Motor Ace: Laundry Service.

13 May 2002 | 12:00 am | Matt Thrower
Originally Appeared In

The Good (Secret) Life.

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Motor Ace play The Zoo on Friday, the Sands Tavern, Maroochydore on Saturday and the Great Northern Hotel in Byron Bay on Sunday.

Motor Ace bassist Matt Balfe is sounding excited about the imminent release of the band’s second album, assuring me I’m in for a twist on the traditional Motor Ace formula.

“It’s a bit of a mixed bag,” Matt says. “It’s pretty cohesive, more guitar-based and more ballady in parts. Chris (Sheldon) produced and mixed it this time.”

The record, recorded at Melbourne’s Sing Sing studios, also explores drum loops and string arrangements, while still remaining distinctly Motor Ace in its approach.

Our intro to the new Motor Ace album is the majestic Carry On, a distinctly British-sounding anthem, which Matt gleefully describes as “teetering on overblown.”

“We worked on it for a long time, we did two months of extensive demoing, so we put a lot of time into the song. I’m actually a bit sick of it,” he confesses. “The song which has potential as our next single won’t be as English-sounding as Carry On. It’ll be more like the traditional Motor Ace sound: melodic with largish guitars!”

The album Motor Ace will be following up is the smash hit Five Star Laundry which rocketed to number four in the ARIA charts. And deservedly so, because it had more hooks than a pirates’ accessory store. Mixing crunchy melodic rock with atmospheric indie pop with poignant ballads, Five Star Laundry was the sound of an assured, confident young Aussie band.

“We really exhausted Five Star, I think,” says Matt. “We saturated the radio with tracks from it and kept awareness going. There ended up being six or seven songs off Five Star that were played on the radio.”

Not to mention one that became a TV theme! I’m talking, of course, about Death Defy, it’s ringing guitars and soaring harmonies heard in the opening moments of Secret Life Of Us each week. Matt agrees the tune has helped raise Motor Ace’s profile. How could it fail? Putting your song at the beginning of one of the most addictive angst-soaps ever made. Smart move.

I quip that the last album is something of an Appetite For Destruction, in that many people have heard a hefty percentage of Five Star Laundry just by listening to the radio (or, indeed, watching TV).

“Yeah! We really created an awareness of the songs,” says Matt.

How did you respond when your first album went to number four?

“I think we got really drunk or something obvious like that,” replies Matt. “It wasn’t really an overnight success for us or anything. I’ve been playing with Dave (Ong, guitars, piano) since I was 14 and with Damo (Birchall Costin, drums) for the last three or four years. The songs on Five Star were written over a three-year period. I think it’s been kind of tough on Pat (Robertson, guitarist/singer), because he’s the main songwriter and instead of having three years to write the follow-up album, he had about six months, so he had to deal with deadlines and that sort of thing. But despite that kind of uncomfortable environment, I really feel that it’s given the songs an element of urgency. They really have a certain kind of ambition about them.”

With 2002 shaping up to be an exciting year, Motor Ace have some serious road travel ahead of them. As the band make perfect festival entertainment, I ask if the summer festival circuit will be part of their itinerary. After all, I was witness to the band’s performance at Livid a couple of years back, and saw first-hand the excitement these boys are capable of whipping up. As Sebastian Bach used to say, it was the youth gone wild.

“Oh yeah,” Matt enthuses. “We’re always keen to do the festivals.”

Do you agree that Motor Ace make a perfect festival band?

“I think so, because we make catchy songs that people can sing along with,” he says. “We’ve also played some of our best sets at festivals. Livid was a great day. I think it was one of the best performances we ever did.”

Sweating it out live is where Motor Ace feel most comfortable. So if you think Carry On is the beginning of Motor Ace reinventing themselves as epic rockers bound for stadiums, orchestras and inflatable pigs, think again. Matt sums it up:

“We’re a melodic rock ‘n’ roll band. Pure and simple.”