31 years since they first broke out on a burgeoning Brisbane indie-rock scene, Screamfeeder are still one of the nation’s strongest, tightest and most venerable acts, and as they proved with last month’s Five Rooms album – their eighth in total, but first fully independent release – their ironclad songwriting prowess hasn’t flaked a bit. The band will be launching their new album live this Friday (June 10th), taking to the stage at Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club for their first headlining gig in the city since April 2018.
Joining them will be the one and only Adalita, performing with her mononymous solo project. She and Screamfeeder go way back – Adalita, of course, cut her teeth in another of Australia’s god-tier ‘90s indie-rock acts, Magic Dirt. The two bands have played countless shows and festivals together, and now, Adalita will switch it up by treating Screamfeeder fans to a set of her own sonic gold. Shortly after Friday’s show, Screamfeeder and Adalita will hit stages in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane – scroll right to the butt of this story for all the dates and ticket info.
Before the tour kicks off, Australian Guitar sat down with Adalita and Screamfeeder’s bass-toting super-queen, Kellie Lloyd, to vibe on why this four-date run will be so special, how they both came to be such great mates, and why sometimes, you’ve just gotta smash an axe.
So, you are just days away from kicking this tour off in Melbourne! What’s the vibe like right now?
Kellie Lloyd: Well I don't know about you, Ad – I know you just had COVID and you had to cancel some shows. I also had COVID a few weeks ago, and I had to cancel a few of my own shows, so fingers crossed nothing happens in the lead-up to these ones! There’s only four shows on this national tour, because we've tried to do it a few times, but we’ve had to reschedule and cancel and do all of that. I'm honestly just champing at the bit to play live again. I can’t wait.
Adalita: Yeah, it's going to be awesome. I really hope nothing happens – you’re just living on the knife's edge these days. But it's going to be great. It's especially going to be great to see you, Kell – I haven't seen you in ages! And it’s such an honor to have been asked to play this tour – it's going to be a great time.
Lloyd: It's such an honor to have you play with us. And like, I love your solo stuff. As much as I love Magic Dirt, I think it's almost a little bit more special to have you on your own here, doing your really beautiful solo work. So I'm the happiest person ever right now. I had an interview not long ago, where someone was saying, “It must be very different these days, to go on tour.” And you know, we both do a lot of our own stuff, in terms of organising, and back in the old days, you got on the phone, booked a tour, jumped in the van, and just did it. And you did the press while you were traveling, you sent the posters out by hand – all that kind of stuff.
It’s still very similar these days, but Ad, do you ever remember having to cancel shows, or postpone a tour because a band member got sick? I cannot recall that ever happening in 30 years. But since 2020, we've had to establish like a whole new way of working – finding resilience and being flexible, and being able to move constantly, because the entire touring landscape has become so fluid. It’s unbelievable. I can't remember anything ever being like this.
I mean, I know it's a global pandemic, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sort of scenario, but the way it's affected doing shows and planning tours… It's a new skill we've all had to learn.
Speaking of the old days, obviously Screamfeeder and Magic Dirt are both iconic indie-rock bands from the early ‘90s – you guys must have a pretty storied history together?
Lloyd: We do! We’ve been circling each other for years, haven't we?
Adalita: Yeah. You guys so special to us, in so many ways – Screamfeeder was pretty much the first band we met and hung out with in Brisbane. We crashed at your house a few times. We just hung out like really good mates, and we all really clicked, right off the bat. You were like our bestest friends in that world
Lloyd: I remember seeing you guys for the first time at that Pavement show at Max's Petersham. Before I even saw you play, Steve Pav[lovic] played you on the phone to me – I was helping FUR get released through Fellaheen, and I played him the song that we’d just recorded. And he said, "That's great, but listen to this," and he made me listen to 'Supertear'. He played me that over the phone, and even listening to it over a shitty landline in 1993, I was just blown away. And then seeing you play live, it was such a great show. But you were also in the middle of disintegrating at that point, right?
Adalita: We disintegrated a few time – that was probably one of them.
Lloyd: I actually think that you might have been breaking up that night.
Adalita: Probably. We'd break up a few times a night.
Lloyd: But I just remember, you know, you. You were amazing, and you've always been amazing. And Dean [Turner] – I had a really special friendship with Dean [who died in 2009], and his bass playing was incredible. The lucky thing about him being a left-handed bass player was that he always made the stage very symmetrical, which was really pleasing to the eye. I’ve always said that if you've got a left-handed guitarist in your band, you’re going to be famous.
