Something for Kate
L to R: Clint Hyndman, Paul Dempsey, Stephanie Ashworth
Performing at the Corner Hotel, Richmond, February 2008
|Origin||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Genres||Alternative rock, post-grunge|
|Scared of Horses, Sandpit|
Something for Kate are an Australian alternative rock band, which formed in 1994 with Paul Dempsey on lead vocals and guitar, and Clint Hyndman on drums. They were joined in 1998 by Stephanie Ashworth on bass guitar and backing vocals. The group have released six studio albums: both The Official Fiction (2003) and Desert Lights (2006) topped the ARIA Albums Chart; while Beautiful Sharks (1999), Echolalia (2001) and Leave Your Soul to Science (2012) reached the top 10. Two of their singles have reached the ARIA top 20: "Monsters" (2001) and "Déjà Vu" (2003). The band have received a total of 11 nominations for ARIA Music Awards in 1999, 2001 and 2003.
Something for Kate were formed in 1994 in Melbourne by Julian Carroll on bass guitar, Paul Dempsey on lead guitar and lead vocals, and Clint Hyndman on drums. Dempsey and Hyndman were school friends from Padua College, Mornington Peninsula; Carroll successfully answered their advertisement in music stores. The trio played their first gig on 12 September 1994 at the Punter's Club in Melbourne, changing their band name from Fish of the Day at the suggestion of the venue's booking agent, Richard Moffat. Dempsey recalled that they performed because they "just wanted to make an abrasive, staccato racket, like electrical machinery." He explained that the group's new name was inspired by his dog, Kate - he had been left a shopping note, to buy "Something for Kate". As for the dog, Dempsey's mother sold Kate, the family's Jack Russell, "They told me she ran away... I think they were a bit tired of her escaping out of the back fence. My mum let it slip about a year later. She let the dog out of the bag."
The band built a varied fan base in Melbourne and recorded a demo tape that sold out of multiple pressings. In 1995 Sony Music's A&R, Chris Dunn, signed them to the Murmur label, which had picked up teenage rock band Silverchair a year earlier. Dunn said he was impressed by their age, "If they had been a bit older I probably would've not been as interested. But because they were 19, I investigated it more and went out and got the tape." He said one song, "Slow", was particularly appealing: "That really triggered the whole thing in me. I kept on playing this song over and over again. I just thought it was a really good song for such a young person."
Something for Kate released a seven-track extended play, ....The Answer to Both Your Questions, in May 1996. It was produced by Greg Atkinson and appeared both on CD and as a hand decorated mini-LP. An Oz Music Project reviewer described it as "a critically acclaimed debut release and started catching the ears of punters around the country." During August and September of that year they undertook the Unipaloser Tour of national universities with label mates Jebediah and Bluebottle Kiss.
In October they followed with a single, "Dean Martin", also produced by Atkinson, which received frequent airplay on youth radio network, Triple J. A limited edition five-track EP, Intermission, was hastily assembled from leftover recordings and released in March 1997, quickly becoming a collectors' item. Jasper Lee of Oz Music Project declared that it "shows the vast potential for [the] Melbourne band... Dempsey's voice proves that under the thick layer of the morbid rock guy, that a emotionally-brittle heart lies within."
In February 1997 the band recorded their debut album, Elsewhere for 8 Minutes (July 1997), at York St Studios, Auckland with producer Brian Paulson, whose credits included Wilco and Slint. Carroll, who had recently married, quit the band to live on a rural property, but agreed to remain for the sessions, he was replaced on bass guitar by Toby Ralph (ex-Lobtailing). Greg Lawrence of WHAMMO website described the album as "the glorious debut" which "showed, early on in this band's career, the depth of emotional range at the disposal of songwriter and singer Paul Dempsey... [it] is a crucial initial chapter in the story of this important Australian band."
A single, "Captain (Million Miles an Hour)", appeared in May 1997. It received heavy airplay on Triple J and was listed at No. 39 on their Hottest 100 for that year. The band's following quickly grew and they toured heavily, scoring gigs on numerous major festivals. Dempsey acknowledged that "It's pretty hard when you start out. It's only now that we're starting to get some serious recognition that we can finally begin to pick & choose where we want to play. But to do that, you have to be able to prove that, as a band, you can really cut it live & draw the crowds."
