GRITTY RE­AL­ITY

Mark Seymour en­joys get­ting out on the road play­ing gigs in far­away places that tweak the song­writer’s sense for a good story

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD PLAY - NOEL MEN­GEL

One way or another, Mark Seymour has been on the move for most of his life. As a young­ster, his fam­ily fol­lowed his fa­ther’s work. Hun­ters And Col­lec­tors, a band that started out as arty in­ner-city funksters, grew to rule the sub­ur­ban pub rock barns by con­stant tour­ing. It was some­thing to be­hold Seymour – a ball of fire with a Tele­caster and a blue sin­glet – work the room into a state of high ex­cite­ment. That was Hun­ters – sub­ver­sive, abra­sive and some­how pop­u­lar, too.

Thirty years on, he’s still got his eyes open for a song, whether it’s at a sub­ur­ban train sta­tion or talk­ing to some of the same blokes who used to pack Hun­ters And Col­lec­tors shows, now mem­bers of the na­tion of fly-in fly-out work­ers.

Seymour likes it out there in the real world. Life in a big band, as much as he en­joyed it, sets you apart from it.

“Peo­ple in the mu­sic in­dus­try are in a bub­ble; it’s a game that’s so in­ward-look­ing and self-ref­er­en­tial – who’s in the charts, who sold this many records?,” he says.

“It’s im­por­tant to be tuned into the world. I don’t have to make records; I could go on singing Holy Grail un­til I couldn’t walk any more, and some­one would pay me for it. But it’s bor­ing; where’s the growth in that?’’

Hun­ters And Col­lec­tors re­united for shows last year but Seymour is de­ter­mined not to be stuck as a juke­box act. Small towns, min­ing towns, Seymour, with his band The Un­der­tow, will play wher­ever there is work.

“I met a guy af­ter a show in a fly-in fly-out min­ing camp. He was 62 and had been do­ing it for 17 years. He said, ‘I’m over it but I can’t stop, the money’s too good’.” That was the spark for FIFO on the new al­bum, May­day: “I get so lonely/Feels like my nerve is gonna break/ Two weeks in, two weeks out/ How much more can I take?’’

Af­ter each show, Seymour goes out to the merch stand. It’s a two-way trans­ac­tion. The pun­ters have heard the songs and want to take them home; Seymour gets an in­sight into how peo­ple live, far from cam­eras and the media.

“It’s fas­ci­nat­ing. You tour and see these town­ship cul­tures that have been there for decades that you rarely see in the media. I’ve dis­cov­ered the art of con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple I’m prob­a­bly never go­ing to meet again. You get their per­spec­tive of you and where they are in the world.

and ad­dress the is­sue of asy­lum seek­ers.

“Peo­ple come here try­ing to find se­cu­rity and are vil­i­fied with ex­pres­sions like ‘coun­try shop­pers’ and ‘throw­ing chil­dren over­board’,” says Seymour. “A pro­por­tion of Aus­tralians have come to be­lieve that asy­lum seek­ers are a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity, which is ab­surd.

“But they are liv­ing in these jun­gle camps in­def­i­nitely and we are re­spon­si­ble for it and we have to deal with it.’’

Then there’s Football Train. Seymour is from Mel­bourne. Of course he loves AFL and takes the train from his home on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula to watch matches with his daugh­ters.

“My lyric writ­ing has be­come a lot more about lo­ca­tion and vis­ual de­tail,” he says. “Frankston sta­tion is at the end of the line and you get the full cross-sec­tion of Mel­bourne there – all classes, ev­ery kind of per­son.”

Mark Seymour And The Un­der­tow play the Lon­es­tar Tav­ern to­mor­row night.

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