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by Dan Grunebaum

On the phone: Taxiride

Taxiride

"Maybe it's the water here," offers Jason Singh. "No one really stresses out that much in Australia. Obviously it exists, but there's not a lot of pressure in living."

To confirm a nagging suspicion, I had asked singer/guitarist of Aussie rock band Taxiride in a recent telephone chat if Australians really are happier than the rest of us. Which is not to say that Taxiride, despite the boy-toy good looks and vocal harmonies, are an antipodean version of annoyingly cheerful boy bands like 'N Sync.

Despite some superficial similarities, Taxiride are a real rock band, not some "Pop Idol" type group manufactured in the boardroom of a record company. Forming in 1996, the four members-Tim Watson, Tim Wild, Dan Hall and Jason Singh-had all paid their dues on Melbourne's live music circuit, one of them, Hall, even being asked to join the band when he was discovered busking on the sidewalk.
Immediately establishing a shared chemistry, the band tested out their demos on unsuspecting riders of a friend's taxi cab, hence the name Taxiride. When a demo tape found its way to a Sire Records executive in the US, the group found themselves signed to an American label for their 1999 debut, Imaginate.

Produced by Jack Puig (Jellyfish, the Goo Goo Dolls), the album went double platinum in Australia on the strengths of the band's unabashedly catchy four-part harmonies and sing along choruses. The album's success led to an intensive period of touring that also saw them make their Japan debut, and this past summer the release of their follow-up album, Garage Mahal.

Faced with trying to follow up a double platinum debut, the band-now back to a three-piece-headed to Venice Beach in Los Angeles, where the bohemian beach scene provided a comfortable release from days spent knocking heads in the recording studio, something Singh says is inevitable in a band with three singer-songwriters.

"Everyone has a strong opinion, and sometimes during the creative process we bang heads together a little," he says. "But we all understand that it comes from a place of passion, because we were very passionate about what goes down onto tape, be it a vocal, an arrangement, an idea, or a guitar part. So any time that we've banged heads and come to a disagreement, we get over it quickly. In two minutes we're back to work and over the problem."

Garage Mahal takes the basic essentials (catchy hooks, monster harmonies) of Imaginate, but leavens the recipe with richer, more psychedelic instrumental textures. The obvious song on the album is the unforgettable "Creepin' Up Slowly," which Singh says they knew was a hit the instant they recorded it, and which went on to confirm the band's hunch by going platinum in Australia this summer. But the album also features songs such as "Wait," a worthy, Beatles-style track, and "Forest for the Trees," which is probably the heaviest track Taxiride has ever recorded.

Returning to the original question of Australians' sunny disposition, Singh goes on to live up to his nation's friendly character by ending the interview offering to shout this reporter a pint. Any time you want to be interviewed, Jason, I'm here.

Taxiride play Liquid Room on October 21 and Club Quattro on October 24. See listings for details.

Photo courtesy of Smash


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