| Feb 2003:
Two new seven inch singles from Martin Craft and Nick Craft - released at the same time!
The first fruits of what's been happening with the ex-Sidewinder brothers are these 45ers that have mysteriously appeared on the UK label 679 Recordings. Under the name M. Craft is Come To My Senses backed with On The 389 which is an 'intercontinental home recording extravaganza' recorded in Coledale, NSW and in London, where Martin has been residing since the end of Sidewinder.
Nick Craft's new outing is The Zillions, also released on 679 Recordings, with the upbeat Raincoat Girlz backed with Saturday's Child. Recording by Nick in Sydney with help from Martin playing bass on Raincoat Girlz. Both singles have fantastic artwork and are a must for Sidewinder fans (so get that turntable outa the closet!). Go to roughtrade.com in London and they'll have it for you.
From 1992 to 1999 Sidewinder offered the world their amazing collection of songs and music, which had a sound that was distinctively all Sidewinder and Sidewinder alone. From the no-budget but space-bound recordings of T Star to the psychedelectronicfolkrock grande finale of Tangerine. A classic band that Half A Cow has been immensely proud to be associated with.
Formed in Canberra, Australia, as a four piece in June 1991 by brothers Nick and Martin Craft, on guitar and bass respectively, with friends Pip Branson (guitar) and Giri Fox (drums). Then, at the end of the year, joined viola player Jeremy David; teenagers all. Their original demo recordings from this period was a curious, murkily recorded (well, the dub that Hac had of it was) adventurous space-rock outing with a '60s twist, especially on standout track Sunburst. Alannah from the Hummingbirds heard their tape, then saw the future of ROCK when Sidewinder played in their hometown of Canberra so she rushed to the Half A Cow office yelling "You gotta sign these guys! They're Amazing!" So impressed were Half A Cow that room was made on the upcoming Slice 2 compilation for their track Last Time. There was also a Canberra connection between Pip Branson and Nic from the label as Pip's brother David had played violin with Nic in the Plunderers' first line-up (and their debut 45 was on Sidewinder Records!). Sidewinder were signed to Half A Cow in mid-1992 (Martin was still only fifteen at the time) which resulted in their first EP, T Star (hac13) which was recorded over numerous weekend road trips from Canberra to Sydney, with some members still having to juggle highschool commitments.
Like all great beginnings, things were pretty low-key as the band found their feet in both the studio and on the stage. T Star, a fuzzed-out mysterious collection, released in early 1993, gave greater nods towards the likes of English bands Ride and My Bloody Valentine rather than the 'Seattle' sound so popular at the time. Maybe the fact that the Craft family had moved from England to Australia in the 1970s had something to do with it. As the band later explained: It wasn't largely a conscious decision to make a 'wall of melody' style record, but rather the result that comes with being in the studio for the first time and wanting to try everything.
From the original T Starbio: It sits somewhere between current indie trends and more traditional rock & roll. Beneath the riffs lies an understated vocal, harmonies, a rhythm section with ample power, and a background viola drone that consistently fills out the sound. Moments Like These is an unforgettable and incredibly catchy pop song, that despite the cheap recording, shows where Sidewinder would soon be heading. "A space rock epic about the closest galaxy to Earth" is Nick Craft's description of M83 while following track Earthbound 153 features 'a bit of industrial noise courtesy of a powersaw' and the final track Dead Words comes from the band's earliest batch of songs.
The band continued to grow musically and another EP followed in 1993 called Yoko Icepick (hac24) which showed Sidewinder becoming more focused on the song rather than spacey jam-outs (though their love of the epic stayed with Sidewinder right through to the end) and their own style was developing at a staggering rate evidenced in the songs Now You Know and Thanks For Comin'. Meanwhile violinist Jeremy departed (Pip would soon take up violin in the band) and in mid-1994 drummer Giri was replaced by ex-Hummingbirds drummer and Queensland-raised Shane Melder. dewinder's more frequent visits to both Sydney and Melbourne started gaining them a loyal following with their concerts showing the energy that the early EPs lacked, and also the band's dedication to well-crafted psychedelic rock, now powered along by Shane's drumming skills (later to be utilised by Died Pretty, Fragile and The Empty Bottles and Dave McCormack's Polaroids amongst others - but we're jumping ahead).