Adalita: One of his favorite records of all time was Burn Out Your Name. We all loved you, but he was an uber fan, he love-loved for guys. But I have such fond memories of your sharehouse in Red Hill. It was just a classic ‘90s sharehouse where we’d all hang out, have a few drinks, whatever... And then I remember, you took us into Fortitude Valley, and that was really the epicentre of arts and culture in Brisbane – that underground scene was really strong in the Valley. And you took us to the practice room, which was ensconced in this really big, old Target building in the middle of the Valley – it had lots of floors, and the innards of it were all messed up. There was just shit everywhere, it was sort of abandoned and run-down, but you had rehearsal rooms in there. And I remember, we were like, "What is this place!?” You were taking us into these underground tunnels and rooms, and there was stuff everywhere – we thought it was just the coolest thing we'd ever seen.
Lloyd: It was the coolest thing anyone had ever seen. It was three stories, all different colors, and there were all these portals and round doorways, and you could slide down the escalator shaft... But it was in complete ruin – all these homeless people lived there, but people had music offices these, but there was like weird shit everywhere… And so many bands practiced there, like Midget and Hate Man, and so many of the bands in Brisbane at that time. But you would only come across people there after 11 o'clock at night, and everyone was kind of freaked out because it always felt a little haunted and a little scary – there were always blood stains on some floors… It was a weird place.
Adalita: And then of course, there was like The Zoo, which was the venue in Brisbane. Brisbane is just such a cool scene, really – we've always loved it. And you guys have always been such a massive part of that.
Lloyd: I've gotta say, Ad, saying Magic Dirt lately, the last couple of gigs I've seen you play, they've been unreal. I'm not going to say that the band is the best it's ever been – I can’t, because Dean's not there – but it's like a whole different thing, and it's very powerful. And you're playing the best I've ever seen you play. It blew us away when we saw you at Eatons Hill recently.
Adalita: Aw, thanks Kell! Jeez! And it's the same with you guys, you're sounding so good. I can't wait to see you play all the new songs live.
Obviously, being Australian Guitar, I am super keen to chat gear – what are your go-to guitars, these days?
Adalita: My go-to is a Gibson SG – I think it's from 1969, 1970, something like that. It's got a whole bunch of stickers on it, from the Born To Skate shop where Dean used to work – that was like circa 1989 or 1990. It's been broken a few times, I just recently had the neck fixed, but it’s still my go-to. I've got two SGs – one's a new one that I bought this year – but nothing compares to my vintage one. I can't believe I bring it on the road, it's so fragile [laughs].
I bought it in 1996. Magic Dirt were on tour, supporting Archers Of Loaf in the US, and we started in San Francisco. We were at... God, I wish I could remember the name of the guitar shop! There were just rows and rows of guitars hanging from the roof. It was like wading through seaweed, there were guitars everywhere. And as soon as I found this one, I was like, “Yep.” You know, you pick them up, you touch them, you feel them, you strum them, and they speak to you. This guitar spoke to me – it wanted to come home with me.
Lloyd: Does it weigh a tonne?
Adalita: It doesn't weigh a tonne – it’s substantial, but not like a Les Paul or anything like that. It's good. My tunings go up and down, so it is a little hard to tune, but that’s been the case with every SG I've had, they're a little bit fickle. But once it's tuned and ready to go, it's really good. And the pickups are amazing. I've moved my pickups around so much in my guitars, because I love the certain sounds I can get with feedback or a certain type of pickup. It’s either a P-90 or a P-94 in the SG.
It just a great guitar in general. It's got a really fast neck – it’s really thin and small, so I can wrap my little hand around it – and it's long. Yeah, it’s a very cool, very special guitar. I would die if anything ever happened to it!
Lloyd: It is very beautiful. And that's, like, you. Pretty much every photo we've ever seen of you playing a guitar, it’s been with that guitar.
Adalita: Yeah, pretty much.
Lloyd: My bass is a 1974 Rickenbacker 4001, and its name is Honey. Do you have a name for yours, Ad?
Adalita: Yeah, I've got names for all of my guitars, but funnily enough I don't have a name for this one. I just call it Browny. But I should come up with a name for it.
Lloyd: Maybe it’s just Browny! It’s funny how the colour always tells you the name of the thing. I call her Honey because she looks like honey – she has this golden-blonde body wood. I've had her since the late '90s. I bought her for like $900 because it had been modified so much. But the sound is my sound now, and she’s just gorgeous. It's got a Seymour Duncan pickup in the neck and a Jazz Bass pickup in the body, and if I ever got another Rickenbacker, I would put those those same pickups in there.