After about a year in Something for Kate, Ralph had failed to fit in with the other two, he was replaced by Stephanie Ashworth from three-piece indie rockers, Sandpit. Sandpit had released their own debut album, On Second Thought, in May 1998 but they disbanded - founding drummer Paul Sciacca had left ahead of recording sessions. Ashworth on bass guitar, keyboards and backing vocals and Brendan Webb, on lead guitar and vocals, had finished that album with their producer, Greg Wales, also on drums.
Dempsey felt that his group were going through a "really turbulent period" and "completely de-constructed everything" to rebuild after Ashworth joined. He continued, "We've just been lucky because we've got this really natural chemistry between the three of us... We've finally got the right combination of people and we're collaborating the way a band should." By the time Ashworth had joined "she and Dempsey had gone from musical acquaintances to becoming a couple." In June 1998 Something for Kate issued another single, "Roll Credit", which included label mates Jebediah's cover of their song, "Clint" and SFK's cover of Jebediah's "Harpoon". Murmur also issued a split double-7" single/EP with the two versions of "Harpoon" on one disc and both versions of "Clint" on the other.
During 1998 Dempsey set up a side project, Scared of Horses, to release a solo album An Empty Flight, in November that year. He co-wrote and performed the tracks with a variety of fellow artists on lead vocals including Ashworth, Jamie Hutchings of Bluebottle Kiss, Laura Macfarlane of Ninetynine, Andria Prudente of Arrosa, Glenn Richards of Augie March and Heinz Riegler of Not from There.
In late 1998 the band travelled to Toronto to rehearse and record their second album, Beautiful Sharks, again with Paulson as producer. Ashworth and Dempsey co-wrote half of the music for the album. It was released the following June, which reached No. 10 on the ARIA Albums Chart, and was certified gold status by ARIA for shipment of 35,000 copies, in 2001. According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, "the acclaimed [album] moved beyond the stark instrumentation of the first album into more diverse pastures (for example, the rumbling 'Electricity', the atmospheric 'Beautiful Sharks')". Dino Scatena, an Australian journalist, opined that "a lot of the beauty in [the album] lies in its understated quality ... so subtle, so perfect, any other songwriter would give his little pinky for a moment of such inspiration, such craftsmanship."
"Electricity", their next single, appeared ahead of the album in March 1999 and peaked in the ARIA Singles Chart top 40. It was followed by "Hallways" in August, which did not reach the top 50.Beautiful Sharks was nominated for Best Alternative Release at the ARIA Music Awards of 1999. The band embarked on a major tour with Powderfinger and had three tracks listed in the Triple J Hottest 100, 1999: "Electricity" (No. 44), "Whatever You Want" (No. 70) and "Hallways" (No. 72). They toured Japan and the United States in early 2000, where Ashworth received -- and rejected -- an offer to join Courtney Love's rock band, Hole.
Something for Kate's third studio album, Echolalia (June 2001), was produced by Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Queens of the Stone Age). They began work at Mangrove Studios - owned by INXS member Garry Gary Beers - on Sydney's north coast. The sessions in a windowless rehearsal studio stretched out over a year as Dempsey struggled with writer's block. He recalled:
We'd go down there every day, pick up our instruments and wait for something to happen. And we spent a lot of days just sitting there, staring at each other. We'd set a standard for ourselves and I guess we were trying to meet that. Nothing was happening, we got really depressed and we hit a wall. I was spiralling down.
Exasperated, the band travelled to an island in the Gulf of Thailand, where Dempsey wrote "Monsters" in 20 minutes. He said the song, about overcoming self-doubt, broke the drought: "As soon as I stopped thinking about it, as soon as I stopped being a songwriter, it came. So after that, we came home and wrote about 20 songs." Ashworth described Dempsey's guitar work: "Paul was a really percussive guitarist: he's a drummer, first and foremost and he actually taught Clint to play the drums. So he comes from playing the guitar from a really percussive perspective; from a very Fugazi-type of world, creating every aspect of a song on the guitar instead of just melodies."
