The news, when it came, was delivered unceremoniously at a press conference in Sydney. Bernard Fanning, the easy-going frontman of Powderfinger, simply read out a statement saying his band’s Australia tour in September would be their last.
There was no hint of personality clashes or drug-related meltdowns, just a matter-of-fact acknowledgement that one of Australia’s best-loved rock bands had, after 20 years, reached the end of the line.
So when did the band realise it was all over?
“We only kind of finally decided after we did the Big Day Out shows in January this year,” says Fanning down the phone from Sydney.
“To be honest, we’ve talked about it for six years since we signed our last record contract … We discussed it more in detail this time and decided we’d be better just pulling up the stumps, basically … We’ve been in Powderfinger for all of our adult lives – it’s 21 years this year – and we’re in a situation where we’d like to pursue other things; that might be musically, studying or just picking your nose!”
Powderfinger’s plans for solo careers
Geez, we know their nickname is “The ‘Finger”, but hopefully the quintet will find something more productive to do post-break up than flicking boogers.
Fanning has already had solo success with his Aria-winning debut album Tea & Sympathy, so is he going to follow this up?
“I’m gonna take a little bit of time off and then make a record sometime, at the end of next year or something like that.”
He’s also looking forward to “living in cities other than Brisbane”, and wants to “go to Madrid for a year” and learn to speak Spanish properly. “We’ve just had a baby,” he says of his wife Andrea, “and it’s time to introduce her to the Spaniards!”
Bernard Fanning’s un-rock ’n’ roll behaviour
One thing’s for sure, Powderfinger will be remembered for their unassuming, un-rock star behaviour.
“I mean, fuck, everyone has their way of dealing with things, and I don’t think it relieves any burden on me to treat people like shit.
“It’s not that there’s anything wrong with rock stars,” he clarifies, ”it’s just I don’t choose to behave like one, certainly not in public.
“I mean I absolutely do in private,” he adds, sarcastically. “I spend a lot of time in front of the mirror snorting cocaine and having sex with prostitutes.” As if.
Powderfinger’s last UK Gig ever at the Brixton Academy
“We’re finally playing at the Brixton Academy which we’ve been wanting to do for ages, but it’s never been available,” says Fanning.
“Because the shows [in London] tend to be half-filled with Australians the atmosphere is pretty awesome, pretty massive. We want to treat this like a proper celebration. We want to play songs from all of our records; we can’t really promise from our first album but from Double Allergic, certainly.
We’re really excited about it.”
With 2.5 million album sales in Oz alone, a cabinet of Arias and an endless stream of hits like My Happiness and Passenger, they have plenty to choose from.
“I think the thing I’ve found most today is people saying they grew up with us, and our songs are signposts in their lives – they take them back to a time when they were studying or whatever … It’s a really powerful connection to have with someone, rather than a particular event.”
Just don’t call them the elder statesmen of Oz rock …
“Oh fuck, no way! Jesus Christ, no way! I mean, that’s, you know, Nick Cave is an elder statesman of Oz rock. Those guys are a whole generation ahead of us. The Sunnyboys, The Saints and all those kind of bands, they have to die off first before we become elder statesmen.”
» Powderfinger play at Brixton Academy, Stockwell Rd, SW9 9SL Brixton (0844 477 2000). Apr 21-22. £22.50
Words: Alison Grinter