Music

Old haunts, new lives and the same classic tunes: a chat with ’90s pop legends The Mavis’s

If you were either around at the time or have a soft spot for ’90s music, you would know The Mavis’s well. Catapulted by glammed-out, freewheeling singles like Cry and Naughty Boy, their 1998 album Pink Pills saw the band at their pop-savvy peak.

Now, 20 years on, The Mavis’s are brining Australia Pink Pills one more time.

the mavis's pink pills 20th anniversary tour

20 years later, Aussie legends The Mavis’s are reuniting. We sit down with original members Matt, Beki and Nik to find out exactly why Pink Pills meant so much.

HAPPY: Hey, what’s happening? What are you up to at the moment?

MATT: I have a three piece synth band called VIDEO VIDEO, we’ve been working on new material since our album Planet of Storms. I’ve also been recording my first solo record under the name Matt Doll. Finding a balance between soaring melodies and darkness in the sound and lyrics. Guitars , synths, vintage drum machines, low vocals and the odd falsetto. Be nice to get that music out there soon.

BEKI: Hi! I have an LA based, ’80s inspired pop act called The Fascinated. We’ve released one album and almost finished the second one. Plus I have an exciting secret music project on the way in 2018 too!

NIK: To be honest I’ve been completely disconnected from the music world for some time now. I lived for a period of time in New York City where I met my wife, and more recently we moved down to Nashville, Tennessee, bought a house on an acre, and adopted a pot belly pig. I’ve been heavily involved with restaurant and bar management for years now and I’m working on opening a vegan restaurant in Nashville in the not too distant future.

HAPPY: You’ve all been keeping busy then! What was the catalyst to get back together?

MATT: For me personally, there was a lot of pain associated with the band after we broke up. I loved it so much and that was my life for so long. Those songs were my life story from adolescence to manhood. So as a matter of survival (sometimes not), I’ve either been disinterested or unsure about the band.  Over the last few years my sister Beki and I have come together for some special duo shows and also one band show with Nik. Actually LISTENING again to the songs and playing them with Beki and Nik has woken me to their beauty. Also, working with Consume Management has really made it all possible.

BEKI: For me personally, the timing just felt right and really wanting to play our songs again together on stage. When Matt and I sing together something magical happens and I miss that… and Nik, Matt and I have a special family bond that is un breakable – we know know it will be FUN. Also, it appears a lot of our very young fans from the ’90s are now in their late twenties or thirties and are appreciating our music as adults now! So it will be fun to play to them.

NIK: We had definitely toyed with the idea of getting the band back together over the years, but for whatever reason, it just never happened. The timing with the Pink Pills 20th anniversary was just perfect. All the stars just seemed to align and a tour was born.

HAPPY: I really like the old footage you’ve been sharing. Did you come across anything unexpected, sifting through the archives?

MATT: We were recently given VHS footage from 1995-2000 by a friend who spent much time on tour with us causally filming. I’ve only seen a very small amount of it so far. I hope to archive this somehow and tell our stories.

BEKI: There are SO many photos at Mum and Dad’s in Ballarat! I was the photo queen out of all our friends growing up so it’s all documented hehe… some amazing photos – I ripped up a couple of ridiculous pics from a Kylie Minogue afterparty I think… (I did). We have a lot of video footage too of all our recording and touring adventures so stay tuned.

NIK: It’s always kind of weird when you see photos and videos of yourself or the band that you’ve never seen before, and that has definitely happened with the footage that has been resurfacing… just because there is SO much. We are incredibly lucky to have that period be so heavily documented. There are literally hundreds of hours of stuff to sift through.

HAPPY: Matt and Nik, I’ve seen you talk about your guitar chemistry together. A lot has changed in guitar tech in 20 years, are there any new toys you’re bringing on this tour?

MATT: I think we’ll both revisit our signature sounds, old guitar pedals and amp sounds. I ‘can’ speak for Nik because we still have that bond with sounds and we know each other well even though we’ve lived in different parts of the world for years. Nik has a great chunky distorted sound, beautiful, melodic soaring lines and everything in between. l kinda have a strident, jangly telecaster sound.

