I Spoke To Max Stern About His Upcoming Tours, Aussie Artists and Bundaberg Gingerbeer
Fresh from the US and in the midst of stretching his legs prior to hitting the road not once but twice for a Maxwell Stern and Signals Midwest tour, I have a quick chat to Max Stern about his upcoming tours, who he is excited to see and the Australian music scene.
I first met some of the best friend's I've ever made at a Meridian house show, one of the many projects of one of the music industry's hardest working individuals Max Stern. Since then we've gone on to form Mulgara DIY Collective and host countless house shows of our own. I can't help but feel my brief run in with Max in 2016 and the inspiration triggered by that encounter is a commonplace story for those that have sung a long with any of his musical endeavors over the years.
Kicking off a 5 date solo tour on Thursday night at The Hamilton Station Hotel before dialing it back and doing it all again with an 8 show Signals Midwest tour culminating on stage at the inaugural Pool House Party. Max is about to dive into a hell of a time and I was lucky enough to have a pretty bloody good chat to Max before it all kicked off.
Hey Max, welcome back to Australia! How does it feel to be back in your second home?
Thanks! It feels great. Especially now, being here in February feels like pressing a fast-forward button on the east coast winter doldrums. I'm super spoiled to be able to come here and do this for a third time.
It's been a couple of years since you were last out here with Meridian, who and what are you most looking forward to seeing again?
Getting to spend time with Pinch Hitter is pretty special. As soon as we met, it felt like we'd known each other for ages. We've had a solid track record of seeing each other at least once a year for the last 4 or 5 years and I'm trying to keep that up. When Nick lived in New York we saw each other a bit, but I moved to Philly just as he left to go back to Sydney so the timing wasn't great. I just got to see Dave from Pinchies get married up in Nelson Bay and a bunch of friends from all over the country that I'd made through prior tours were there, and that was really beautiful.
I'm excited to see folks from all over the place! I started typing out people from individual cities and realized that I know people everywhere we're going, so at the risk of leaving anyone out I'll just say that Australia has been an immensely positive place for me to come to over the last few years. I think one of the things I'm most excited about is to finally experience the country alongside my bandmates in Signals Midwest - none of them have been here before, and I'm super psyched we've finally been able to sort out getting the full-band version over here.
Also - shout out to Bundaberg ginger beers, crispy soy from Blossoming Lotus in Newtown, good haloumi, and doing #tassiestuff.
So many of your friends here, and artists you just mentioned, have gone onto some incredible success. What’s it like watching your friends achieving what they have from afar?
The musicians I know here are some of the hardest-working people I've ever met, whether they're doing it full-time or fitting gigs in between 40-hour work weeks. Australia is full of people making music on their own terms and it's super inspiring, and has served as a reminder for me not to get caught up in the meat grinder that the music industry in the States can often be.
This time round you're touring both your solo show and Signals Midwest, do you approach touring the two different acts differently? And following that how does your time on the road differ between solo and band tours?
Solo shows are looser - easier to try new things, change set lists on the spot, and not really have to worry about much besides yourself. It's so nice to be able to tour with just a guitar and a backpack.
Signals is pretty high-intensity - we're now spread between Cleveland, Philly and Pittsburgh, so everything we do takes a lot of planning and orchestration. We put a lot of energy into what we do in all regards of the bad. I definitely have to take care of myself more on Signals tours - not have that fourth beer, try to get decent sleep, not try to talk over people in the venue, try to stretch & warm up and find some quiet / calm space. Playing these shows is physically exhausting and as we approach a decade of doing the band, we've learned to care for ourselves a little better and make space for the things that allow us to continue to do it.
As uncool as it sounds, oftentimes the best thing a touring rock band can do for themselves is to skip the post-show hang and go get that extra 2-3 hours of sleep. Not that we do that all the time, but if you're feeling burnt out it can make all the difference. We can play better & longer if we're well-rested. That's probably the least exciting answer I could have given, but it's so crucial these days.
You clearly have a really strong connection to this country that you have, what are some Australian artists you've been listening to lately?
The amount of good music that has come out of Australia is insane. Nick just showed me this band Purplene who haven't played in probably over a decade, but they're fucking incredible and I've been digging their record a lot since I've landed here. That guy Matt who runs Pinchies' label Microphone & Loudspeaker - all his bands have been super cool. Just watched a bunch of Charge Group videos on YouTube the other night too. But it's mostly just been my friends' bands - Paper Thin, Smithies, Lincoln LeFevre, Luca, Soho, Bennies, Jess Locke, Sugarcanes, and a bunch more. Paul Dempsey solo records are in constant rotation for me - pure pop masterpieces. Oslow & Sweater Season are really sick. My friends Tom Ware and Kate Woodhouse up in Brisbane are both great songwriters and I'm excited to see them. And I've had a Bilby song (ILY + YLM) stuck in my head for the last week and it will not leave.
I feel like you’ve given me a listening list there to last me through til your in town. Hey, cheers for chatting and good luck on the tour!
Catch Maxwell Stern's solo tour:
1 MARCH - Newcastle, NSW @ The Hamilton Station Hotel
2 MARCH - Brisbane, QLD @ Crowbar
3 MARCH - Sydney, NSW @ Factory Floor - STILL LOST FEST
4 MARCH - Melbourne, VIC @ The Gasometer Hotel
5 MARCH - Wollongong, NSW @ Radbar
Then back it up and catch Signal's Midwest:
7 MARCH - Brisbane, QLD @ Crowbar
9 MARCH - Newcastle, NSW @ The Hamilton Station Hotel
10 MARCH - Sydney, NSW @ Factory Floor
11 MARCH - Melbourne, VIC @ Reverence Hotel
12 MARCH - Canberra, ACT @ Transit Bar
14 MARCH - Adelaide, SA @ Crown and Anchor
16 MARCH - Launceston, TAS @ The Saloon Bar
17 MARCH - Melbourne, VIC - POOL HOUSE PARTY @ Coburg Velodrome