The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Gasoline Inc Gab O'Brien Interview

Shane Rockpit sits down for a chat with

Gasoline Inc’s Gabriel O’Brien

 

Gasoline Inc are running hot at the moment with a new drummer, great reviews for their debut EP, and an impending single launch. We caught up with lead singer Gabriel O’Brien recently to find out more about this up and coming band.

 

 

Having just spent a couple of months off the road, Gasoline Inc are back with a new single to launch and a new lineup.

 

First, though, let’s find out how the boys – Gab, Guitarists Andro Mestrovic & Matt “Sooffa” Sofoulis, bass player Jason Millar & new drummer Les Stuart – got together.

 

Gab: “As a band, we started in May last year, but three of us – Andro, Matthew & myself – we started writing songs together in late 2007, we sort of got together acoustically, got a vibe happening and thought “maybe we should get something happening”. So we did an open mic night at the Indi Bar in the middle of 2008 with the new songs that we had, we got a good reception so we thought “well let’s start the band” and then it took us up til May last year to get that together.”

 

Gab, Mark Rockpit, Trulie Rockpit, Shane Rockpit, Andro & Sooffa at Gasoline Inc's debut EP launch

 

And your new tub thumper?

 

“We had a few gigs still booked in when we parted ways with our previous drummer, so initially we were just looking for someone to fill in and get us through the next month or so. We were extremely fortunate to find Les - the second drummer we actually auditioned for the "fill in spot" - and basically from there he just grew on us so we made him a permanent member. Les's style of playing was exactly what we were looking for in a drummer. He plays with feel, knows when to hold back and knows when to let loose, not to mention he is a terrific person - laid back guy with a great sense of humour. Les also had the commitment needed to be part of the band and Sooffa really wanted Les in the band so he would no longer be the shortest... worked well for everyone really.”

 

Brazilian born Gab has been in Australia since he was four years old – 1988 – moving firstly to Melbourne, then over to Perth in 1993.

 

O’Brien doesn’t sound a very Brazilian name, though…

 

“Nah it’s my stepfather’s – my Mum brought us over here. My brother plays football for Collingwood – Harry O’Brien. So we came over here to be with my stepfather, and he took us in and pretty much gave us a life, you know, so I took his name. Mum came from Rio, and we still have roots there – I dunno if you guys have ever been there, but I’ve sometimes wondered, “where did I get this style of music from” and I went back there a few years ago, and the vibe – wow, it’s amazing!”

 

When I asked Gab about how strong his roots are with his home country – a traditionally strong hard rock market – his eyes light up but his answer isn’t what you might expect from your average hard rocker.

 

“Yeah! I’ve got an uncle who runs a samba school, and I’ve always wanted to write a song that incorporates those samba rhythms – you know how Sepultura use the tribal drumming and stuff. That’d be really interesting, given a bit of time to work that out – but it’s time isn’t it, time to make it work?”

 

So, how did you hook up with the rest of the guys?

 

“Ahhh here’s a funny story. Andro who’s the lead guitarist, he’s a hairdresser by trade – he’s been cutting my hair since I was 14 or 15. He used to play in a band called Syzergy. I was always looking up to him, used to go along to his shows, I was really into metal at the time, so that’s what I’d go and see.

 

“Sooffa, the other guitarist, Matt – we used to play footy together, at Claremont. We were doing a pre-season, it was probably towards the end of our time with them, and we were thinking “Ahh let’s just give this away”, and we were running one day at the back of the pack and me and him, we just said to each other “What are we doing here? I wish I was back home playing my guitar!” and he said “I play guitar too”! So we thought, let’s just jam, y’know? And we just struck up a friendship that way. Then I introduced him to Andro, and that’s how it started!

 

“Zoran the original drummer, is Andro’s cousin, so it’s all connected that way – we’re a very tight group.”

 

Since then it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the band – they’ve accrued an eager following in Perth who pressured them into releasing their debut EP in late 2009. I gave it a 4 ½ star review and included it in my Best of 2009 Roundup, [Click here for the review] yet Gab still seems bemused by the reaction it’s got.

 

“The EP was just gonna be a demo – something to show friends – and it’s become more, it’s really taken off and we’re sorta tryin to keep up with it”, says Gab.

 

“The reception’s been really good, everything’s been happening [quickly] - we’re just fortunate. I dunno how to explain it, when I finished playing footy I just thought “What do I wanna do?” and music was something that spoke to me – I’m just lucky that the guys I’m playing with are in the same frame of mind, we project a load of positivity, it’s not about “Is this going to happen?” - It IS happening, that’s our mindframe. We’re not trying to explain things, we just kind’ve go with it. Sure, we’re gonna get criticised along the way, but we have fun and if we can put that out to people then that’s what they’re going to get from it as well.

