Tony Biggs described Dalicados a St Kilda supergroup, and I couldn/t agree more. Featuring members of UnAustralians, Hunters and Collectors, the Choose Few and I Spit on your Gravy, Dalicados play music that is not genre driven, instead making a genre and style their own. Combining elements of their past bands and their own personal taste, its music you ave to listen to get the vibe and also a must see gig as you get a great show both music and presentation wise. On top of that there all wonderful people who were kind enough to play at my 30th recently. Fiona a James very kindly invited me and the rest of the band Cal, Tracey, Mark and Jack, as well as Di and Fi for dinner, followed by a sit down chat.
Munster: Now a few years ago there was a great band Thousands Left Standard which featured James Tracey Jack and Cal, is Dalicados a follow on from that band?
James: that was a bit hard to wrangle that band and the idea was really good and the idea lead to Dalicados. The roots of both bands where me and Cal, just jamming and writing stuff. We did Thousands Left Standard and it wasn’t just right. Then Mark who I’ve known for a long time and always loved his playing, we got talking and I thought he’d be perfect. And everyone else is important, and who I think are great people and wonderful friends we got in the band. Playing music these days if you don’t have to do it you wouldn’t do it and that’s the only reason I do it. There’s no goals with this band just to have fun
Fiona: your completed to do it that’s why we do it
Jack: now he tells me there no goals (laughs)
Tracy: where are the KPIs (laughs)
James: but it’s the moment that’s the reason for doing it. Not for money and where too old for fame, just for that moment you hit a chord and moments that make it amazing. Maybe not for Jack, maybe he wants to be the next Justin Bieber.
Jack I was the first
Cal: it’s important to say its original music, we could all be playing in cover bands but the beauty is playing new songs working them out. And having know Jack and we invited him down and he was keen and encouraging, and when Mark joined it took another persona then it was, and as James said there’s lots of friends involved which helps.
James: like I said I love everyone in this band I would hang out with them outside the band and if they brought instruments I would happily play music with these people the same I would in a bar as I would if it was in the lounge room.
Mark: even rehearsals are fun.
Munster: Does the name come from a cigarette?
James: yes a Mexicana cigarette. I moved to LA with Fi in 1994 and we lived in a place called Silver Lake and a little store sold Delicados cigarettes where $2 a pack. They were shorter than normal cigarettes, we changed the spelling of the band name not to confuse the two.
Munster: Much like Thousands Left Standard and also Jacks band the Long Lost Brothers and a Sister, its music you can’t put in one specific genre, how so what was the pitch when the band started for the kind of music you would play?
James: I never discussed it with anyone. I’ve been playing music with Cal for 26 years, and we’ve never had that discussion what style are we gonna play
Cal: yeah when James and I would jam he’d say I’ve got an idea for a song but it was never genre driven, there was never we wanna sounds like this.
Fiona: in 97 when we were in Las Angeles and Libby Malone in LA WEEKLY said Australia was the last place of un characterised rock style music. And I think that still rings true Australia has this beautiful fusion that ends up something overarching Australian. James is interested in soul music so you can’t go past the rock and the blues roots but when we get together there’s punk and all the pop culture references we’ve been subjective to. So there’s all that stuff that goes into it without even having to discuss it being of the same time period we’ve absorbed those same cultural influences and that goes into it. It’s in the lyrics it’s the way we approach the songs
Cal: everyone in this band has 20-30 years’ experience playing in original bands from the start, with varying degrees of success.
James: every cover band you meet has the original project there working on and you never see it. You know it’s the whole I’m just doing top 40 now and you never see the original project. It’s so boring playing other people’s music. If you pick a song and do a cover and nail it, that’s brilliant, but just plan doing other people’s songs for a gig is like ah man. And then you end up writing songs like Nickelback
Fiona: and that’s the thing with the overarching Australian thing. Carrying that voice and the culture it’s still vibrating and decent. A lot of the stuff overseas has been homogenised a lot.
Jack: we are fortunate enough there’s enough of a scene here in Melbourne even if it’s a not a big scene. In terms of outlets.
Mark: we’re blessed with the venues we have in Melbourne. And being round in the 80s there’s been people that used to go out they’ve gone off and done other things, then they come back and want to see stuff. The kids have grown up and they don’t want the top 40 cover bands they want to pick up where they left off, good original Melbourne music and I think that’s what we play
Munster: you mentioned Mark joining the band took the band in a different direction, so what did Mark bring to the table?
James: Height (all laugh). Mark, I’ve played with lots of great musicians. Fi is one of the best bass players in Australia, I promise you. Mark brings real heart. Everyone talk’s about heart like its commodity, Mark is what he plays. It is him, it’s not two different things.
Cal: James said to me and its not denigrating to other bass players in the line-up, James said to me you’ll love playing with Mark. I hardly knew him as I didn’t pay attention to the Gravy’s and bands like that. But straightaway we looked it in.
Mark: we had so much space we could do whatever we wanted and all this power come in.