The first month of 1995 saw the release of a third EP, entitled The Gentle Art Of Spoonbending (hac32) named in tribute to the sadly-forgotten psychic Uri Geller. Spoonbending was pivotal for the band. Two tracks, Day After Day and Up To You, were flogged on the Australian airwaves (with Day After Day becoming an INSTANT CLASSIC - a mellow ode to doing nothing that showed a completely different side to the band featuring violins, trombones and laid-back acoustic guitars). By now, the band had, for the most part, made the move to Sydney. When they weren't writing new songs and getting to know their new home, their live shows were becoming very professional (thanks to soundguy Marty Beath) and their crowds were getting bigger and more enthusiastic all over Australia, as interstate touring consumed more and more of their time.
They were part of a group of band such as The Fauves, Powderfinger, Custard and Magic Dirt, who could play anywhere, any night of the week and get upwards of 400-plus punters - thanks in the main to the national Triple J airplay, and in Sidewinder's case, new management (Smash, who also looked after The Clouds) as well as the best local bookers in the land (IMC, headed by Joe Seg and Jess Ducrou). Another Sidewinder track Come Inside also appeared on rooArt's Youngblood IV compilation of 'bands on the move' in Australia and was all over the radio at the time. Hey, rooArt even took Sidewinder 'out for lunch' trying to woo them away from Half A Cow, with the band eventually signing to a direct deal with Half A Cow's then sugar daddy, Mercury Records, whose distribution got the new Sidewinder EP in all the stores across Australia. Here was a band definitely on the move.
In mid-1995, armed with an unlimited recording budget and twelve new songs, Sidewinder entered one of Sydney's a-list Studios, 301. With engineer/producer Tom Blaxland (who had worked with The Church to Rick Price to You Am I) and plenty of days to get the songs down, the band opted instead to put down on tape the entire album live in the studio with, at most, one or two overdubs (handclaps and a tambo track). This insight will come as a surprise upon hearing Sidewinder's debut album Atlantis (hac53) as it's a well-realised collection that sounds like many a day's lead guitar overdub was added. More than happy with the results, feeling that they had finally recreated in the studio their energetic live sound, Sidewinder unleashed Atlantis (which was named after the removal company who moved their record label across Sydney from one building to another around the time the band were recording) on January 22nd, 1996 and celebrated by playing a fantastic show that same week at Sydney's Big Day Out festival. bdosetlist right: Sidewinder's Big Day Out setlist 1996
From the Atlantis bio: 'Combining the best of the dirty sounding Sixties melded with modern pop, a hint of psychedelia and amazing production, Atlantis is firm testament to the depth of talent in this band. From the folky strains of Stones In My Shoe through to the kick-in-the-guts mathrock crunch of Down To Luck and the instantly addictive riff-pop single Evil Eye, Atlantis has Sidewinder really delivering the goods.' Pip's debut songwriting and singing credit is also included here in L. Ron, his bizarre ode to Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard. From Atlantis onwards, all their cd artwork, posters and show ads were created by artist Simon Killalea whose style and film, light show, slides and stage set-ups were an all-important part of Sidewinder's look.
Sidewinder loved being in the studio and any chance to record 'b-sides' for their singles were always something they, and their fans, looked forward to. From the irreverent to the impressive, there's always something more than worth its b-list status on a Sidewinder cd single. Three singles were released from Atlantis - Anything You Want (hac47), Evil Eye (hac49) (featuring a loose take on Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells A Story - Sidewinder's only recorded cover version) and Not Coming Home (hac55) which had as its a-side a remixed, shorter, 'radio-friendly' version by big gun Nick Launay at LA's Larrabee Studio. Following are tracks called A Boogie Woogie, Noriega Donkertool's Second Theory Of Optical Revelation and and the full 7:47 minute album version of Not Coming Home. Their major label bank account also helped deliver filmclips for all of the above singles plus a very memorable one for Day After Day, made by award-winning video director Jesse Peretz. Sidewinder toured relentlessly in support of Atlantis playing nationally with Custard and Powderfinger on the huge Sunset Strip tour and other tours with both Snout and The Fauves.
