At this year’s Sjock Festival, I had the absolute pleasure of watching Private Function play the best show of the weekend. Which is saying something if you had a look at the line-up. The Australian band has been on a rampage ever since they came out swinging with 2016’s ‘Six Smokin’ Songs’ and hasn’t looked back since. We caught up with drummer Aidan McDonald to talk about the band’s first trek through Europe, touring as an Aussie band and much more.
PRT: Last Summer you went on what I think was your first European tour. How did it go?
Aidan: Yep, it was our first time on the road outside of Australia and I think it's gone surprisingly well to be honest. It was difficult for us to know what to expect, but I think by the end we all left wanting more time in Europe. It’s just insane to be able to spend 2 months on the road playing a show practically every day. We couldn’t do that back in Australia.
PRT: When you see international bands tour Australia, they only play the big cities. Is that the same for an Australian band? And does it put you at a disadvantage not being able to tour heavily in Australia or having to drop a lot of money to tour overseas?
Aidan: Touring Australia does indeed come with an entirely different set of rules compared to European touring. There’s no hospitality in Australia; no bed, no dinner. it’s an outrage! You’ve got to cover yourself almost entirely. You can only really tour the big cities of Australia because that’s where the people are and you’ve got a lot of expenses to cover to put on a national tour.
Coming to Europe has definitely been somewhat eye-opening. We can play 30 club shows in just as many days. You simply couldn’t do that in Australia. Not to mention the people are extremely inviting, and there’s insanely huge music festivals everywhere in summer.
PRT: Is coming over to Europe an investment for you as a band?
Aidan: Absolutely! It cost an arm and a leg for 6 people to fly from Australia to Europe. We had to fly via China as well just to make it affordable. We worked our asses off running our own label and playing shows in order to just afford it. It's an insane investment when you look at it on paper, but its just something you have to do as a band from Australia.
PRT: Your first EP came out in 2016 and there has been a constant stream of releases since. Is that you writing non-stop and pretty much recording right away without overthinking things too much?
Aidan: Yeah, we’re always kind of “writing”. i don’t know, it's just one of those things that we’ve all always done; write music. So between us all we’ve always got new material to work with, we bring that to the band and the rest usually happens together.
Sometimes the best songs we’ve written have come from just sitting at the pub talking shit. Suddenly someone says something that makes us all laugh, next minute one us is singing a melody or something, and then the next band practice the chords come together and bam you have another Private Function hit.
Recording is a little different because we’ve actually never recorded with either the same line-up or the same engineers for a record. I think we like to keep things interesting for ourselves and that means working in different environments, having different experiences and probably generally making our lives harder.
PRT: Lyrically as well, the songs are straight to the point. Can you walk me through your typical writing process?
Aidan: Milla, Chris and I all bring songs to the band either fully finished or needing work, but lyrically Chris has full control on what he writes and some of those catchy lyrics probably came from his brain. Ive written countless songs with maybe a chorus, or just some melody and as soon as Chris hears it he’s already got a strong idea for the lyrics. Thats how we wrote ‘Albury Wodonga’. Chris already had the lyrics and a melody in his voice memos, we just had to write the chords and the rest fell into place.
PRT: Following the dismissal of founding guitarist Joe Hansen in 2021, was there a point where you weren’t sure about the future of Private Function? And if so, what was it that made you keep going?
Aidan: I don’t think we’ve ever known the future of PF. We just keep coming up with dumb ideas and then following through with them. I think there was definitely a moment where we thought about hanging the towel in, but we didn't, and here we are, still following through. I guess we aren’t ready to stop quite yet.
PRT: Since then you have also added a second guitarist Lauren Hester. Why the decision to add another guitarist? Was there a feeling that something was missing?
Aidan: We’ve basically always had a secondary guitarist live, at least since the Rock in Roll days. So Lauren was a bit of a no brainer to join when the position opened up. She had just made us an incredible music video and had been following the band for years as a fan, so she really knows the lore and general attitude of the band. Also, coming in as the youngest member of Private Function, Lauren knows what’s up.
