“It’s quite a long story actually, it goes back quite a few years.”
So says Dan Collens, guitarist of Last Lions, about the formation of their local punk band from Perth. A band whose lion-themed name joins a common thread running through many other bands in Australia, both locally and nationally.
Vocalist Michael Slitenbachs attempts to list them all, like listing shrimp in Forest Gump:
“You’ve got Tired Lion, Born Lion, Young Lion, Lions and Lambs, Lionizer. That’s five bands from Perth, from Australia. Already in the scene that we’re in, [with the] same style.”
Their band was even called Jerry at some point, but not after the hit TV show; rather it was unintentionally named after a band’s bong that they admired.
“They had this song called Jerry Seinfeld and had T-shirts saying, ‘RIP Jerry’, [and] we’d always ask them what the deal was with this Jerry guy,” says Slitenbachs.
“The story was different every time. Every time they’d say he got arrested, or he died, or overdosed or something.
“Eventually we figured it out—that Jerry was a bong, Jerry was their bong. We’re still not sure if they found it.”
“It got confiscated, we got no idea. Needless to say, we changed our name,” says Collens.
Starting out with three people jamming together in high school and a slew of line-up changes in the succeeding years, the current line-up stands with Michael on lead vocals, Jake Diffen on drums, Daniel Collens on guitar and Ella Munro on Bass.
It’s been smoothing sailing for the band so far, even if members of the band can get grumpy sometimes.
“I think we are always grumpy at each other though, it’s part of the band’s dynamic, you can’t make angry punk music without hating each other. But that’s totally not our vibe either, the songs aren’t even angry. We love each other,” says Slitenbachs.
However, the band concedes some punters can take the aggression too far at their live shows.
“It’s always, not hyper masculine guys, but toxically masculine guys. It’s like you’re actually making the night worse for a lot of people. You’re making people not enjoy their night. Think about the impact you are having in this room my friend.”
But all in all, the Perth punk scene is a very welcoming one, with a lot of support felt between punters and bands.
“Everybody in the scene looks out for each other, everybody is mates with everybody. It’s cool,” says Collens.
“If anyone acts like an arsehole publicly, you don’t get blacklisted per se, but people don’t want to fuck with them. You don’t want to associate with people who have a reputation for being a prick,” says Stilenbachs.
Each member of the band also holds their respective musical influences, making Last Lions seem like a broad church musically—with song styles ranging from skate punk to grunge.
“Blink 182 was a massive thing for me, I went through a massive ‘blink phase’ in high school, as a teenager does,” says Dan.
For vocalist Michael it was mixture of bands like Greenday, The Smith Street Band and even local act, Grim Fandango.
“I heard Greenday when I was like 12, and was like that’s it, I want to write songs, I want to be in a band. Then I heard Smith Street a few years later when I was about 14, [and] I was like it’s possible for that to happen.”
For drummer Jake, it was Nirvana and the grunge scene.
“Nirvana made me want to play music, absolutely. Nirvana were the influence that got me into music. Arctic Monkeys as well, [which is] possibly an odd combination. But both were huge for me.”
Whilst the band didn’t possess a fear of failure when starting out, there was always a desire to make the best music the band was capable of.
“We were never content with being shit, we kept feeling it wasn’t good enough, but you don’t beat yourself up about it,” says Slitenbachs.
“You listen to the recordings and work on your timing or something, or you listen for what you need to work on.
“Or [if] all out parts are super busy, turn them back a little bit so there is more room for the song to breath and that type of thing. We still do that now, we’ve just started playing all our songs slower.”
What is boils down to is what is most pleasurable to the listener, says Diffen.
“When you do a certain type of music well, then people tend to like well-done music. In doing that you write your songs so that they’re still your expression, your authentic truth.”
With 2019 already arrived, the band is set to release a debut album, organise an East Coast tour and release an EP.
“This EP will be like the older songs, and the album will be much more recent stuff with revised song writing,” says Diffen.
“Me and Danny have been doing Last Lions since 2014, you know, that’s five years. Getting five favourite songs from the first five years of being in a band,” says Slitenbachs.
“It’s the EP we have been trying to put out for years, just because we still like these songs, we still play them and enjoy it. People still clap after we play them.”