three piece the Head Kicks which I loved.
Lewi: so did I.I was ready to get back into music big time, we did about 6 or 7 shows, by the 7th show we had a 17 song set list I was writing like crazy. It didn’t last long. That was a great band, straight punk rock
Munster: How did the bloody rascals come about, I take it it was just something that happened obviously with you Stacey playing in several bands and also Dan is someone you would have seen around the traps at gigs and on bills with the Black Alleys?
Lewi: yeah we were hanging out for a bunch of years, the Pussies ended and the Alley’s weren’t doing much, Stacey wanted to get something going. I think Johnny was meant to be the bass player, I came home one night and they were in the jam room just fiddling around. I played bass in my first high school band, so I knew I could play bass. They asked me to join the band, I didn’t own a bass, I still don’t have a bass amp. So I woke up the next morning and Stacey told me you better buy yourself a bass (laughs). And I’ve been rocking it ever since.
Munster: bass or guitar?
Lewi: guitar. But I do enjoy playing bass. It’s nice to change it up and good not to do the same thing. It was nice to take a step back and not do the frontman thing, you play your part as opposed to being the main man, but I’d say my part is still pretty big.
Munster: a few years back you played me some demos you done of some solo stuff and was great, real poppy sounding and different to your other stuff
Lewi: I’m still trying to do that it’s hard with the solo stuff. I write and record at the same time. So I get a bit wild with the poppy songs and write different parts, keys and strings, and put it into a solo show, acoustic guitar and singing. And a lot of the stuff doesn’t work so just got to pick some of the songs, do the ones that work, but I’d like to do more poppy stiff.
Munster: I saw you play solo for the first time at Misery Guts and it sounded great but is that the kind of thing you’d wanna have a band backing you or you just happy by yourself?
Lewi: some of it requires a band, but I’d like to do some of them in the solo sets and I want to do more solo stuff this year. The solo stuffs good, I started on solo sets when in first moved to Melbourne as a way to get my chops up for the Pussies. It was a lot of fun and got my stage work up for the pussies and be able to talk to a crowd even though I don’t talk that much, and with Stacey you don’t need to talk that much.
Munster: what’s next?
Lewi: hopefully Bloody Rascals will pick up there game, been a bit slack but there’s talk of a LP. And recording for the solo stuff. I’m constantly writing. And need to put something out there. Even the pussies we made a live LP and made a studio one but never released it. The only thing I ever did was a live LP with the pussies a single and a split so want to get some content out there.