The album, released in June 2001, peaked at No. 2 and was certified as platinum - for shipment of 70,000 copies - by the end of the year. Lawrence felt that "In many ways, it marks quite a departure from their past two efforts, moving towards a sparser and richer sound, both in terms of instrumentation and the moods it creates. A dazzling evolution for this vital Melbourne trio." It was listed in the top 40 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums (October 2010). The authors, John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell and Craig Mathieson, explained, "[it is] full of ghosts; figures appear and then disappear; people turn into nothingness as they blindly repeat their daily routines, and protagonists try to find a way to move from the world they know to the world they want."
"Monsters" was issued in April 2001 as the album's lead single, which debuted at No. 15, and is the group's highest charting single. O'Donnell, Creswell and Mathieson described the track's sound, "It begins with purpose, shadowed by a hint of trepidation, but two lines in, as the bass starts to make its point and Dempsey's voice becomes more pointed, the song starts to summon self-belief." Fellow Australian music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, felt the group had "spent more time on their songs than they'd ever spent in the past. On record the result was the rich and full sound which they haven't been able to capture up until now. Their efforts were rewarded and the band's status confirmed with the first single 'Monsters' becoming the band's first bona fide 'hit'." It was followed by two more singles, "Three Dimensions" (August) and "Twenty Years" (November), which reached the top 50.
The band sold out two national tours and finished the year again supporting Powderfinger. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2001 Something for Kate were nominated in six categories - Album of the Year, Best Group, Best Alternative Release and Best Cover Art (by Ashworth) for Echolalia; and Single of the Year and Best Video (directed by Bart Borghesi) for "Monsters" - but they did not win a trophy. On the Triple J Hottest 100, 2001 "Monsters" as listed at No. 2, "Three Dimensions" at No. 13 and "Twenty Years" at No. 37; while Echolalia was listed as the top album for the year.
On 15 August 2003 Something for Kate issued their fourth studio album, The Official Fiction, which is their first number-one album. It was produced by Shoemaker at Mangrove Studios, again. Lawrence opined that it "is the perfect soundtrack to the inevitable self-indulgent melancholy I'll be suffering/enjoying for the next few days/weeks/months. The precisely structured chord progressions, creative arrangements and insightful lyrics are already weaving their magic and cultivating the warm gloom of loss." He noticed that "[Dempsey's] voice is instantly recognisable and familiar as he tells the stories that have become a feature of SFK's unique lyrical content" while "Hyndman's drumming is far from conservative, offering oddly but deftly placed accents and a beat that fights the sugar-sweet melodies to provide a much-needed edge."
The Sydney Morning Heralds Bernard Zuel acknowledged that the group are "one of our biggest bands. They have a large and devoted following, consistently earn complimentary reviews from local critics and win national awards." However, he found that "they are a very ordinary band, one with a stunted vision and a limited palette, condemned to circle the same small patch of musical ground." Specifically Zuel felt that "Excessive ordinariness is good enough for Something for Kate" where "Dempsey is a songwriter who mistakes earnestness for depth and sonorousness for meaning... [the group] need someone to say it's not good enough - go back, push harder."
The first two singles from the album were "Déjà Vu" (July 2003), which peaked at No. 19, and "Song for a Sleepwalker" (October), which reached the top 40. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2003 SFK received four nominations: Album of the Year, Best Group, Best Rock Album and Best Cover Art (by Ashworth and Dave Horner) for The Official Fiction. It was certified gold by the end of that year. On the Triple J Hottest 100, 2003, "Déjà Vu" was listed at No. 11 and "Song for a Sleepwalker" at No. 63;Official Fiction was listed at No. 6 on the Top 10 Albums of 2003. Ashworth described the group, "We're an album band not a singles band. We write albums and then the record company picks whatever they want to be the single. That's what's really difficult. So for you, you might get a very one-sided idea of what a band's like and then you put the album on and you go: 'Oh, I didn't realize they had this side.' That's where I think singles are a real fucker. I don't like it."
