“Whether you want the depravity of the post-punk noise, the sweetness of a soothing pop song, or something in between, on Rocks on the Soul they deliver. I'll give this an A-. (In Music We Trust)

Throughout the 1990’s, Australian music in the post-grunge era exploded in popularity, fuelled by the excitement of the new punk DIY ethos and the sheer excitement of independent, non-corporate bands making thrilling new sounds. Screamfeeder rode that surging wave, producing four acclaimed albums, enjoying significant airplay and touring relentlessly. Things were looking pretty good.

But by 1999 Screamfeeder found themselves backed into a corner by their American record label at the time, being legally prevented from recording a follow-up album to their 1996 smash Kitten Licks. The covers EP Home Age had filled the gap, but the band were sitting on an ever-increasing pile of diverse new songs. In the end, they found a way to opt out of the disastrous contract and arrangements were promptly made for a recording session in the winter of 2000. 

The studio and producers were an odd choice, a discreet office location in Melbourne’s South Yarra owned by electronic duo The Pound System. It turned out to be perfect - Woody and The Rev could hear new potential for the band’s trademark male-female vocal interplay, sweet yet bruising guitar lines and never-sitting-still song structures. Together the team proceeded to deconstruct Screamfeeder’s approach while exploring the possibilities offered by the then- new Pro Tools digital recording platform. 

It was a bold move; it would have been too easy to make ‘Kitten Licks II’, but instead the band turned a sharp corner and produced a quite-unexpected album. The songs are sprawling and hyper-melodic, layered, edited and experimented with. Vocals are lush and the melodies emphasised, drum beats are looped and hypnotic. This was the sound of a band confident enough with their songs that it didn’t matter the sonic tangents they took off on. 

“...At the time, it sounded like it was too good for a band from Brisbane, which is never true — of anywhere — but that’s how Screamfeeder made me feel. I was excited by it. It was probably the last time I felt truly shocked by what a Brisbane band was capable of. Now everyone knows.” (Ian Rogers) 

Tim came up with the album title, a play on The Isley Bros ‘60s LP Soul on the Rocks. The album alienated some of the more change-resistant fan base, while engaging with a whole new one, who were captivated by Kellie’s epic Stopless, or the quasi space-age Above The Dove. Dean explored the local area and added his field recordings to some of the songs, notably If You Lived Here

Finally released in October 2000 through Shock Records, the album was a masterful return to form, showcasing a set of songs that quite clearly raised the bar, from the first notes of Kellie’s masterpiece Stopless to the epic closer, Close Again. If there’d been any doubt about the band’s ability to survive the industry travails, Rocks On The Soul proved them all wrong. 

And here we are in 2015. Exactly 15 years later and Rocks On The Soul remains a pre-shoegaze-comeback gem. The songs and ideas are at once confident and assured, but never cocky, with Screamfeeder’s naiveté and wide-eyed wonder and love of the music they were creating shining through.

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