The Collapse Board Interview: Kellie Lloyd
Ahead of the release of their new album, Five Rooms, their End of This Summer photo book, documenting the band in the pre-digital world, and a national tour, we talked to Screamfeeder’s Kellie Lloyd about Brisbane in the 1990s, being in a band for 30 years, playing solo shows and the hunt for missing photos to put in the book.
CB: What music was in your house when you were growing up?
Kellie Lloyd: My parents listened to things like John Denver and Neil Diamond. And my mum loved Neil Diamond. She had a big poster of him in the laundry because she said that’s where she spent most of her time! So the Mamas and the Papas and the Beatles when I was a kid. Then when I was older, I have an older brother, so when he got himself a stereo and started buying records, he was into Iron Maiden and the Angels and sort of heavier music. So yeah, I know a lot about Iron Maiden!
You say that like it’s a bad thing!
It’s weird. I used to think that Iron Maiden and that type of music was really sort of scary, like heavy and dark, but I listen back to it now I just think it’s hilarious. It’s so camp. I grew up in Toowoomba and all the tough guys were listening to this hair metal stuff and it was just so homoerotic, so it’s quite hilarious to look back at it. And also it’s not heavy, it’s so mid-range. Anyway, that’s what I kind of grew up listening to.
Then I used to work in a record store when I was like sixteen. I got this really cool job working in a second-hand record store so I got a really big education on Australian indie music and the Australian underground. At that record store we were getting a lot of tapes from England, Sisters of Mercy and the Cult and all these other just random things, the Butthole Surfers and the Cramps, all this music. The internet wasn’t available to me. I was only young and it was in the mid-1980s but I found a lot of really interesting music when I was a kid, which was good.
That sounds great. I was going to ask you about growing up in Toowoomba and was there a local scene but it sounds like got to experience loads of great music at home and your job anyway.
Yeah. I also had a radio show. I was a real kind of weird overachiever as a kid. I did work experience in my holidays, we had to do it in Year 10, like once, but I just kept doing it because I really loved it. I’d go to the local AM radio station and I was learning how the radio station worked and learning how to do production and I was really into that stuff. Then I got my own show on the community station and really got into the community part of music. I was just really lucky. I was in the record store, the radio station as like a 15, 16 year old. I moved to Brisbane when I was 17 so that was really pivotal in my growth as a musician and as a person as well. It was really important to me.
Is moving to Brisbane something that everyone from Toowoomba does or did you always know that you were going to move there?
I could not wait to get out of Toowoomba. It was really racist and backward of a country town, although it’s changed a lot now. But it is Queensland, you know, so I moved to a bigger country town that was still racist and a mess and everything. But I was really focused on moving. I wanted to study film and I got into film school at the QCA and I moved to Brisbane when I was 17, turning 18. And then I just jumped right in to everything.
What were your first impression when you actually moved to Brisbane?
Well, I’d been to Brisbane a few times before and stayed with some friends and my cousin and whatever. So Brisbane was a pretty exciting place to be. I knew of its history too, like the Saints and the Go-Betweens. Having this musical history there, I really loved it.
The first three years that I moved here, I moved around a lot and I was studying. And then in my final year at Uni, I was in three bands playing gigs. I don’t know how I finished university without failing completely. But as soon as I finished. I packed up my stuff and put it in storage and started touring with Screamfeeder, literally the week after I graduated.
But I loved Brisbane, I never wanted to move away. I think if I hadn’t joined Screamfeeder, or if we hadn’t been doing so well, I think that after uni,, after a couple of years, I probably would have moved to Melbourne or maybe would have moved overseas, I was pretty ambitious to do stuff and originally I wanted to work in film industry or TV. So I got side-tracked into music and it kind of took over. But you know, that’s not a problem. I like I like how it’s all turned out.
And Screamfeeder always stayed in Brisbane?
Yeah, we didn’t want to move. I guess we’d sort of toyed with the idea but the guys in the band had their girlfriends here and I had my family here and everybody was settled here and Brisbane was a really easy place to live. It was really cheap. It was great to go away and tour and be like the band visiting, like “Oh, a band from Brisbane is coming to Sydney,” and then it started to become like Custard and Regurgitator and Powderfinger, all these bands from Brisbane. So we were kind of like the unknown quantity and a bit of an exotic kind of cool thing coming to the major other centres like Melbourne, Sydney, Perth or whatever. It kind of made sense to stay in Brisbane and not be embedded in the middle of it and just be on the outside all the time.
