The Snowdroppers Have Lost Their Gloss

19 October 2011 | 8:50 am | Liz Galinovic

It should be stated that how much of the following story is true will never be known. The four members of Sydney band The Snowdroppers – Johnny Wishbone (vocals, banjo), Pauly K (guitar), Nick London (bass) and Cougar Jones (drums) – all harbour a penchant for being facetious. The answer to every question always begins with an exercise in humorous truth stretching or straight-up lies. Occasionally, when the laughter begins to fade, one of them will offer a tone indicative of some pending seriousness, but only occasionally.

Newtown's Vanguard, with its 1920s jazz club style, is the perfect setting for the foursome, who are often cited as having stepped out of the same Depression era with music and attire as vintage as the couch they're sitting on. And it's not just part of the act, as Jones explains while pulling on the suspenders holding up his cuffed trousers.

“I have a uniform for work, but when I don't go to work I wear this.” It's partly what brought them together as a band, this common love for a bygone era. Well, not necessarily the clothes, more the music. “I like vintage clothes, do you wanna start a band?” Wishbone asks the others. “I can't play an instrument but I like vintage clothes. 'Surry Hills, The Musical!'… yeah [serious face on]… it was a love of the music [that brought us together] first and foremost.”

The Snowdroppers produce a scuzzy style of blues and rockabilly of old, but with a contemporary edge and lyrical subject matter as grimy as their sound and their name (band name, reputation, etc.). Garnering praise all over the country on the back of debut album, Too Late To Pray (2009), the band has gone on to tour nationally as headliners as well as supporting the likes of Avett Brothers and Seasick Steve, playing Big Day Out and Bluesfest among other festivals and this year's SXSW.

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“I'll tell you something,” Wishbone says, looking very serious at the mention of the famed Texan festival, “I didn't eat a vegetable for a week.” He picks up the recording device in front of him so as to spell it out clearly – “For. a. whole. week.”
The end of this year sees them hit Aussie roads and venues again in celebration of their latest single, released on limited edition 7” vinyl or, alternatively, free download on their website, I've Been So Lonely Now Since You've Been Gone, the lyrics of which go something like “I've been so lonely now since you've been gone”.

Wishbone: “You know, it's a song about life, love, racism, hatred, women, men…”
Jones: “…Politics…”
Wishbone: “…Politics…”
Jones: “…Dogs, cats…”
Wishbone: “…Dogs, cats, living together, Armageddon, religion, God, the devil, London's sleeping patterns…”
Jones: “…Geography…”
Wishbone: “…Geography, it's about geography, it's about fluffy, fluffy, um, fluffy bits that you put on…”
Jones: “At some point you're actually going to have to tell what the song is about.”
Wishbone: “I'm halfway through telling what it's about, where was I?”
Jones: “Life, love…”
Wishbone: “Um, Cougar went away for a little while, to Wet'n'Wild one weekend and, ah, I wrote it then. 'I've been so lonely now since you've been gone.'”

Releasing something on vinyl is something the band has always wanted to do and according to Wishbone, in terms of resources, everything came together at the right time. “We got a bit sneaky,” London offers up, “speaking of the resources.” “I don't know, should we tell this part?” Jones asks. After an “Aaaaah” from Wishbone, Jones continues, “What if what's-his-name finds out?” “Would that be a problem?” asks Pauly K. All four spend a moment in pensive silence before Wishbone leans forward, serious face on again and says, “We stole money from The Wiggles.”

As it turns out, the story goes something like this (note – inappropriate references have been removed):
London: “Well we wanted to record the songs but we had no money.”
Wishbone: “I'll tell you what Jeff, Jeff… Jeff was asleep.” Jones: “Wake up Jeff.” London: “We didn't steal it!” Wishbone: “No, we didn't steal it.”
London: “We had some money left over. They gave us a small sum of cash to record a track for an upcoming Wiggles compilation and we ended up finding a studio cheaper and so we had time to record two other tracks, incidentally. Not saying that we spent the money The Wiggles gave us doing those tracks, we just happened to do them on the same day and that's what's going on the vinyl. Sooo… misappropriation.”

The single – it's actually a double A-side, or double B-side, or C-side, they argue about this for a moment – is a teaser for the upcoming second album they hope to have finished and released in 2012 (they argue about this too). When questioned about it, Wishbone has been known to tell people the band doesn't have a “fucking idea” what they're going to do, but this seems to have been cleared up recently.

“I can definitely say that we have slightly more of an idea of what the fuck we're doing, only ever so slightly,” he says before he and the band proceed to argue, in percentages, over how much of it has been completed. “It is on its way,” Wishbone states. “That was part of the reason for this single release, to kind of reacquaint ourselves with the studio, which we'd not been near in maybe two years and also just to try out some new stuff and put it out there and see what the response was. And if not [a good response], we can go back to the songwriters that the Backstreet Boys hire and ask them to do some other stuff for us.”

According to Pauly K, the new album is “maybe a little less glossy than the first one. A bit rawer”. Wishbone and the other's agree, well, not that the first one was glossy, but that as London says, the new stuff is “rougher and rawer”. “They're all new songs so you'd hope there'd be changes,” London says. “I think they're sounding different, slightly,” Jones adds. London: “Different lyrics, different chords.” Wishbone: “Ooh, we did use some of the same chords though.” London: “Yeah a lot of the same words as well, just rearranged.”