By JEREMY SCHEAFFE
OVER the past couple of years the Sydney based Candy Harlots have always had a barrage of press that followed them everywhere, whether it be the oft-touted scenario of the ‘ever-so-close’ record deal, the scourge of drugs and misbehaviour or people just canning them for being themselves.
Basically, the band have been badly treated by all but their fans. Fans who who would regularly trek up to the less than salubrious Kardomah Cafe (“Home,” as one of them described it) and also put up with the taunts and chuckles of the band’s detractors – all in the name of decadent fun
Nothing wrong with that, each to his own and all that kind of thing, but still, things never seemed to go quite as well as they should have for the Candy Harlots. For no matter what you think of the band or their music, they have worked hard and have always been dedicated to their cause. Leeno Dee, the band’s bass player and only remaining original member agrees.
“Sure, there was a lot of bullshit with the old press that got out… maybe 50% of it was true, maybe more. We did definitely get offered deals, nothing hugely substantial, but we did get offered deals… Urnm, and for various reasons they just didn’t come off. Even so, 50% of the press that filtered out was probably bullshit.”
Leeno, along with new singer Aiz Lynch, is sitting in the spacious, although mid-renovation, offices of Virgin Records. Y’see, thanks to the demos on the cover of the magazine you’re clutching, the Candy Harlots have recently inked a deal with Virgin Records (home to the Divinyls and the Lime Spiders among other Australian hard rock acts).
Understandab y, the band are more than a little chuffed.
But first, exactly what has been going on in the Candy camp? Many things have changed since you, the reader, may have heard from
the Harlots. They have a new singer, new management and a new, refreshing attitude.
Late last year frontman and founding member Mark Easton decided he’d had enough of the whole rock scene— probably due to the rocky
road that leads to success;. I’l eave it to Leeno to describe the problems they faced.
“Well, see,” he thinks, changing position on the comfortable lounge before continuing, “we were sort of brought up in, cotton wool, we had a manager who looked after a lot of things for us and we had these gigs that we could walk into and pretty much get a full house. And we were always fed lines about record deals and stuff, we were always led to believe that, we were hot property, y’know!”
He looks at me, wanting to see my reaction before beginning again.
“When you lose your management…” Leeno becomes diplomatic, “I don’t know if you want to print this, but it was our decision. We parted with our management and we parted with our singer, who is always the focal point of any band. That also meant dropping a lot of our old set, so you kind of go out there with something to prove, a real definite sort of attitude, like we’re gonna show everyone that we’re not finished. People were saying stuff like, ‘You guys are obviously gonna go down the tubes now’.
“So when we started up again and got a response like we have from a company like Virgin and a manager like Andrew McManus
(who also looks after The Divinyls) and the audiences start to fill up, we knew we were on the right track.’
Rather than dropping the ball when Mark left the band, Leeno searched for the right man to take his place, someone who had the balls and ability necessary to sing the tougher songs that the Harlots wanted to play. Did Aiz feel as though he had to fill anyone’s shoes when he was incorporated into the band?
After all The Candy Harlots were, largely, Mark’s dream. In his usual subdued manner (off stage, at least) Aiz replies: “l only had to prove it to myself, but I’m still getting there. It’s hard situation because I was a fan of the band beforehand and the whole thing has happened very quickly. One week I was in Backstreet Shuffle, the next I was in the Candy Harlots.’
Although Aiz speaks in hushed and almost shy tones, his appearance is that of someone who lives and breaths the Candy Harlots.
Along with Leeno, he ‘s clad in knee-high boots, leather jackets and long hair. (Aiz sports, it must be mentioned, a vibrant mohawk though it’s actually hidden beneath a bandanna and a bunch of fluorescent braids for this meeting.)
At this point Leeno interjects. “There were a lot of people who wanted the gig, but we actually asked Aiz to do it. He didn’t have to fill anyone’s shoes, cos he bought his own
“Anyway. I wear boots…” Aiz laughs, in an attempt to quash the ‘old band versus new band’ comparison that everybody will be
looking for an answer to. Let me tell you now, there really is no comparison – the Candy Harlots ’91 are streets ahead of anything that the band used to be associated with.