I didn’t move to Brisbane until 2005 and everyone was like “Oh, you should have been here five years ago, 10 years ago, Brisbane in the 90s was amazing.” I mean I thought it was great in 2005, especially the music scene. What do you miss about Brisbane in the early 90s when Screamfeeder was starting out?
Brisbane has really changed. It’s really grown up a lot, become a much bigger city and become expensive to live in. I don’t feel like I’m a stranger here but I feel like it’s moving quickly. I think I miss the fact that we didn’t really have bad traffic. And the housing, you could just go visit a rental in Paddington with four people and sign a lease, like literally the same day you looked at it, and move straight into the house, or you could have a house that was just always a rental and people would just come and go, and you’d move into this well-established house. There was a very real sense of community and connection back then. I mean, that would still be happening now, of course, but I’m older and that was a time of my life, in my early 20s, when everything’s new and exciting. So I guess I miss my early 20s more than I miss what Brisbane was like.
I know what you mean. In my 20s I had so much energy and did so much stuff. Now I feel tired all the time and everything is too much effort.
In the very early 90s, I used to write for a magazine called BUMS magazine. I helped put it together, we’d collate it in someone’s lounge room, drinking beer, and then we’d take it down to Rock Against Work and hand it out and stay and watch bands and get drunk and go out. I was on the dole and we could somehow go out every night of the week, have a great time. That’s what’s really changed. Now everybody’s got four jobs, you are in two bands, three bands, you’re working so much. It’s different, because I’m older and that’s the thing, it all depends on where you are at that time of your life when you’re free and you don’t have all of the responsibilities. Tim and I have just been putting together this book, this photo essay, and I had to kind of delve back into my own diaries and think about what was going on at that time. We didn’t have social media and we didn’t have mobile phones, sometimes we didn’t even have a phone in the house that we lived in. So I kind of loved that we were just all individual, you wouldn’t talk to someone all day sometimes. If you didn’t go out to the pub or to band or to practice or go into someone’s house, no one knew where we were or what you were doing, you were invisible and I miss that.
When I started university, I don’t think I called back home for about a month. I think my mum was worried but my dad was like, “He’ll be fine, he just out having a good time,” but it just seems crazy that you could be uncontactable like that these days.
Yeah. I moved out of home and moved to another city when I was 17, so my parents didn’t know what I was doing because I was just gone. I would talk to them maybe once a week. But when I started touring, I was gone for ages. I’d travel overseas and I didn’t have a way to call my parents, so you’re just missing in action. You’d just eventually show up and you were never reported as missing or anything because you’d eventually get in contact.
You mentioned the photo book, End of This Summer, that you and Tim have put together. Why did you decide to do it now?
Yeah, that’s a good question. Tim’s an incredible archivist and we’ve all got just tons of photos. When we used to go on tour or record or whatever, we’d take a camera each sometimes, and then we’d just print three lots of prints when we got home and we’d all share them. So we’ve got all these photos. I think as Tim was moving house, and maybe putting some things in order, he was just going “We should put all this stuff together.” We’ve got all this stuff on the on the website, but putting it together as like a physical, like an item. All the photos have a story attached to them and it just harks back to that time I was talking about, the freedom of being of that era, of that age, and just being out there. It’s a period of time before digital cameras, so it ends at 2005, I think, around that time. Just putting together, what it was like being those people at that time. It’s a really cool idea. It came up, I guess, because we were looking back because it was our 30th year anniversary last year, and we were doing a lot of revision stuff and that’s one of the big things that came out of it.
Was it easy to agree on what went in?
Yeah. It was also easy to agree on what didn’t go in. But you know, it’s not like now, like, you’ve got a billion photos and you’ve got 800,000 photos on your phone. It was like you’ve got 32 photos from that particular time and 30 of them are shit. So it was very easy to pick from what we had. There’s so many things that are missing. We’ve all just lost stuff or we just never had a camera with us when we did that particular thing.
