Prepare to go mental for Aussie art pop pioneers
CLOSING in on a 40th birthday can be a daunting time for some while others look at it as catalyst to try out something new, something that might open new doors and lead to another new phase in their lives.
The latter approach is what the main men behind the legendary art pop pioneers Mental As Anything, Greedy Smith and Martin Plaza (who both turned 60 in January), are planning to do as they hover around the anniversary of their humble start as a university band back in 1977, with a regular suite of new singles - one every five months to be exact - to be released over the next two years leading up the milestone.
The first single, Shake Off Your Sandal, is out now but in the meantime it will be constant touring as usual.
Unlike many bands that have ventured into this longevity territory, the Mentals are no slouches when it comes to hitting the road to play their tunes live as original keyboardist and singer/songwriter for the group, Greedy Smith, pointed out.
"We are still touring a lot, probably 100 shows a year. We pretty much leave our homes every Thursday or Friday and go somewhere in Australia. We have always been touring but probably a little less now. We used to do about 120 shows a year."
Greedy said the road trips kept the band quite busy, "which is a good thing", and at the moment he believes they are playing with "one of the best band line-ups we've had."
This includes James Gillard (ex-Mondo Rock), Martin Cilla (The Atlantics) and drummer Jacob Cook.
Of course the other member, Martin Plaza, is a founding member alongside Greedy, which also means they too will be celebrating a 40-year relationship in a couple of years, which begs the question, how do you work and get along with someone for such a long period of time.
"We have a healthy respect for one another. We don't understand each other at all so it keeps a bit of mystery going."
And while this is a record-breaking outfit -they still boast an unparalleled 20 ARIA Top 40 singles - they aren't very good at keeping any statistical diaries.
"Reg Mobassa kept a bit of a log once. It reached about 6000 gigs in 1999 but then he left and, well, we don't really want to dwell on numbers too much. I'd like to know how many times we've played Nips are Getting Bigger since 1978 though."
Greedy said the longest break the band had was back in 1990 when he fell off a horse. "That was about six weeks, but then it was back to business after that."
The quirky keyboardist said one of the main things that kept him going was the reaction from the audience at live shows.
"You get a real buzz, particularly if you are a songwriter. You get off on the fact people are singing along to your music. I still find it remarkable that so many people know them."
Greedy said with the new singles coming out progressively and touring there really wasn't time for any side projects for him.
"I was thinking about buying a Jim's Mowing franchise and toying with a compilation Greedy Smith's Ride on Mower hits. People need music while mowing. I ran over a pair of headphones with the mower once.
Jokes aside, the band doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon, preferring to "take it steady and keep your heads on".
So where do you think it's all going to end? "In all the interviews I've done I don't think I've ever been asked that before. Martin threatens to stop as he's been a bit crook on occasion but they'll probably have to carry us out in a box."
Mental As Anything will play at Yamba Bowling Club on Saturday, March 26.