With the soothing sounds of Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds playing in the background and a cool pale ale in hand, Michael ‘Monte’ Tramonte and Elliott Hammond from The Delta Riggs chat befriending the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Page, their on-stage tiki bar and reflect on being a band for five years.
Photos by Liam Cameron.
MONTE: This album saved me from mushrooms once.
HAPPY: How so?
MONTE: I was wigging out really hard, and then they put Pet Sounds and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I finally understood the record. I feel like he’s made it for people who are altered.
ELLIOT: Well he’s pretty altered.
MONTE: That’s what I mean. He wrote Pet Sounds in his house and he had his management bring in a sand pit to his lounge room. They set the piano up on the sand pit so he could sit at the piano and feel the sand between his toes. I don’t know if the cats were on mushrooms or not, but these cats got into his house and shat in the sandpit. So they had to get rid of it.
ELLIOT: He probably liked that, it would be good for creativity.
HAPPY: Have you guys tried to go conceptual like that, put a sandbox or a inflatable pool in the studio?
ELLIOT: On tour at the moment we have a tiki bar on stage with us. That’s a real thing, and sometimes we have a background visual of a beach to create that depth so it appears that the tiki bar is coming out of the sand. So in many ways it’s as if we’re like Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds, except it’s 2015 and we’re a rock band with a touring tiki bar.
HAPPY: Is it a working tiki bar?
MONTE: We have a bartender! He was only running mojitos the other day but I think he’s going to expand his repertoire.
ELLIOT: Some kind of whiskey, like an Old Fashioned maybe.
MONTE: It’s good, I think the next Groovin the Moo which is in Bendigo, it’s really going to kick off. Everyone was asking about it in Bunbury. We had it at Oakbank but we didn’t take it to Bunbury so it was the talk of the town. Joyride was asking for it.
ELLIOT: ASAP Ferg wanted in as long as there were ladies around it, that was his stipulation. Our guitarist the other day came up to me all excited and said “Hammerachy, you should just see all the girls that I just brought back stage“. He had brought back these girls to our backstage room, but he’d found the most mismatched bunch of girls. It’d be better if he brought back one normal one, instead of like five weird ones.
MONTE: I walked into this scene and Simon our drummer is just sitting there holding court with these girls around him. I looked at him and the I looked at them, and I was like “Who are all these people? What are they doing here?”
HAPPY: When you say mismatched girls…
ELLIOT: They didn’t make sense with each other, like you could tell none of them were friends. One had too much make up on, the other didn’t have enough. One had like all these gold chains (laughs)
MONTE: One had stripes, one had polka dots.
ELLIOT: It just wasn’t working. I was gonna say it was like four circles and a triangle but it was more like a circle, a triangle, an octagon, a sphere and..
MONTE: A parallelogram (laughs).
HAPPY: Well how is all the Groovin stuff going?
MONTE: I think it’s the best tour we’ve ever done. I was in bed last night thinking about it. Only because it’s a bunch of friends and it’s such a good vibe. And the line up is, there’s us and DMAs, Sticky Fingers, The Preatures, it’s just going to watch your friends play. All of our friends are on the tour! You just go back stage and it’s all the people you want to hang out with! And the crowds are just so enthused, we’re one of the first bands on in the day but both shows they’ve packed in the tent. There’s so many good bands playing that they want to see.
ELLIOT: And we’re a really big deal at the moment.
MONTE: Yeah, so they purposely want to get there early to see us.
HAPPY: Of course, no one want to be there for the bar at all.
MONTE: Well they’ll get there for the bar, but it’s an exclusive bar, for the VIPs. No, no, I’m really enjoying it and I’m looking forward to the next one.
ELLIOT: And I think the people running it are just nailing it. The backstage area is really good, the scheduling is really good. The curating’s good.
MONTE: Everyone you talk to says it’s one of the best touring festivals in Australia.
HAPPY: How does it compare to the Fooey’s shows you did a few months back? Were those the biggest shows you’ve done.
MONTE: That was the biggest show we ever played.
HAPPY: How do you guys appropriate a Delta Riggs show for a stadium audience?
ELLIOT: We had to stop talking, because there used to be a lot of banter. But when you’re dealing with 30 000 people the jokes don’t hit the same. You’ve got to do a different show. When you’re doing a club show you only have to reach the back, so maybe, 20, 30 metres. So you try hone that energy, but when it’s that far away I’ve got fuckin no chance. So we had 20 minutes and we just banged out as many songs as we could. That was top echelon of touring, that’s cush.
MONTE: And I heard that’s the only way that bands make money out of touring, is if you get to stadium status. Until then you don’t make money.
ELLIOT: Unless you’re The Amity Affliction, then you should… (laughs), I don’t want to get beat up by The Amity Affliction.
MONTE: They are balling though, because they have heaps of t-shirt designs and no songs (laughs) that’s the thing. We’ve got heaps of songs but only a few t-shirt designs (laughing). But the Foo Fighters tour was good, they’re all really great guys. They’re just really genuine dudes and that was the best thing about it because you do hear things about bands who get these tours and they never see them. I remember 360 said that when he did that Eminem tour he never saw Eminem. You hear that a lot, but..