Do you have a favorite photo?
KL: There’s some I’d never seen before. Tim was putting them all together, I’d go over and proof them and he’d write captions and I’d write bits and pieces for it. There’s one photo I’d never seen before of me holding our friend’s dog and I was reading to him. I don’t remember that photo and it’s so cute.
There’s just heaps of photos. There’s some really nice photos of us in Japan, there’s some really funny silly things, it’s all good. There is one photo that I’m still turning my house over to find and it’s a photo of myself in Janet from Spiderbait in my old house In Enoggera Terrace. We were playing dress up and I was wearing a kaftan and she was wearing like an Iron Maiden shirt and some stripy pants and we’re captured in this moment of just ecstatic bliss and happiness. The photo exists digitally but it’s something so small, we can’t use it. We couldn’t reproduce it and I can’t find the original. There’s others that aren’t as good that are in it and I’m just I’m super-duper disappointed that I can’t find that photo. But it’s probably in a book somewhere. Literally every time I talk about it, I start thinking “Oh, maybe it’s here”, but it’s too late, I can’t put it in there now.
I was going to ask about the key to being in a band for 30 years but then I found out that Dean left at the end of last year, that must be a pretty big change for you and Tim?
KL: Yeah, it’s been hard, it’s been a really weird time over the last couple of years and we’ve been bouncing on a knife edge of “Are we doing these shows it’s getting cancelled, recording postponed, like all the things. So we just needed to get stuff together to know that we can tour this year and things were just getting too hard for Dean. He’s got two small kids, he’s got carpal tunnel syndrome. When he plays his hands go numb and he opted out of the band a few times before for different reasons, like going overseas and having kids. We had a lot of stuff in place that we needed to be responsible for, like tour dates for festivals that were paying for the mastering and the mixing of the album. Everything was snowballing and we just needed to go, “Right, we need this and we need to lock someone in” and so we had to move forward and that’s just what happened. But you know, being in a band for 30 years is hard. It’s like you’re in a relationship with someone and multiple people, and people change and you grow and your ideas change, and your personality changes and everything, but we maintained it for a really long time and this was just a thing that’s happened recently. I don’t feel like it’s changed a lot but it’s a real hard one, it’s just been a bit shit to be honest.
There was that long gap between Take You Apart  and Pop Guilt . Was that was that because Dean was overseas?
Yeah, Dean went overseas and he lived in London for a few years. So we did kind of just stop. Tim did We All Want To and I did Warm Guns, White Mansions and solo stuff. And then when he came back, he was like, “Right, let’s do some stuff again,” so we reconvened. We also played a lot in between. So when he did come back, we were playing shows, we were releasing vinyl, through Poison City Records, and we toured again a few times. We really function well as a band and every time we would do something to be like, “Oh, this is just right.” We just work.
Yeah, I think the first time I saw you was at Pig City (in 2007) and you had Steph Hughes [from Dick Diver] drumming for you.
Yeah, that’s when Dean was in England.
During those years, did you think that maybe the band wouldn’t keep going?
Yeah, yeah, we did. But Tim, and I would go off and do our own thing and then when we came back together to do stuff, we would just feel this cohesion.
It was like, “Let’s just do another record,” and this is kind of how we work. It just works, I can’t really explain. I don’t want to call it a soul brother and sister type thing because I don’t want to get all hippy. But me and Tim, are especially right together, he’s analytical, and I’m intuitional and we work well together. He’s the anchor to my flying off the universe and I’m like the “Stop thinking too much about this and just go with you feeling in your gut” type thing. We’re just good friends, we’re all good friends.
That’s the other thing, we’ve never had the pressure of a record company going “You need to do a hit,” and “You’ve got to tour constantly” and basically feeling pressured so much that you’re disliking everything and disliking each other. We’ve just never been in that position. So I think that’s probably the key to a lot of it to be honest.
Pretty much every time I go out, I think I see you at the show and you play in tons of bands. I think you forgot Majestic Horses and Deafcult in the list of things you’ve done that you mentioned earlier. What drives you to keep doing all these different things.
