The Drones performing live at A Day on the Green, Hunter Valley, March 2013
|Origin||Perth, Western Australia, Australia|
The Drones were an Australian rock band, formed in Perth by mainstay lead vocalist and guitarist, Gareth Liddiard in 1997. Fiona Kitschin, his domestic partner, joined on bass guitar and vocals in 2002. Other long term members include Rui Pereira on bass guitar and then lead guitar; Mike Noga on drums, vocals, harmonica and percussion; and Dan Luscombe on lead guitar, vocals and keyboards. Their second album, Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By (April 2005), won the inaugural Australian Music Prize. In October 2010 their third studio album, Gala Mill (September 2006) was listed at No. 21 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums. Two of their albums have reached the top 20 on the ARIA Albums Chart, I See Seaweed (March 2013) and Feelin Kinda Free (March 2016). The group went on hiatus in December 2016 with Kitschin and Liddiard forming a new group, Tropical Fuck Storm, in the following year.
The Drones were formed in Perth, Western Australia in 1997 by Warren Hall on drums, Gareth Liddiard on lead vocals and guitar, James McCann on guitar and Rui Pereira on bass guitar (later on lead guitar). The group were an outlet for Liddiard's songs and the unorthodox music he and Pereira had made after meeting in high school, in 1988. All four were also members of the Gutterville Splendour Six, which was led by singer, Maurice Flavel, and included Brendon Humphries on guitar. The Drones played a handful of shows in Perth and recorded an unreleased EP before Liddiard and Pereira left for the eastern states in January 2000.
The pair relocated to Melbourne where they were joined by former band mate, Humphries, who took over on bass guitar after Pereira moved to lead guitar. Hall soon returned to Perth and was replaced by Christian Strybosch (ex-Stunt Car Drivers) on drums. In 2002 Humphries moved back to Perth and was replaced on bass guitar by Fiona Kitschin (who had previously played with Liddiard and Pereira). The new line up of Liddiard, Kitschin, Pereira and Strybosch were recorded on the Drones' debut studio album, Here Come the Lies (August 2002), via Spooky Records. Humphries formed the Kill Devil Hills in 2003 as an acoustic country blues group.
Recording of the Drones' second album, Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By, occurred during 2003 with Loki Lockwood of Spooky Records producing. Once the sessions were complete the group wanted to change labels, which stalled its release while they saved up enough money to buy out their contract. In 2004 Strybosch left the band and was replaced by Mike Noga (Legends of Motorsport) on drums. Bruce Milne's In-Fidelity Recordings eventually issued the album in April 2005, to enthusiastic reviews from the underground music press.
"Shark Fin Blues", was released as its lead single, which Denham Sadler of The Guardian described, "delves into the darkest corners of the human psyche, where depression, loss and anger lie. It's a bitter song that typifies Liddiard's unique approach to music and songwriting and has become an anthem of sorts for the disenfranchised and melancholic." The album was nominated for Triple J's inaugural J Award prize in 2005, which was won by Wolfmother.
In March 2005 they went to a farm at Cranbrook, near Swansea, Tasmania, to record their third album, Gala Mill (September 2006). During a six-month tour of Europe and the United States, All Tomorrow's Parties (ATP) issued their second album outside of Australia, in October 2005, via ATP Recordings. The band spent the interim touring Australia and the northern hemisphere. Also in 2006 a compilation album, The Miller's Daughter, comprising out-takes from their first two albums was released by Bang! Records (a Spanish label, which has other underground Australian bands on its roster).
In April 2006 Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By won the inaugural Australian Music Prize (AMP) for the Drones. Also in contention were works by Wolfmother, the Go-Betweens, TZU, the Devastations, the Mess Hall, Tex, Don & Charlie and Ben Lee. Liddiard explained how they could spend the %25000 prize money, "We played in Sydney last week and both of our guitars totally died. The guts fell out of mine and Rui's neck snapped off. We've done over 100 shows in the last four months and we have some nasty debts. We have another world tour starting in May. That's after we do two tours of Australia. We can't get jobs because we tour so much. Food is a luxury item right now." The Drones continued to tour throughout the year, including a support slot on You Am I's Australian tour in July.
