Inside The Unexpected Comeback And Total Reinvention Of Short Stack
Signed to a revered heavy label and embraced by triple j - Short Stack are not the band you remember.
Three years ago, just before Short Stack’s Shaun Diviney and I wrapped up our last interview, I threw him one last, inevitable, question: Will another reunion ever be on the cards?
He laughed, immediately making a crack about doing the RSL rounds when the band turn 50. But really, it was a ‘nah’ from him; Short Stack really were done — with one caveat. “I said to my booking agent: ‘If My Chemical Romance ever reunite, we’ll play with them,” he promised.
Perhaps Diviney thought a My Chem reunion would never happen, or that if it did it would be way off in the future. So it probably was a surprise when just over a year after our interview, My Chemical Romance announced they were back. And sure enough, a few months after that, Short Stack, the band from Budgewoi whose hair once touched heaven and hearts, announced their return.
On a recent wet and windy Tuesday afternoon, Diviney laughs when I remind him of this promise — and insists that was all just a coincidence this time. “It was a series of very strange things that happened,” he says by way of explanation. “I did a Blink-182 tribute show at one of my mate’s clubs, which was the most random thing ever. We rehearsed once and did this weird show, and Toby — who runs the night — was like ‘Hey, you should do some Short Stack shows’.”
Diviney wasn’t keen on the idea at first. Short Stack had done the reunion thing before — twice in fact, in 2012 and 2015 — with their last tour for 2015 album Homecoming ending on more of a fizzle than a bang. Unlike in 2012, they didn’t even bother telling their fans they were breaking up — they simply slid out of sight and out of mind. Diviney became a real estate agent on the NSW central coast, Bradie Webb started up a drum school, Andy Clemmensen travelled and went his own way.
But the love for the pop-punk crew — whose rabid fans nearly busted in the Sunrise studios at the height of their fame a decade ago — clearly remained, even if Diviney wasn’t convinced about a reunion show at first.
“I was like ‘Uhhh, maybe…I’m just not sure anyone would come,” he says. “That was the biggest concern — as if anybody’s gonna care?”
Stack Is The New Black
For a brief time in the late 2000s, Short Stack were the hottest property in the Australian music industry, with fans who would travel overnight to camp outside hotels and television studios just to catch a glimpse of their iconic hair-sprayed locks. It was Bieber-level pandemonium, and their brash pop-punk dominated charts and scrawled its way onto the pencil cases of teenagers nationwide.
They didn’t stray much from their formula throughout the years — even after the various breakups and reformations. Short Stack had a tried and tested sound, and they were told to stick with it. It was incredibly limiting, Diviney says now, and it wasn’t the way the band wanted to work.
“That was the biggest concern — as if anybody’s gonna care?”
“We were also limited to the expectations that people put on us — you’re a pop band, you need to have this song on the radio, you need to do this, you need to do that,” he shrugs. “But the bands we were listening to and were influenced by didn’t really do that, and it was just churning out this music…and we didn’t really work like that.”
So it makes sense the band were a little sceptical about the idea of a 2020 comeback. But after a while, Diviney came round, as did Andy — Bradie took a little while to get back on board.
“Bradie was a bit…he took the most to convince,” Diviney admits. “Just because he owns a drum school and he’s super passionate about it and he didn’t want to take much time away from that. We’re just super fortunate that everything that’s presented itself so far, they’re opportunities that are too good for us to say no to. We kinda had to roll with it. And at the end of the day, we’re so grateful to be in the position we’re in.”
Despite their initial reticence, they put the feelers out — and Frontier Touring quickly snapped them up. The gamble paid off: the shows sold out immediately, and second shows were quickly added — and sold out immediately too. It would have been a wild comeback tour, if 2020 and COVID hadn’t gotten in the way. The band are now playing cat and mouse with state COVID restrictions; their tour has been bumped back to November, with a couple of one-off shows happening before then (all sold out, of course).
This time around, they’re approaching Short Stack with fresh eyes — what if they were just three dudes who are playing music for the first time together? What if they completely ignored the history of Short Stack?
To Diviney, this comeback isn’t just a chance to say hi to their fans and pump up their coffers a bit — this is their opportunity to be the band they always wanted to be.
To Triple J, And Beyond
First, it was just a run a shows. Then it was just an EP. But now, Short Stack are in the middle of recording a full-length album, to be released through their new label, UNFD. It’s a full-circle moment for Diviney — back in the early days he would send demos to the influential heavy label, with nothing coming of it. Now, the band find themselves on the same UNIFIED management roster that includes their heroes The Amity Affliction.
The singles released so far — the crackling anthems ‘Burn You Down’ and ‘Live4’ — are a wild musical leap for the band, more in touch with recent Bring Me The Horizon than anything Short Stack have released. It’s a comparison that Diviney loves — the Sheffield group are one of his favourite bands, along with The Amity Affliction.
“We found when the band stopped being fun for us we had people pressuring us and wanting us to write pop songs and saying you gotta do this you gotta do that, and so we didn’t enjoy it as much,’ Diviney says. “When we were in the studio this…it was just us enjoying being creative. Bring Me The Horizon…Amity…that’s the kind of stuff we listen to, that’s the kind of stuff we like. So it found its way in there — the rest of the songs [on the album] are more Short Stack-y, but then they aren’t, as well.”
The band had actually started recording another album before they broke up last time, but it never saw the light of day. They took all those demos to UNFD, who cherry-picked one or two of the tracks. In the end, only one of them will make it on the record — the main focus was creating as many fresh ideas as possible. It’s been coming together slowly, Diviney says, but they don’t want to rush anything. They’ve also enlisted gun producer Stevie Knight (Stand Atlantic), to help guide them through it all.
“We’re probably not being played enough ]on triple j]…if they’re reading this they should play us a little more,”
Their new singles have also achieved something the band never managed before: triple j play. For a band that was once mercilessly torn apart by the shitty and misogynistic music press of the time (how dare any band have teenage girls as fans?) being embraced by the j’s is a very strange, and welcome, moment.
“Yeah, it’s really weird. We’re probably not being played enough — if they’re reading this they should play us a little more,” he laughs. “One of the goals we had was to completely reinvent what the band is, and treat it like a brand new band. Figuring out what we want out of it and ignoring everything we’ve done in the past. And that kinda fits with the more triple j sound than it does with the commercial sound we’ve done in the past. So it was so cool they embraced it, and we definitely did not think that would happen.”
It’s not hard to envision a future in which Short Stack are playing to a packed afternoon crowd in the Mix-Up tent at Splendour, but Diviney doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“If that happens, that would be fantastic,” he says. “But as the same time we’re just doing everything we can just to have fun with it. The reason we broke up is because we stopped having fun, and at the moment it’s the most fun it’s ever been. The only thing that’s really cool is people discovering us for the first time, which is so funny to see. It’s the best gig in the world.”
Short Stack are on tour later this year, check out all the tour dates here.
Jules LeFevre is the editor of Music Junkee. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Andrew Clemmensen