Speaking of which, I’ve seen you guys open up for Free Energy at the Firebird earlier this summer. I forgot –do you have a Gibson SG?
Aaron:I do not. We’ve been looking around, but we couldn’t scrounge one up.
Andy: There might be the purchase of one tomorrow. [Laughs]
Aaron: I wish I had the extra funds just to buy one, but I play a Les Paul with similar pickups, but it’s just a heavier guitar. I watched an interview with Angus Young where he discusses playing the SG and the Les Paul. He said the Les Paul sounded good, but beat the hell out of his hip. That’s another challenge with moving around as much as he does with the heavier guitar. That’s the biggest challenge for me at least is living up to the energy level that Angus Young brings. Each performance that we do there’s a certain ethos that you have to capture. It’s not just playing the chords and the notes.
Andy: We go all in. We try to at least.
Meeting you in the parking lot tonight I figured that was the case especially since you’ve added event organizer Michael Tomko on guitar. I’m assuming there will be an element of dressing up, etc…
Aaron: We like that aspect of An Under Cover Weekend. Not just playing the songs, but embodying the band and letting the audience imagine what it would have been like to see that band in a small club at our age. We’re trying to get as close as we can at least.
Reid: Look at all those signature things like the way that Bon Scott is always flexing and full of emotion with eyes kind of crazed. People don’t always get that… The way that Phil Rudd plays drums he’s always doing this the whole time [gently bouncing up and down simulating a standard drum beat]
Then you’ve got Malcolm Young standing back there in front of the amps, not motionless, but fairly stoic and banging out the chords. He seems to be the embodiment of the band and Angus is the real talent and Malcolm becomes the fellow songwriter and leader of the band.
Andy: It’s kind of funny that you say that because in some ways, even though Tomko is not in the band, he has that observation point that normally in our normal configuration I normally have. He’s been the one in this process to steer us and correct us. He’s aware of a lot of what’s going on because we’re all focused on our parts - him and Mike, our bass player.
Aaron, you were talking about breaking outside the box of playing someone else’s guitar style. So, Andy is this sort of a different singing style for you? Is this comfortable?
Andy: I am a big fan of INXS. I have based a lot of how I sing off Michael Hutchence. So, personally this is a lot different. The only similarity is that all three lead singers – Scott, Johnson, and Hutchence – are all from Australia. It’s quite different, but I’ve learned a lot about where to sing from. The first year we did the Stones by the time we got to the set I was nearly horse because Jagger has those razor vocals. Now, I’ve sang Jagger a couple of other times in tribute projects. I’ve learned how to change my voice without losing it. Whereas, Eddie Vedder is low. It’s hard to sing his parts because I’m a true tenor. I’ve had to be careful, but I’ve been surprised and I’ve been strong. Right now I’m singing every night of the week. I have rehearsals every night.
Plus, I’m assuming you’re crossing over between both periods of Bon Scott and Brian Johnson which has to be a challenge because they’re two completely different singers.
Aaron: [To Andy] That’s what I’ve been impressed with the most. You’re ability to sing the songs and go between both Scott and Johnson.
Andy: We did build the set to sequence songs in such a way that there are chunks of one singer and then the other. The set is book ended by songs that Johnson sings, but there is a set of Scott songs all together. When I’m going after notes, Bon Scott’s style is very similar to the way I sing. He’s not a stretch.
Aaron: You haven’t had to work as hard to get there…
Listening to Scott over the years, it doesn’t sound like he came from a great singing background. He seems like a working class guy that ended up singing for a band. Whereas when Brian Johnson came into the band he had been doing it a while before he came into the band.
Andy: …and he has a distinct vocal style.
Aaron: The Brian Johnson songs have been more challenging in our practice. Andy nearly blacked out the other night from pushing [too hard].
Andy: After singing his stuff for the first time I woke up with pains in my chest. Last November, I had a collapsed lung and I had very similar feeling and I woke up and thought “Oh my gosh, my lung has collapsed again.” This is not good. It just gets sore right here [points to his chest]. I can’t describe it. It’s weird, but you get muscles from singing like that. There is so much power pushing from your stomach into your chest.
Aaron: That’s one of the reasons we like playing this event because it forces you not just to play a cover song, which we do from time to time, but to play a whole set where you have to take on a whole new set of challenges.
Andy: That and it’s honestly a wonderful break from playing our own stuff! It’s funny… We heard that a lot of bands didn’t do it this year because they didn’t want to take the time out, but for us it’s like… We love our stuff, for sure, but
I can see where it is a nice break. You’ve got a set list and you’re mostly going to be playing a 45 minute set as an opening band. There’s a set list that works for you and material that you want to showcase and it can get a little tedious after a while. Especially if you’re not writing a lot of new material all the time or trying to promote that album that came out 9 or a year ago.
Aaron: We’re pretty good as a band about mixing it up. I think that's one of the things that makes us stand out from other bands where we’re mixing up our own songs. We’re improvising or changing the arrangements on the fly so we don't get bored.
Andy: Of late we've taken some of our earliest songs that we wrote and started playing them again. They're back in the rotation...
Aaron: ...and they sound completely different now.
Andy: The older stuff I played a lot of guitar and the newer material has more of me just singing. [In the future] I think we're probably going to split the difference a little more.
In your formative years did you listen to AC/DC a lot or has this been more of a research project?
Andy: I think it's different for all of us. I'll speak for our bass player, Mike, because I just heard him say it. He went through a phase in late high school or early college where he listened to a lot of [AC/DC]. For me, I was a little late to the game, but I like the early stuff. Like "Jailbreak", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and everything up to Highway to Hell. I like that period more, but I also think that "Thunderstruck" is one of the best songs ever.