Probably the most sparkling, luminous and plethoric band that Australia has produced in recent years is also, contrary to stereotypes, a band that embraces political commitment (on the left) and champions the fight against climate change. And it does not shy away from saying it, but neither does it shy away from singing it. To many, in the guitar-heavy din of their latest album, Endless Rooms, the messages of this band with its crackling sound may go unnoticed from beginning to end. The awareness with the cause of ecology drives songs as vigorous as Tidal River or Saw You At The Eastern Beach, but the denunciation of the crude reality is even more explicit in The Way It Shatters, where guitarist and singer Joe White, 36 years old, is at ease against the previous conservative Australian executive (Scott Morrison's) for the undignified treatment they have been inflicting on the refugees arriving on their shores. "They had been cramming them into concentration camps for 15 years without the slightest sense of compassion or humanity," protests the blondest of the band's three guitarists and co-leaders in an interview taking place in Madrid. "We had a prime minister [Scott Morrison] who claimed to move for Christian ideals, but who only generated shitty policies. And the terrible thing is that it served him to win elections....".
The Australians - who often abbreviate their name to Rolling Blackouts CF to make it a little less kilometric - confess to be "admirers" of this theoretically "more affable" European spirit, but they are constantly interested in the rise of the extreme right on the old continent. They embody a rare paradigm, that of the lively and fun rockers who enclose personalities with a deep social vocation. "Rock is a good sugar to coat the pills of political militancy," agrees Fran Keaney, 35. "We make catchy songs, we know that and we try to, but ... we don't limit ourselves to just that part." And her cousin Joe sums up this spirit with a lapidary reflection: "Narrow-minded looks give confidence to those who practice them. Being selfish is more comfortable than being generous".
Political militancy has ended up serving to spice up the musical bustle of the Blackouts, who consolidate with their third album (although their discography also includes a couple of important previous EPs) a status of a muscular, addictive, mega-caloric band. "We may not yet play in the same league as Midnight Oil, but we are flattered by the comparisons", they admit about the sonic and ideological similarities with their more international countrymen during the eighties. Parallels with The Go-Betweens and, in general, the "Aussie sound" are also frequent, if anyone can pinpoint what the hell exactly that means. "We're the first ones who wouldn't know how to establish a definition," smirks Keaney. "I guess the key is in the coexistence between an acoustic guitar and two electric guitars, but also in the very melodic vocals. Oh, and in those drums that always sound emphatic, powerful".
The messages of social significance do not prevent that in much of the production of RBCF there is room for a "complicity with the landscape and nature", taking advantage of the overwhelming visual charm of an island that is more than twice the size of the entire European continent. Endless Rooms itself, in fact, was composed, rehearsed and recorded in a huge Russo family home on the shores of a paradisiacal lake, a factor relevant enough for an image of the dwelling to have served as the album cover. "Yes, we knew we weren't too original in that sense," they are quick to admit with an exculpatory smile, accustomed to hearing comparisons to The Band's Music From The Big Pink, or the more recent Barn (Neil Young & The Crazy Horse) or Idles' Crawler. "But we couldn't help but recognize how important that space has been in our lives. We got through the worst of the pandemic and confinement in a large, cozy, comfortable place, happy and in good health. We had a huge room to play together, with the amps upstairs and the recording table in the garage. And that space has surely translated into a bigger, more expansive album.
It has been their way of getting rid of the bad taste in their mouths of Sideways to New Italy (2020), the previous album, which took them a long time to finish ("the myth about how difficult the second album is is absolutely true", Fran and Joe note almost in unison) and which they could not even present on stage, because it was released just when the coronaviral tragedy happened. "We have three main composers and singers in the band, we can choose the best songs and improve them together. We don't need a charismatic leader," they smile, "so it's all advantages. And our decisions are not always unanimous, with five votes in favor, but... almost. We're learning to leave egos out of the repertoire."
They are happy because Labor leader Anthony Albanese won the Australian election last May over Morrison's coalition. The champions of left-wing Australian rock will be wielding their guitars even more vigorously from now on. They will be back in Spain very soon: Paddy Russo, Tom and Joe's younger brother (and occasional drummer of the quintet when Marcel Tussie is not available), fell in love during his Erasmus with a Spanish girl, Virginia, and the wedding will take place "in a city a little bit south of Madrid". Toledo? Ciudad Real? "Those names ring a bell, but we wouldn't know. We promise to learn more Spanish geography these last months", say goodbye to the euphoric rockers of this new Australia of solidarity.