INTERVIEW: ANDY KENT & RUSTY HOPKINSON OF YOU AM I

youami

When musicians work up a hard earned thirst, they need a big, cold beer. And the best cold beer around could be a Brew Am I. The beer is a pale ale, craft beer, brewed exclusively by Young Henry’s in Newtown for a limited time for Australia’s very own, You Am I.

The AU Review were at the Brew Am I launch. The beer is a new-world pale ale that clocks in at 5% alcohol. It boasts ingredients from each of the band member’s birth towns with rolled wheat from WA (for frontman, Tim Rogers and drummer, Rusty Hopkinson); malt from guitarist, Davey Lane’s Victoria; and hops from bassist, Andy Kent’s New Zealand.

We sat down with Andy Kent and Rusty Hopkinson to get their individual takes on the beer, the band’s twentieth anniversary tour and why they should now add titles like “beer baron” and “bartender” to their résumés.

Natalie Salvo: Who in the band had the specific idea for the beer?
Andy Kent: I suppose, I well… Greg Wales who is an old friend of the band’s, produced our records, [and] did our live sound for many years throughout the world. He now does all the outside broadcasting that you would hear on Triple J, that’s him. He and I were talking about beer one day and he said, “You’ve got to try Peter Fenton’s stout that he’s done with this company called Young Henry’s”. And so we went and tried it and it was absolutely beautiful.

So I heard about this place, I came down here one day and said, “Can I buy some of this?” And they said, “Look, we’ve only got a bit left, but here it is in a growler”. And I’d heard about these growlers, these giant bottles and the whole thing just kind of blew my mind.

And then I met Richard Adamson who runs the place down here. We just got talking and he’s a You Am I fan. What he does is incredible. The next thing, we’re both seated together at a beer and brewer’s annual degustation dinner and we pretty much hatched the plan to create a brew for You Am I.

But (we wanted it) in a really good bottle. Not too crafty, not too heavy, not too inaccessible a beer. Like a beer that everybody wants to drink or hopefully they’re gonna be happy drinking. A good one across-the-board and I think there’s nothing wrong with trying to make everybody happy sometimes.

NS: Well, I’m sure the band has consumed copious amounts of beer over the years so it’s as good a tie-in as any.
AK: All around the world, as well y’know. We love our German beer, our Japanese beer. American beer has got a lot to answer for. Some Northern English beer is just better warm- it doesn’t make any sense.

NS: Was it planned to tie-in with the tour or how did that come about? 
AK: Well, it made sense to do that, yeah. I mean, y’know I think when you’re active and doing something it makes sense to do it all at the one time and around it, so…

NS: Were you guys heavily involved in formulating the taste and things like that?
AK: Look, y’know the conversations were fairly brief and fairly light. We didn’t want to get into too much into the sort of flavour-base. We sort of wanted to direct it towards a type of beer and towards how the beer would be received. And the idea that the elements of the beer would be drawn from where we’re from was a good idea.
NS: It’s great that the ingredients are all sourced from where the band members are all from…
AK: So we kind of let them go to a degree. Y’know, we talked about it. But y’know, they brew the beer, we make the music. We’re not gonna pretend to know that much about beer, really, just leave it to them.

We just said, “This is what we like. We do like these types of beers and we think this may be a good beer to have as a You Am I brew”. But how about the criteria is, it needs to be smashable from the first song in a set to the very end of the set and go out and still drink some more.

NS: So are you happy with the final product? 
AK: I am actually, yeah. Yeah.

NS: Are there any plans merchandising-wise to branch out into other areas? Maybe wine? 
AK: Yeah, let’s see.
NS: Or are you guys more beer drinkers? 
AK: I think we’ve got the beer under control and we’re pretty happy with that right now.
My companion: You’ve got beer for the first few albums and you can branch off as you…
AK: Yeah, right right. So there’s gonna be an extra taste for something alcoholic or accompaniment for every re-release. Better put that scotch down then.

NS: Would you guys ever perform some of the later albums in your career or because these particular ones are held so dear to fans’ hearts…
AK: Yeah, it’s an early period in the band’s career and I think we may but we’ll see. Our heads are in the moment right now, which are these records.

NS: So, going back and re-learning some of the old material, was there any fun or obscure track that you’ve rediscovered? 
AK: [TOUR SPOILER ALERT!] Well, we’ve been playing a bunch of stuff off Sound As Ever as encores. We rehearsed an absolute – well, we don’t really rehearse. We’ve never really rehearsed. We normally just kind of show up to the first show and work it out. But we actually thought we had better rehearse for this tour. There’s quite a few songs. For the encore stuff, we’re changing it every night and some of the Sound As Ever tracks that we’ve been playing have been quite fun. Having not really thought about it – so they’re good tracks.

At Splendour In The Grass we’re playing all of Sound As Ever on the Friday I believe. So um, yeah, I’ve enjoyed that.

NS: Well all the best with the beer and the tour.
AK: Thanks, yeah yeah.

