Adam Donovan - Dave Williams - Edmondo Ammendola - Glenn Richards - Kiernan Box
Augie March started in and around Collingwood, Melbourne in late 1995. Three members were originally from Shepparton in central Victoria - Adam Donovan and Dave Williams grew up sharing a back fence, while Glenn Richards lived on the edge of that town. Edmondo Ammendola was studying music with Adam and Dave in Collingwood and was quickly recruited into their fledgling band. Their very first gig was for a friend’s art exhibition at a gallery. Before long, they recorded some of Glenn’s original songs, started playing in pubs and attracting the rapt attention of fans and music industry types.
Over the following thirteen years or so - after picking up Kiernan Box along the way - their unique, much-loved music took them on an eventful journey across the planet from Darwin to Brixton to Greenville and back, with a fair share of triumph and tragedy along the way.
They are regularly touted as one of Australia’s ‘greatest’ or ‘finest’ bands; albums and songs make ‘best ever’ lists. Their songs get played at weddings, and at funerals. Children have been named after them, and the characters in their songs.
Their music is impossible to categorise; they have traditional elements at times then get wildly avant garde at others. They are that rarest of bands that have both critical and commercial success - at times their songs have been on almost every radio format in the country - with gold and platinum albums to their credit, yet they remain perennial outsiders.
In 2009, after a period of commercial success, the band - for a variety of reasons - ceased enjoying being Augie March, and decided to take an indefinite break. That break ended up lasting five years.
“...those folks down in Australia already own an entire continent, so no need to hog the greatest music they produce for themselves as well, right?” – Strange Bird review, Pitchfork
During the hiatus, singer-songwriter Glenn Richards opted to move from Melbourne to Hobart seeking lower rent and the chance to develop a working studio. This he did, building a soundproof bunker out of a small cave carved out of the wall of an underground garage in Goulburn Street, West Hobart. He began to write and demo songs for something, anything, next.
Inside of a year he'd been given the choice by his negatively geared landlord to either eliminate the abandoned sibling kittens now in his care or be evicted. In his new rental lodging further up the mountain there was a large garden and a bungalow which was duly converted to a more ambitious studio and sometimes speakeasy.
Privately, communication amongst the band flickered to life. The idea of a new album was floated, one made in their own time, under their own steam, an album that was just made until it was made.
Within a year, despite two different wrists, one broken and one wrenched from its preferred location, and the perpetual problem of just getting together, Augie March began putting basic tracks down in the glow of the news they were finally, blessedly, independent once more.
In dribs and drabs over months and eventually over a year drums and bass were laid down at two different Melbourne studios - then vocals and assorted overdubs were completed in Hobart, Brunswick and Yarraville by individual band members.
Of thirty-odd tracks the list was refined to a smaller number. There was no deadline and no clock running.
Despite the disjointed and difficult approach, the result is Augie March's most accomplished record to date, mixed beautifully by old friend and engineer illuminati Paul McKercher. Its themes are various, but times passing, loss, dislocation, distance, new hope and healthy anger are coals in its fire. It contains elements of each release that has gone before and will be cherished by those who have kept faith with this rare outfit.
The album is Havens Dumb.
Havens Dumb Tracklisting
2. After The Crack Up
3. Bastard Time
4. A Dog Starved
5. Hobart Obit
6. Father Jack And Mr. T
7. St. Helena
8. The Faking Boy
9. Definitive History
10. Villa Adriana
11. Millenarians’ Mirror
12. Sailing To The Moon
13. Never Been Sad
14. The Crime
The band recorded their debut EP, Thanks for the Memes with Victor Van Vugt (Beth Orton, Nick Cave) and released it in January 1998. After some very positive reviews and a bit of airplay, they set about recording the mini-album, Waltz, in October 1998, which rapidly built the band a solid fan base in Australia and other parts of the world. This was due in part to the song ‘Asleep in Perfection’, which received a lot of radio play, but also due to the strength and diversity of the mini-album as a whole.
The debut full-length album, Sunset Studies was released in 2000. Testament to its staying power, it reached gold status some 14 years later, in early 2014. It contains ‘Asleep In Perfection’ and ‘There Is No Such Place’. It scored an honourable mention in Q Magazine's (UK) Readers Poll for the Best 50 Albums of The Last 15 Years.
“Australian wonders: Augie March are a quintet from Melbourne of jubilant, accessible invention, wrapping the enigmatic songcraft of singer-guitarist Glenn Richards in luxuriant melees of chiming guitars, mountain-stream voices and keyboard grandeur." - David Fricke, Rolling Stone USA
Soon after, in January 2001, keyboardist Rob Dawson was killed in a car accident. Rob was a close friend of Glenn and had joined the band a couple of years earlier. ‘There Is No Such Place’ has become one of the bands most-loved songs, and it features Rob’s piano-playing and backing vocals. It remains a lasting legacy to him.
Understandably, this horrible event stopped the band in its tracks and a period of inactivity followed.
Eventually they re-grouped and recruited pianist and multi-instrumentalist Kiernan Box to record the next album.
That album, Strange Bird won wider international acclaim, including 8.2 on Pitchfork and a place in the players of literate pop fans all over the world. It includes the songs ‘The Vineyard’, ‘Little Wonder’ and the live favourite ‘This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers’, a rollicking indictment of the wide brown land. It was released on SpinArt in North America and the band toured the US twice.
“…pop music this good - the kind that summons ghosts from the earth while spinning in its own impenetrable orbit - is so rare it often seems like it no longer exists.” - Pop Matters
This touring contributed to a long gestation before the band’s next album would be recorded - a full four years after its predecessor. But it was worth the wait.
The platinum-selling, AMP Award-winning Moo, You Bloody Choir features in many ‘Australia’s greatest albums’ lists, was nominated for multiple ARIAs, and features ‘One Crowded Hour’ which was #1 in the Triple Hottest 100 (and #24 on Hottest 100 of All-time). It won the APRA Song of the Year, is still played on many radio formats and is a bona fide Australian classic.
"I'm yet to see a convincing counter-argument to my assertion that we haven't produced a genuinely great act in Australia for a decade or more, but I'm not alone in thinking that Augie March may well be the band we'll look back on in five or ten years and say, yep, they were the ones. And in songwriter Glenn Richards they have a lyricist without parallel in Australia." - Sydney Morning Herald
“…achingly beautiful and rewards repeated listens by old hands and newcomers. Lyricist and singer Glenn Richards proves once again that he is a rare, masterful wordsmith of great depth, charm and wit.” - The Australian
It was released internationally by Jive/Zomba, and the band toured overseas several times, winning ardent fans who remain loyal (if not evangelical) to this day.
In 2007, the recording of their fourth album Watch Me Disappear was a fraught affair, and despite it being a critical and commercial success (30,000 copies sold), the band were not enjoying being Augie March any more, had lost energy for touring and promotion and decided to cease operating.
They went on ‘indefinite hiatus’, which ultimately allowed a regeneration and the creation of Havens Dumb.