 

“And specially – we’ve always said this – Perth at the moment isn’t the kind of music we like - it’s very “indie”, but especially in these times with recessions and everything, everyone’s down and you need some music to pump you up and have a good time, and that’s what we’re trying to put out. So I guess that shows, with our CD launch and if you listen to some of the lyrics, that’s what we’re about and that’s what we’re tryna project.

 

“I have really wild tastes too, you know, but Classic rock has always spoken to me personally – ‘cos I grew up listening to the Stones, The Beatles, but in terms of influences – I’ll watch Queen, big stadium bands like INXS, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith. [You see] the amount of people there, all those people in one place and that great vibe – that’s what we’re tryna do.”

 

You can’t fault the man’s influences – and on the strength of his positivity alone this band will go far! He’s also made a very valid point – that because of the harder times, positive music is coming back in. No-one can deny that hard rock – classic sort of hard rock – is really getting bigger everywhere, even if it’s underground big.

 

 

What makes a great song?

 

Laughing heartily, Gab says, “We’ve spoken about this – sometimes we will write a song and we’ll say “are we putting too much into it?” and at the end of the day it doesn’t come down to how complicated it is or how simple it is, but what’s the feel – what are you trying to get across. It all comes back to rhythm, I guess, that pulse – if people can listen to it, and it doesn’t matter what you’re singing about, but they can feel the pulse and it’s speaking to them on a different level, like subconsciously.”

 

Gab mentions wondering if you were putting too much into a song, but if it works FOR the song, then it works! It doesn’t matter if its three chords like the Pistols: if it’s got the energy and the vibe and the rhythm, then it’ll get you going – moving from the inside. Then you throw some lyrics on top and you’re good to go – and you don’t even need great lyrics sometimes!

 

“Yeah lyrics aren’t the most important thing, I mean, some of the songs on the EP are a bit philosophical, but that’s just because that’s what we’re going through. But then a song like “Dynamite” is just a fun song – it’s not meant to make anyone go “oh I know where he’s coming from”, it’s just sleazy rock, I like singing along to it!”

 

 

As anyone can tell, listening to Gasoline Inc’s self titled EP, the guys enjoy their rock n’ roll – they’re not using it as a forum to outpour, or have a political viewpoint, it’s only rock n’ roll – but they like it!

 

“Nah, we’re not trying to preach or anything. There’s a lot of variety – as you’ll hear [at our gigs].

 

“[We play] a real mixture of stuff. There’ll be a Stones medley, a couple of rock ballads in there, I don’t know how to class it – we try not to write a song to suit a style, whatever comes out at the time we will go with, and we might look at it at the time and think well that probably wont work, and throw it away or we might reuse the lyrics or whatever.

 

“There’s one song I’m doing that’s really personal to me [Gab tells us his Dad passed away tragically] and that’s been a real motivating factor for me, in pushing the band. So you’ll get a real personal side of things, as well as the more fun side of the band. There’s a variety there!”

 

Gab’s voice is – to quote Kickstart’s Tony Croce – like a cross between INXS’s Michael Hutchence, and Noisework’s Jon Stevens. Lay that over some slick sounding hard rock and you have a winning combination, but how does Gab describe himself?

 

“Really? Wow! Well that’s a great rap, they’re both really good singers. I’m very energetic onstage, I do like to move around, shake my hips – that’s probably the specific thing, I grew up dancing Samba and stuff like that with my Mum. That energy comes out on stage – you can probably see a Michael Hutchence thing there, but – I dunno, like I said, its variety, if I wanna go deeper I go deeper, if I wanna go higher I go higher.”

 

 

So you don’t model yourself on anyone specific?

 

“Oh not really… all the best frontmen of rock, like Freddie Mercury, Jon Bon Jovi, Steve Tyler – I take something probably out of all of them – even Elvis to an extent. I’m my own person but – like anyone – you’re influenced by people so you can probably see that come across on stage.

 

“I guess I just go up there and try to be myself. I’ve always been a bit flamboyant, since I was a kid - when I was 7 years old my Mum and Dad said “what do you want for Christmas” and I said “I want an Elvis suit!” They made this Elvis suit up for me, man – and I used to walk the streets in this white thing with diamantes all over it when I was seven years old – that’s just always been a part of my personality! So that maybe comes across on stage, and people might say “you remind me of this or remind me of that” but really that’s just part of who I am.”

 

The opening track on the Gasoline Inc EP ‘Superstar’ was shown by Channel 10 and One HD to feature during their telecasts of the 2009 AFL Grand Final, and the TNA Wrestling – massive publicity for an unknown band. We wanted to know how this came about…

 

“Well that song I wrote, probably a week before we were going in to record the EP – we had another song on there and we said nah we’ll chuck this one on instead.

 

“My brother [Harry O’Brien, Collingwood footballer] was going into the finals, and I thought “If I was gonna play in a Grand Final, what kind of song would I want to listen to that would just pump me up?” and that’s where the lyrics stemmed from.