James: and the whole band is like that everyone walks in and does it. It happens and there’s something amazing about that. It’s almost like we’re on a ride and we all get on at the same time. And that’s the best part of it.
Jack: it’s an unusual band it is a band grinning with emotion it feels like that and that’s not the usual thing. And that’s part of what draws me into it. And you guys are like the Fleetwood Mac the two married couples in the band.
James: I’d say where more ABBA. We’re too old for it top end badly
Fiona: where too old for Rumours.
Mark: And a lot of it relates to Jenny. Years ago before we moved to the country Fi James Jenny and I had a band called the Last Call that’s where Nevermore came from. When Jenny got sick we put this band together for a benefit as a surprise. So that’s where a lot of the emotion comes from.
Jack: Nevermore was a highlight of the launch
Tracey: turning around seeing my son sing along I was like oh my god.
James: real music played by real people is meant to do that, whatever the emotion is. I listen to early Descendents and I’m still moved by that.
Fiona: what’s great about this band is the collaboration and I think that’s an overriding spirit with this band, even gigs we have to all agree on it.
Cal: there been two photos taken of the band after a gig and we all look happy, it not like oh its time to go home.
Jack: I think that would be a great exercise. To go back through the bands that we love and there’s that period, say two LPs people really love and whether there in that same spirit of collaboration, before the singer locked himself in a room and wrote all the songs.
Mark: I think most bands start like that until a certain degree because it has to bring people together.
James: you gotta remember and Jack, you’re in a fortunate position, in my mind, Hunters where cool indie and where very successful, and always original and became popular, so you had the trifecta. Which is rare. In all due respect, Mark was in I Spit on your Gravy and never had that kind of success. The songs stand the test of time. Savage Garden were the biggest band in the world and you don’t hear them anymore yet Hunters is still played everywhere. I’m really lucky as I play in this band with these guys, and Fiona and Cal play in the long lost brother and I get to see that and just relax. I’m not in any dysfunctional band so it feels super normal what we do. And Jack with Epic Brass he has to wrangle so many people and they all enjoy themselves.
Jack: well that’s the thing with musicians you try and surround yourselves with people you like and can play and are professional and discard the othesr. Who wants that?
Mark I got too long a drive to hang around with fuckwits (all laughs)
Fiona: that should be a bumper sticker
Tracey: we should put all these saying on t shirts
James: and as I get older I discover more people, interesting artists. Penny Ikinger is a good example I knew of her when I was playing with Fi years ago and recently I got to know her really nice really talented. And Epic Brass a few weeks ago and Ash Naylor I’ve known for years socially for 20 years and he’s another lovely guy and player he was great in the band, it’s that excitement that keeps happening there no close doors. Yeah you get idiots but that will happen. I feel I’m seeing more great players then I’m seeing idiots.
Cal: playing with people you like and admire helps your musicianship. As jack was saying if you’re playing with great players you don’t want to mess up the song
Marks: that’s what I love about this band everyone gets a voice there no ego.
Munster: So James I remember you once saying the rest of the band organizes the gigs and everything else and you’ll write the songs, still true?
James: it’s giving me too much credit to say I wrote them. I write the lyrics and then it evolves from there. I couldn’t be, I say this to Fi all the time, I love Steve Earle and James Taylor these singer songwriter guys, but I couldn’t do that, you know write the song and say to the band do this do that. I feel comfortable with a skeleton and everyone puts the meat on it. I got to give most of the credit to what I do to Fi 50% . I’ve been with her most of my adult life and a great inspiration. Most of what I know from songwriting I pretty much stole from Fi. Fi’s way more disciplined then me and I wish I could, Charles Jenkins for example is a great songwriter and he can break it down but I can’t I find it was too random and difficult to do. Event good songs you try and make it a song and its 80% there but it can take two years to get the rest. I wish there was a way you could make it better because I don’t consider myself a songwriter because it always feels disjointed. These really prolific guys that can pump it out a feel envious of and blow my mind it feel difficult to make a family of songs to me….
Fiona: James used the word disjoined he always works a full time demanded job so no matter it feels disjointed so when he has time and time to think of it it does feel disjoined because it’s like climbing rocks to get the write words out.
James: but I couldn’t not work and stay at home and write that wouldn’t work.
Mark: I know what you mean as when your work and have other things going on you tend to get more done. If I have a lot of work on I get more done as opposed to doing nothing.
Jack: the tricky thing with the songwriter is it exists in a slightly different realm and all your life and experiences help with that. Even great songwriters who have written a lot of songs, for example John Hiatt he’s written so great songs but also a lot of bad songs. You know standard whining lyrics and standard chord changes. It kind of dismisses his songwriting as he does a lot of co-writes and sells songs to people and I love his best stuff but he’s written a lot of stuff, because of all that that’s not that great.
Fiona: James noticed that in the Van Gogh museum not every picture was a masterpiece. You try things and you take what works and what doesn’t and take that for the next thing.
Munster: how did the idea come from to have the lead vocals and Fiona and Tracey on backing vocals?
