Not many seven-year old girls rate (or even know of) Def Leppard. But if you’re the daughter of a cover band musician, doing your weekend chores to their tunes seems perfectly normal…
The live music scene in Swan Hill and surrounds is growing. No longer do Code 5 have the strangle hold on live nights at the Commi or Swan Hill Club. The scene is gaining momentum, with more and more live bands beginning to form and showcase their talents, with at least two live offerings available each week. And it’s not only public venues such as the Swan Hill Club or RSL that are putting local bands on their entertainment list. There has been a strong shift away from DJs to supply the music for weddings, sporting club functions, deb balls and birthdays. The demand for live music is high. The band is back people.
3585livestayplay was able to score an interview with Bruce Myers, lead singer of local band “The Drowning Sorrows” to share with us his experience of playing in a band in Swan Hill. Bruce first started playing a guitar when he was 17, teaching himself songs by ‘mastering a couple of chords and listening really hard’. It remained a hobby whilst he had a family and established himself as the manager of the town’s library, before taking on his current role as the Director of Community and Cultural Services for the local council. It wasn’t until the pre-school year of the afore-mentioned seven-year old, that Bruce’s musical skills were to be developed even further.
Bruce, Jason Holland, Paul “Speedy” Ward and Craig “Bobbo” Robins all had children attending pre-school together. Music was more than just a hobby though for childhood mates Jason and Bobbo, both having been involved in numerous bands, as well as teaching music at schools and in private classes. And it was in the pre-school playground that the four dads discovered their shared passion for live music. Yet it wasn’t until November the following year, when the kids were in Prep, that they actually attempted to jam together. Bobbo wasn’t present at this first impromptu session in Speedy’s lounge room, but Jason said of his two rookies’ abilities, ‘I’ve played in worse bands than this’. And Jason would know, having played in bands since he was in his early-teens, naming the drums his instrument of choice. It was then they realised they could take this hobby beyond the lounge room walls. Toing and froing of potential names over messages (I can’t imagine why they didn’t go with “Sperm Apocolypse”?), ended with the suggestion from Jason’s wife; The Drowning Sorrows. Now armed with a name and some songs under their belts, they traveled to a number of local pubs to try and lock in some gigs. Ultima Pub was the first to say yes, booking them for Australia Day 2015, with a number of other out-of-town venues booking them for sessions during the summer months. But it was their first gig in December 2014 that remains Bruce’s favourite. Playing on the back of the PYAP paddle steamer at the staff Christmas party for their children’s teachers, of which Jason declared ‘That was a f*ckin’ gig’, has a special place in their musical heart. (I had a proud claim-to-fame moment, realising that I had all three band members’ kids in my grade whilst I belted away on the tambourine!)
They were hoping to score at least one gig per month. Without trying to sound too much like a fairytale, The Drowning Sorrows then went on to play nearly 40 gigs in 2015, and at the time of publication, are nearly at that number so far in 2016. With a catalogue of over 400 songs, the boys are willing to take specific requests but are pretty confident they know what songs make for a good night.
March this year saw Speedy and his ukulele depart Swan Hill, leaving The Drowning Sorrows one member short. Enter stage left, Bobbo. Having been committed to other musical endeavours whilst The Drowning Sorrows were establishing themselves, the timing now aligned and he slipped seamlessly into the vacant spot. Having plenty of live music experience in the Mallee region (over 25 years’ worth!), Bobbo provides ‘another element to the band’s dynamic, playing lead guitar and backing vocals. And he is someone I can hang sh*t on when we’re performing!’ Bruce chuckles.
Which is what makes live bands so appealing- the ability to interact with each other and with the crowd, and have the crowd interact with you. The Drowning Sorrows aren’t the only new band on the Swan Hill circuit, with roughly six local bands being rotated through the monthly live music list of the Swan Hill Club. Some of these have been around for a while and others newer on the scene, including Code 5, Kranked (another of Robbo’s bands), KEG and The Funk Kings, but one thing is for sure, they are all guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor. And if one band is unavailable, Bruce explains that they all happily recommend each other to play the gigs they can’t. It’s not every industry that the competition is happy to support each other, but that’s just how it rolls up here in the country, everyone happy to help each other out.
Apart from public gigs, The Drowning Sorrows have become regulars for functions at a number of local football/netball clubs (playing for NNWUFNC’s Red Carpet Ball this coming weekend), and have played at many weddings, deb balls, birthdays and other celebrations. ‘The power of social media and word of mouth has helped us get more gigs than we ever dreamed of. We played at a wedding who then had a guest book us for their wedding.’ But it’s not only paid gigs that these boys can be found performing. Bruce and Jason also play as an acoustic duo (cleverly named ‘Juce’, on-the-fly I might add) which have donated their time and musical ability to the Swan Hill Farmers Market to entertain the shoppers and stall holders.
All three band members are super humble about their abilities but are not shy to disclose their passion for playing live music. Their enthusiasm is infectious and this clearly shows every time they step behind the drum kit and microphones. As Bruce so poetically put it, ‘It’s the alternative mid-life crisis.’ Rock on.
You can find more info about The Drowning Sorrows on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Thedrowningsorrowsfromswanhill/