'People mark their lives by these songs': The Triffids remember their leader
The Triffids’ biggest songs, like ‘Wide Open Road’ and ‘Bury Me Deep In Love’ are national treasures. While they’re mightn’t share the same omnipresence as some of the big Aussie rock hits of the ‘80s, they still resonate with an enormous number of Australians.
But there’s serious depth in the band’s vast catalogue.
“There’s so much depth to the songwriting. It’s not just ‘Wide Open Road’,” multi-instrumentalist Robert McComb told Myf Warhurst this week. “You dig into any of the albums or even early tapes, he was writing gems from a really early age.”
The man he is speaking about is his youngest brother David, The Triffids’ frontman and creative core, who passed away in 1999.
“It’s the writing that keeps you enthralled,” Robert says. “We’re having fun at rehearsals, still arguing about interpretations – ‘What did he mean by that lyric? Where did he rip that one off from?’.”
The Triffids are perhaps Australia’s ultimate cult band. While a couple of those aforementioned songs sit close to the hearts of many, they never realised the kind of success they clearly should have.
Even their masterpiece Born Sandy Devotional, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, was a hard sell at the time.
“Plenty of people showed interest, but nobody would buy it,” guitarist Graham Lee says. “We knew it was a very good record and we thought we had a good shot at getting a major deal, but it didn’t happen with that record.”
This week, The Triffids reignited for three shows to honour the memory of David McComb and revel in the brilliance of his songs. A stellar line up of artists - Clare Moore, JP Shilo, Rob Snarski, Gareth Liddiard, Chris Abrahams, Alexander Gow – joins the band to help bring the songs to life.
“We have four different singers – apart from Jill [Birt], who’s already in the band – to portray Dave’s songs,” McComb says. “They’re all very keen to be involved and they each bring something different to the table.
“We feel very lucky to have the opportunity to play these songs, not just with these singers, but with other musicians who are helping us flesh out some of the finer points of the recordings.”
“People really did put themselves out to do it,” Lee adds. “We have Gareth Liddiard hurtling down from Central Victoria. Chris Abrahams has just flown in from Berlin. It’s really great when people do that and they do it for the right reason, which is to remember Dave.”
Remember Dave and remember the songs, some of which have been there during life’s biggest, and sometimes hardest, moments.
“The songs affect people’s lives,” McComb says. “They’re very emotionally involved with it. It’s such a powerful thing. I know it sounds a bit trite, but the power of the music and the universal language and all that, it’s a universal wonder that Dave’s songs have for us.”
“People mark their lives by some of these songs,” Lee says. “They broke up to them, they consoled themselves after breaking up with them. They played them at their weddings. It’s a very emotional experience for both us and the audience.”
The Triffids play Meredith Music Festival this Saturday.