Desert Lights, their fifth studio album (1 June 2006) also topped the charts - their second number-one album. It was certified gold status within a month of its release. They had recorded it over four months in Los Angeles with Brad Wood (Ben Lee, the Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair). Dempsey had started working on lyrics for it in the previous year, "Writing this record was difficult. But at the end of it, I've never been happier." Stephanie McDonald of FasterLouder felt its "sound has moved from one of raw, hard rock to something a lot more melodic with pop appeal... [the group] combines both those elements into something truly inspirational."
"Cigarettes and Suitcases", the lead single, was released in May 2006, which reached No. 23, while the follow up single, "Oh Kamikaze", appeared in September and reached the top 40. Rob Smith of The Dwarf felt that the first single "is SFK at their typical alternative rock best, blending a catchy and melodious chorus with constant beats and a use of light and heavy guitar work. The second single 'Oh, Kamikaze' is a more upbeat number one might almost be able to dance to, if one could dance that is."
A compilation 2×CD album, The Murmur Years, was released on 18 August 2007 with one new song, "The Futurist". According to Nimmervoll "Notwithstanding a couple of one-off reunion shows for their ever-loyal following Something for Kate went into hiatus while their leader concentrated on writing for a solo album." They issued a limited edition 16-track live album, Live at the Corner, as an "artist-controlled bootleg", capturing the sound of the band on stage on 23 February 2008 at the Corner Hotel in Richmond.
In mid-2012 Something for Kate resumed their recording career, six years after their previous studio effort. They worked on Leave Your Soul to Science (September 2012) in Dallas with John Congleton (Okkervil River, Shearwater, the New Pornographers) co-producing. Dempsey said they looked for someone to contain them during the recording process: "We recognised an inclination or proclivity among ourselves to procrastinate and keep layering stuff up. We knew that we needed to fight that instinct and he was very much the guy to help us."
The band uploaded two songs from the album to the internet before its release ("Survival Expert" and "The Fireball at the End of Everything") and also played two live shows in Melbourne and Sydney to preview it. The album reached No. 5, and provided three singles, "Survival Expert" (August 2012), "Miracle Cure" (December) and "Star-crossed Citizens" (May 2013).
As part of the band's mid-2013 Star-Crossed Cities Tour, Dempsey recorded Shotgun Karaoke video segments prior to each show, in which he performed cover versions of songs by artists, the Lemonheads, David Bowie, INXS, and Queen. The tour for ended in Hobart on 29 June 2013. By October that year Dempsey had resumed his solo career.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Elsewhere for 8 Minutes||--|
|The Official Fiction||1||
|Leave Your Soul to Science||
|"--" denotes a release that did not chart or was not issued in that region.|
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|Q & A with Dean Martin||--|
|Phantom Limbs: Selected B-Sides||27|
|iTunes Originals - Something for Kate||
|The Murmur Years: The Best of Something for Kate 1996 - 2007||
|"--" denotes a release that did not chart or was not issued in that region.|
|Live at the Corner||
|....The Answer to Both Your Questions|
|Harpoon / Clint (with Jebediah)||
From Elsewhere for 8 Minutes:
From Beautiful Sharks:
From The Official Fiction:
From Desert Lights:
From The Murmur Years:
From Leave Your Soul to Science:
Undone: The Songs of Duran Duran:
The Power & The Passion - A Tribute to Midnight Oil:
Standing on the Outside - The Songs of Cold Chisel:
Crucible: The Songs of Hunters & Collectors:
There have been two official video releases: a VHS video entitled Big Screen Television (also referred to as The World According to Bart), and a DVD entitled A Diversion. The DVD features a short film with a soundtrack composed by Paul Dempsey, in addition to 29 live video clips from various concerts.
The film clips from "Subject to Change" to "Whatever you Want", along with a live version of "Truly" (recorded at the UNSW Roundhouse), appear on Big Screen Television.
In 2004, Something for Kate joined People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in its fight against animal cruelty. As part of their involvement, the band produced an adverstisement protesting Kentucky Fried Chicken's (KFC) alleged cruelty to animals.
Dempsey is listed as a supporter of the "Oscar's Law" campaign against the factory farming of companion animals, together with other publicly known figures including musician Mark McEntee, comedian Mick Molloy and the Essendon Football Club.