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Encyclopedia entry for 'Spiderbait' LETTER:

Formed in 1990
StyleThrash pop
 Original line-up: Damian `Whitt' Whittey (guitar, vocals), Janet English (bass), Mark `Kram' Maher (drums, vocals)
 Albums: P'tangYangKipperBangUh!! (10-inch mini-LP; Au-go-go, 1992), ShaShaVaGlava (Au-go-go, 1993), The Unfinished Spanish Galleon Of Finley Lake (Polydor, 1995), Ivy and the Big Apples (Polydor, 1996), Grand Slam (Grudge/Universal, 1999); Hot Rollers album: Hot Rollers (Polydor, 1998); Happyland album: Welcome to Happyland (Polydor, 1998).
Further reading: Hi Fi Days: The Future of Australian Rock by Craig Mathieson (Allen & Unwin, 1996).

In a matter of two years, Spiderbait went from cult status on an independent level to scoring Top 10 albums on the mainstream Australian charts. Alongside You Am I, silverchair, Tumbleweed, Powder- finger, Ammonia and Regurgitator, Spiderbait captured a vast new youth market that identified with the band's low-fi but uniquely hard-edged style and football obsession.

The three musicians in Spiderbait originally came from Finley (on the Victorian/NSW border), but formed the band in Melbourne during 1990. Spiderbait came to the attention of Bruce Milne and Greta Moon at Au-go-go Records, who issued the `Circle K'/`Constipation' single (1991) and P'tangYangKipperBangUh!! 10-inch mini-album (January 1992). The band also contributed a live track to the 10-inch, four-track gig giveaway EP Teeth (December 1991), shared with Au-go-go labelmates The Meanies, The Guttersnipes and The Throwaways. Spiderbait supported US visitors Rollins Band and The Beastie Boys on their Melbourne concerts. The ShaShaVaGlava CD (May 1993) combined the previously vinyl only P'TangYangKipper- BangUh!! with ten new tracks, including a funky cover of The Goodies' `Run' which was also issued separately as a CD EP with eight bonus live tracks (March 1994). The `Jesus'/`Home' single and a tour support to US visitors Primus followed in 1994.

Following a brilliant performance at the 1995 Big Day Out in Melbourne, Spiderbait signed a major deal with Polydor Records. The Unfinished Spanish Galleon of Finley Lake album (October 1995) found the band adding a jazzier touch (as on the title track) to the usually frantic, distortion-fuelled thrash-pop style. Initial copies of the album came with a bonus, five-track EP, The Dodgy Live Disc. National youth radio network Triple J supported the album's release with high-rotation airplay. The album reached the national Top 10 and attained gold status (35000 copies sold). Three CD singles were culled, `Monty' (a #44 hit in September), `I Gotta Know' (October) and `Sam Gribbles' (March 1996). The album's title was inspired by a failed civic beautification project in the band's hometown of Finley.

Spiderbait consolidated its success with a showcase slot on the 1996 Big Day Out tour and a second Top 10 album, Ivy and the Big Apples (October 1996). The album made its debut at #3 on the national album listing and, by the end of July 1997, it had spent 40 weeks on the chart and sold over 100000 copies. The gloriously reckless CD single `Buy Me a Pony' (September 1996) only tickled the lower reaches of the national Top 40, but was voted #1 on the 1996 Triple J Hottest 100 list (the first Australian release to attain such a position). Just as Ivy and the Big Apples came out, Spiderbait played shows in Canada (plus Los Angeles, New York and Seattle) in support of the album's release there.

The album's second CD single, `Hot Water and Milk', appeared in November 1996. The third, `Calypso' and Other Tunes For Lovers (April 1997), became the band's biggest Australian, mainstream hit when it peaked at #13 during June. The album's fourth CD single, `Joyce's Hut'/`Horschack Army', followed in September. The band ended the year by taking the Best Alternative Album award at the 1997 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) ceremony.

�Calypso� registered at #23 on the 1997 Triple J Hottest 100 list. For the first half of 1998, the members of Spiderbait took time out in order to pursue their own activities. Janet English formed Happyland (originally known as The Shits) with her partner, Regurgitator�s Quan Yeomans. The duo�s debut CD single, �Don�t You Know Who I Am?� (August 1998) peaked at #24 on the national chart. The debut album, Welcome to Happyland (September), boasted noisy modern fuzz-pop and went as high as #12 nationally. The second CD single, the low-tech but snappy pop of �Hello!�, followed in November. �Don�t You Know Who I Am?� registered #28 on the 1998 Triple J Hottest 100 list, with �Hello!� making an appearance at #71.

Drummer Kram formed Hot Rollers with Richie Lewis from Tumbleweed. The duo issued two cracking CD singles, �Silver Bullets� (May 1998) and �Wickerman Shoes� (July), plus the album Hot Rollers (July). �Wickerman Shoes� appeared on the original soundtrack to the Australian feature film, Occasional Course Language (November 1998, Murmur/Sony), as did Spiderbait�s �Calypso�. Along with tracks by Grinspoon, You Am I, The Living End, Leonardo�s Bride, Jebediah, Even, Automatic, Ratcat etc the soundtrack was a splendid snapshot of Australian late 1990s alternative rock.

Spiderbait reconvened in June 1998 to record a new album with producer Paul McKercher (You Am I, Cold Chisel, Violetine). Ivy and the Big Apples had ended up selling a healthy 180 000 units, and the band was keen to capitalise on that success. Spiderbait toured Japan in October 1998, where they promoted the release of a compilation of the Unfinished Galleon � and Ivy � albums. Next came an Australian tour support to US visitors The Beastie Boys (February 1999), which coincided with the release of the band�s new CD single, �Shazam!�. The single was a wildly confident slab of Gary Glitter glam crunch, featuring big, stomping drums, a relentless guitar riff and stabbing brass.

Grand Slam followed in April 1999, taking the band to #10 on the national chart and selling 40 000 units. The initial pressing came with a bonus disc of demo material, The Dodgy Bonus Disc. Although it failed to sell as many copies as expected, the album consolidated the band�s success with an inventively consistent and fun set.

The album yielded three more singles: the distorted pop gem �Stevie� (May), �Plastic� (August) and English�s chirpy, dayglo pop song with a lyrical sting �Gloken Pop!� (January 2000). Universal Music repackaged Grand Slam with the 5-track Mutated Re-Bait Disc (January) that featured album track remixes from Endorphin, Pound System and Whitt. �Shazam!� logged the #40 position on the 1999 Triple J Hottest 100 list, with �Stevie� and �Plastic� coming in at #84 and #96 respectively. Spiderbait contributed a techno remix of the track �Dinnertime� to the Various Artists album Liberdade: Viva East Timor (November 1999) on Mushroom.

Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd


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