If you’re looking for some new Australian music, then you may want to check out a new band coming out of Toowoomba. The band is Venice On Fire, and ahead of the release of their debut album, Tempt A Saint, they have been receiving comparisons to Rise Against, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Foo Fighters just to name a few. With the lead single, “(An Open Door) My Tempt A Saint”, just being released from the album, we decided to catch up with lead vocalist Tom Gillespie to find out all the ins-and-outs of the band.
“So, we’re a trio,” says Tom getting ready to give us the band’s history. “Although we are based in Toowoomba in the beautiful Darling Downs, we actually formed in Roma in South-West Queensland. I was out there for a job – I’m originally a Brissy boy – and I had been in bands there. I was out there for a job with a newspaper, and Jarrod, the bass player, was my video store clerk. Such is the nature of country towns: they are a little bit behind, so there was still a vibrant video store there. I met our drummer while he was still at school, in fact, they both still were. We formed in about 2014, and we were just jamming in my garage. We sorted bonded because there was no scene at all – there was pretty much just one or two bands that would together from time to time, but more importantly, there was no audience for it, but we were kind of bonded by the fact of getting together and doing something ourselves. We all listened to similar, but also varied, styles of music – contemporary rock and classic rock – and Jarrod is a massive metal-head. So it just flowed from there, and we started writing songs, and then we couldn’t stop.”
That leads to the question: how does a band get gigs when they are in a town that has no scene? “Well, it was a blessing and a curse in a way,” he explains. “Because it allowed us to do whatever we wanted to do. We weren’t dictated by styles or trends, so it allowed us to do exactly what we wanted to do which was to play short, sharp rock music that we wanted to hear. In terms of the scene itself, because there was only one metalcore band and one classic outback rock band, we’d play shows at a hall, at an RSL Hall, once every six weeks or so. We’d get about twenty or thirty people to the shows, which in the massive hall didn’t look like much but it was a chance for us to hone our skills. In terms of making money, we’d play covers at pubs for some decent money, and that actually helped us to fund our first EP, which we recorded in 2015 and released the following year. So, in a way, it was kind of interesting to be in that kind of vacuum as it was culturally, and I don’t mean that in a negative way to Roma because it really allowed us to focus in and do the stuff that we wanted to do.”
Tom laughs when I ask him how the name ‘Venice On Fire’ came about. “We were struggling with a name because we wanted something that sounded different but not pretentious,” he laughs. “That line is very thin, so you have to traverse it nicely. We were thinking about ‘Paris On Fire’ but some terrorist attacks had just happened there so we couldn’t do that, plus we didn’t really like the name ‘Paris’. I was just sitting at my computer working away, and I had this bright spark, and I called Jarrod up and said ‘Venice On Fire because it is surrounded by water, but it is on fire.’ And that was the stupidest joke he had ever heard, but we thought we would run with it. Since then, that oxymoron has kind of embodied us; our style, our music and the way we do things, so it has become very appropriate.”
Tom says that the band also gets a little bit political on their new album, Tempt A Saint. “We did get political,” he agrees. “With the EP, I dealt with a few personal issues which I think most tortured artists do. With this second one though we wanted to have something to say, we wanted to throw our two cents in there. I find that in this day-and-age that bands can be a little hesitant to want to say something, so we sat down as young men, and at times, angry young men. And we wanted to know what was important to us and our generation and to society in general, and I can tell you that there is no better time to be outraged than 2017 as you can probably see on your Facebook feeds. Although we didn’t get incredibly specific, we did discuss issues like social inequality, about the upper class, about people who live entitled lives and how they don’t realise it. In terms of the songwriting process, some songs will take months to write and refine, and others took maybe two days. For example, the single – ‘(An Open Door) May Tempt A Saint’ – that probably took six months to finish writing, it had constant jamming and constant reviewing with lots of questions like ‘can we add this, can we take this part away’ If you had heard the first draft of that you would know that it sounded completely different to what we ended up with, but with ‘Trainwreck’ it took about twenty minutes to write, so it is funny how songs come about.”
Tempt A Saint is out now.