“You got to me/I’ll get to you/How long how long how long can you hold out?” “How Long”
Like Crocodile Dundee, or bands like AC/DC and INXS before them, the members of LONGREEF have come from Down Under to conquer the U.S.A. Having relocated to America from their native Sydney a little over two years ago, the band has taken to their adopted land by storm, tirelessly touring around the country, opening for the likes of Gary Allan and Seether, playing Florida’s massive DeLuna Fest with Stone Temple Pilots, 30 Seconds to Mars and Bush, winning fans at every stop.
“We’re pretty road-tested,” says lead singer and songwriter Josh Barker, who originally formed the band as Inakin in Australia with LONGREEF guitarist Nick Miller and drummer Aaron Carruthers. That group played up and down the east coast of Australia, starring in a reality TV series, The Resort, contributing a tribute song, “Without You, dedicated to noted Aussie animal expert Steve Irwin on the one-year memorial of his death as well as playing for the country’s troops stationed in The Solomon Islands to quell civil unrest there. “You don’t get as tight as we are unless you’re getting out there and performing as much as you can,” says Barker, the first of the trio to move to America, settling in L.A., where he began co-writing with Vertical Horizon’s Matt Scannell and Carmen Rizzo [Alanis Morisette, Oakenfold, Esthero]. He then relocated to Nashville, where he recorded a full album with the help of 3 Doors Down’s Chris Henderson and Alissa Moreno [Rascal Flatts’ “Every Day”], eventually calling on Miller to join him, adding bassist Jim Wark and drummer Tristan Davies to the line-up.
“Compared to Australia, there’s just so much more opportunity and live venues to play here,” adds Josh. “We just feed off the crowd’s energy, and get more comfortable each night knowing what they want to hear. It’s just been a fantastic experience.”
Interspersed with a heavy touring schedule that took them to the Gulf Coast, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, then the Midwest, Ohio and Michigan and the East Coast, LONGREEF went into the studio to record a debut EP, which they released in June, including a first single, “Lonely,” which went to #33 on Billboard’s R&R Indicator chart.
“We were pretty stoked about that, because we hadn’t really had anything out before this,” admits Barker.
They began to draw interest from some major labels, with Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger among the band’s high-profile fans, but chose instead to return to the studio for another EP, Dirty Motel, with five new songs that show off the band’s increasing prowess, harder edge, strong bridges and musical range, from the “take-the-piss” title track, about the lure of big city fame and fortune for a small-town gal, to the soaring ballad, “Sweet Emotion” (co-written with Australian country star Matt Scullion) and its heartfelt sentiments, “Leave me if I’m dreaming/I don’t want to wake up from this feeling.” In between, there’s “She Likes the Ladies,” a tongue-in-cheek male answer to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” the angry love song “Want Me Back” (one of the first songs Josh wrote with the band’s manager Steve Forde) and “How Long,” a glorious ode to romance that could also be read as a nod to the guys’ favorite pastime of surfing (the band’s name is a tribute to the north beaches of Sydney, where they’d often ride the waves).
“We are starting to write together as a band a lot more,” says Barker. “We like writing about women and relationships. There’s always something going on, good or bad, someone holding out to see someone, being apart or your typical revenge song.”
Forgoing the major label system to date to go it on their own, Josh is confident the band’s instincts will win out in the end. “Having the creative control has made the band so much closer,” he explains. “We don’t want to just wait around and wait for someone to tell us what to do. We want to take the reins and make this happen on our own. So far, it’s been working.”
With lines like “I love the way you wrong every right” (“Dirty Motel”) and “Sex is her body/That girl’s in demand/The look that she sends back/Says you don’t stand a chance” (“She Likes the Ladies”) prove that LONGREEF haven’t lost touch with their cheeky “shrimp on the Barbie” down (Under) home roots.
“It’s always tough being away from family and loved ones, but I like to think we have the best job in the world,” enthuses Barker. “The day we played our first show here proved it was the right move, though. Every show has been an absolute blessing. We just want to keep shooting for the stars.”
“I don’t want to come down/I’m happy up here in the clouds/I’m lost in the moment/I kind of like/Where this could be going” “Sweet Emotion”
LONGREEF are here to stay, and coming to a town near you.
“That’s the best way to generate fans, playing live,” nods Josh. “Just getting out, meeting as many people as you can and showing them a good time by playing your music.