[Andy pours my companion and I a beer]

———————-

Natalie Salvo: How did the initial idea for the beer come about? 
Rusty Hopkinson: I think Andy was in here one day talking to the guys and um we’d seen that Front End Loader had had a beer and Pete Fenton (Crow) had a beer, and we want one of our own dammit! So they asked a few questions about what we wanted and they came up with this lovely drop, which we think is really great and it sorta fitted with the description we supplied. So yeah, it was just a really nice, easy process basically.

NS: Did you have much to do with picking the actual flavours? 
RH: Well, I think our thing was to make it drinkable. Make it sorta, y’know on the lighter end of crafty. Not too complex or anything like that, just a good, drinkable pale ale basically. And that’s what they came up with and it kinda is.

NS: So are you happy with the results? 
RH: Yep. We first tasted it down in Hobart on the first gig of this tour. And our big question was like seeing what our horn guys and our cello player and our crew thought. And they all declared it “Smashable!” So um, we found it’s a good thing. Or “Session beer” is apparently the technical term for a beer like that.

NS: So you have additional musicians performing with you guys on this current tour? 
RH: Yeah we’ve got a couple of horn players and Stevie Heskett who plays in The Drones but also plays keyboards with us and a cello player called Judith who’s really great so yeah, it’s a little bit of an expanded line-up.

NS: Was the beer launch timed to coincide with the tour or was it just lucky timing? 
RH: I think anything with You Am I is generally not that planned, stuff just sort of happens and things sort of cross paths, basically. And people say alright, this all line’s up. So cool, we’ll make it look like we planned it that way.

NS: Going back and learning some of the old stuff, does anything stick out as being fun to have played?
RH: I think most of the songs we’ve played over the years and a lot of it is just muscle memory. You just sit down and start playing and “Oh yeah, I remember how to play that”. But um, I think a couple of things off of Hi-Fi Way, like “Punkarella” we hadn’t really played for a very long time and then a couple of deeper album tracks off of Hourly Daily like ahhh, “Dead Letter Chorus”. We never play that so it’s really nice to play that again. It’s just fun to actually sit down and listen to the records and try and go OK…

NS: So is it actually difficult re-learning some of the stuff? 
RH: Not really, no so much difficult. It’s more the physicality of doing the two albums back-to-back and then an encore. You’ve got to pace yourself throughout the evening. Y’know, I’m not as young as I used to be.

NS: And what better way then while drinking your own beer? 
RH: Well, that’s one of the things you’ve got to pace yourself with, basically. Not too many Brew Am I’s before I go on-stage.

NS: Does it form part of your rider these days? 
RH: Well we’ve got like cases and cases of it in our truck, driving around. So they’re always back-stage and we’re always going, “Try our beer!” We’re beer barons, finally.

NS: So are you going to add bar tender to your job description? 
RH: Well, it’s fun. It’s great to – it’s probably the best merch we ever had.

NS: Speaking along those lines, any plans to branch out into any other interesting forms of merchandise? Like wine? 
RH: Well, I dunno if we’re gonna become wine…But I’m a wine drinker myself so I’d probably like a You Am I Sancerre or something like that but I don’t know if that’s going to happen anytime soon.
My companion: We tip that for the middle albums? Start of with the beer, go for a wine and then finish off with a cognac?
NS: As the albums mature…
RH: Eventually we’ll work our way up to a You Am I scotch perhaps or something like that.

NS: I’m sure there will be many You Am I fans that are very happy with that prospect. 
RH: I’m sure there will be many You Am I members happy with that as well! (laughs).

NS: Would you guys ever tour your later albums? 
RH: We’ll get through this tour first. We wanna do our own, record number 10 next. That’s probably what we want to do.

NS: So you have plans for that [the next album]? 
RH: Yeah, yeah. And then, y’know who knows? Like I said, we’re not big planners. Stuff just generally happens and it’s more outside forces going, “You have to do this” really. And then like, the response was so good, so it’s great that we did it [the tour]. People seemed to really come to the party in terms of wanting to come to the shows and wanting to see us play the albums. So it’s a very nice surprise. And y’know, it’s quite humbling really.

NS: I’m sure there are many fans in their element, enjoying the obscure tracks just as much as the hits…
RH: It’s good ‘cos they can’t really complain about any surprises in the set-list or anything like that. And you know what you’re gonna be playing every night until we get to the encore, where we’re sort of mixing it up a little bit.

NS: So how do you guys keep the shows fresh? 
RH: Well, they’re all fun songs to play so y’know, you just try and play them better every night, basically. And try and impart as much enthusiasm and love into the songs as y’know, and hopefully people get off on that. That’s just what you try to do.

NS: Well all the best with the beer and the tour.

[Rusty starts pouring my companion and I a beer]

NS: He (my companion) will be blagging to people that “Rusty poured me a beer!” 
RH: Not just a beer, a Brew Am I!

NS: Thanks Rusty. Once again, all the best with the beer and the tour.
RH: No worries, thanks for coming down.

———————-

The You Am I 20th anniversary Hourly, Daily and Hi Fi Way tour continues around Australia until 11 August 2013.

The Brew Am I beer is available for sale on this tour. It will also be available at local stockists, at Young Henry’s Brewery in Newtown and at: http://brewami.com/

Originally published on 2 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/interviews/andy-kent-rusty-hopkinson-of-you-am-i-australia

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

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