Wild gigs and wacky venues: Down The Middle and The Vacant Smiles interview each other

Down The Middle and The Vacant Smiles are two bands taking on their own breed of indie-flavoured rock, and plenty of people are paying close attention.

Off the back of Down The Middle’s debut single Green Eyed, they will be playing together on 25th of April at the Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar. Ahead of the gig, we connected both bands for a chat.

down the middle band green eyed tour

Does rock ‘n’ roll ever really go away? Down The Middle and The Vacant Smiles chat it up ahead of their joint gig this month.

DOWN THE MIDDLE: Hey guys how’s it going? Really keen to play with you in Melbourne. It’s our first time playing at the Last Chance Rock n Roll bar, seeing as you’re the local boys what memorable gigs have you attended at the venue?

THE VACANT SMILES: Hey, real keen to have you down! Last Chance is a bit of a wacky venue to tell the truth but definitely a cool place to hang out – the front half is like a crab shack or something, and then they have some really cool shows in the band room. We played there a few years ago with this sick Melbourne band called The Mighty Boys (who just broke up) but that was huge, and earlier this year I got to see A. Swayze and the Ghosts there who put on such a good show. Oh and last time I was there I dropped my phone in the urinal. Looking forward to doing it all again!

This will be your second time down in Melbourne won’t it? What went down the first time?

DOWN THE MIDDLE: Yes, technically this is our second time as a band to Melbourne, however last time we played in Ballan which is about an hour out of town. We played at this thing called Buzzconf which is pretty much a technology festival with live music each night. It was a great experience and our first interstate show as a band. Needless to say we made the most of it, things got pretty loose as we supported the other bands! We recounted most of it in a DTM TV episode:

As you can see we’ve had some pretty memorable moments, a lot of them documented in this series on YouTube. What is one of your funniest or most memorable moments as a band?

THE VACANT SMILES: I don’t know what our funniest moment could be because there’s always a lot. It’s often pretty dumb as well. The other day our bassist Shay wore a wifebeater during our set which was pretty funny, and later it got ripped off him during an AC/DC cover band. Funny and dumb.

How’d the DTM TV stuff start?

DOWN THE MIDDLE: We just thought it would be cool for people to see a bit of personality from us as opposed to always seeing us on stage. It’s also a great way to keep fans up to date with what’s been happening and is another bit of content for people to consume in this digital age! It’s fun making them and people seem to be enjoying them. Looking forward to putting out some tour episodes.

When we first listened to your songs it was great to hear fellow musicians banging out solid indie rock tunes. Do you see indie rock or rock music in general having a resurgence in Australia?

THE VACANT SMILES: Hmm, I’m not sure, I feel like the old rock music is gone/rock music is back conversation is constantly going and I don’t know if anything ever really changed. Especially in Melbourne, with such a wealth of really awesome bands, I feel like it’s something I don’t really even consider – it’s just always there. Maybe less rock bands are winning the Hottest 100 or headlining festivals at the moment, but I don’t think rock music is coming back any more than it already is. It’s 2018, baby!

I might throw that question straight back to you – what do you think of the current state of guitar music?

DOWN THE MIDDLE: I agree with you that it never went away, it’s one of those genres that’s always going to be there but in terms of popularity and what people are into at the moment I think it’s really making a comeback. In Sydney we are always discovering new bands and more often than not it’s guitar driven rock that they’re playing. There are a ton of bands such as Giverny and Stumps that are finding great success in the local scene and pulling huge crowds to their shows; it’s great to see and gives us a lot of hope.

We recently changed the way we write our songs to focus on getting the bass and drums down first, how do you guys approach writing your songs?

THE VACANT SMILES: Despite playing together for a pretty long time now, we’ve never really been a band that writes songs together. Usually I’ll just have a song idea or something that I’ll end up messing around with for a while, and by the time we get a chance to learn some new things it’ll be pretty fleshed out and ready to go. We’re starting to work on some newer stuff that’s a bit louder and psychy so hopefully that’ll give us the chance to try stuff out together and mix it up.

That’s cool about mixing up the songwriting process – how’d that come about and have your songs improved because of it?

DOWN THE MIDDLE: Well Tiernan and Rudi wrote the initial songs together on guitar and then Zach came in as the drummer and only had the guitars to work off. What that meant was that when I joined as the bassist, although playing in time and in the right key, the rhythm section didn’t quite stick in some songs. When we started writing songs collectively, any song that sounded good had a tight rhythm section first so we saw that as the common denominator.

It made us go back and rework our other songs. Now song ideas, structure, etc. is worked out in whatever way possible, then it’s over to myself and Zach to work out the rhythm section. Tiernan and Rudi can then work out vocal and guitars on top of that. It gives our songs more space and drive. We’ve really enjoyed the process so can’t wait to play them on tour and get them recorded.

THE VACANT SMILES: Sounds good, look forward to hearing some of the new tracks! Your latest song, Green Eyed is a belter, what’s the story behind that one?

DOWN THE MIDDLE: Thanks mate, we are really enjoying your new tune StonesGreen Eyed was one of the original jams between Rudi and Tiernan. It was always one they messed around with, but once Zach put a drum beat to it we fleshed it out into something that we saw as single potential. I guess the overarching theme is jealousy, but it’s very much open to interpretation as to why.

Tiernan doesn’t say much about the lyrics until he’s after a few beers.


Down The Middle and The Vacant Smiles play The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar on April 25th, as part of the Green Eyed tour. If you can’t make that one don’t fret, both acts have plenty of shows up their sleeves:

Down The Middle Green Eyed tour

April 19 – Marrickville Bowlo, Sydney – Details
April 20 – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra – Details
April 21 – Lass O’Gowrie Hotel, Newcastle – Details
April 25 – The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar, Melbourne – Details
April 28 – Rics Bar, Brisbane – Details

The Vacant Smiles live

April 19 – Bar Open, Melbourne – Details
April 25 – The Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar, Melbourne – Details
April 30 – Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne – Details
May 12 – Gratisfaction – The Gasometer Hotel, Melbourne – Details