Motor Ace – 20th Anniversary Tour. Interview with Matt Balfe.
Words Geoff Jenke
Motor Ace formed in 1998 and released their self-titled debut E.P in 1999. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary, Motor Ace are returning for a highly anticipated reunion tour through Australia next year. They will be at The Gov on Friday 29th March 2019 to play hits and album faves from their debut album, Five Star Laundry and later albums, Shoot This and Animal. Five Star Laundry went gold within a month of it’s release, a massive feat for a new band. Shoot This debut at #1 on the charts and achieved gold status on release.
When Motor Ace started out, many people compared them to Brit Pop bands, Oasis and The Verve. Motor Ace actually got to support Oasis when they toured Australia in 2002. I started the interview with bass player Matt Balfe, asking about the Oasis tour.
Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary tour. Where does time go? It must have been a roller coaster ride from inception to touring with Foo Fighters and Oasis within 3 years. Any Oasis stories?
Man, where has the time gone indeed? It’s good to be back though. We all have so many amazing memories from the seven years we spent touring. The Oasis run was up there with the best of them. Two Oasis stories: Soundcheck at The Forum in Melbourne… we’ve all just strapped on the guitars when in walk Liam and Noel and take a seat in the middle of the empty theatre to watch, sunglasses on… jacket collars firmly upturned. We crack into Carry On. As we ring out the last chord, the Gallagher Brothers both rise from their seats and give us a standing ovation – very surreal moment. Noel is actually a really nice bloke and was up for a few drinks each night after playing. Liam was on the wagon at the time… falling off the week after the tour when he had the crap kicked out of him by the Mafia in Italy. Story two… Noel and some of the other band members came out with us to the Cherry Bar in Melbourne. As Noel walks in he reaches into his pocket and throws a huge wad of hundred-dollar notes into the air for the punters. Very Spinal Tap.
What was it like in the sweltering studio recording Five Star Laundry when the power stations had been shut down due to a long heatwave?
A photographer friend of ours was in the studio with us for most of the time, so we have an incredible visual record of the sessions. Yeah it was crazy hot and we spent many nights up on the studio roof looking out over the city as it sweltered. It was our first significant studio experience and we were like kids in a lolly shop experimenting with new sounds and laying, guitar on guitar on guitar. We were all young, single and obsessed with making incredible music. Even after six weeks I didn’t want it to end.
Did the songwriting come easy and what generally come first, the words or the music?
Pat wrote nearly all the songs on the album in the years leading up to recording so they were all pretty much ready to go. Pat tended to write on guitar and nail a vocal melody. The words would usually follow.
Five Star Laundry went gold in the first month of release. When you look back at the album do you have something you would change about it if you could go back in time?
I still think it’s a cracking listen and hasn’t aged much. Perhaps we could have been a bit more generous with vocal effects and layering but this is a minor quibble.
The recent vinyl release of Five Star Laundry was very well received by fans. Are there any plans for vinyl release of Shoot This album?
Yes, there is talk of a vinyl release of Shoot This. I suppose we will see how much appetite there is over the next couple of months. I’d like to see the artwork in large format!
With constant touring, 2001 and 2002, releasing your first two albums just over 12 months apart must have been hard work, yet the second album Shoot This was even more successful than the first. Were the songs for the second album written on the road or were they great “left overs” from the first album?
Nearly all the songs on Shoot This were written between records. It’s a tough call to pull together more than ten great songs in 12 months especially after the burn out of the last touring cycle. I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if we’d backed up Five Star with another full throttle rock record.
If this 20th Anniversary tour is successful (of course it will be), would there be any consideration to a more permanent resurrection of Motor Ace and maybe even a new album?
Never say never 😉 I can’t wait to get back into a rehearsal room with the guys to see if there’s new magic to make. I think we are all bringing new ideas and experiences back together so who knows. We always had great musical chemistry, I am sure this doesn’t die.
Motor Ace have not released a “best of” album. Will we ever see a Best of with an extra CD of ‘B-Sides / rarities / live tracks?
We have a stack of unreleased tracks that we are looking at compiling, some are crackers. There might even be a few newbies in the mix. We’ll see.
What are you all doing these days?
Living semi ordinary lives for the most part. We all have kids and day jobs. Pat and I are desk jockeys, Dave works on oil rigs and Damo is quietly taking over the world as a music magnate running the 123 companies.
Do you listen to new Australian bands? Anyone grab your attention?
Yes, I find new stuff I like all the time. I really like dirty rock stuff like The Drones / TFS, folk like Grand Salvo, and Pixie-esque soft loud bands like Violent Soho and Tired Lion (make me feel like a teenager all over again). Pond and Tame Impala are incredibly impressive also.
All the best on the tour. See you in Adelaide on Friday 29 March 2019. Pat said “most importantly seeing if we can still party!” I am sure you will!
Cheers mate, we look forward to it.
Tickets on sale to Motor Ace 20th Anniversary – A Five Star Reunion tour are on sale now.