Not A Dirty Word

21 August 2012 | 6:00 am | Matt O'Neill

"You guys are amazing at pop music. I wish our chart was like yours, to be honest. America would hate me for saying that but it’s true. You guys are always a little bit ahead of the curve."

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Bands like Hot Chelle Rae are rare in Australia. For a country whose biggest musical exports have always been either full-blooded rock acts (AC/DC) or custom-designed pop starlets (Kylie), a respectable rock band specifically targeting pop star ubiquity is practically unheard of - tall poppy syndrome alone would tend to eradicate any contenders audacious enough for such a coup. Hot Chelle Rae, though, walk that very line.

“That's really weird. I think you guys have one of the better pop charts in the world, personally,” singer and guitarist Ryan Follese says. “I mean, you guys are amazing at pop music. I wish our chart was like yours, to be honest. America would hate me for saying that but it's true. You guys are always a little bit ahead of the curve. I've always paid attention to what's going on in Australia.”

Releasing their most recent album, last year's Whatever, through Jive Records (Britney Spears, P!nk), Hot Chelle Rae have supported everyone from Taylor Swift to Lil Jon. Their single, Tonight Tonight, debuted at #7 on the Billboard charts last year and was eventually certified double platinum. Yet, these pop stars are also serious musicians. In actual fact, each one of them is the son of an accomplished songwriter or session musician.

“It's interesting. When I first started writing songs with Nash [Overstreet, lead guitarist - son of singer-songwriter Paul Overstreet], we wrote really pop music together - even though we weren't even in a band yet. We didn't even know why we were doing it,” Follese [son of songwriter Keith Follese] explains. “It's just what came out when we started playing - really poppy music.

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“As time went by, we started getting into music theory and experimenting. Lots of really weird chords. I started playing piano, which was a definite mistake,” he laughs. “Eventually, we were playing this music and we just went 'Man, this is complicated,' and decided to just go back to what we were doing. We basically admitted that pop music was what we actually loved and decided to focus on that rather than impressing people.”

It's often tempting to think of acts like Hot Chelle Rae as mechanical creatures. Particularly given their familial links to the industry. It's important to note that Hot Chelle Rae's eventual success (now extending to their own headline tour of Australia) has never been fore-ordained or industry orchestrated. In fact, Keith Follese originally advised his sons Ryan and Jamie [Hot Chelle Rae's drummer] against pursuing a career in music.

“That is true, actually - not many people know that. He didn't try and dissuade us so much as he used to just say that this business is full of evil people and that we wouldn't understand until we were in it. And, man, he was right about that,” Follese laughs. “He was really just shying us away from the business side of the music. He told us that business takes all the fun out of music and sometimes that's the truth, sadly.

“My dad wasn't your typical artiste, so to speak. He treated his job like a job. He got up every day and wrote songs. That's how he raised us and that's kind of how we work our band. I'm very much living in the now at the moment. Our band is doing well, we're writing our third album and we're touring Australia. I don't really mind what people think one way or the other. We're just going to keep at it anyway.”