The Meanies are one of Australia’s all-time bands. Forming decades ago, their music is melody-driven, explosive power-pop with lyrical tongue planted firmly in cheek. Their live shows are the stuff of legend, wild and action-packed. 2020 sees them releasing a new studio album Desperate Measures, one of their greatest yet. Gimmie’s editor started going to Meanies all-ages shows as a teen in the ‘90s and was very, very stoked to catch up with guitarist-vocalist, Link, to find out more about the LP and his song-craft.
What do you love most about writing songs?
LINK MEANIE: It’s therapy [laughs], it really is! Honestly there’s many things that you can get out of being creative but for me, if I didn’t have that I’d probably go insane. The actual process of writing in some ways is the most enjoyable part for me, getting into the studio to varying degrees it can be fun but I find it a bit stressful.
Before you started writing songs was there any other ways that you expressed yourself creatively?
LM: Gang fights! [laughs]. No, I didn’t. I’ve always done it since as long as I can remember, from twelve years old I was always being creative with a guitar. It’s always played that therapeutic role in my life.
What got you interested in writing your own songs?
LM: I came from a kind of musical family I guess. My mum went to a pretty high level in piano and my brother played in a school band, he was a bass player and also a better guitarist than me, just being surrounded by that and a family of music lovers. It was inevitable.
I’ve read that you’re the kind of song writer that writes best when you have a deadline to work towards; was this the case for this record?
LM: No, that proves that statement to be an actual lie [laughs]. When I started writing this record there wasn’t any plan to record another album, I just did it because I was bored out of my skull over here in Spain… obviously though, I love being here with my wife and her kids… just not having that creative outlet though, to me it was medicine. I didn’t know if it was going to get recorded or not, it just evolved from there.
How much song writing did you do for it?
LM: The exact amount of songs that we recorded [laughs]. Actually, we recorded one extra which I think is coming out as a single. There wasn’t many throwaways, but I took that much time with it that I was pretty sure of those songs before we went into the studio. Sometimes if you do have a deadline and you write a whole bunch of songs and you get into the studio and for one reason or another a song just doesn’t work; even on paper if it looks good something just doesn’t click. Didn’t have that with this, which is fortunate but it helps spending a lot of time with the structure and demo-ing.
Do you write most of your songs on guitar?
LM: Yeah, or flugelhorn, one or the other. Mostly guitar. I use an online recording service called Soundtrap, I’m not getting money for that, it’s just a basic kind of setup and just demo on there and send them to the guys fairly complete. The songs end up getting a different feel just because of people’s different styles once you get in the studio, which is nice. On this one we have Wally singing the verse to one of the songs [“Cruel To Be Caned”] which has never happened before, which I’m pretty excited about, I can go up and grab a drink while he starts that one. I also co-wrote a song with Jaws which is something I’ve never done. There’s been a couple of firsts on this one.
One thing I have always loved about Meanies songs is the melody; where does your love of melody come from? Where does that knack for doing it come from?
LM: I really don’t know. Having a family that introduced me to good quality song writing, the obvious ones like The Beatles, The Who, my mum listening to Carol King or Burt Bacharach or whatever—growing up with a lot of very melodic stuff. It seeps into the consciousness and it’s just a part of me, man! [laughs].
When you first started The Meanies did you have a vision for it? Out of the gate you had a sound that was your own and even all the art you drew for your releases, it’s very fully formed.
LM: I’m glad you think so [laughs]. To me, I guess it has a certain continuity to it. I don’t know if it was very conscious. To start with, I think the imagery on the early posters was inspired by the Hard-Ons, pseudo-metal satanic imagery that they would do [laughs], then it developed a bit more into our own thing. Things didn’t always pan out the way I’d like it to, I didn’t always have the last say in things like artwork or choice of singles, I kind of like that though because I’m a lazy person—just tell me what to do! [laughs].
How did you first get into punk rock?
LM: Probably the Sex Pistols hearing them, or the Ramones, stuff like that is probably the earliest experiences… apart from Plastic Bertrand “Ca Plane Pour Moi” [laughs], that’s probably one of the earliest “punk rock” songs I ever heard. Also though, define punk; there’s so many different descriptions of what punk is, you could call something like The Romantics “What I Like About You” punk. All the things you hear growing up are part of the formative appreciation for the style.
Yeah. When punk started all the bands sounded different.
LM: Yeah, that’s the thing it wasn’t very homogeneous, there’s such a variety of sound. A bit later on people started narrowing the parameters of what punk was… that’s OK, but I just find it a little bit boring when it’s sort of cookie cutter.
Totally! With the new album Desperate Measures; what kind of emotion or place where you writing from?
