Quite a Tonic – THE GIN CLUB by Ben Preece

As a melting pot of Brisbane musical talent, The Gin Club have quickly become somewhat of an institution and the darlings of the local indie scene. Since forming around a jam night in 2003, they’ve quickly earned a reputation as one of Australia’s finest ensembles and their cast of characters continues to grow. They are a loose collective, a band of brothers (and the occasional sister) who play a diverse mix of traditional folk, blues and country stylings.

Gin Club linchpin Ben Salter is gearing up for busy week, including sets the Troubadour and South Bank’s Acoustic in the Park, and is super-keen to start road testing some new tunes. We’ve got about five new songs in the set at the moment and a few more in the works so we hope to have a few more in there by then, he says. They’re a lot more of the ensemble playing and a lot less of one person’s song with a whole bunch of other people playing little bits. It’s very much everyone playing all at once and they’re big rock songs, almost. They’re a bit heavier and a bit more harder-edged.

That’s good news for fans of The Gin Club, but Salter himself is excited about Valley Fiesta this weekend, and the chance to see Tim Rogers’ new musical project TnT, alongside Tex Perkins. We’re all such fans, he says of Rogers, and he’s such a lovely guy and a big supporter of us. We played a tour with the Temperance Union, which was a big thrill for me, because I’ve been a big You Am I and Tim Rogers fan for years and now we know him really well.

Despite the famous fans and a local following second-to-none, The Gin Club are still yet to experience success on a higher level, a commercial level. Every band would like to be successful, even if it’s just to pay a few bills off, Salter says casually. It’s not like we produce a lot of money and it does get expensive to take six to eight people around all over the place. We don’t try to make music that’ll make money but the music we make is skirting on MOR, kind of adult-orientated rock almost, but then with a bit of attitude. We do have a great time playing together, so it’s not the bloody be all and end all!

However, The Gin Club have had an amazing 2006 so far, with a new album and a B-sides/rarities collection in the works, plus jaunts to Western Australia and Canada, which resulted in a distribution deal. They respond really well to us over there, says Salter. We’re pretty accessible and easy to like, there’s nothing offensive in there. They dig all that acoustic stuff and because we often get compared to The Band, Canadian people tend to get into that. People always say The Band and The Pogues which is cool – but it’s probably because we have bad teeth.
Time Off Sept 2006

Sing When You’re Ginning THE GIN CLUB by Steve Bell

IT’S BEEN a year almost to the day since Brisbane folk ensemble The Gin Club delivered their excellent second album Fear Of The Sea, and they sure haven’t been resting on their laurels despite the critical acclaim afforded that release.

Racking up the frequent flyer points, the collective has undertaken an incredible eight (often extensive) interstate tours in the intervening months, as well as a successful venture to Canada earlier in the year.

And with a new year rapidly approaching The Gin Club are showing no signs of reining in their demanding schedule, with a bevy of shows in upcoming weeks culminating in yet another interstate jaunt to participate in the burgeoning Festival Of The Sun event, now held annually at Port Macquarie.

“We’re really looking forward to the Festival Of The Sun,” enthuses The Gin Club’s chief scoundrel Ben Salter. “We’re playing with a heap of diverse Australian acts like Augie March, The Beautiful Girls and Faker. There’s a lot of – for want of a better term – ‘alt-country’ bands playing, and I think a fair rope-head contingent as well. It’s meant to be really good.

“In the past we’ve done the Ya’gubi Festival in Hervey Bay, which was both good and bad. Our bass-player at the time was so drunk that he fell off the stage and took the keyboards with him. But it was really good fun. And we played the Cockatoo Island Festival last year, which was awesome. I can’t believe they’re not doing another festival there.

“But I think this Festival Of The Sun will be great – it sounds like a good spot to play and there’s supposed to be a really relaxed vibe, which suits us down to the ground.”

The Gin Club is a fluid entity of sorts, in that the various members can play in a variety of permutations and combinations without compromising the band’s quality.

“That aspect can be annoying at times, but it’s really good in that people’s expectations aren’t set on one line-up,” Salter muses. “You can say ‘The Gin Club are playing’ and it could be anything. It just keeps it interesting. If someone can’t make it to practice then someone else will jump on their instrument, so everyone ends up learning every song on just about every instrument, within reason.

“And to hear the songs done by different combinations of people is really interesting. It’s kind of really indulgent, because we can keep bringing people in and let them play on a couple of songs – they don’t have to be in the band full-time – and it’s still within the boundaries of our band charter. For instance we want to start getting more female singers, and maybe head in a bit more of a soul direction. But the sky’s the limit – there’s nothing we really can’t do.”

And is there any sign of new Gin Club material?

“We’ve got about six new songs,” Salter explains, “and they’re more of an ensemble thing which is quite different to our past stuff. I’m really excited about them. We might have an album of out-takes and unreleased recordings coming out first, but then we’ll be working on a brand new Gin Club album. I want to do something like The Drones did with Gala Mill and go and record it live somewhere, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Time Off Nov 2006