It’s 1997 and I am 20 years old. It’s Friday night and I’m at the Gollan Hotel in Lismore. The scent of lavender, beer, sweat, cigarettes and unwashed uni-students is suffocating. The onset of another claustrophobia attack is close and I can feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck. My heart is starting to race as the walls start to bow in on me. The Gollan is packed, and I can hardly breathe. The sweaty steam of 250 people has condensed on the ceiling, and is now dripping on us in time with the chest compressing, pounding, bass guitars roaring from the stage.
The stage in the Gollan is tiny. A drum kit is jammed between two, seven-foot tall bass amps. But somehow, tonight, the stage feels massive. Marrow penetrating bass-frequencies wobble through us, and I can barely stand. On stage, one of the bass players, a lanky, tattooed guy, is pounding out the most incredible rhythms. My head is spinning and I am losing my breath as I battle though the claustrophobia attack. I can’t leave, because I’ve never heard bass playing like this. His timing has a raw, primal, tribal, feeling. I wish I could play with this guy. I want to experience what it’s like to play with that animalistic sound. But I’m guessing the day I play with him, pigs might fly too.
The band is that is playing is called Preshrunk, and the bass-playing beast, driving the steam-roller groove is known as Davarj.
Preshrunk were an Australian band that had two bass guitarists and a drummer. They toured relentlessly throughout Australia and internationally and released a few Eps and some albums. They had a significant cult following and finished up in 2004.
It’s a Saturday, early 2005. Tali and I are hanging out on St Kilda pier. Our friend John calls and says that Davarj is looking for a guitarist for a gig on Sunday and do I want to do the gig? I’m trying to remain cool, but I end up screaming psychotically down the phone, professing my love to John for helping to launch those flying pigs into orbit. It’s been eight years since I heard Davarj play, and now I get to do a gig with him. I couldn’t believe my luck.
It’s 4pm the next Sunday. I unload the car. My amp weighs almost 40 kilos. Stumbling under its weight, I enter a lifeless, tacky corporate bar, somewhere in South Melbourne. There are a few bored patrons waiting for the band to start. I’m nervous. I’m about to play with one of my heroes. Davarj is really welcoming and cool, but some of the other guys aren’t as nice. They have a look in their eyes that says, “Who is this guitar playing chump? This guy’s a no-one! Never heard him, never seen him. And what’s with those chunky legs?”
Time to play. We start. The band plays some of the worst music I have ever heard. Harsh looks and stares are flicked and shot between members of the band. I’ve walked into a group that needed some serious counselling. Davarj is different. He is magnificently avoiding the onstage tension. Like a seasoned pro, he gracefully grins and bears the painful music.
We finish the gig, I pack up quickly and my celestial pigs have crash-landed to earth. They are bruised and bleeding. The guys in the band have split into two groups and are bitching about each other. I decide to get out of there quick before they start tearing each other’s arms off. I slip quietly back to my car, hoping to make a clean getaway. Davarj catches up to me and says,
“Lewi, I’m really sorry about what just happened back there. The band is about to break up and the drummer and I are starting a new band and we were wondering if you want to be in it. It’s nothing too serious. It’s a house jam band for the Lounge, Revolver and some other things.”
And this is how I ended up in a band with Davarj.
We played twice a week around Melbourne for about 3 years between 2005 and 2008. Most of the time it was Wednesdays and Sundays at The Lounge on Swanston St. Occasionally it was at Revolver or at a few festivals. It was some of the best fun times I’ve had in a band and I learnt a lot. I did get to experience playing with the ferocious groove Davarj creates. It was amazing. He became a friend, a mentor of groove, and guaranteed party buddy.
The song “Green Drop” is dedicated to him. It features the incredible double bass player Tamara Murphy. The song was featured on a Triple J unearthed podcast and will be on my upcoming release, Ghost Songs.