ELLIOT: But him and Chris Schifflet had this weird bromance where they’d froth out over records no one has heard of.
MONTE: They were these old 90s alternative songs Archers on Loaf Web in Front was one of them. Some Pretenders stuff, Big Star, The Replacements.
ELLIOT: They’re actually such nice guys, especially Schifflet, that I bought this car and it’s being stored at the Foo Fighters studio. It’s going to be sitting in the car carl and Dave Grohl is rock up and be like “What the fuck car is that?“, “Oh remember that band from Australia? The singer left his car here!“.
MONTE: They are what you see. But then we went from that to SXSW. The difference between playing those shows are you wait for some shit band to finish who thought they were THE band of the festival, then taking 15 minutes, which is your change over time, to take their gear of stage. I had an argument with this guy because I started taking his gear off stage.
ELLIOT: They had synchronised dance moves and a fiddle player with a wireless system and in-ears, and there were fucking nine people in the audience.
MONTE: Going from that, not having to worry about anything to having to worry about every single minute detail was a huge shock.
ELLIOT: On Foo Fighters we’d walk on stage and all our gear would be there, play a sick set, walk off and we would’t see it again till the next stadium.
MONTE: That was very kind of them as well, they trucked our gear around, they did everything.
ELLIOT: They’re like The Salvation Army, they’re very kind.
HAPPY: Well speaking of rock icons you guys also met Jimmy Page at one of your gigs in the US.
MONTE: Yeah, he rocked up to one of our shows.
ELLIOT: We gave him a shirt and a vinyl.
MONTE: He gave us his address. We posted him all that stuff. We thought we’d impromtly rock up to his house for a cup of tea, but we didn’t know how well that would bode.
ELLIOT: We didn’t have the balls.
HAPPY: So how did this meeting happen. Did you know he’d be there?
MONTE: He was just randomly there. We noticed him 30 seconds before we went on stage, there were 30 people in the crowd. We finished the show and went up to him and said “Hey, thank you for coming! WHat are you doing here?” and he said (in British accent) “Oh I live up the road, so I wandered down. I really liked that. What’s that song you sere playing with the Hawaiian chords?“. You’d see him every now and then pop up and rock pout to a couple of songs, it was totally random but it totally cool for us.
ELLIOT: He’s was one of those guys when you’re talking to him you’re trying to look for an out from the conversation because it;s only a matter of time before I say something really dumb, so you enter the conversation trying to exit it. I talked to him about Jags and British motoring.
HAPPY: Well after all that this is your five year anniversary, I was curious if you guys had any plans fro five years, or do you feel like you’ve reached any ideal point after this time?
MONTE: Not really, for the first four years it was kind of shit (laughs).
ELLIOT: We were stuck in a fucking vortex, stuck in this loop (laughs).
MONTE: It’s only been in this last year that it feels like we’ve achieved five years of work. The first four years was a real struggle.
ELLIOT: But I reckon that’s like any business. It takes two to three years to get a business established and off the goriund.
MONTE: People don’t look at music like we’re operating an actual business. “Oh, you’re going away touring all the time“, yeah, but if I went away for work you’d look at me differently. If I was a designer and I went a way you won’t have that connotation, but because I’m a musician it’s looked at as something you do to chase girls. I think up until a year ago I didn’t think we had five years of success. But it feels good, like we’ve crossed a point. When you talk about things 50-60 percent of people know the band. Whereas before only 5 percent of people would. So that defines success (laughs).
ELLIOT: It’s tough at the top.
MONTE: The band’s under a lot of pressure right now. 50-60 percent of people know who we are, the other 40 percent are in the dark
HAPPY: So how are you going to conquer that remaining 60?
ELLIOT: Our record isn’t out in the States, so so I want that. We’ve got enough material for another record pretty much, we’re almost there, we’ve got the concept. But until we get our latest album out in America I feel we shouldn’t be releasing any more music. Fuck, we’ve released so much shit in two years. Two albums, a live EP and an extended version of the album, in comparison The Rubens have only released a record. Nothing against The Rubens, we just operate a little bit quicker than that I’d like to get it out in America before we do another one for the sake of it. But is sounds fucking sick!
HAPPY: What are we talking here?
ELLIOT: It’s punk rock, it’s like stripped back Ramones style songs focusing on the songs.
MONTE: They’re really good songs, really focused.
HAPPY: Well that sounds pretty awesome. And we love to speak about awesome stuff at Happy, so guys I want to know what makes you happy?
MONTE: I think you’ve asked me this before, I think I said ice cream (laughs) I love ice cream. I think Gelato Messina is the best thing to happen to Sydney. Like ever.
ELLIOT: I like pottering around in the back garden with no shoes on, the warmth of the sun on my feet looking at my basil and thinking “Fuck, the hail really fucked up my basil“.
MONTE: And thinkning of things to have problems with (laughs)
ELLIOT: He thinks I’ve got an issue everything!
MONTE: You know what makes me happy? When my plane lands, it’s like “All right, I made that one!“.
ELLIOT: Selling out the Corner was pretty good. There was a time when Monte and I used to fly kites when we still lived in the Gold Coat. That was a good time. Two strings, get on the side of Burley Point, find that wind pocket and just ride it out. It’s simple living, that’s the stuff that makes you happy.
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