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:: Spotlight :: Sick Puppies - Their talent set to be fulfilled

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Australian band Sick Puppies was on the upward spiral as it had released a debut album and scored several good support gigs, in particular with Good Charlotte on their first visit to Australia. Then, circumstances took a turn for the worse and the Sydney band virtually disappeared off the face of the earth. They had to fend for themselves and journeyed overseas to re-evaluate their future.

Fate had it that a Free Hugs campaign turned things around for Sick Puppies in the last eight months. Frontman Shimon Moore wrote a song “All The Same” for his friend, Juan Mann, and the accompanying video, done as a friendship gesture, has resulted in a huge public response. It has seen the band thrown into the spotlight across parts of the world.

After a lengthy absence, it was great to catch up with the band, Shimon Moore, Emma Anzai, and Mark Goodwin, whilst they were preparing for a series of shows around Australia, including the upcoming d&d ball tour.

It’s good to see you back in Australia. Tell us what’s happened over the past three years?

We did an independent EP (4 tracks), spoke to a few labels, but realised that we might have got ourselves in the same situation as previously. It was an underground EP, without any support. It moved few thousand units and we did a small tour. We thought that we could keep doing this in Australia or we could do the same in Los Angeles.

So we bit the bullet, saved money, wrote songs, and went to Los Angeles after our manager set up a few initial contacts. We left in March 2005 on a 3-month tourist visa – met heaps of people and played a few shows. Then we went for another three months – signed a deal and started working on a new record at the start of 2006.

We started doing development and rehearsing and it’s taken almost a year to make it happen. We employed a new drummer, Mark Goodwin, and he’s made a great difference for us.

Then, all of a sudden, we heard about your involvement with the Free Hugs campaign and a special video…

Yes, it was totally unexpected. It was basically a video “get well” card for a friend of mine. He is a “free hugs” guy in Pitt Street Mall. He’s been doing it for two years. He walks around every day with the sign. I first met him and started filming for a few weeks, with the thought of doing a documentary. It never eventuated and I had these tapes lying around for a year. When his grandmother passed away, I made a video for him to get well, as he had been taking care of his grandmother.

I sent the video to him. It was only meant for him. Then it got placed on Youtube and it has had over 9 million hits. It’s hard to comprehend. Youtube is a phenomenon in the USA and has only started to make tracks here recently.

That video was an absolute fluke for us. If you took the Free Hugs video to a major label, they’d laugh in your face.

How is the new album going?

The album is now finished. Hopefully, we’ll be in a position to have it released very soon.
With any luck, the record will be good enough to really make this market count and we’ll be doing everything possible.

On the new album, they are the best songs we could possibly write. We learned so much about songwriting in Los Angeles and focusing the ideas. Before, we were sporadic that there were no song structures. It was just big ideas. Big fat guitars, good melodies. It’s the best and biggest sound we’ve ever done. It was mostly written as a snapshot of our time in Los Angeles.

As you have been based in Los Angeles, did you play many shows in the region?

The Americans have been supportive. They all come up to us and say how sorry they are about “The Crocodile Hunter” (the late Steve Irwin). Americans loved him more than Australians did.

We did a lot of little shows there. When the “Free Hugs” thing came, more people got interested in us.

Then there was the interest in the Free Hugs from American daytime talk shows…

Everyone in America wanted to speak to us. Oprah Winfrey was the big one. It’s weird with those daytime TV shows. Here we are – a garage rock/punk band and it’s unusual to fit that scene. Still, you have to be happy and take every opportunity as it comes.

Do you plan to stay in Los Angeles as a base?

We’ve been based in Los Angeles for about eighteen months in order to make this record. Now, we’re focused on touring the record for whoever will have us. We probably won’t be based anywhere. Maybe we’ll be Citizens of Nowhere.

What have your Australian fans been saying since you started playing a few shows back here?

Our friends in Sydney are stoked at us getting some success, even though they’ve seen us change from being a heavier band previously.

How has Myspace impacted for you?

We did a Myspace secret show in Penrith recently. We made it out of the way, to a place where Myspace wouldn’t normally go to, and that in the west they don’t have as many shows (especially all-ages). All the kids who were our hardcore fans from a few years ago came. They loved the songs and we stayed and signed merchandise for them.

We asked the fans what they thought of the new songs. I knew that I could trust them to give us a hard time. Not one said that they preferred the old songs. They were all into it. It’s been a good reaction so far.

Myspace is instant gratification – you can put a program together where you hear songs and see profiles. You couldn’t have done that three-four years ago. You can do it all yourself.

Tell us a bit more about the Free Hugs guy? I understand there was some backlash about public liability…

It is the story of one man’s journey and the problems he encountered. If anyone got hurt whilst receiving a free hug, the city could get sued. He got a petition to give free hugs every week – and received 10,000 signatures. The authorities backed down and it all fizzled out.

He’s been on stage a couple of times – when we were in Los Angeles, and hung out with us and did promo together. He is writing a book about it all.

Check out where Sick Puppies is playing as part of the d&d ball tour. Dates/venues are contained here

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