Q&A Scene: Matt Balfe ~ MOTOR ACE

Tell us about your new single/ album/ tour?

It’s 20 years since Motor Ace played our first show, so we’re hitting all capital cities in March and April to relive some amazing times and play some great tunes.

How would you describe your sound in food form and why?

Caviar washed down with a bourbon and coke. Top shelf feel good melodic rock.

Which of your songs resonate most strongly and why?

There are three distinct periods of sounds, Five Star Laundry, Shoot This, and Animal. I am a simple creature… Chairman of the Board is still my fave… It was one of a handful of songs that came together in a flurry to form our first EP. So many good memories in this song, our first sold out shows at the Espy and Punter Club, driving through the night between capital cities on our first national tour, giving up call center jobs to get paid for playing rock’n’roll… it was a coming of age.

Tell us a quick, on the road, anecdote.

So many touring stories… where to start?  The Oasis run was right up there. Soundcheck at The Forum in Melbourne… we’ve all just strapped on the guitars when in walk Liam and Noel and take a seat in the middle of the empty theatre to watch, sunglasses on… jacket collars firmly upturned. We crack into Carry On. As we ring out the last chord, the Gallagher Brothers both rise from their seats and give us a standing ovation – very surreal moment.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Personal experiences, art, sounds, film, nature…LIFE.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

Kashmir by Led Zeppelin  – I recently watched It Might Get Loud, a documentary exploring the careers and guitar styles of Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. The scene where Jimmy teaches The Edge and Jack White the chords to Kashmir and they all play together is spine tingling.

What’s next for you?

The big reunion tour in March and April. One show in Melbourne has already sold out so get in fast to get tickets. We can’t wait!

What’s your scene?

The Australian live music scene goes from strength to strength. When Motor Ace first kicked off back in 1998 live music was in decline… All my mates at uni were buying turntables… and bad cover bands were packing beer barns in the outer suburbs. I am so stoked to see the growth of the original live scene and the place that Australian bands have on the international stage.

It’s 2001, you’re driving home from work, flicking through the radio stations, and Five Star Laundry by Motor Ace is being played on triple j, Triple M and a bunch of other stations in between. Then, as you walk in the door, the television is blaring and it’s Motor Ace again, with their iconic track Death Defy reaching an even wider audience as the theme song for the beloved Australian television series The Secret Life Of Us. And you probably caught them performing at the ARIAS and across all the various shows on tv at that time too, that was what it was like during the peak of Motor Ace – absolute saturation, and even then people couldn’t get enough.

Fast forward almost two decades and Motor Ace’s hoardes of fans no longer have to wait for that highly anticipated reunion, because in March and April of 2019, the band we all love will embark on a national tour to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the band’s inception, kicking off in Adelaide at The Gov on March 29, then moving through Perth, Sydney, and finishing up in Melbourne at the renowned venue 170 Russell on April 12.

Within the first month of being on sale, Five Star Laundry went gold in Australia – a massive feat when considering what it takes for a record to go gold in 2018, with just 7 Australian albums having been certified gold this year. What followed was an exhaustive touring and promo schedule, which included unbelievable support slots alongside Foo Fighters, Oasis and Blink-182. It was sold out shows every night, and absolute domination on the airwaves; Motor Ace were a staple in consecutive triple j Hottest 100 countdowns, and a mainstay on the ARIA charts. Their timely sophomore album Shoot This was released in 2002 to abundant critical acclaim. It spawned lead single Carry On that held the coveted #1 most played song on Australian airwaves for 8 weeks in a row, and Shoot This, debuting at #1 on the charts and achieving gold sales on release. It was an electrifying whirlwind, as drummer Damo Costin reflects, “It was pretty amazing at the time, and something that I still feel very proud of…we definitely milked being number one on the charts, and I think I might still be milking it a little to this day!” 

 The band are thrilled to be back together to play hits and album faves from Five Star Laundry, and later albums Shoot This and Animal, for fans all across the country, as lead singer Pat Robertson says, “It’s been 20 years since we were playing our first shows around Melbourne – at the Punters Club, Evelyn and Espy – and 13 years since the last Motor Ace show. It feels pretty bizarre to be honest, but really looking forward to playing shows with the guys and most importantly seeing if we can still party!” Damo adds, “It feels absolutely surreal, the reason being that when I was 22, and young and earnest, I had no idea that 20 years later I was going to play these songs again! I am most excited about enjoying those songs again in a live space, excited to play again with a sense of nostalgia and giving my all with the guys. We really wanna have some fun with it.”

And it sounds as though there might be some exclusive Motor Ace content from the Five Star Laundry sessions coming direct to fans, too, as the band have been delving deep into the archives to find some demos and footage that are sure to stir up those nostalgic vibes. “It’s really cool to listen to the initial demos and to see where they ended up on the record after it had been produced,” says Damo. “I’ve found loads of footage from ages ago from touring, as well. We are going to release some unreleased demos that we did before the records were recorded, including Shoot This demos some of which sounds better than the official recording.”

Since disbanding all those years ago, the Motor Ace boys have been up to all those regular ‘life’ things – Pat has two kids and works for Aesop, Dave has three kids and one on the way, and is working offshore on an oil rig, Damo has a daughter and is running successful music company 123 Agency, and Matt has two kids and is the communications manager for Yarra Valley Water. But for what’s set to be an amazing few weeks of shows, the band are back together just like the good old days – although, in true Damo form, he jokes that a little stamina training might be in order this time around – “If I get to the end of the show and I am still alive it will be a miracle. I am currently in training – send in all fitness tips!”

Motor Ace is Patrick Robertson (vocals, guitar), Dave Ong (guitar), Damo Costin (drums) and Matt Balfe (bass).

About Mary Boukouvalas 1643 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.