I’m just born this way. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 15. I’ve been learning an instrument since I was 11. I love music, like music changes my mood, it changes the cells in my body, I react to music in such a way. I like to create it and I like to be around it, so music’s just my life. Maybe I’ll hang up my spurs one day and not play live anymore. Like I don’t really want to do solo stuff anymore because I don’t really get a great deal of enjoyment out of it.
I think I remember you telling me once that you get really nervous when you play solo?
Yeah, I get super nervous and I have a really bad time when I play because I’m nervous, but then I get really critical afterwards. So there’s not a lot of positive stuff. I’ve got to change my mindset to it. Sometimes I have a good time but I’ve got a lot of anxiety and I get anxious. I’ve got a lot of social anxiety and performance anxiety and then being the only one on stage you’ve got nowhere to hide.
If I’m playing in a band and I’m playing the bass, I’ve just got this big wall of distortion to hide behind and like someone else for everyone to look at, like, “Look at Tim. He’s singing, I’m just over here.” With Majestic Horses, I played the guitar and I was feeling great about that, I was confident in a different way, in a new way and I was OK. But solo is hard work. I am playing a solo show coming up for celebrating Meg Welchman, and I couldn’t say no to it, there’s no way I would say no. So I’m already shitting myself but I’ll do it. But I don’t really want to do it so much anymore, maybe this will change my mind, I don’t know. But I love to play music. And honestly, when I walk into a practice room, just to play with my friends and play loud music, and if the day’s been awful and stressful, every ounce of stress just leaves my body. And I walk out feeling like a new person. Rock and roll saves lives, basically.
Knowing how busy you always are, how did you cope during COVID and all the lockdowns?
I was working full time from home, so I didn’t have the break that lots of people were having where they’re like, “Oh, I’m just gonna learn a new program, I’m going to write and record, I’m going to do this,” I’m literally going to not do anything, I’m going to do my job, I’m going to stand outside and look at the sky. I’m going to actually not go to practice, not record, not have to worry about, any responsibilities outside of my house. I started growing a veggie garden, I got creative in a different way.
It was such a good break and I felt such relief, because we had a lot of stuff coming up and I was getting a bit worried about my workload and I thought by the end of July 2020, I’d be in a bit of a state, I would probably need to take some time off. It was the great levelling, it just stopped everything and I got a lot out of it in a weird way. I did write songs and stuff, but I wasn’t trying to prove to people I can use this time to do whatever. I was just doing what felt right but a lot of it was not doing anything.
Are you looking forward to Screamfeeder’s upcoming shows?
Yeah, I am. Because having said about needing that time, seeing dates, just falling off the calendar and getting cancelled or rescheduled and then cancelled, it started to become just like, “I don’t know, if I’m ever gonna play a gig again.” Then I started to think about what it was like to play gigs and then playing gigs and have people seated, and thinking is, “Is the future?” And that’s fine, like, “I’m playing a live gig and it’s loud, and it’s fun,” but then I was listening to some music, this band called Batpiss. I just got their record and I was listening to it and I was like, “Fuck, I just want to see this band play live. What if I never get to stand up the front and see a band? That’d be really sad.” So then, I started think about wanting to play proper live gigs again and it was a real turning point because I think I was getting a bit over stuff.
With the original break, the original COVID lockdown, I didn’t care. Then it all started to become real and then I changed my mind and now I’m just like, “I just want to play gigs. I just want to be amongst it.” But I want to do it safely, I don’t want to get sick. I can’t wait for all of this stuff to just not be a problem anymore. I want to be in the middle of a bunch of people listening to loud music.
I think the shows are going to be a lot of fun to be honest. We’re doing a lot of practice with Phil Usher, our new drummer, so we’re already on fire. It’s new and fun again, in a different way. I can’t explain it. Having a new drummer interpret Dean’s drums is amazing because I’m hearing Dean’s drumming in a different way. He’s such a fucking great drummer and I’m really devastated he’s not playing with us. But Phil’s doing such an incredible job, I’m seeing the creativity of Dean in a different way and Phil’s doing such a killer job of it. We’re all enthused about playing. It’s a new chapter in a way.
Screamfeeder’s 8th album, Five Rooms, is out on Friday 6 May 2022
The band’s End of This Summer 206 page photo book is out now.