Words by Danger Coolidge
Photography by Zanda Mylo
For six years Brisbane band Sewers have drowned our ears in glorious murk, but the time has come to pull the plug.
The final Sewers line-up – Shan Corrigan (vocals), Josh Watson (bass), Alex Griffin (guitar), Mitch McLaughlin (guitar), Steve Rose (drums) – played one final show at the Bearded Lady a month or two back. Josh has now moved to Melbourne and Shan and Mitch have got a new band called Cold Fish.
And yet while Sewers is no longer alive, they’re not quite dead yet, either. The band have one final album in the can. The first track released from it is the thoroughly inspired “Invisible Hand”, which creeps, haunts, bops and rocks in a way we have not seen before. Unfortunately, we might have to wait a while to experience the rest of it.
UB recently had this in-depth three-way debrief with Shan and Josh…
Sorry to start with such a big question: why has Sewers called it quits?
Shan: Well, it’s probably been a long time coming. After touring the USA I think most of us were fed-up with the band and needed a long break. You can put that down to: high speed car pursuits whilst coked-up in Detroit, crack-smoking Juggalos, fast food-induced malnutrition, crazy and hostile venue owners, run-ins with the law, dying barflys, several melts and a few too many Budweisers. I practically had several mental breakdowns before, during and after the tour. But so what? With a bit of hindsight I think that was half the fun of being in the bloody band. A bunch of us were also living together and it’s no secret that occupying the same spaces for too long can be a recipe for good-old fashioned tension and animosity. There was plenty of that, but hopefully it was mostly channeled into the music. Before anyone sends Facebook messages checking in with former members, let it be known it is all ironed out, the hatchet is buried (at least for me). Finally, it costs a lot of time, money and resources to be in a DIY band. Lucky no-one was smart enough to do a cost/benefit analysis otherwise we’d have binned it years ago. I didn’t pull the plug directly after USA because for me, the band hadn’t really achieved what I wanted it to. So I set out to write a final set of songs – everyone in the band knew it would be over when we committed to a final recording. I was probably spurred on by the fact I’d entered a deep depression, which was further entrenched by drug and alcohol dependency. Writing is a good way out of that hole and it’s no coincidence the band’s called Sewers. Nothing like a slew of line-up changes to really kill a band’s momentum. The final straw was Josh leaving and the other long-standing member Alex deciding it was an opportune time for him opt out. It was increasingly hard to get people to keep come into the fold and replace past members. We all have personal lives and respective issues, which factors into the band dynamics… essentially, being in a band this long is difficult and the complexities get old.
Josh: To clarify: I moved to Melbourne, so, it wasn’t ‘quitting’ as such. Like Shan, I was very burnt out after the USA tour and thought about quitting the band then. I was playing in other bands, working on other projects, doing radio. I was burnt out. But, Sewers has always been a lot of fun to play in, and that mutual respect was still there.
Was it always the plan to send the new LP off to the vinyl plant and play your last gig before it got back?
S: Ah geez, you make it sound like there might be some interest in us putting out another record. It hasn’t been sent to any pressing plant, let alone any labels for their consideration. That’s not deliberate, we’ve been busy with something called life and we’ve finally got some time to try and con someone into putting it out. ANY BITERS OUT THERE? FLICK US AN EMAIL. We had a small window of time where we could make a record and play a show to wrap-up. There’s was no time for messing about with soliciting interest, let alone waiting for a record to come out, which takes what, two-three months, minimum?
J: We’re at a good point where we’re not in a rush to get a release out for a tour – like when we made Weight, and it ultimately suffered because we needed it pressed before going over to the USA. I considered a short tape run on my label Virtual Cool. Too short a turnaround/too many $$$.
Tell us about the sound of Sewers final album: what direction was the sound was heading in? What’s the title?
S: Sewers always had its fingers in too many pies and you can put that down creative diversity (hahahaha). I think it’s more… focused, which means the songs are more ours than ever before. If Sewers ever had its own sound, it’s on this recording. I don’t have a title in mind, so I think in that case it will be self-titled. It’s more emblematic of the fact that I’ve run out of ideas for Sewers.
J: Is this us making this decision on a title in this interview? ’Cause I agree that it should be self-titled. Mainly due to the fact that I’m sick of thinking about titles.
When and where it was recorded and who helped?
J: In the past I’ve been the one to do a lot of the recording or mixing for our releases. I enjoy doing it. I wasn’t able to commit time to doing it this time round, and honestly, I didn’t really want to. We recorded with Marly Lüske at Alchemix. We’ve tracked every LP we’ve done at Alchemix and Marly is probably the easiest, hardest-working, most dependable sound engineer in Brisbane. He’s a dream. We’re all incredibly pleased with how these recordings have worked out.
It’s inevitable that bands (except AC/DC) break up, and some would say a six-year lifespan is more than anyone could expect when forming a band – still, there must be a sense of loss on some level. What are the overriding feelings on the decision?
S: Really, it was more like a relationship ending where both parties know it’s coming. In the end, it was amicable. Sure there was some sadness and grief, but also some relief that it was finally over. Add in a slab accomplishment and camaraderie and I think the feeling might be accounted for. Right at the end we managed to make a good account of ourselves and we played maybe what was potentially our best ever show as our last. Going out on a high but not actually high (at least I wasn’t) and little to no come down. After the last squeal of gross noise emanated from someone or others’ amp we went into the back room at the Bearded Lady. Five drenched bodies, exhausted, like tested but not in a bad way, like a hard day’s work where you did exactly what you wanted to do. It seemed a perfect place to jettison the shit. You know, whilst we were feeling fibrous. This Brisbane music scene is at a bit of an impasse. Whilst, new people were just getting into the band it also doesn’t feel the same way as it used to. The drive needed to perform the songs was absent because I didn’t feel like we had shit to prove to ourselves or others. The stench wasn’t fresh anymore and instead of pedaling this band I think it’s time to take time out and do something different with other people. I love playing with fresh blood, it makes this old dog feel alive. Plus, I was sick of my own songs I want to leech off other peoples’ ideas for a while. Check out a new band myself and Mitch are in, Cold Fish. Alex is playing in Cannon and Steve performs in Sydney 200 and Pullout Kings.
Finally, I’d like to thank all the members of Sewers who contributed, fought, drunk and left: Jared Miles, Damon Black, Daniel Decsi, Harry Byrne, Matthew J. Ford. The final line-up was Steve Rose (drums), Mitch McLaughlin (guitar), Alex Griffin (guitar), Josh Watson (bass) and Shan Corrigan (vox). Signing-off, fuck this band.
Sewers final [self-titled?] album is due sometime. First song released from it is “Invisible Hand”:
[Interview edited slightly on August 25 to include former members’ current projects]