Benevolent Leader

18 March 2012 | 3:57 pm | Sam Hobson

Steve Lane, of esteemed pop-rock group Steve Lane And The Autocrats talks with Sam Hobson about the romance of place, and the politics of corralling the right configuration of age and experience.

An autocrat is a person that governs and decrees with absolute, unquestionable power. A term in politics, an autocracy generally refers to instances of despotism, or tyrannical rule, and in literature, an autocrat can also mean a person who is markedly 'domineering' or 'dictatorial.' Steve Lane, though he's the head of his band The Autocrats, stops the associations there. In fact, he takes a particularly egalitarian, and downright communal approach to being in charge.

But first, back to the beginning.

“I was in Alice Springs,” Lane begins, tracing back the album's origin,“and we were visiting the Telegraph Station, and they had some old articles from when the station was going to be set up, and lines were going to be linked right through the centre of Australia, and the little phrase they had was 'The Romance Of Communication,' and it just stuck with me.”

Planting a great seed in his head, this theme of 'communication' began to snake its way out from that day, blossoming into a larger, defining creative aesthetic for the man.

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“I think music is actually an amazing form of communication. People will often say things that really mean a lot to them, and they may not say it verbally in a normal conversation, but give them an opportunity to say something through music, and most people will say something pretty special.”

From there, Lane expanded this idea of communication as something that could unite people in particular in their love of 'place.'

“I think there's a sense of honesty in [writing] those kind've songs,” he says, in fond response to being labelled particularly 'Australian' in his music. “I think it's about being honest to myself, and honest to where I live. There can be some beautiful things here in the ordinary, and the everyday.”

But what's communication without people?

“A lot of the songs found their start [with] a really good mate of mine,” he continues. “He's a poet, and we collaborated a lot. The songs existed before the band existed, really. We've got such a great writing relationship in that way. With the guys, I jammed a lot of these songs with different friends and [at] different times, but it wasn't until this [current] line-up arrived that I just really felt that it was right; it just clicked.”

But that's not in the least to say that Lane controls the band's sound. Though it is a project of his creation, he's warm, and welcoming of input from other members. Here is where they're allowed to be the autocrats.

“I'm one of those people that, if I invite someone to be part of a project, I really invite them to bring their 'thing'. That's what I love about [The Autocrats]; it's such a 'sum of the parts' scenario, and I just love what they [each] bring.”

But this inference of 'authority' in the band's name isn't completely ignored by Lane.

“I think our sound [comes from] a bunch of fellas who've had a lot of musical experiences. It was really important, I guess, that…well, I wasn't going to go recruit a 20-year-old to join us. There's something in [our music] that shows that we're really easy and comfortable where we are in our musical life. I was only ever going to write and be part of a project of people of [a] more mature [leaning]; people who 'still have it', too.

“It's a shared experience,” he concludes, “and it's us sharing this time in our lives. And [our music] is unashamedly placed [in that time], too.”