Thankfully, the lollipops are gone and so are the gimmicky singles wrapped in pink, frilly underwear, though these are not things that Leeno is embarrassed about. Describing that stage of the Harlots’ career he says, “It was fun, you can’t be embarrassed about things in your past. Otherwise, you’ll spend your whole life being paranoid.
The band now have a tougher, more melodic approach — with rhythmic songs bursting of good old youthful vibrancy and
vitality. Of course’ Leeno had already told us that a few issues back but, as he is more than aware, there’s a huge difference between what you say and what you actually deliver.
(And Leeno knows how to play the publicity game as weil as anyone, especially when aided and abetted by eager journalists.)
Thankfully, A have never made such claims, and both men know full well that the proof is in the music, not in interview technique — truth in songs means much more than what you can read in a magazine. But still, when the words come from the band’s mouth, they are presented with the opportunity to prove it on stage and on vinyl. So this is Aiz’s opportunity to square things up.
“It’s pretty much a new band, there’s no doubt about it — so much has happened,” he says. “And every time we’ve progressed, it’s always been for the better. I can’t say anything for Easton, but it was like he’d been driving this really, really nice car and then he got out and handed me the keys.”
As a footnote, Aiz adds, “And it is a really nice car to drive. ”
OK, then. What kind of modifications have you made to this car then, Aiz? “Bigger injection.
“Bigger injection and a bigger stereo,” Leeno jumps in and offers. “And probably a bench seat too, perhaps.”
We all chuckle at the childishness of our metaphors, but in reality this is the truth. If you haven’t already done so, put down the mag and take a listen to the demos, you will then fully understand the vitality of the new Candy Harlots and you may aslo be able to understand why Leeno can say things like, “The things that you don’t hear about, without blowing our own horns, is that the last three times we played at the General Bourke (Hotel, in Parramatta) it’s been like a full house. Y’know 800 people plus.’
Aiz has more to add: “The first time we played there we broke the house capacity record. Something like 900 peop!e — that’s ridiculous really, amazing.”
That night in question, Aiz’s first night out in front, came at a time when the band had no management, no label and what looked like an endless, and continued, future of playing the pubs. Except that, and here comes the important bit, in the crowd that night were half a dozen people from Virgin Records and one potential manager:
Leeno takes up thé story. “I’d sent a tape to Andrew, and he rang me up that day and asked if I’d mind if he played the tape for this guy at Virgin who he was having lunch with. Of course I offered to send 10 more copies straight away if it would help. (Later Andrew adds that he listens to demos he’s been sent between mouthfuls of cereal and toast every morning, and that it was the Aiz-penned ballad, “What Are We Fighting For” that won him over).
“So Andrew played the tape to Virgin and then rang us back the same day saying, ‘Wow, they’re crazy about it, they love it, let’s meet up.’ That led to them coming to a show. Andrew and Virgin said they were interested in putting us into Paradise Studios to do some more demos. After we finalised the signing and everything, Virgin sent us down to Melbourne to record for a week. You know, just to get away from Sydney.”
On the day we spoke, Leeno was off to add some finishing touches to the upcoming single, “Danger”, a song that was originally released by the old Candy Harlots line-up. But, as with everything else about the band, this new interpretation is much different to the old version. “This is a
new arrangement, and the mix that Kaj Dahlstrom (who has also most recently done Nursery Crimes “Eleanor Rigby” single) did in Melbourne is much punchier, much more aggressive, ” Aiz comments.
Almost inevitably, “Danger” is a ballad-type affair. But don’t be disgruntled. As you well know, because by now you have listened to the demos, better songs are in store for the full length album that’ll soon be out. But why make the demos public? Take it away Aiz.
“The demos are for the real fans. People will be able to sit back in a coup le of years and feel good about owning them. This is for all
the people who have stuck by the Candy Harlots over the years. ”
“And it is the tape that got us the deal,” interjects Leeno.
“You are hearing the beginning now,” Aiz summarises. “And as the changes take place people can listen back and hear the band being reborn again.”
CANDY HARLOTS: Just Sign Here (1991)
By JEREMY SCHEAFFE
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