Ethanol's funky farewell

By Shane Worrell
Updated November 7 2012 - 4:20am, first published December 3 2010 - 9:34am
The END: Ethanol will play its final show next Saturday night. Picture: SEAN PAUL TAYLOR
The END: Ethanol will play its final show next Saturday night. Picture: SEAN PAUL TAYLOR

FUNK stalwarts Ethanol will farewell Bendigo after more than a decade of infectious grooves, quality musicianship and entertaining shows.That the four-piece band’s final show is in Rosalind Park next Saturday night is testament to its home-city reputation and its ability to prove that bands don’t merely belong in a pub environment.Ethanol’s farewell coincides with the release of a live album, titled Live @ the Newy, which was recorded at the band’s final two pub gigs in May at the Newmarket Hotel.Drummer Colin Thompson hopes the CD, engineered and mixed by Sender’s Bohdan Dower, will give fans – and the band itself – a memorandum of Ethanol’s energetic live sound.“We wanted to capture the live sound on this final CD. As much as we tried to do that in the studio, it’s not the same. “I’m pretty proud of it (the CD). I think it speaks volumes of what the band has become over ten years.”The band is equally as proud of the opportunity to play a farewell show in Rosalind Park.“Going back a while, we decided we not only wanted to do a live recording, but we wanted to do a family-friendly outside park gig, inspired by the last time we played Summer in the Parks last year,” guitarist Tyson Hodges says.Lead singer Skip agrees, as he discusses Ethanol, a band that still draws crowds and has seemingly lost little passion for playing together, calling it quits.“It’s a real honour to have been a part of all this. It’s something I’ll never forget. It’s been a big part of my life. To do this gig in Rosalind Park – it speaks for what we’ve achieved in that time.”Ethanol’s list of achievements is long and includes releasing two studio albums – an eponymous debut in 2002 and Out of the Red in 2007 – playing at the Bendigo Says Thanks gig last year, headlining shows at Melbourne’s iconic Espy hotel and getting played on Triple J and Melbourne indie station Triple R.Other happy memories the Ethanol lads recall are packed gigs at the Apollo Bay Music Festival and punters singing along to crowd favourite Into the Black at a packed bar in Melbourne’s Chinatown.The band formed as the five-piece Box in 1999, comprising Skip, Hodges, Thompson, guitarist Tom Heenan and bassist Ben Gibbons. “We started out as an improv band; most of our songs have come together from just getting together and playing,” Skip says.The band went through an early name and line-up change – bassist Dan Guille soon replacing the busy Gibbons – and proceeded to gain a reputation both here and in Melbourne as a quality live band with a unique sound. Heenan departed in 2007, about the time the band released its second album, and the remaining members had to quickly learn how to reinvent Ethanol as a four-piece.“The band’s gone through line-up changes over the years, but it always inspired us to keep going. Every time we’ve had a change in dynamics we’ve embraced it. That’s allowed us to keep it fresh,” Hodges says.“I’m very proud of what we’ve done. We never got into it to take over the world. It was never about money or anything like that. “We did it because we enjoyed playing music together. And if we can get up and do it and people can enjoy it then that’s the reward.“We did some awesome gigs and we did some funny gigs and we did some horrible gigs and that’s all part of being in a band.”Ethanol played a significant number of shows in Melbourne a few years ago in an attempt to reach a bigger audience.“Cracking Melbourne is difficult,” Guille says, “you don’t have the chance, without serious sacrifice, to have a residency somewhere like the Espy or the Nightcat.”But Thompson says Ethanol wants to make it clear that being a regional band is no hindrance to success, and bands, with a bit of hard work, can make a mark both here and in Melbourne.“(We’ve tried to dispel) the idea for young musicians, and for anyone else trying anything, that you have to go to the city to ‘make it’.“The most important thing a band needs to progress and achieve is for everyone involved to be on the same page – same goals, same amount of desire to achieve, same willingness to jump on opportunities as they present themselves.“That’s a lot more important than whether you decide to base yourselves in Bendigo or base yourselves in Melbourne or anywhere else.”Skip says it’s the love of playing music together – rather than any perceived higher honours – that has kept Ethanol going since 1999.“That whole thing about striving to get to the city and be amongst the bigwigs can also damage a lot of things. “It’s where the fun can go out of it. And I’m a great believer that if I’m not enjoying it, then don’t do it any more.”So what can fans, friends, family and Ethanol virgins expect from the farewell show?The band jokes that festivities will include chainsaw juggling, trapeze artists and the throwing of motorcycles over shark-filled tanks, but jokes aside, it’s clear each member just wants to get together for one last time and play some good music.“You can expect us to play like it’s the last time we play together – because it will be,” Skip says.And playing in front of a large crowd is something Ethanol sees as an opportunity to leave an impression on Bendigo’s aspiring musicians.“I hope we can be an inspiration for younger kids who come along, to try to get people to do this kind of thing,” Skip says.The passing of Ethanol will be a significant loss to the Bendigo live music scene, but its recent resurgence through venues like the Hibernian and Newmarket hotels and the Basement Bar makes the four-piece think it’s the right time to pass the torch to a new wave of rockers.“The scene is great now,” Skip says.“Everyone’s trying to get on the bandwagon and get their jam sessions happening. It’s great.”Hodges says Ethanol wouldn’t have lasted as long without the support of friends, family and other bands.‘‘We’re very grateful to people who stuck by us,’’ Hodges says.“But it’s better to pull the pin and finish up than teeter off and have people wondering what happened,” he adds.Guille agrees.“If you kept pushing the same cart for another ten years, you wouldn’t have a gig in Rosalind Park and people would think, ‘God, 20 years of those guys’.”Ethanol will take to the stage in Rosalind Park next Saturday night, December 11, with support from Deano Stanton. The show is free, open to all ages and the music starts at 7pm sharp. CDs will be available at the gig.

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