“….reckoning are one of the few rock acts to have found a dedicated audience through word of mouth….” Advertiser
Reckoning were an Adelaide-based Australian indie band formed in ’93 and breaking up in 1998.
“….frighteningly good..excitingly unorthodox….” Rip It Up
The 3 piece band included:
Peter Owen – drums, backing vocals, piano.
Matt Swayne – Guitars, and assorted other guitar-like instruments (mandolin etc.)
Seamus – Vocals, Bass, acoustic guitar
“….reckoning inspire fierce debate..they are a very special band….” DB Magazine
What follows is a version of events as recalled by me, Seamus. Matt and Pete may recall things differently, I don’t know.
“….reckoning display all the qualities of artistic integrity….” Rolling Stone
Reckoning Hustle It Up
When we formed the band I was 19 and Matt & Pete were but 21 (of course I was concerned that they were a little past it at the time).
With all the enthusiasm and unconstrained egoism of youth, we quickly became obsessed with “making it”. We saw no reason why we shouldn’t manage to emulate the outrageous success of our then heroes such as REM, U2 and The Cure. There was no reason per se, but suffice to say, it didn;t ever quite pan out that way. However we did make a bloody good go of it.
We worked really hard, and despite being a little on the outer to start with (we were not very hip, being from the suburbs n’ all) we eventually began to make inroads into the local music scene, partially because we were so irritatingly persistent.
We would bug people for gigs, and even if they had told us to get lost (which some did) we would be back next week bugging them for a gig, or a radio spot, or a newspaper article or any kind of a break. It was the three of us against the world and our attitude was to never take no for an answer.
Someone gave us some advice to put photos of ourselves on our posters, even though this was very uncool in the early 90s. We did this, and then more to the point we would stick those bloody posters everywhere – and I mean everywhere. This was before the councils really came down hard on the whole poster thing and we would whack one up on every pole, every window, every meter box, and every wall. Even if they were ripped down the next day, we would go out again that night and do it all over again.
Besides the fact that it became virtually impossible not to have noticed our posters in the CBD area of Adelaide, all that time spent whacking up posters had another great side-effect: we met lots and lots of people, uni students mostly, who we would befriend and of course harangue to come to our gigs.
Reckoning Get Their Day In The Sun
Eventually this persistence and all the endless hours of songwriting and rehearsal started to pay off, and one-by-one people started to show up at our gigs, promoters started to give us a support gig here and there, and other bands started thawing to us and becoming friends.
I’ll never forget the first time we got about 50 people to one of our gigs, mostly people we didn’t know (for once) and managed to get them enthused enough to crowd around the band dancing and cheering. That was about a year into our efforts.
Over our second year we got some cool breaks, one of which was finding a manager who got us some good support gigs like the Clouds, the Underground Lovers and You Am I. This helped us to get more crew to our gigs, as did a recording spot on Triple J. This was before the Triple J “Unearthed” competition existed (perhaps before dinosaurs even) and what they used to do then was record a local band live in the ABC studios and play the three songs in a row with an introduction by Richard Kingsmill. Then for the next month (or three?) they played one of those songs “Valentines Day” on The J’s several times a day. Suffice to say, this helped our cause substantially, and we released a cassette tape of the recording. (Yes! A cassette!) Unfortunately, apart from the odd token nod, it was the only time Triple J ever really got behind the band, something that was later to cause us massive frustration.
Around this time we introduced an acoustic set to our arsenal, and for a while this threatened to become more popular than our electric set. We released a cassette tape of this as well.
But the cassettes were just stop-gap, we wanted a CD and so we booked a studio and in 1995 recorded The Future is Stupid. It was an exciting night when we got our box of one thousand discs; back then having a CD done was still a big deal and only a few bands around town had ever got it together enough to do so.
Reckoning With Success
We threw a CD launch, complete with fireworks and a smashed guitar, and from then on things kind of escalated for us, with more and more kids rocking up to our gigs and all of the CDs selling out in no time. We did lots of all ages shows and soon became so popular that the too-school-for-school types started putting us down as a kiddies band. We just laughed at them. We were selling out rooms while they were sitting at home tossing off.
We recorded a second disc, Weird Kids, in 1996, and scored a front page spot on the local street press magazine Rip It Up. We sold out the Adelaide Uni Bar, squeezing 500 people in and turning away another few hundred. Unfortunately somebody forgot to tell us the lighting guy was a drunk so apparently it was hard to see us!
Other highlights for the band were supporting the Tea Party in front of what seemed like the entire city of Adelaide, a small article and photo in the Australian Rolling Stone mag, playing at the Big Day Out ’96, several exciting (and badly behaved) trips to Melbourne to play whatever gigs we could find, and endless, endless parties.
I think, in retrospect, we probably partied a little too much in the end, but back then it was just so fun playing rock stars that you couldn’t have stopped us from carrying on if you tried. Talk about teenage fantasies come true! I could tell lots of stories about all the trouble we caused but let’s just leave it at a wink and a nod and an admission that we soon developed a reputation around town that wasn’t purely based on our musicianship!
Eventually, the lack of significant national recognition and the ‘glass ceiling’ we felt like we had hit in Adelaide caused us to feel very restless and we up and moved to Melbourne. Unfortunately this was kind of the beginning of the end for Reckoning, as by then I think we were a little too spoiled by all the attention we were used to and we found it a bit of a shock when nobody in Melbourne gave a toss about us. All three of us were having strange motivational problems at this stage, and we basically just limped around Melbourne getting nowhere. The most fun we were having was still when we would go back to Adelaide and play to full houses, and eventually we spat the dummy and moved back home.
In 1997 we recorded and released “The Symbiotic Sounds of Reckoning” and although it turned out to be a very good CD, and was once again well received by the locals, we had pretty much had enough of the whole thing by then and so after five mad, mad years we called it a day, more to save our friendships than anything else I think. I am glad to say that to this day we are still great mates, and I have no doubt that the three of us will one day sit on our porches together as old men, wistfully reminiscing about the time Peter tried to play drums on stage in an intolerably hot furry elephant suit, or the time our manager Simon got another man thrown in gaol for something that was blatantly our doing, or the time a crazy old fisherman barged into our rehearsal room pointing a rifle at us, or the time…
It is pretty much impossible to really capture the excitement of our time in Reckoning in words; thankfully, we have the recordings to do that for us, enjoy.