Not So Bitter

4 July 2012 | 7:40 am | Brendan Crabb

"What would Area 7 do when this is all finished and you’re not popular anymore?"

It seems like a long time ago, but there was a golden period in the 1990s and 2000s where rockabilly and ska managed to tickle the fringes of mainstream Australian music. One of the leading acts to have caught such an unlikely wave was Area 7, whose Second Class Citizen and “throwaway” Nobody Likes A Bogan singles climbed the ARIA charts and flirted with the Triple M masses. But as is the way with music, the trend flowed away. Now as the band gear up for the Dead Of Winter festival, John “Stevo” Stevens stresses that they never really went away.

“The thing most people don't realise is that we never split up, we just stopped playing as much. Many of us had jobs, and kids, and families, so life gets in the way. We did go from having the band as our career and were a full-time band, but then the Australian music industry bottomed out with the Australian Idol phenomenon taking over and a lot of bands fell by the wayside. The music industry at that stage wasn't supporting bands as much, and we were on an American label where we were their only Australian band, and they decided to close up shop, yet we were tied to our contract for three more albums... It took two years to get released from our contract, and by then it just stopped being a viable thing for us.”

Such changes in fortune may have laid waste to most bands, but Stevens believes that the chain of events was a blessing in disguise. “It worked out quite well for us actually, because we can be selective about what we do and play when we feel like it. Since our 15 year anniversary show [in 2010] there are more opportunities to play venues and festivals that really appeal to us and the type of crowd that we prefer when we play live. It means that we can't really go stale either. Our label issues were when we were at our peak, and at the time it wasn't a great thing, but now we can see benefits. We haven't gotten jaded, and our fans still see us in a favourable light.

“Plus we are a ska band essentially,” he continues. “We aren't pretentious; we don't think the world owes us a favour. We were interviewed not long before our label packed up shop, and we were asked 'What would Area 7 do when this is all finished and you're not popular anymore?' We just laughed! We just went back to the small punk and ska shows around the country that we have always done in one form or another since the '80s, and that will always exist bubbling away in the underground somewhere. It's probably where we are more suited anyway!”

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Brisbane has always held a special place in Area 7's heart, and Stevens cannot wait to get back here to play once more. “Queensland, and Brissie especially, is a lot like Melbourne for us in that you have 4ZZZ, and we have Triple R down here, so there has always been a big indie scene and good local festivals that incorporate and love all kinds of music. We played one of the Market Days there some time ago and we were surprised by the reception that we got. We have always enjoyed travelling up there, and many of our craziest shows were in Queensland. When I think back to the Big Day Outs and the Warped Tours, Queensland always had a strong and favourable reaction to everything that was going on.”