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