I love Rickenbackers so much, they’re just so beautiful and they're so nice to play. They're very feminine looking. Even though people like Lemmy played them, they've got this feminine quality to them, and I love that. I've also got an early ‘90s Squire Jazz Bass, which I take on tour because it's got a flight case that it fits in. I can't seem to get a case to fit the Rickenbacker because it's just so long – I got an oversized case for it, but I can't pick it up because I'm five-foot-two, so if I try to carry it anywhere, I end up dragging it along the ground.
I do want to take Honey on tour, but she’s irreplaceable. She’s priceless to me. She’s the most beautiful thing I own, and besides my car, probably the most expensive thing I own; it’s worth a lot more money now than when I bought it, obviously. But there are so many things in that guitar – like you were saying, Ad, she’s got songs in there.
Guitars are different to basses in some ways. I've got a collection of beautiful Jazzmasters and Jaguars, and they all have their own songs in there. I write on guitar, too. I don't really write on bass. But yeah, they're magical little things – only when you connect with a guitar, can you tap into the secrets it holds.
Adalita: Kell, how did you start playing bass?
Lloyd: Well, I started playing guitar when I was 11, but I noticed that when I was listening to records, I was really listening to the bass. And when I was 14, I got my first job working in a café and saved up $100, and I bought an Ibanez Jazz Bass copy. He was called Clyde, after the bass player in the Hoodoo Gurus. The first night I got him, I cuddled up to him in bed. I was really drawn to him. And I had a really hard time learning the guitar – I could do chords, but as soon as I got to barre chords, I was like, "What is this? What is this evil sorcery!?” But after a while playing bass, it really clicked – I remember just going, "Oh my god, I understand what that means now!" So yeah, the bass helped me play guitar.
Adalita: That's so cool. Because bass is such a specific instrument. I mean, I suppose the guitar is too, but... Personally, I love the bass. I'm not a bass player, but I also listen to basslines when I listen to records, and I love playing the basslines on my demos. And yeah, you kind of do write differently on it – it's a different thing. And when you said your first bass was an Ibanez Jazz copy, that's so funny because my very first guitar was an Ibanez copy too, like an Ibanez SG. It's still one of my most favorite guitars ever, but I can't play it because I smashed it. The pickups from that guitar are actually in another guitar somewhere. But that Ibanez – oh my God, it was the best guitar I've ever had.
Lloyd: Mine was too! And I smashed mine to pieces as well [laughs]. The body was at Tym Guitars for a while, he was using that as his Jazz Bass template. But my partner has an Ibanez SG – they're called the “lawsuit” series because they were so good and so close to the originals that they were sued. Ibanez just made the best copies in the ‘70s.
Adalita: I think mine was that ‘70s lawsuit one as well. It was in a shop in Geelong, I just walked in and I saw the little horns and I thought, "Yeah, I need that guitar." The body is still sitting in my shed – maybe I'll try and revive it somehow. Did you smash yours up out of energy?
Lloyd: I used to just whack it on the ground to make noise, but one night I got really drunk, and I just smashed it. I’d always watched Tim [Steward, frontman] smash up guitars – he would go to a an op shop and buy a $100 guitar, play it and smash it and set fire to it or whatever – and I was always like, "That's such a waste! You could have given that to a school or something!” you know. But then I smashed my favourite bass [laughs]. I smashed it out of stupidity, though, and I wish I hadn’t.
Adalita: Aw, that's alright. I smashed mine out of pure adrenaline. It was just an energy thing. I've had quite a few people come up to me and they just cannot believe I do that, and they are so disgusted. And I'm just like, "Well, you don't get it. I'm sorry.”
Lloyd: Yeah, and there is that thing, where you're kind of in the moment. I mean, I could never do it to my Rickenbacker, but I have smashed two basses. But that's just because it was part of this thing, you know, making tonnes of noise at the end of a set, putting a phaser on the bass and just going wild. I've blown up so many amps, and I've split so many speakers – sound people hated us in the ‘90s [laughs]. It's all part of being young and full of the devil.
Screamfeeder and Adalita tour dates:
Friday June 10th – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Saturday June 11th – Jive Bar, Adelaide
Saturday June 18th – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Friday June 24th – Princess Theatre, Brisbane
Five Rooms is out now independently
Grab a copy here