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Members include Steven Bishop(joined group, 1989; left group, 1992), drums; Jon Coghill (joined group, c. 1992), drums; John Collins, bass; Bernard Fanning(joined group, c. 1992), vocals; Ian Haug, guitar, vocals; Darren Middleton(joined group, c. 1992), guitar, keyboards, vocals. Addresses: Record company--Universal Music Group, 1755 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, phone: (212) 373-0600, fax: (212) 373-0660, http://www.umusic.com. Website--Powderfinger Official Website: http://www.powderfinger.com.
Long before arriving on the music scene in the United States, Australia's Powderfinger made a huge impression on fans in its home country. Since forming in 1990, the multiplatinum rockers have brought home armfuls of awards, and in early 2001, Australian Rolling Stonenamed the quartet its Band of the Year, Odyssey Number Five as Best Album, and "My Happiness" as Best Single.
Success has not come easily for the group, however. Powderfinger, which hails from the musical melting pot of Brisbane, Australia, began its career as a three-member group in 1990 with John Collins on bass, Ian Haug on guitar, and Steven Bishop on drums. At the University of Queensland, the threesome met Bernard Fanning and Jon Coghill (who replaced Bishop), and later connected with Darren Middleton. The do-it-yourself work ethic was strong within the group. Its members paid for the 1,500 copies of Powderfinger Blue EP, all of which quickly sold out. The success of Powderfinger Blue, as well as that of the group's sophomore EP effort Transfusion, led to a deal with Polydor Records.
The band's debut EP, Parables for Wooden Ears, was not met with as much praise. Produced by Tony Cohen, who has worked with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and The Cruel Sea, the album was panned by critics as well as the band members themselves who called it pretentious and unfocused. Nevertheless, Powderfinger toured Australia relentlessly with large American acts, namely the Screaming Trees, Soundgarden, and one-hit-wonder Urge Overkill.
To make amends, of sorts, for the Parables for Wooden Ears, Powderfinger released a much-improved second album, Double Allergic, which debuted at number seven on the Australian album charts. Real Groove online critic Kevin Byrt described it as proof of "a band trying to learn from past mistakes, showcasing a selection of more melody-based tunes with arrangements that suggest commercial leanings from within the band." Powderfinger produced the album itself with the help of Tim Whitten.
The first single, "Pick You Up," was picked up by the Australian radio youth network, Triple J. The follow-up single, "D.A.F."--which stands for the first three chords of the song--was also a radio hit. Adhering to its usual touring practices, Powderfinger traveled throughout Australia playing headlining gigs and big-name festivals such as the Big Day Out, Livid, and Homebake. The group's ultimate tour achievement, however, was a performance at the Crowded House Farewell Concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in front of more than 150,000 people in 1996.
Powderfinger then took a break to recuperate from touring and rethink its musical mission. The band members wrote on their own and then headed to Melbourne's Sing Sing Studios with American producer Nick DiDia, whose credits include work with Brad, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Local H, and Ben Folds Five. The result was Internationalist, which dabbles in surf ("Don't Wanna Be Left Out") and even acoustic rock ("Trading Places"). Fanning explained in Powderfinger's biography on Sonicnet that the group's album, which debuted at number one, was "worth the wait. It always seems to come from a natural, organic progression.... Because everything was written over such a long time, there is no real theme to the album, except for making sure it had space."
The plan worked. Polydor called Internationalist "more than a leap forward for the five-piece, it's a horizontal stretch outward, a musical exploration of the sounds and times that surround us." Internationalist earned critical acclaim at the Australian Record Industry Association Awards (ARIA), winning Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Cover Artwork, and Record/Single of the Year for "Day You Come." In May of 2000, ARIA dubbed Powderfinger Best Group for 1999, and "These Days" was awarded Song of the Year at the 2000 Music Industry Critics' Awards. Later that month, Powderfinger also received an Australia Performing Rights Association Award for Song of the Year for "Passenger." The group received the same award in 2001 for "My Happiness" from its fourth studio album, Odyssey Number Five.