PRT: You have recorded every single album with a different lead guitarist. Has that become a tradition that you want to keep going or does this feel like the definitive Private Function line-up?
Aidan: That’s right! See i told you, we like making things harder for ourselves. So who knows, maybe this is the ultimate line up of Private Function, but maybe not. Maybe we’ll fire everyone and just leave it at that. Then again, we are all having a lot of fun. I’ll get back to you.
PRT: I read that you originally started the band to take the piss out of things and it definitely still feels that way. But at the same time, the songs, the shows and everything else are so good that it’s obvious that a lot of time and energy is invested. So I can only imagine there has to be some kind of plan by now?
Aidan: Look let's be perfectly honest, playing music is fun. It’s stupid and classy all in one. I think when we started we’d all been playing so much in other bands that it was refreshing to take the piss out of everything, but by now i think it’s just second nature. We all like to make each other laugh, which has kind of become the ethos of the band.
We all take music seriously but we also don’t take ourselves very seriously at all. I think if you become too earnest especially with music its easy to become egotistical or just general lose the fun in it. With PF we’re extremely hard working and we want the world, but we want to enjoy our time while we’re at it.
PRT: You’ve released a cover of Metallica’s “Frantic” on a floppy disk, you held a listening party in the Fitzroy public toilets, you’ve released the world’s first scratchie album cover, you had what were supposedly bags of speed pressed into a vinyl, you had urine pressed in another vinyl,… If those are the ideas that made the cut, has there been one that you simply weren’t able to execute? And if so, for what reason?
Aidan: Brick in a tumble dryer. We’ve been wanting to have this support for years, but due to insurance issues we haven’t found a venue willing to let us go through with it.
PRT: The new album is the first to have come out on your own label, Still On Top Records. Why did you decide to start your own label?
Aidan: We don’t have any intention of releasing other music on our label. To be fair, it’s just so we can maintain ownership of our records. I think today there’s just too many middle men and mouths to feed with a record release. We’re control freaks who love doing things ourselves, so this was the natural progression to keep Private Function moving.
PRT: Thanks to the songs, the wild live shows and the crazy ideas, you’ve been getting more and more attention. If some label would start throwing money at you, but at the same time asks you to dial it down a bit. Would that be a tough choice to make?
Aidan: Dial it down? Why would we do that? How much we talking? Yeah, tough choice depending on $$$.
PRT: I read that the new album is already written. Do you feel like you missed out on a chance to compete with Metallica, not having the new album come out on the same day as ‘72 Seasons’?
Aidan: Yeah, can someone tell Lars to email me at [email protected]? We can organise release plans next time.
PRT: You have also mentioned a Private Function movie a couple of times in the past. How far along are those plans? And can you already lift the veil a bit as to what it will be about?
Aidan: We’ve always wanted to do a movie. I mean, it just makes sense. All our music videos are produced in house, and if you watch them all in order, you get a bit of a Weird Al UHF vibe. They all kind of connect, but not really, with a very loose overarching storyline. So why not a whole movie?
We’ve started down the track of making more videos and hopefully one day there will be a movie. But for now, we’re just writing these ideas down until some rich man comes along and funds it.
PRT: In the last couple of years there seems to be an explosion of Australian bands. Is there really an explosion though, or is it just the world finally taking notice?
Aidan: Perhaps you’re finally taking notice. To be perfectly honest, I think it’s always been this way. Melbourne - where we’re from - literally has hundreds of gigs every week in hundreds of venues. It’s truly a smorgasbord of live music. It’s not limited to just punk music, but the community for punk is huge nowadays. I think you’re finally getting a dose of Australian influence because underground bands are pushing themselves harder than before and taking themselves overseas to the EU and US in droves.
It’s not just INXS and AC/DC that are household names anymore, you’re starting to see bands like Amyl & the Sniffers and King Gizzard becoming known.