Thanks so much to Johnny Busby for the interview! The Clergy were a fab guitar pop band from Rockhampton, Australia. Also I would love to thank Hugh Owens from the Summer Cats who introduced me and found the “Pieces” 7″ for me 🙂 You can check Johnny’s new band Halfway on their website, myspace and even on facebook!
++ Hello Johnny! Thanks so much for being up for an interview of your old band but I know you have a band going on right now called Halfway, care to tell me a bit about it?
It’s an 8pce rock band with some trad/country elements like pedal steel, banjo etc. We’ve made 3LPs to date & the most recent was produced by Robert Forster.
++ Okay let’s go back in time now. Were you involved in any bands before The Clergy? What were you doing just before starting the band?
No, The Clergy was my first band. Started it after I left school. I was 17 with my sister & a couple of friends. Based in Rockhampton, Central Queensland.
++ How did the band start? How did you all knew each other? How was the recruiting process?
Just boredom really. We were getting into good music through mail order catalogues like Au-Go-Go & we just got it going. I wasn’t sure what to do after school. None of us could really play. So we just learnt to play & write songs at the same time. It was a group effort between myself, Steve Sutherland & Mick Baker & my sister Cherri Busby. I met Steve just through having similar tastes in music.
++ Why the name The Clergy?
Not sure really. Classic bad first band name? I think we thought it fit the band well & would instantly make us different to the other bands in Rocky. We didn’t want to be mistaken for a cover band & the name did that job very well.
++ There were many great pop bands in Australia during the late 80s, did you have any favourites? What influenced you into making guitar pop music and say, not metal or punk?
The Stems, The Hummingbirds, The Go-Betweens, The Mad Turks, The Lime Spiders, The Triffids, loved them all & I still do. I love melody & song craft so punk never appealed to me that much. Though I think there is a lot of punk rock in the bands I’ve mentioned. I like the attitude but I like songs to have melody, most local punk bands were just about noise. I love Radio Birdman, the Stooges, the Saints & Husker Du but they all have melody on their side.
++ I have always wondered about this, how big, how important, is the influence of The Go-Betweens in Australian guitar pop bands? Do you think the influence is bigger now or was bigger before, in the 80s? And by the way, do you have a favourite? Grant McLennan or Robert Forster?
Well they still have a huge influence on us now, even after all this time. I live in Brisbane & they have just had a bridge named after them! They are becoming part of popular culture. It’s an amazing effort for such incredible outsiders. They are a national treasure.
I only knew Grant briefly before he passed away. Chris Dale & I were fortunate enough to win the Grant Mclennan Fellowship in 2008. Which is an award for songwriting chosen by the ex Go-Betweens members. Which gave us the opportunity to meet Grants family & get to know the band. Since then we’ve also worked with Robert on our own record. They are/were both really intelligent & very generous people.
++ I only have the Pieces/Sebastian 7″ which I enjoy a lot. I was wondering if you could tell me what each song is about? Maybe Sebastian was based in a real character?
Pieces was an early attempt for me at writing a song just right off the top of your head. A few cool parts & just feel really. No real focus or purpose. Just letting the song write its self.
Sebastian is based around the story of St. Sebastion. The guy that the Romans couldn’t kill.
++ Then you also released a 7″ single for the song Rosethorn. You were telling me it did very well in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Was it easy then to distribute and promote your records? Who were the most enthusiastic with your releases?
Rosethorn was our first 7”single. It was all DIY. Send the 7” in the post or take a trip to bris & drop the records off at Rockinghorse, Kent & Skinnys (local indie stores at the time). 4ZZZ in Brisbane were really great to us back then as well.
++ And also you released an album that came out only on tape. I did notice that a lot of Australian bands released their stuff on tape. Do you have a clue why was that? Can you tell me a bit about this album? Like what was the tracklist and how many copies were made? If there was any changes in the lineup? etc?
There were only a couple of pressing plants & it was very expensive to get a 12” pressed. So a lot of bands opted for tape. In hindsight it’s a regret but we’ve just had the new Halfway LP released in vinyl so that’s made up for it a little.
We did 250 tapes all up. They sold out pretty quick.
++ What about gigs? Did you gig a lot? Which were your favourite gigs overall?
We played under my house. $2 to get up the driveway 3 bands & free cask wine.
As for actual venues… We played mostly at a pub in rocky called The Grosvenor & a place called The Blue Stein.
++ What are your favourite moments of The Clergy? You can share any anecdotes 🙂
Probably just playing shows under the house were the best times we had. It was always a good mix of bands, lots of fun, punk bands country bands whatever really. Cops dropping in over noise complaints. That sort of thing.
Also some road trips to stock our records in Brisbane were cool as well. We were 650km from the capital, so it was a big effort.
++ I know there was a big scene of guitar pop in Perth during those times and a bit in Melbourne. How was the scene in Brisbane? What were the venues you used to like? And what about other like-minded bands?
The Clergy never played Brisbane. Just Rocky. There were plenty of great bands around though. The Madmen from Townsville were a real stand out.
++ And talking about Brisbane, what’s the best it has to offer to visitors?
Brisbane has The Troubadour in Fortitude Valley. It’s the best live venue in the country. Only holds about 200 but it looks great & its run by great people. Also the Junk Bar in Ashgrove. GOMA, the gallery of modern art in Brisbane is brilliant. Rockinghorse Records in the city in an institution.
++ So why and when did you decide to call it a day? What did you all do after?
Steve moved over seas to London & things eventually fell apart. Mick Baker left eventually as well. I started another band called St Jude with my sister Cherri.
Unfortunately Cherri was tragically killed in a car accident in 94. I left for Brisbane & met up again with some other Rocky friends Chris Dale & Elwin Hawtin. We kept going with St Jude for a while & eventually got Halfway together in 2000.
Steve Sutherland & I are still good friends. We work together in north Brisbane.
Haven’t seen Mick in years but the last time I saw him he was living in Brisbane as well. But we’ve lost contact.
++ And one last question, what does John Busby likes to do when he is not making music?
Hanging out with my wife Shannon at our apartment in Brisbane. Reading, watching St. George play rugby league, listening to music, particularly vinyl, watching old tapes of Roberto Duran.
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for the interview. Been a while since I’ve talked about this stuff. It was a good time.
The Clergy – Pieces