NIK: Haha, I don’t know if Matt or I ever embraced the more tech side of guitar playing or accessories. We would definitely geek out over vintage pedals that someone may happen to have in the studio but a lot of the time we didn’t really know what we were doing. It was just a matter of turning knobs until we found a sound we liked. We definitely come from a punk rock background and I think that’s something we will always carry with us. In terms of chemistry Matt and I definitely have something unique. We both have very different guitar sounds but somehow they make sense together. It’s something that was a lot more obvious to me when I recently revisited the records.

HAPPY: Are any of the venues you’ve been looking back on still around? Any new favourites?

MATT: The Prince Of Wales in Melbourne is an old favourite. Beki and I did a special duo show at The Northcote Social Club recently. The audience, staff and sound left us with a good feeling.

BEKI: I always loved playing at The Prince in St.Kilda – St.Kilda was/is our old stomping ground! We are playing there again on this tour so I’m excited!

NIK: Living over in the USA for the past ten years, I honestly don’t know what venues are still around. Obviously the Prince of Wales is and I know we are all very excited to play there. I have great memories from both The Annandale in Sydney and The Punters Club in Melbourne. We had some amazing shows at both venues early in our career.

HAPPY: If you dropped Pink Pills today, how did you think it would go down?

MATT: It would still sound as fresh, but would most likely not be given the promotion or radio airplay it had. It’s a very different time now. We were a working band that had played shows and experimented with our sound since we were teenagers. We were tough. There wasn’t an instant hype. An audience grew from a different culture where people met at live gigs and followed a band’s growth. The same came with record company interest, we earned it. So Pink Pills and our other records were the result of that.

BEKI: That is a good question… I think some people would appreciate it of course – I don’t know, I can’t tell anymore as I live in my own bubble of what I love and don’t know what’s going on in the mainstream radio world these days.

NIK: It’s hard to say. I think Pink Pills was always a record that challenged the musical climate of its time and perhaps it would still do that today. Surprisingly I don’t think it has dated that much sonically compared to a lot of other records from that time. I think Kalju did a great job on the production and mixing and I think WE did a great job of ignoring any current trends from that period.

HAPPY: I hear the original sessions were a ton of stress. Was it tough, revisiting that? Or even that whole period?

MATT: Playing The Mavis’s songs again feels like the right time. Celebrating and also healing.

BEKI: Yes the Pink Pills sessions were a beautiful disaster! Amazing though… it’s what made the album interesting and full of tension and beauty. We also had so much fun while recording – in between the mental breakdowns hehe… we got in trouble by the record company too.

NIK: There’s absolutely no doubt that The Mavis’s were a difficult band to be in, and this period was particularly hard. There were so many different dynamics within the band – not unlike Fleetwood Mac I guess you could say. If you go and put this group of people in an isolated recording studio in a rainforest, after they are burned out from touring , then you are going to get some extreme tension. I think we can all laugh about it now but there was some crazy stuff that went on.

HAPPY: Your supports on the tour are awesome but, who would be your dream tour buddies if you could lift them straight out of 1998?

MATT: We always had fun touring with The Earthmen back in the day, in fact Matthew Sigley is playing bass now with The Mavis’s.

BEKI: ’90s No Doubt and the Marvelous 3.

NIK: The Earthmen of course!

HAPPY: Nice! Also on that note, who are some of faces from that time you’d love to see take on their own 20th anniversary tour (apart from Rubher)?

MATT: Shout out to our Ballarat buddies from the early days! The Dead Salesmen. The Fat Thing.

BEKI: For me from 1998? The Dead Salesmen!! (Who are playing with us in Ballarat… they are part of the soundtrack to our teenage years ❤)

NIK: I always really enjoyed Primary from Sydney. I thought Connie (the singer) was absolutely world class and deserved more success.

HAPPY: Well, looking forward to it all! Thanks for the chat.

MATT: Many thanks!

Pink Pills 20th Anniversary Tour

Fri 4 May – The Grand Hotel Mornington – Mornington, VIC – Tickets
Sat 5 May – The V Room – Noosa, QLD – Tickets
Sun 6 May – Stones Corner Festival – Greenslopes, QLD – Tickets
Wed 9 May – The Gov – Adelaide, SA – Tickets
Thurs 10 May – The Metro Theatre – Sydney, NSW – Tickets
Fri 11 May – Prince Bandroom – St. Kilda, VIC – Tickets
Sat 12 May – Karova Lounge – Ballarat, VIC – Tickets