Tumbleweed is one of those leviathans of Australian rock that only occasionally lurch out from self-imposed obscurity – when they do it’s to massive acclaim and obsessive fan reaction. With a run of shows along the East Coast over this damp summer, the Weed are responding to constant demand for them to reform. Lenny Curley, one of the three brothers who founded the Wollongong outfit and whose distinctive guitar created the Tumbleweed sound, is adamant that this is a rare outing.
“You’ll only get a chance to see us once or twice at the most a year, it’s only a summer thing.”
The tour will be fortified by the release of a double CD, “The Waterfront Years”, re-issuing every recording made prior to leaving the seminal Waterfront label.
Though it’s hardly breezy summer pop fodder, the Tumbleweed experience is tailor-made for steamy, rain-sodden festivals – their brawny psychedelic anthems earning them an early deal with Atlantic Records’ subsidiary Seed and Nirvana supports back in the day when the raw, heavy swelter of grunge dominated the scene.
Part of the magnetism of the band was the intelligence and musical integrity that ensured their transcendence of the ‘stoner rock’ tag – something that Curley insists was erroneous anyway.
“We never considered ourselves stoner rock – it’s our own fault, our first single was called ‘Stoned’. That was more from our lyrics and the cartoon image, which was obviously kind of psychedelic and marijuana-influenced. That was a big finger up to the normality of modern life. We had this ridiculous idea that everyone on the planet should take drugs and a lot of people may have taken it too seriously.”
The Tumbleweed of 2010 is a different entity. Families and work are the priorities. All the members play in different bands and have developed vastly different styles, but respect the vitality of their original vision.
“Musically, we had this great idea, but that idea changed and we got sick of it quickly. In our other bands we explore different styles of music, but Tumbleweed is Tumbleweed and we’re kind of genre-specific – we’re trying to write songs that fit into that category. It was a great chemistry that worked for us all, so we’re focussing on that.”
The Tumbleweed genre is a broad church, and takes in all manner of influences, which for Curley both defines and limits the band.
“Tumbleweed does mix it up a lot but there’s a limit to what we can incorporate. There’s a lot of James Brown and soul music in the rhythms and the grooves of the music.
“What we were doing wasn’t that original. We were mixing that Australian tradition with what was happening in Seattle, finding some middle ground between heavy metal and punk rock. That first Nirvana record really affected us – I can remember getting that first single when it came into Waterfront records, it was at a time in our life when we were trying psychedelics and pot for the first time and it all just melded into what created Tumbleweed.”
The reformation has sparked the old chemistry and gleaned new material, but Curley is wary of diluting the pure strain of Tumbleweed rock and roll.
“We originally reformed in 2009 so we’ve been a band as such for over a year now and it doesn’t take long for us to get bored rehearsing the same old set, so naturally we all start to write, we’ve probably churned out about ten new ideas, two of them we like, so we’re looking to get those two songs on the road as soon as possible, but we’re re-releasing all the old stuff, so we’re content to play that.”
Though Curley cancelled a pre-tour rehearsal in favour of work commitments, he’s emphatic that the Tumbleweed vision will be kept intact – and that it will remain a summer thing – a rare release of the Tumbleweed experience.