 

“Then we started thinking wow, this song is good publishing material, you know, you could use it for sports shows – I could just hear it there! So I said to our manager, you have to give this to the AFL Grand Final, so he put it out there and they loved it!”

 

 

The band have a limited edition single coming out soon – and I asked Gab if we can expect these two new tracks to have the same sort of style as the EP?

 

“Yes and no. The two tracks we are releasing are totally different styles from one another. The first one is a crowd favourite and most will be familiar with it... its very blues based rock. It is a lot more raw than the EP. The second track is definitely a major shift away from our other tracks. There are big orchestral arrangements throughout as well as pianos and layered vocal harmonies. Whilst I don't wish to reveal the names of the songs I can say that both these songs represent the direction we are heading. In the future people can expect to hear a catchy Gasoline Inc rock anthem but also songs which are more delicately constructed and arranged, with various instrumentation and sounds.”

 

This sounds exciting and ambitious – but this shouldn’t come as a surprise, Gasoline inc have had their sights set on bigger things from those early days jamming in each other’s living rooms.

 

 

We’ll have to wait for May 29th to find out the two songs to appear on the single, with the “Desperado” themed launch at Fremantle’s Fly By Night Club. Support will come from The Smiling Assassins, who Gab recalls the band saw “playing once at the Rocket Room and really liked their riff driven songs. It's also a bonus that there name goes with our "Desperado" theme for the night.”

 

The band’s EP launch [Click here for my review] set the bar pretty high, with a red carpet, part proceeds of ticket sales going to a fantastic charity called “The Strike a Chord for Cancer Foundation” which provides musical instruments to kids with cancer, charity auction of a signed AC/DC guitar, and a sold out crowd. I wonder how the single launch can hope to compare?

 

“We are really aiming to raise the bar with this single launch. We have said from the start that when we prepare and headline our own concerts we aim to “perform a show, not play a gig." So for the single launch we have employed the services of our good friend Mili Separovic, who will be on keyboards for the night which will add real depth to some of our songs. We will also be making full use of the Fly By projection screen behind the band with some visual effects and live camera work on display. The theme is "Desperado" so you can expect a dirty Mexican feel as well as some sexy gypsy girls who will be selling our CD's. Once again we will be donating part proceeds from our ticket sales to The Strike a Chord for Cancer Foundation, which will provide musical instruments to kids at PMH.”

 

Whilst many rockers might be sitting around waiting for the world to come to them, these guys are doing charity gigs and have also started visiting school kids and talking about songwriting and performing.

 

“This was an idea of mine to educate kids about what it is like to be in a band as well as inspire kids to follow there dreams. The aim is to inject confidence into children by teaching them how to write a song and also offer them something more exciting in music or English class rather than playing a recorder or reading a book. I honestly believe there is so much more you can learn from music than normal school curriculums offer. You can teach about atmosphere and mood, analysing lyrics, creating your own lyrics, different instruments and styles of music etc. The list goes on. If kids can learn to appreciate all styles of music and understand how it can be constructed to bring about positive changes in their lives, as well as positive changes in the world, then our future just got a whole lot brighter. I am currently trying to develop a program at the moment so the idea is still in its early stages.”

 

What's next for Gasoline Inc - when can we expect a full album, any tours planned?

 

“We will be in the studio recording a few more songs as well as a few local gigs in the month of May, including a show at the Dunsborough Hotel on May 1st. We are organizing a one off gig in Melbourne for mid June and will return there in September/October for a 2 week tour to coincide with our music video release. Our aim is to use our music video and Melbourne tour to push our EP nation wide.

 

“We really haven't promoted the EP much, so at this stage it is yet to reach it's full potential. We are currently in the process of completing a big budget music video (for a local band's first music clip) for ‘Superstar’ which when released we hope will really drive our sales nationwide. I can't reveal too much about it, all I can say is we have a plan in place and you will probably look back at this answer and say "so that's what he meant!

 

“A full length album is on the cards and can be expected for release in 2011.”

 

 

Keep an eye out for Gasoline Inc in the future – even if Gab won’t be wearing his Elvis suit, he and the band have their aim set high. All that remains is for us to ask… Sex, Drugs or Rock n’ Roll, Gab?

 

“Rock n’ Roll. Sex and drugs are just a by-product. Performing live and watching a live band is a drug in itself - the rush you get when you are on stage or watching your favourite band beats any experience a drug can offer. As for the sex part, well connecting with an audience is like making love to the entire crowd. It all starts with the Rock n’ Roll!”

 

And finally, what is the meaning of life?

 

“Every rose has its thorn,
Just like every night has it's dawn,
Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song... it worked for Bill and Ted!”

 

www.gasolineinc.com.au
www.myspace.com/gasolineinc