The Spiderbait Story
Once upon a time there were three friends. They lived in a country town in rural NSW called Finley. Janet played a mean bass guitar, Whitty was wild on guitar and Kram, well, Kram was one of those very special dudes who could play drums AND sing.
It was 1991, Bryan Adams was singing I Do It For You, Chrissy Amphlett belted out everyone’s favourite masturbation theme song (Touch Myself) and Michael Bolton with his power mullet was getting more of a run than he probably deserved. The three friends decided to get a band together and play music that wasn’t anything like Michael Bolton. Yes. 1991, one of Australia’s most loved and iconic alt rock bands, Spiderbait, was born. Fast forward to 2018 and the three friends are still in love with playing music together.
‘It’s like slipping into old jeans, into each other’s old jeans,’ laughs Kram, ‘and still fitting.
‘We just finished touring with Veruca Salt… we did it two years before when we played Splendour and Falls. It was the first long tour that wasn’t our own, but as soon as we walked onto the stage we had that real magic. We get it from playing together for so long. It becomes this subconscious thing between us. We are really close and in our shows we have a really great energy between us. We look over and I think how great is this; we could be any old group of friends, but it’s a bit more euphoric to realise that and be onstage together.’
There’s nothing lo-fi about a Spiderbait gig. The band that had five top 20 albums, won two ARIAs and back in 2004 blew everyone away with their version of the Leadbelly song Black Betty know how to make some bloody decent noise. For Kram, when Spiderbait hit the stage, there’s only one gear. Top gear.
‘I can’t help it. I don’t have much control over that once the show starts,’ he shares. ‘No matter how much you say you are going to take it easy, you just don’t. Our set is structured so that Janet and I can swap songs, but I can’t help myself! Playing and singing for me is this crazy experience; I like that part of it. No matter how much you prep, even if you prepped heaps – when you hit the stage something completely else happens!’
Just last year Spiderbait had the honour of being inducted into the Australian Music Archive, displayed next to fellow Aussie music legend, Paul Kelly.
‘We had our memorabilia donated for display in the music vault. We were doing our tour of Ivy for the 20th anniversary at the time and we bought a whole lot of stuff in that I had put away. It doesn’t seem significant to you but when an archivist goes through your stuff it takes on a different meaning. All these notes from you to each other. Bits of lyric. You wouldn’t believe how many times I have gone to throw that stuff out. You never really think as artists or consider yourself as important like that. It’s just about the next gig and trying to stay alive!’
Spiderbait continue to span the demographic divide with their grunge rock bringing in new fans and thrilling old ones.
‘Our fans are really broad range of ages. We played Caloundra music festival last year – it was a young crowd; then at other shows you will have other people coming up who are older who have been following the band since the beginning.’
Playing live is still a thrill for the band, who revel in the grassroots grunt of a pub gig as much as the power of a big festival stage. In fact it was making the transition to the bigger festival stage that Kram credits with the band’s longevity.
‘I don’t think we would still be playing or be successful now if we hadn’t become a festival band. We played a Big Day Out in Sydney and walked onstage a pub punk rock band and when we left the stage we were a festival band. There was a change in us and the way the crowd reacted. We realised it was okay to be confident and go for it. When you are playing to 10,000 plus people it becomes like a giant person; they love the connection and it can become a euphoric experience – you can create something amazing.’
While Kram still enjoys life as a high-profile rocker, he also relishes the simple life, moving to the Byron Shire with his young family around seven years ago.
‘It’s a beautiful place to raise children. I think it’s one of the most special places in the world. We live in a country area that cares about political issues. I grew up in a country town and I know how racist it can be. I wish more of country Australia could be as progressive.’
Spiderbait are looking forward to stepping out in front of Kram’s ‘home crowd’ when they play Kingscliff Hotel on June 29.