Cal: Diana Ross and the Supremes
Mark: looks good sounds good. It’s a show it presents.
Tracey: I feel extremely lucky to be in the Dalicados family as I haven’t been in a band before.
Munster: this is your first band?
Tracey: yeah so the support and the encouragement has been fantastic. It’s scary but a lot of fun
Cal: we honestly didn’t think about Fleetwood Mac. ABBA maybe.
Fiona: Tracey has done a great job learning all the vocals and her voice on the record really enhances it
Munster: Fi and Trace you guys have a great stage presence, with the percussion and dance moves, do you practice that?
Fiona: yes in rehearsal.
Tracey: a lot of its spontaneous too. Even Jack does the side step with us.
Munster: You’ve just released your first single, where is the LP at?
Fiona: nearly half way through, five more tracks to go just to mix then mastering. And, it’s not a process we did a year ago and worked everyday it’s just when we’re free so that can make it longer. It’s almost a year since we started it. We started tracking in September last year.
Munster: Mark you play double bass, what made you play double bass as opposed to standard four string?
Mark: the sound, a mate pushed me into it 20 years ago, he plays double bass and thankfully enough it landed at my place
Cal: how long you had it for?
Mark: 19 years. John Danny gave it to me
Munster: Tracey you mentioned this is your first band, did you sing at school in choirs or anything like that?
Tracy: a Rock Eisteddfod at school. That was it.
Jack: what did you sing?
Cal: you sing around the house.
Tracey: when Thousands Left Stranded started and I told her I was singing she said you cant fucking sing.
Cal: part of my courting of Tracey was burning CDs when I was in the country saying you gotta listen to this
James: Tracey’s parents are amazing, Louise was a amazing women and her dad is a legend, so supportive and goes to every gig.
Munster: Jack, you have a few gigs on the go and very busy, so what was the pitch for you to join?
Jack: the number of friends and to be honest it’s come at a time when there’s not many other big gigs. There mates and I liked the music so I wanted in.
Munster: Cal we were talking before how a seven inch you made as part of The Chosen Few that went for mega bucks recently, how did it feel making a seven inch that is possibly the most expensive punk seven inch out there?
Cal: it’s great we paid for it and never made a cent off it. It’s been bootlegged from all these company’s and never saw any money off it. It’s nice to know something you did 40 years ago is appreciated. Where’s at the time it was shitcanned. The review in Juke was difficult to classify as a collector’s item. Now it’s the most expensive single in the world.
Mark: when they reviewed St Kildas Alright they said this is a pile of shit the only saving grace is a walking bass line, and said it feels like it was recorded on an ocean.
Cal: we got grief because we put six tracks on a 45 size and run it at 33RPM, but now it’s worth all that money. And a hell of a lot of bands are covering us, Eddy Current is one. And an American Band called X Cult. So we got the fame, fuck the fortune.
Munster: Fiona, for me the highlight of the launch gig was your speech about James where you said you were going through a rough period and it was James and his music that got you through it and that particular song really helped
Fiona: Cakes and Ginger ale. Music has the power to make you stay so that’s part of why a married a musicians (laughs) and James rehearses everyday.
Cal: but that is such a powerful song when I saw you two do it acoustically it really hit us and when me and Trace got home we were still in awe.
Fiona: as Jack said about the emotional thing it exists from the well it came from. And we did that song with Jenny in the Last Call, that was the first band to do that song. I was working stupid hours and had to help 17 people through a redundancy with a company feeding us lies, so that was a sad time and James would working on that song and I would work with him on it. And it’s true we had Cakes and Ginger ales every day at work, and it was full of wonderful women who would bake every day and it was so sad through that period but the music helped me. There was a women at the place that got let go and James gave her a job
James: See I’m not a total scumbag (laughs).
Fiona: and she worked there for six years.
Jack: with that song, everyone’s talks about the emotion but James is an incredibly catchy guitarist. I feel blessed, as I do with working with Nicky Del Rey, when we write songs, here’s a chord change and lyrics, and some of his riffs are a real x factor and you’re the same James, the instant access to the song
Mark: one of our first gigs at the Lyrebird Viv Gaye came up to me and said you’ve got more hooks then a fishing tackle box.
James: with any song, I don’t write songs for people not to sing along, so that’s how my mind works. I’m not writing jingles but I feel I’m a commercial songwriter.
Fiona: you’re writing for people
James: absolutely in my mind I’m writing Sweet Child of mine
Cal: that’s a bad example. Possibly the worst hit song ever.
James: what I mean is, I’m not trying to write anything cool, I’m writing songs people will like, people that say I hate that commercial crap I’ve never understood that, in my mind I’m writing a big song and that’s how I work. I don’t know if everyone thinks like that but I’m not cool so I don’t think like that. I love big commercial radio songs like Spandau Ballet
Fiona: we had that experience when we’re younger and now when we look back at the radio, we’re still human and not perfect and its great having music by people in our age group that we get to hear. It’s new and exciting and give us hope and we belong. That’s really important in how we make music.