Kris Peters catches up with Shnexpean ahead of their Calling All Cars support slot on Friday at the Jack

In 2004 Schnexpean were the name on everyone’s lips in the Cairns music scene. They were the number one major support band, racking up appearances alongside bands such as the Butterfly Effect, Jebediah and 28 Days. They had the local scene heaping deserved praise and decided that the next logical step in their evolution was a venture South to the big city of Melbourne.

“That was the musical turning point for us,” bass player Stewie said. “We went to play at the Australian Music Week in 2005, which was basically the Australian showcase for unsigned bands. We went down and played a set where they had a panel of judges and lots of other bands from all across the country.”
“It was kind of like Australian Idol without the steroids,” vocalist Jason Hall chimed in. “We didn’t win,” continued Stewie, “but there was someone in the audience that had a record label and was quite a successful producer so he contacted us and we had a meeting and from there we ended up with a development deal with an indie label which we worked on for about six months and that turned into a record deal.”

It was around this time that original guitarist Clayton Travers left the band for personal reasons and the band changed their name to Lexi’s Curfew, and the dream of ‘making it’ never quite materialised in the way they had hoped. “When Clay left and the Lexi thing started we did about two and a half years with the label in Melbourne, not making alot of money. The pressure under the label and what was required of us was pretty intense,” Stewie said. “The workloads were huge and the music was the only reward really, but it was still great fun,” Jason added.

While the band didn’t fully realise their goals in Melbourne, they learnt alot from the overall experience of being involved with a record label, and gained personal satisfaction from associated tours and activities. “We did some really good tours,” Stewie enthused, “and we helped Apple launch I – Tunes into Australia. We did a tour of 40 odd High Schools throughout N.S.W, Victoria and Canberra when I – Tunes was the new thing. We literally took 50,000 download cards on tour and every kid that came to the gig got one and that’s what helped I Tunes become successful in this country.”
“We should have asked for even half a percent of that,” drummer Luke Fenech laughed, “that would have been something…..” That tour wasn’t just about plugging a product as much as it was about connecting with the school kids, with the band holding workshops and feedback sessions as well. “We went to schools 3 – 5 days a week sometimes, playing and talking about the realities of being in an original band,” Jason offered, “and it was really cool to see the impact we were having. Stew was telling me just the other day about a guy who came up to him at one of his gigs in Melbourne and recognised him from that tour and said that before he had seen us play he was just into sports but after seeing us perform and listen to us speak he went out and bought a guitar and became a musician.”

The boys eventually became disillusioned with the lure of the big city and it’s trappings and moved back to Cairns, all except for Stewie who stayed on in Melbourne before recently relocating back to where it all started and re-igniting the spark to get the band back together. The boys had all rejoined various cover bands but it wasn’t long before the call of original music came knocking, with the temptation of supporting Calling All Cars this week proving too good to refuse.

Even though it has been many years since they performed as Shnexpean and there has been many personal developments in their lives, the big thing from the bands perspective is that the original line up were once again re – united, with Clayton returning to the fold. “After the Melbourne experience we all went our separate ways and we’ve all done tonnes of different things,” Stewie said. “For me, especially, after living in Melbourne for the last five years and doing the so called ‘big city stuff’, there is nothing better than getting back to your roots and writing with your best mates and hanging out on a Sunday afternoon jamming like we did way back when we started in Clay’s bedroom jamming out with no air – con in the middle of Summer and basically just playing rock and roll.”

“The main thing we were worried about when we spoke about getting back together was where we could actually play,” Clayton explained. “To the point where we agreed that if it meant we were only going to do a small amount of shows that’s what we would do,” Luke continued. “But the ones we were going to play were going to be balls out. We need to be able to play the way we like to play and we all agreed we didn’t want to water down the delivery in order to get more gigs. We would just take the ones that suited the band which makes it hard in some ways but easier in others. We’ve been on that merry – go – round, trying to get somewhere with music and take it somewhere as opposed to playing music for music sake.”

“The thing that makes me smile today,” Stewie said, “is that 10 years ago we were an original band getting paid really good money to support bands in Cairns maybe twice a month, playing our own music and you just can’t find a band in Melbourne that does that, let alone makes that sort of money. We were sitting here in our own little bubble of experience thinking we were failing but in real terms we were more successful than 90 % of the artists in this country. We sold 130 E.P’s at our launch at Gilligan’s and that is literally unheard of down South. We had all this success at home and we didn’t realise that until we went somewhere else looking for it……..”