Screamfeeder (Brisbane) is a one-hour documentary charting the biggest cultural explosion in Brisbane’s history, as lived through the eyes of Screamfeeder, a young, raucous 3-piece with vicious melodies and big ambitions.
It’s 1989, the first year of the Livid Festival, and thousands of people are pouring into the RNA Showgrounds. Elsewhere throughout the state, votes are being counted in Queensland’s most anticipated election ever. Then, at 9:30pm, Peter Walsh (Livid co-founder) takes the stage and announces the result: the National Party has fallen. “No more fascism!” he cries, and the crowd erupts. 30 brutal years of conservative rule is finally over, and the relentless cultural and social surge that follows makes the once iconic Expo 88 look like a suburban fete.
“It wasn’t simply a generational change. It was an explosion.” (Andrew McGahan, Last Drinks)
Like all great groundswells, it starts slowly at first, in small pockets. A simmering horde of hotspots joining forces to form an unstoppable inferno: 4ZZZ market day, Treasury Hotel, Orient Hotel, The Roxy, Livid Festival, Triple J, The Zoo, Ric’s Bar, Funkyard and Metropolis, to name just a few.
In Fortitude Valley, an old, abandoned office complex known as “the Target building”, is transformed into cheap rehearsal rooms, where a growing community of young, aspiring bands wander the stark, multicoloured floors at all hours of the day and night. Powderfinger practice across the hall from Regurgitator, right above Resin Dogs, who have a room next to Custard, while The Melniks share a room with Not From There, on the same floor as Budd, Dreamkillers, Krud and, of course, Screamfeeder.
Fronted by the burgeoning songwriting talents of Tim Steward, and supported by his best friend Tony Blades on drums, Screamfeeder formed in 1991 when Kellie Lloyd joined on bass. Abrasive, infectious and highly productive, the trio quickly gained a loyal following and were among the first local bands to regularly tour the southern states, always billed with a sense of novelty, as: Screamfeeder (Brisbane).
Meanwhile, around the rest of the world, thousands of likeminded pockets were also coming to bloom, fuelled by the rise of bands like Husker Du, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney and, by the time Nirvana engulfed the earth, Grunge was officially a ‘thing’.
Back in Brisbane, Screamfeeder went from strength to strength, honing their art, gaining national support tours, a European tour, American interest and riding the wave that was now sweeping across Australia. But, within the group, bubbling tensions were slowly splitting the friends apart, and when things came to a grizzly head during a national tour, Tim was faced with the unenviable task of sacking his best friend from the band they had both built together. Unsure how to go about it, he eventually did it by fax.
As the dust settled, Dean Shwereb replaced Tony on drums, joining Tim and Kellie to record their 4th album, Kitten Licks. With tensions eased, Kellie’s input began to flourish, mixing sweetly with Tim’s maturing skills and the album gained immediate attention. It wasn’t long before more American record labels started making more life-changing promises.
But, as the 20th century came to an end, no-one knew what was coming next; that dragging the underground into the light was the surest way to kill it. No-one knew what the internet was going to do. No-one knew that the global music industry was about to be mugged in a dark alley and left for dead, with empty pockets and no trainers. But, all these things happened, and everything changed, again.
For the first time in over 10 years, Screamfeeder’s momentum began to wane. Attention was shifting, they were getting older and all the money was spent. Most people would probably walk away, but some people don’t have a choice. It’s inside you, nagging, twitching, and it must come out. For Tim Steward, music isn’t something he does, it’s who he is.
In 2007, Tim won Qmusic’s ‘song of the year’ and, in 2012, he was awarded a plaque in the Brunswick Street ‘Walk of Fame’. In 2015, he won the Grant McLennan Fellowship and, in 2017, Screamfeeder released their 8th studio album, Pop Guilt. Against all odds, the band continues to produce virulent sounds and find new audiences.
Next year, in 2019, the Livid Festival is rumoured to make a spectacular return for a special 30th anniversary edition. In Fortitude Valley, Scott Hutchinson is building a “New Festival Hall” and it feels strangely like Brisbane is coming full circle, by changing, yet again.
Screamfeeder (Brisbane) is an intimate and revealing film, exploring a truly remarkable period in Brisbane’s history, with unique access to the voices and stories of the people who shaped and created it. Fuelled by a foot-stomping soundtrack and a rich palette of archival footage, this film recalls the last time an entire generation was pulling in the same direction and remembers how incredibly cool it was to be young and coming of age in the 1990s.