Sunday, May 16, 2010


The John Steel Singers are a six piece from Brisbane, known for their catchy pop tunes and outlandish tales.

Since the release of their first EP in 2007, The John Steel Singers have been making waves in the local music scene.  Touring with the likes of Yves Klein Blue, The Grates and, most recently Philadelphia Grand Jury, as well as enjoying high rotation on Triple J with hits 'Strawberry Wine' and 'Rainbow Kraut' (below).  Their blend of quirky indie pop and use of classical instruments has won over crowds, and the journey looks to get a whole lot sweeter with their debut album, Tangalooma, in the final stages of production.  I chatted to keyboard and trombone player, Pete Bernoth, about past gigs, future works and their ties to The Go-Betweens.

You're currently working on your debut album, Tangalooma.  How close are you to finishing?

Pete Bernoth: This album is a touchy beast!  If we mention it, even just in passing, we run the risk of getting all bitchy and delaying it again ... but it'll be finished soon! 

In an interview with Access All Areas, you said the idea for your band name was a result of one of Tim's (Morrissey, vocals and guitar) intergalactic voyages to the Planet Steel, where he met Emperor John.  You guys are known for elaborate story telling, right?

PB: No, not really.

How did you really come up with the name, 'The John Steel Singers'?

PB: We owed a bunch of money to this guy, John "Steel Face" Barlow.  So, in payment, we named a band after him.  All the money that one day we'll (hopefully) make, goes straight back to him.  It's not the best deal, but at least we still have knee caps.

You recently toured with the Philly Jay's and sold out The Zoo.  What was that like?

PB: That tour was a riot!  We hadn't played live much recently before that tour, so to be playing again was great!  The Philly Jay's are wicked and Calvin (drummer) is probably the coolest guy I've ever met.

Is it true that Tim was cornered in the toilets of Rics one night by Grant McLennan from The Go-Betweens after one of your first gigs, because he wanted to tell him how good you guys were?

PB: That's true to a point.  Grant told him that he thought two keyboards was a bit too much, but he liked the songs.  He came back later and told Tim he'd changed his mind and it was all okay.

Tangalooma is also produced by a Go-Betweens member, Robert Forster.  You guys are clearly massive fans...

PB: Yeah, that's right on the money!

On your Myspace you feature the quote "John Steel Singers make me want to cut off my ears and kill myself just to be sure I never hear them again".  Where did that come from?

PB: That came from a Brisbane music lover Penny Lame, she posted it on some various forum.  She's not a fan.  I think I stood on her foot once ... it all went bad from there.

What was the first gig you ever played?  How did it go?

PB: It was at Rics on a Sunday afternoon supporting Captain Woot and The Slide of Man.  I was nervous as hell and I think I wore a stupid hat.  It was a bit shaky but all my friends said it was great! 

What sort of music did you grow up listening to?  Has that inspired your sound?

PB: Classic Australian pub rock.  It didn't really influence me as much as it made me aim to do the absolute opposite.  Although, it may have influenced my love for fighting and drinking rum.

Aussie bands are represented extremely well at this year's Splendour, including yourselves of course!  Who are you most excited to be on the bill with?

PB: Shiiiiiitttt!  The line up is shit hot this year!  I still haven't seen The Pixies yet, even though they seem to be here a lot lately ... Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear and Goldfrapp too.  It's also going to be sweet hanging out with our good friends, and probably the best Australian band in recent years, Cloud Control.

I heard something about you guys being featured in NME.  A 4ZzZ presenter broke the news to you and you were stoked!

PB: I have a feeling that this happened to me, but for the life of me I can't remember exact details.  Which, in any normal person would mean that it didn't actually happen to me, but someone else in the band.  My memory is so shit, I have no way of telling if it did or didn't.  Does that answer your question?

Your pick for the Brisbane band to watch out for?

PB: Swamp Lords.  That shit is cool and motherfucking fun! 

Our blog focuses on music created post 1988, for Generation Y.  What's your favourite album from the past 22 years?

PB: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips.  It trips me out every time and sends me to bliss town.

The John Steel Singers support Dappled Cities on their national tour in June.  Catch them at the Hi-Fi in Brisbane on June 26.

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