LM: The same—a miserable bastard basically [laughs].
You seem pretty happy to me.
LM: This is all a façade! [laughs]. Inside I’m an emo. Most of the songs are pretty negative or analytical, a lot of them are about myself and then there’s more external songs like “Monsters” and “All the Bought Men” which are a bit more political.
When you write songs do you find it helps you learn stuff about yourself?
LM: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s always therapeutic to me because you are confronting parts of yourself that you might not otherwise do unless you were writing it down on paper, even if it is a little bit abstract—that’s probably a part of me not wanting to face it! [laughs].
When you write your lyrics do you do much revising?
LM: My lyrics? Not a great deal. Occasionally you’ll go back and find a line that’s a bit naff! You’re being lazy and you just wanted to move on and you go back and you’ve got a line like: I was walking down the street just the other day [laughs]. It’s like, c’mon! That’s what you wrote when you were fourteen. There’s a lot more consistency and quality with the lyrics now, a little less clumsy metaphor than I used to use when I was younger.
Is there a song you’ve written hat you’re really proud of?
LM: On this record?
LM: I’m really proud of the whole thing. It has a cohesion which isn’t always there in terms of how I view the record; maybe it always seems cohesive to people but, to me… I think because it was written when I’m older and also written in a similar time period. I think “Sousa” is one for me, it’s probably the least punk one on the record. I really love the melody, I think it’s a really sweet melody.
That’s one of my favourites on the album too and I also really love “Drowning Tower” as well.
LM: Ah, good! That’s the one I co-wrote with Jaws, he’ll be happy to hear that.
What’s that one about?
LM: That’s another sooky song about me [laughs]. You know man, like, I’m the tower! [laughs].
You make Meanies film clips too. You’ve made a couple so far for new songs “Cruel To Be Caned” and “Jekyll & Hide”.
LM: Yeah, really lo-fi clips that you probably couldn’t show on television because they’re too dodgy. We just figured we can get them done cheaper if I make them; how many times are they going to get played on television anyway? It’s mainly for YouTube and social media.
I still think they’re really fun! I love the clip with the dog!
LM: [Laughs] Aww thank you! Roveo! It’s so fucking daft! [laughs]. I’m really happy with them. It’d be nice if I had more technical know-hows and I could make them of a higher quality. I’m using a really old version of Movie Maker, it crashes every couple of frames. The clip I’m doing now, I’m up to about 500 frames and I’m halfway through, it takes a long time.
What are you making the clip for now?
LM: I’m doing one for the next single which is “Monsters”.
Nice! That’ll be a fun one.
LM: There’s a lot of scope for animation with a title of “Monsters”.
In the song, what kind of monsters are you speaking about?
LM: I’m speaking about the demonization of cultures, religions, anything you know… not that I really agree with religion, I think it’s had a lot of negative affect in the world; not so much religion but organised religion. By nature it becomes corrupted, when they become to big obviously you’re going to get someone at the top controlling things and they’re going to have their own vested interests, which corrupts any sort of message, positive message that a religion has. I’m not religious myself at all. I think it’s everyone’s right to believe what they want to believe, no matter how stupid [coughs]. We’re just seeing it more and more with the rise of the right-wing around the world and it’s really worrying. There’s this fucking insane clown running America, not to mention Australia! It’s scary and weirdly exciting because these sort of moments, no matter how fucked up they are, there’s great scope for change, possibly for the better. We’ll see.
What are the things that you believe in?
LM: Not a lot. I’m a bit of a cynic and a nihilist. I believe in friends actually. I believe in trying not to be an arsehole, which I manage to do sometimes. Just trying to treat people with respect, which I don’t do sometimes. Not judging, trying not to judge people with generalisations and not listening to people in power, they’ve all got their own interests—I don’t trust them at all!
Same! I’ve been like that since I was a kid. My parents always taught me not to trust authority figures and those in power.
LM: Yeah, same! [laughs].
Life can be so tough; what helps you get through?
LM: Love and music!
What’s life like for you in Spain?
LM: I love the vibe here, it’s a really nice culture, really relaxed attitude. Lots of just sitting in cafes drinking and soaking up the sun, I love it! I do miss Australia… well I miss my family and friends in Australia a lot. I should be coming back soon. Hopefully we can start doing gigs!
What do you get from playing live?
LM: Money! [laughs]. No, I don’t. Just enjoyment, it’s just fun! It’s a different kind of therapy than the actual creative side of it. I just loved catching up with old friends, it’s really great when you’re playing with a band you’ve known for 30 years, like Tumbleweed or Spiderbait, any of those sort of bands like that. It’s really some of my happiest times, just catching up with some of those people.