While recording Odyssey Number Five at Sing Sing Studios, Powderfinger avoided the use of high technology. The group, who again teamed with producer DiDia, chose analog sounds over computer-enhanced music. The album debuted at number one on the ARIA charts. "We thought, 'What are the best 11 songs that are going to make this a really good album?'" Coghill explained at the group's official website. "We weren't thinking whether each song was going to be a great song, we just wanted to make it a full album of really good listening, that you could listen to all the way through and not have anything stick out like it's out of place." The first single, "My Happiness," is a reflection of the band's years on the road. "We spend a lot of time away from home because we're a touring band. You're kind of absent from the thing or the people you love. It's really hard on you mentally and physically in a lot of ways. It's that feeling where you know you're going to be home soon, but it just keeps taking another couple of days, and you're counting it down," Fanning told Billboard magazine.
The album immediately struck a chord with the public. "These Days," which was voted number one on Australia's youth radio network Triple J's Hottest 100 Poll in 1999, was on the soundtrack to the movie Two Hands, and "My Kind of Scene" appeared on the Mission Impossible II soundtrack. Mitch Braund, the assistant music director at Brisbane, Australia's top 40 station Triple M, told Billboard, "When listeners fax in their requests, there's usually a Powderfinger song in there somewhere."
Despite all the success, Fanning told Australia's Rolling Stone that Powderfinger is not in it for the celebrity. "We're a band. We write songs. We're not celebrities. We don't go out of our way to get publicity. I admit that it's not really possible to be in a rock band without being some kind of personality, but the whole concept for us is about writing songs," he said. "We like touring and playing in front of people, but it's not as much fun as writing songs, it's just part of the job."
by Christina Fuoco
Group formed in Brisbane, Australia, 1990; self-released debut EP Powderfinger Blue, 1993; signed with Polydor, released Parables for Wooden Ears, 1994; released Double Allergic, 1996; released Internationalist, 1998; released Odyssey Number Five in Australia, 2000, and in the U.S., 2001.
Australian Record Industry Awards (ARIA) for Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Artwork for Internationalist, and Song of the Year for "The Day You Come," 1999; Music Industry Critics' Awards for Best Group and Song of the Year for "These Days, " 2000; Australia Performing Rights Association Award (APRA), Song of the Year for "Passenger," 2000; Australian Rolling Stone's Band of the Year, 2001; Australia Performing Rights Association Award, Song of the Year for "My Happiness," 2001.
- Selected discography
- Parables for Wooden Ears , Polydor (Australia), 1994.
- Double Allergic , Polydor (Australia), 1996.
- Internationalist Polydor/Grudge (Australia), 1998.
- (Contributor) Two Hands (soundtrack), Festi, 1999.
- (Contributor)Mission Impossible II (soundtrack), Hollywood, 2000.
- Odyssey Number Five , Grudge (Australia), 2000; Republic/Universal (U.S.), 2001.
- Billboard(Australia), April 2001.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.abc.net.au/rage/guest/2000/powderfinger.htm (May 29, 2001).
- "Double Allergic," Real Groove, http://www.realgroove.xtra.co.nz/47-197/reviews/197-powderfinger-double_allergic.html (May 29, 2001).
- The Odyssey, http://web.one.net.au/~stooch/albums/albums.html (May 29, 2001).
- "Powderfinger," SonicNet, http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/ai_bio.jhtml?ai_id=509597 (May 29, 2001).
- "Powderfinger," Yahoo! Music, http://au.travel.yahoo.com/music/profiles/mono181.html (May 28, 2001).
- "Powderfinger, Killing Heidi Top Oz APRA Awards," Billboard.com, http://www.billboard.com (June 6, 2001).
- Powderfinger Official Website, http://www.powderfinger.com (May 29, 2001).
- Additional information was provided by Universal Records publicity materials, 2001.
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about 15 years ago
Just a note for the guys went and saw the boys at Kawana Community Centre last night - awesome, everytime they play there is such a great energy - I am in my 50's and have seen many many bands, and Powderfinger I have now seen a few times, totally awesome everytime so much depth to their performances and music. Rock on guys you are definately up there with the very best and come and play on the Sunny Coast more often!