"For a while we would just get on stage, hammer through as many songs as possible, and walk on. Now we're doing more than that."
Frankie McLaughlin is awake at ten in the morning, but one gets the sense he'd prefer to still be under the covers of his Sydney bed. "It's a wet one here today so I haven't gotten too far. I'm certainly not about to debunk the myth that we musicians do anything before midday!" Given the year that McLaughlin's band The Rumjacks have had — not to mention a rather large rehearsal last night — a sleep-in is probably due.
2015 saw the band's first major European tour: close to 40 shows crammed in with barely a night off. "It really let us know what we could and couldn't do. It also happened to be the hottest summer on recent record, so it was a nightly assault on the system."
"I discovered after doing the poster artwork for our Victorian shows that Warrnambool, in south-west Victoria, has two Rs in it, and not one."
The band combined a few festival slots with a swag of sweaty pub gigs, playing to packed rooms that helped validate the band's trajectory. "When you get dropped in a place that you didn't even know existed until you got there, it's hard to know what to expect. We were received incredibly, and what's more, the fans were singing along to every word of every song. They were wearing our t-shirts that they'd had for three years that aren't even in stock any more, and we were thinking, 'Gee, they've been following us for quite a while.'"
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Now, armed to the teeth with their latest record Sober & Godless and with a European summer's worth of gigs under their collective belt, The Rumjacks are ready to hit some of their more familiar Australian stages — and one not-so-familiar one.
"I discovered after doing the poster artwork for our Victorian shows that Warrnambool, in south-west Victoria, has two Rs in it, and not one. I suspect the good folk of Warrnambool will let us know all about it, so let's hope there's not too much backlash when they see the tour poster."
Spelling errors aside, things are certainly looking up for The Rumjacks, which is an achievement in itself considering their ascension was suddenly halted when, in 2012, McLaughlin was sent to prison on a domestic violence-related charge. But after recently aligning themselves with anti-domestic violence campaign #notON at BIGSOUND, it's clear McLaughlin and his band are on a path of redemption.
"We had some good discussions with [the promoters of #notON] ahead of our BIGSOUND show, and we'll continue to discuss back and forth with them opportunities to help out in a tangible way. There are a lot of things that we wouldn't be too ready to align ourselves with, or race off to champion; we don't think that's our position. But there are some organisations like these guys who we have no problem at all involving ourselves with whatsoever."
So as they hit the road, playing shows across the width and breadth of the country, The Rumjacks will continue doing what they do best: putting on a hell of a show. It might involve an early morning or two, but McLaughlin says, "I think when you've got people who are that ready to be entertained, it's easy to be an entertainer. For a while we would just get on stage, hammer through as many songs as possible, and walk off. Now we're doing more than that; we're connecting with our audience, and having a lot of fun in the process."