The Bitter Sweethearts are a lively bunch, known as well for their blistering shows as they are for their sins. Right now they’re neck-deep in a far reaching Aussie tour, leaving miles of desolation behind them wherever they tread.
With their last Sydney show on the horizon, we caught up with their boozy, lascivious frontman Liam Whelan to chat red-blooded rock, black Irish beer and losing your dacks in front of the men in blue.
Leading Australia’s heavy music renaissance are The Bitter Sweethearts, a lecherous foursome who breathes rock, sees red and bleeds Guinness.
HAPPY: What is it about Guinness that inspires you so?
LIAM: It happened organically, much like the process of fermenting and refining a perfect pint of the black stuff. My family are adamantly Irish so I grew up in a house with tricolours and pictures of St Patrick on the walls and the fridge, hearing the old stories about Fionn Mac Cumhaill and listening to the old songs about famines and drinking. Beside that, Guinness is robust, simultaneously sharp and sweet, and thoroughly intoxicating. Just like our music.
HAPPY: Why do you think Australia is seeing a return of more hard rock bands?
LIAM: I don’t think we’re seeing a return so much as people are paying attention to a pre-existing musical undercurrent. Aussie bands like Black Aces, Hell City Glamours and Black Heart Breakers have been killing it for years, and all that’s happened is we’ve made enough noise that people are forced to pay attention. Try having a mild conversation about the weather while we’re playing in the background. Real rock and roll has never been background music, and we’re a damn sight louder than any of the so-called indie softcock darlings posing with their ironic moustaches and faux vintage coats will ever be.
Aussies are an honest people and that carries over into our nation’s musical palate. Proper straightforward rock and roll is the most authentic, honest sort of music you can do: if we show up with our long hair, tight pants and Marshall amps, nobody expects Enya covers and stoner-chic hipster anthems drowned in reverb and self-awareness. They know they’re up for a bloody good time.
HAPPY: What exactly went down in Canberra? A “run-in” with the police it was called?
LIAM: Can’t go into details there unfortunately. Let’s just say some Poms got a bit too rowdy for our liking, and that we highly recommend wearing trousers if ever you get arrested. Country cops don’t take kindly to long-haired city boys wearing nothing but their jocks, no matter how hot it is.
HAPPY: How’s the tour been otherwise?
LIAM: We’ve driven well over 10,000 kilometres, broken down in the middle of nowhere and been RBT’d more times than I can count. We nearly died on the Pacific Highway when we thought it’d be a good idea to outrun one of the ‘once in a lifetime storms’ that batters the East Coast every couple of months these days. In other words, it’s been nothing short of phenomenal and we’re beyond grateful that we get to play bloody good songs for people who want to hear them all over this beautiful country.
HAPPY: Should the Brighton Up Bar be worried or excited?
LIAM: Brighton Up have nothing to worry about! We love it there, and have been playing there since the earliest days of the band. It’s not uncommon to spot their bar staff or management wearing our tees. They’re one of the venues who really stand up for live music and rock and roll in Sydney. Besides, what reason would they have to worry? We’ll fill their bar with friendly, attractive young people who drink loads of beer and leave in an orderly fashion, and their neighbours have yet to form an association of professional whingers like those yuppies living next to the Opera House.
HAPPY: What’s the number one reason punters should head along to this gig?
LIAM: We’re on a personal mission to prove the journalists and politicians who prematurely wrote Sydney’s live music obituary wrong. Fantastic night out guaranteed: the beer flows generously, the tunes are phenomenal and I’ve grown a pretty dashing beard for the occasion. Everyone’s invited to our afterparty as long as they don’t spill my drink or say anything negative about AC/DC.
LIAM: To be honest, we just wanted to show off to our cool mates from Brisbane and Melbourne how great our Sydney live music community is. Also a plus is that both The Rared and Darcee Fox have great songs, great hair and their logos look good on a tee shirt.
HAPPY: Any other plans while you’re in Sydney?
LIAM: We’ve gone native. Drinking overpriced coffee, rolling up our jeans and bitching about the Baird government.
HAPPY: It’s been a while since you guys put anything out, any tracks you’re working on at the moment?
LIAM: We’re writing at the moment as well as road testing a lot of new material. Our rule of thumb is if the lady women start dancing and singing along to the new tune, it stays in the set. By contrast, if a ham-fisted bloke in a Sticky Fingers shirt tells us he liked a song, we cut it out then and there. There’s a song called Walk On that I’m particularly proud of, but you’ll have to come see us live to hear it for now.
HAPPY: What are you going to be doing to bring in the New Year?
LIAM: Our mates The Lockhearts aren’t doing their annual shindig this year, so I’m currently 50/50 between getting roofied at the Ivy or staying in to play Scrabble with my mum. She goes off like a frog in a sock for the triple word score.
The date The Bitter Sweethearts turn the Brighton Up Bar on it’s head is December 10. Whether or not you’re gonna be there, find out everything you need to know on the Facebook event.