From bunk beds in a Launceston backpackers/strip club, touring buddies DARREN HANLON* and *JEFFREY LEWIS talk music, comic books and lunatic fans.
Darren: How’s the top bunk?
Jeffrey: Fine, sorry I keep climbing down to go out and pee in the middle of the night, I know the bed’s kinda noisy. In general, I’m surprised my sleeping schedule has acclimatised quite quickly to being on the other side of the world.
J: How’s the bottom bunk?
D: the springs make noise whenever I move too. I’m paranoid about keeping you awake.
D: Do you mind if I have the window open? I need air to sleep ?
J: Haven’t noticed at all, I’ve just been out like a light as soon as I lay down. Except for waking up in the middle of the night to hit the bathroom.
D: OK, questions. We should probably get this Mess+Noise interview thing done now, even though we’ve got an early start.
J: That’s fine, I’m still awake. What do you wanna know?
D: I’ve read all seven of your comics now and love the European adventure stuff. Have you kept in contact with some of the characters you met along the way?
J: I did actually keep in mail contact with a few of the people. I got a lot of addresses along my travels although a lot of them were semi-illegible so I don’t know how many people got my letters. The guy that I met on the train whom I stayed with in Romania, I still get letters from sometimes. He had sort of a tragic family situation but I think he’s doing alright now, working on a cruise ship or something. I would love to have stayed in contact with the young woman who put me up in Poland, but I didn’t have a correct address. This was all years ago anyway – even if I found any of them now I don’t know if they’d remember me.
D: Did you send them the comics?
J: I don’t think any of them have seen the comics they ended up in.
D: I admire your bravery in your songs and comics, you describe deep anxieties and graphic sexual exploits. Has there been anything too risque you’d thought maybe I shouldn’t put that out there in case my parents hear it?
J: Your parents or my parents? It’s true I have a number of song and comic book ideas which I’ve censored for fear that the Hanlons would hear/see them.
D: When you and your brother Jack are touring in Europe you post on your website and ask at shows for strangers to offer you accommodation. Has this ever backfired resulting in your beating a hasty retreat?
J: Usually there’s no place to retreat to and we have sometimes been trapped with folks who are either insane, wasted, annoying, threatening or all at once! Just a couple months ago in Florida we stayed at this woman’s house (?we? being myself, my brother Jack and our drummer Dave). She seemed nice enough at the show and we were in a part of Florida where we didn’t know anybody and had no place to sleep. But things started to get weird after we got to her house. There was a pool in the back and she suggested we all get naked and get in, which didn’t seem THAT strange – but then she put on this terrible sex comedy movie and kept laughing insanely loud at various scenes and rewinding and shrieking, ?Did you see THAT?! Watch it again!!? We were all getting rather uncomfortable. Oh yeah, and in addition to this, there was mysterious screaming coming from the back yard. We kept asking her if some guy was being tortured back there, but she didn’t seem concerned. Maybe it was just some kind of Florida bird call? But it really sounded like someone screaming.
The funny thing is, when we first met her at the show she was saying all of the cool things we could do together, she’d take us on a canoe trip, show us local sights etc, but needless to say we ditched all those plans and left that house as soon as it got light in the morning. Yes, there’s many exciting ups and downs to the indie touring life.
D: I know we’ve talked about you coming to Australia for a while, do you have any preconceptions? Or objectives while you’re here?
J: No real preconceptions, just a blank slate! It’s all new and exciting. I guess I’m a bit surprised at all the flights we’re taking, I’m used to just arriving somewhere and getting in a vehicle for a few weeks. I suppose Australia tours don’t work that way. Also I had no idea you’d be with a whole five-piece travelling band/crew. I’d only ever seen you play solo, but the band is really great.
D: We have to draw each other for this. I think it’s unfair but I’ll give it a go. The last character sketch I did was the Minogue sisters in year 10. So I apologise now.
J: I’m really terrible at portraits. We should just submit a couple of stick figures. I get asked to do portraits a lot and people don’t believe me when I say I’m bad at them, until they see the result and then they’re stuck saying, ?Oh, that’s nice – it sort of looks like me.? But I can see in their eyes that they’re obviously thinking, ?Hmm, I guess he wasn’t just being modest, he really DOES stink at portraiture!? When you say ?the Minogue sisters? is that like Kylie Minogue? I didn’t know she had a sister.
D: Yep, Danni’s her name. So I’ve got more questions but we’ve got another two weeks together and I don’t wanna exhaust our conversations on the second night. Anything you wanna know?
J: Yeah. How did you discover the pinball song [?Pinball Millionaire] that you do your own (slightly re-written) cover version of?
D: I found it on a generic ?50s country music compilation in a bargain bin in an old antique store in Melbourne. I couldn’t believe there was a song about pinball so I had to buy it. It clocked in at under two minutes so I tacked another verse onto it, not realising you can’t just do that without permission. I did a Google search that told me there are three possible writers for that song which seems really strange given it’s brevity. Did they take a line each? So now that I’ve finally released it, to be on the safe side I surrendered my credit. I don’t have nice enough clothes to wear to court.
J: It seems like you’re the kinda performer who’d have mega-fans that come to see you over and over on every tour. What do you think of these folks?
D: There’s only a few that are truly scary. The ones that come up after a show and say, “Oh, that’s the shirt you were wearing at the Troubadour show in April 2006.? There was someone years ago once who made my first website without me knowing. That freaked me out a lot. It had a link called, ?What’s Darren up to?? – I wanted to know the answer to that myself. Most of the re-occuring audience members are really sweet though and I appreciate anyone who can stand repeat listens.
J: How do you feel about playing solo as opposed to playing with a band?
D: I enjoy both for different reasons. I love having a gang of mates around, makes it feel like school camp. And it’s nice to hear the songs played with all the parts. I mainly play solo overseas for economic reasons but I relish the freedom. It’s easier to get free lifts, accom and food. And I don’t have to tune my guitar to anything! Lazy.
J: Made any good musical discoveries lately, like albums or bands that you hadn’t heard before (old or new)?
D: Hmm, I made a rare discovery on that old fashioned site called MySpace. Do you remember it? Anyway, one day I followed a band trail that led me to this guy named [Luke Temple](http://www.myspace.com/luketemple). The recording is a bit slick but he’s got a real interesting melodic sense. Every few years I come back to Little Wings which is happening at the moment, I love how his lyrics seem effortless but still clever. Getting into the Dylan Street Legal album and am pleasantly surprised the ?80s weren’t all bad for him.
D: Jeffrey? Hello?
D: Great, he’s asleep
POINTING RAY GUNS AT PAGANS’ TOUR
Thursday, April 2
The Armidale Club, Armidale, NSW
Friday, April 3
The Gallipoli Legions Club, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday, April 4
The Tea Club Caf?, Nowra, NSW
Monday, April 6
The Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba, NSW
Thursday, April 9
Sodens, Albury NSW
Friday, April 10
The Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday, April 11
Jive Bar, Adelaide, SA
Sunday, April 12
Mojos, Fremantle, WA
Monday, April 13
Deviles Pad, Perth, WA