Pat Davern is knee-deep in rehearsals with Grinspoon when we speak to him. He and his fellow Grinners are about to embark on a 27-date national tour to mark the 20th anniversary of Guide to Better Living. But that's not all he's got on his plate.
Since 2009 Pat’s been a resident of the north coast of New South Wales again, now with his young family and a local store called The Finders Club. In 2015 he wrote a children’s book and album, which has been optioned for a television series. Which means a script-writing workshop ahead of writing the pilot. Then there's also the recording studio in Byron.
Patrick Davern, your modern day renaissance man, a real Swiss army knife of a guy.
So how are you enjoying the pace of life in Bangalow?
It’s been good, to be honest with you. It’s been good to sink your teeth into something different. But back out on the road now, yeah it’s the circle of life. But Bangalow’s a great place to have a little business and a family. It’s nice, it’s not too busy, there’s plenty of culture, there’s plenty of great places to eat and drink and you can always go see a live band in Byron. I would say it’s the best of both worlds. It’s got enough culture there but you don’t feel like you’re living in a hick country town. A lot of people moving there from Sydney and Melbourne and even from overseas. It’s become a bit of a mecca, Bangalow.
It’s not quite rural living is it?
No, not really. I mean you can still go to the front bar at the pub and you can see the farmers, and it’s pretty rough. But then you’ve got the lounge bar at the pub, it’s kinda like two different microcosms of Bangalow. And there’s the bowling club as well, the bowling club has got a lot of young families. That element of Bangalow, people with young families can go there and run around and have a good time and it’s really family friendly.
And the store - so you’ve had a bit of an evolution with the store?
[Davern's partner] Katya’s dream was to have a book and stationery store. And I always wanted to open a record and a guitar store. So we combined the both of them and it become Bangalow Music & Books. But after a couple of years we learned it was just too hard a business in a small town. There was the newsagency had a good selection of kids books and stationery as well. There’s a big music store in Byron that’s been there about 35 years, and most people go there for their musical equipment and stuff like that. I mean, we loved it, it was a really passion project, but financially and from a business point of view it stopped making sense.
So we took on a partner, a guy named Dave who’d had businesses before in Bangalow and he really thought that what Bangalow needed was more of a men’s emporium. So we do men’s clothes but we also do watches, wallets and knives, accessories, we do shoes. But we kind of keep it classic, we don’t really do any fast fashion, we do more hopefully organic, sustainably-sourced, really strict production methods. But it’s cool and it’s been really well received!
We still do books and we still do vinyl, but we curate it a lot tighter now. We do really beautiful coffee table books by publishers like Gestalten and Braun and Taschen, rather than trying to do every man’s library. We keep it really tight with the vinyl, we do a lot more catalogue stuff: classic rock, classic funk, blues, jazz. We do a couple of new releases but we find that our clients really like to see I guess more classic stuff that they maybe haven’t seen for a long time. More timeless kind of music that works in with the ethos of the clothes.
And what’s a typical day for you at the moment?
At the moment it’s on the road. I split my time between my shop, I’ve also got a recording studio in Byron Bay - a composition room really. It’s a writing room, it’s a really nice space where we’ve got all the latest gear, I collect a lot of vintage keyboards, guitars, amps over the years and stuff, so that’s all there. I do a bit of [music] writing for film, I’m working on a film for a film called ‘The Last Train to Sugartown’ at the moment. I’m not scoring that, I’m providing original songs for that. My kids project which is called Alexander the Elephant in Zanzibar, that’s at a second stage of funding for a TV series. So we’re working on music and story-boarding, that’s being done by a production company called Blue Rocket but I’m kinda heavily involved along with my partner in the children’s stuff which is a guy named Martin Chatterton.
And now I’m on the road! So it’s been a pretty busy 2017. It’s really good though, lots of stuff going on. The business is really turned around, it’s become quite successful now. So that takes up a lot of Katya and my time to keep going and pushing forward with that. So yeah it’s been a few years of hard work to get it into the right place, but we’re really happy and things are starting to crank along now.
This children's book, [your] three year old is probably the perfect age really?
Yeah I mean she’s not too interested in anything I do to be honest. She has other interests in what Daddy does. When she’s five I’ll start moulding her in my own image though!
You’re about to embark on this 20th anniversary tour. I wouldn’t to ask now that you’re a little older and a little wiser what real life advice you’d give on an actual guide to better living?
Wow. That’s an all-encompassing question. Well my key to better living really was to just kinda settle down with a partner who I love and have a family and take the focus off myself. I mean - speaking from my own experience - rock n’ roll is a very selfish industry to be in and very fickle. So my greatest guide to better living has been to have got some stability in my life, bordered around a family that I really love and appreciate, kind of my rock. Doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s really worked for me. You can be Peter Pan if your’e in a rock n’ roll band, you know, you never really have to grow up. But I think that’s really been the key to my happiness, to be able to have something to show for it all that actually means something.
What's the first gig you ever went to?
The first gig I ever went to was the Hoodoo Gurus and Do-Re-Mi at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney when I was about 13 or 14. The first “good” gig that I ever went to was also at the Entertainment Centre, I went and saw The Cult actually, the Electric tour when I was underage at Selena’s. But then in 1989 I saw the original line-up of Guns N' Roses at the Entertainment Centre and that affected me quite deeply because that was a pretty amazing, crazy rock n' roll show. There were fights and the band stopped halfway through, picking people out from the audience to give them particular attention to his anger, it was just insane. I mean, Guns N' Roses aren’t particularly cool but that was a real turning point for me, I was like, I want to do that. I was 16 at the time and it was just like ‘BOOM’.
And the last gig you went to?
The last gig I went to, I went and saw Kingswood at the Stone & Wood brewery - I probably shouldn’t say that!
We’re all friends here!
But before that, I caught Ryan Adams a couple of weeks ago at the Great Northern in Byron, that was probably about three weeks ago.. Yeah he played Brisbane, he did the Tivoli and then he came down. It was more of a different show, still the live band but he played a lot of stuff off the Cardinals records and Jacksonville City Nights so a bit more obscure songs. Me and Katya were really in to Cold Roses - which was a Cardinals album and I think he played almost every song off that record. The audience were a little bit tetchy because they were hoping to hear a little bit more new stuff and a bit more stuff off the more classic albums, but it was a great show.
And what’s the most memorable gig you’ve ever played?
Probably 1997, Livid Festival in Brisbane, funnily enough. We were playing the Loudmouth stage which was an indoor stage in the old Livid, at the Showgrounds in Brisbane. And the Loudmouth stage fit about 5000 people and we had just released Guide to Better Living and it was like our time had come, in a way. It was about 15, 000 people in a 5000 capacity warehouse, people were hanging off the roof…it was the most memorable gig I’ve ever done. I mean, I’ve done some memorable gigs - I’ve played CBGB’s in New York, the first time we played there that was incredibly memorable but as a poignant moment in the band’s career I think that Livid Festival gig was probably the one.
And if last drinks get called on Planet Earth what are you drinking?
Well I’d definitely be drinking a beer. I used to drink a lot of red wine but it doesn’t sit well with me anymore. So I’d like a dark beer. Or, I reckon…
You can double-park yourself as well. It’s last drinks!
Yeah I reckon maybe a beer and a whisky. Like a scotch whisky, I reckon just a Glenfiddich 21. I know it’s standard, but I love it.
The Finders Club
Shop 2 10 Station St
Image via @grinspoon_band