Photo by Kane Hibbard
Interview with vocalist/guitarist Luke Boerdam | By F. Amanda Tugade
The opening scene of Violent Soho’s video for “Like Soda,”—a single off of their new album WACO out now on SideOneDummy Records—features the Brisbane bred boys shamelessly creating chaos in an Australian suburban bowls club, a destination similar to an American country club. In between clips of hair flips, kick flips, and reckless guitar strums, a seemingly older version of Violent Soho surfaces. Dressed in white, club-regulated uniforms, the four piece take turns teasing and flirting with a group of older women.
“I don’t mind. I don’t care. I’ll just say, ‘Whatever,’” frontman Luke Boerdam screeches into a tall, slim microphone set on a crisp, clean lawn. Bassist Luke Henery, guitarist James Tidswell, and drummer Michael Richards support Boerdam’s vocal screams, drawing attention to their own style and sense of humor.
At a first glance, the song and the video are married to the band’s motto: having fun, drinking beer, and getting wild. However, the concept behind both takes them in a deeper and darker direction. For Boerdam, the image of the bowl club represents one facet of a system that holds power to affect perception and status in a stratified socioeconomic environment. Its picturesque, unwrinkled setting is the perfect backdrop and introduction for WACO’s critical intention. Boerdam elaborates, “These are the types of places that echo a prior notion of Australian culture that now sits in the shadows of suburban watering holes that never change, and, as a result, maintain a sort of power over their own destiny. These places refuse to go away.”
That fear of conformity and control lurks within the 11 track album, which is built upon a horrific, notorious siege that took place in Waco, Texas, in 1993. A quick Google search ignites investigations and recollections from journalists and historians dedicated to finding out what really happened. “It’s a complicated story and deserves a much more thorough answer,” Boerdam says, noting the story surrounds a federal raid, which resulted in the “death of around 80 people, allegedly from a mass suicide.”
The album’s title track, “Waco,” is a direct nod to that incident. Buried inside a familiar melody, Boerdam sings, “Yeah, I’ll be waiting. We’ll be waiting for a Second Son,” and later recanting with “False message, I believe it—need a prophet of my own—In a Waco, I’ll call…” Expressive lines like those address how uncertainty and full-throttle faith often cater to allowing beliefs to influence behavior and change reality. “These are systems that can be felt by the immediate environment around you, but also can be systems that are self-imposed,” Boerdam says.
Pleas for faith and for truth are boldly laced within the choruses, while revelations are revealed throughout the bridges, especially in “Holy Cave,” “Evergreen,” and “So Sentimental.” Boerdam says, “We need to hang on to something so desperately that when our world comes crashing down, so do we.”
Boerdam’s interjections of indifference commit to apprehension and confusion, and living in constant worry dives into another realm of discomfort and doubt. In its entirety, WACO is constructive and contemplative. It is a journey that seeks out what an individual’s role is in a society financed by political, religious, and sexual expectations.
Moving the album’s inspiration aside, it is important to note Violent Soho’s current, catchy collection is not at all aggressive. In fact, the record often feels quiet and comforting like an unexpected favorite song that comes on the radio during a late night drive home. A closer listen unveils a subtle similarity to their last album, Hungry Ghost, which was well received by their Australian fans and garnered attention from their American audience. “Hungry Ghost addressed themes of self-destruction and self-neglect,” Boerdam says. “I suppose WACO takes many of those themes and reflects them in a way so as to question our surroundings.”
WACO’s distant, bleak reality is integral to understanding the band’s casual, thoughtful interpretation, which lends itself to an idea of individualism that is best understood in the simplest way: “Just to have fun and do whatever, I guess,” Boerdam says.