With Mercury being taken over by Universal, no one at the label (HAC was ending its deal with Universal so was kept in the dark) was really keeping an eye on the progress of Sidewinder's recording sessions for the next album while the band determinedly chipped away at late night after late night recording sessions with engineer and co-producer Paul McKercher. A first single Titanic Days (hac61), mixed by Nick Launay at Alberts, was rush released during the recording sessions in April 1997 to co-incide with the Australian film Black Rock, which Sidewinder also appeared, playing the beach house party band, and Pip, bringing out his Canberra theatre roots, having a small speaking role. From the Titanic Days bio: 'The first taste of where the Sidewinder juggernaut is heading. Still rooted in rock, but encompassing some spaced-out synth sounds and a groove not heard in their recorded material to date, and according to the band, is only a hint of what is to come in terms of tunes, arrangements and sounds.'
Again,with a seemingly unlimited budget, and two years after their first album recordings, the band astounded one and all when they finally delivered 24 master tapes to the label, of which twelve (along with the already released Titantic Days) of the various 'mixes' would make up their second album Tangerine (hac66). Sidewinder took up the challenge of making an album that encompassed the old and the new and proved that the classic pop song recorded on 2 inch tape could be married to modern electronic beats and computer based studio-trickery. Released 22nd September 1997, it's an adventurous and exciting album that should have made the band HUGE, blasting out of every stereo across the land.
From the bio: 'Tangerine takes a confident leap at the future and gets there through head-bending pop psychedelia. We're looking through kaleidoscope spectacles, but ones with contemporary frames of reference: breakbeats, synth freakouts, choice samples, trip-hop excursions and atmospheric, soulful rock. It was a fitting display of Sidewinder's inner-city inspirations when, at the media launch of Tangerine at Les Girls in Sydney's Kings Cross, the room was pretty much cleared of bewildered industry folk when a drums 'n' bass set blasted over the PA after the quartet's similarly future-sounds-of-Sidewinder set which incorporated drum-triggered loops sitting alongside their crazy barrage of pop beats showcasing tracks from Tangerine . The album received fantastic reviews and, in Juice magazine's 'best records of the 90s', You Am I's Tim Rogers placed Tangerine in his top 10.
Here She Comes Again (hac65) was released as a single just prior to the album's release and featured as one of its b-sides a mellow revisit to Atlantis track Down To Luck and the 'nuggety' Seedcake Skies. A third single off Tangerine, God, came out in late 1997 with a further three non-LP tracks. A radio-only single release of Mummy/Daddy also came out at the beginning of 1998 but by this stage, Mercury had been going through a lot of changes due to international shake-ups with Universal which eventually led to the band getting out of its recording deal. The 'big push' was over.
In an interview with the Oz Music Project in 1999, Nick Craft had this to say: This time last year we just felt as though we needed a break. We'd been touring for years (literally) the promotional '9-5 week' of Tangerine had left us in need of a 'weekend'. We decided to take three months off, and three months turned into six...Then we managed to extricate ourselves from our contracts with Mercury, find ourselves a new manager, take care of business in private, rather than show any external signs of life.
In the meantime, the band had set up their own studio and spent the following year demoing new tracks which would have created a third Sidewinder album in 1999 (even discussing with Half A Cow about releasing the forthcoming record) but for one reason or another, with band members going on various trips overseas and wanting to experience life outside of a rock and roll band (after seven years from high school onwards that was pretty understandable), the band quietly dissolved with Martin, Nick, Pip and Shane going their separate ways.
Shoulda Woulda Coulda. Who knows? Sidewinder had the chops (facial variety too!), the songs, the sounds. In the words of Down To Luck: "Is it really down to luck if I win or if I lose?" Listening to their recorded legacy and the memories of their incredible live shows, Sidewinder were and will be, for always, winners.