Gala Mill became their first album to reach the ARIA Albums Chart top 100, in September 2006. It was also nominated for the Australian Music Prize for that year. The Drones were nominated as Most Outstanding New Independent Artist at the 2006 inaugural AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Association) Chart Awards. Late in the year Pereira left and was replaced by Dan Luscombe (The Blackeyed Susans, Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males, Stardust Five), on lead guitar and vocals (later also on keyboards). Luscombe debuted for the group at the Meredith Music Festival in December of that year. On 15 November 2006 the group recorded their performance at Spaceland, a nightclub in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California, which was issued as, Live in Spaceland (February 2007), through the US label, Spaceland Recordings.
In 2007 the Drones toured with the Big Day Out before undertaking a four-month tour of Europe (with shows in Norway, France and Italy), commencing in April with a performance at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in the UK, curated by Dirty Three. The band's European tour was followed by a national tour of Australia, with Snowman. 2007 also saw the release of the band's first video album, Live in Madrid, a live performance by the band at the Gruta 77 club in Madrid. They followed with a period of touring until 2008.
In July 2008 the Drones released a digital/12" six-track compilation EP, The Minotaur (July 2008), with two new tracks, "The Minotaur" and "Nail It Down". These appeared on their next studio album, Havilah (20 September 2008), which peaked at No. 47 on the ARIA Albums Chart. It was recorded in a valley in Victoria's Alpine Shire of the same name. The band undertook a national tour in November, performed at the Falls Festival in December and toured Australia in February 2009 as part of the St Jerome's Laneway Festival. Havilah had worldwide release in that month.
More European and American dates occurred in 2009 including an appearance at the All Tomorrow's Parties New York Festival in September. Wait Long by the River... was performed in its entirety during the ATP-curated Don't Look Back series. In a poll of contemporary Australian songwriters in October of that year, organised by Triple J, "Shark Fin Blues", was listed at No. 1 of the 25 Greatest Australian Songs. At the fourth annual AIR Awards held on 22 November, the Drones won two awards, Best Independent Album of the Year for Havilah and Independent Artist of the Year.
At the inaugural Australian Rolling Stone Awards, held in Sydney in January 2010, the group won the Best Live Act award. In October 2010 Gala Mill was listed at No. 21 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums, by music journalists, John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell and Craig Mathieson. Liddiard issued an acoustic solo album, Strange Tourist (October 2010), before returning to duties with the Drones.
The band released another video album, A Thousand Mistakes (2011), with live footage from Australia, Germany and France. It included a session recorded in Melbourne using keyboard player, Steve Hesketh, who had been recorded with the band on Wait Long by the River... and The Miller's Daughter.
The Drones, now with Hesketh as a full-time member, released their next studio album, I See Seaweed in March 2013. It peaked at No. 18 on the ARIA Albums Chart. Two singles appeared from the album, "How to See Through Fog" and the title track, which also had a music video. In mid-August 2013 the Drones were finalists for the AMP for I See Seaweed, alongside efforts by Kevin Mitchell and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The band were nominated for three The Age Music Victoria awards in October 2013: best band, best album and best live act.
The album was identified as the sixth-best album of 2013 by FasterLouder. The article referenced the online publication's March 2013 review of the album, in which it stated: "I See Seaweed often feels less like a rock album and more like a demented film score". Over 100 writers from the Music.com.au website ranked the album first in its list of the 20 Best Australian Albums of 2013. Following the end of their tour in support of I See Seaweed in 2014, Noga departed to focus on his solo work and was replaced by a returning, Strybosch.
The Drones released their first single from Feelin Kinda Free, "Taman Shud," in October 2015. The accompanying music video was satirically aimed at right-wing pundits such as Andrew Bolt and the Reclaim Australia movement. It was followed by a second single, "To Think That I Once Loved You," in January 2016. Feelin Kinda Free, was released on 18 March 2016, which became their highest charting work by reaching No. 12 on the ARIA Albums Chart.
It was the first album by the band to be released through their own label, Tropical Fuck Storm (TFS) Records. It was met with widely-positive reviews from outlets such as Drowned in Sound, The Guardian and Music Feeds. The band played their final show in support of the album in December 2016 as part of the Fairgrounds Festival in Berry, New South Wales; and entered a hiatus period following the set.
In 2017 Kitschin and Liddiard were founding members of a new band, Tropical Fuck Storm, alongside High Tension drummer Lauren Hammel and Harmony vocalist Erica Dunn. The band toured through the US with Band of Horses in 2017. Their debut album, A Laughing Death in Meatspace, appeared in March 2018 via TFS Records, which peaked at No. 25.