Published in Billboard.biz
The biggest fish at home, Australian rock band Powderfinger is testing the waters of Europe and the U.K. With a Feb. 21 gig at Brussels’ Botanique venue, the Brisbane-based five-piece will embark on its most significant attempt yet to break out abroad.
“The guys have played bigger shows here and there but this overall is the most extensive U.K. and European tour,” says manager Paul Piticco, director of Brisbane-based Secret Service Artist Management. “It is a weird one though, because some markets we’re playing to 500-capacity clubs and others we’re playing 5,000. The band and crew have to be very adaptable.”
The run comes in support of their latest album “Vulture Street,” a set which marks an unusual new label relationship for the band. Frustrated with a perceived lack of push in Europe through their record company Universal Music, the band’s latest effort is now handled there by V2, Richard Branson’s London-based independent label.
“We’ve been on Universal for what feels like forever and we hadn’t really had that much success outside Australia, with the exception of Canada. We didn’t feel that they (Universal) were going to be particularly motivated to get going on this album again,” frontman Bernard Fanning tells Billboard.biz. “We were keen to have a situation where we had people that were working on our records and that really believed in them and had a good vibe to it, rather than through some sort of contractual obligation. It’s (V2) a much smaller label, so there’s less chance of getting lost in the quagmire.”
HMV Group has thrown its clout behind the U.K. release of “Vulture Street,” through an agreement set up with V2. The retailer was granted exclusively to rack the record for a two-week period from Sept. 29, 2003, and in return offered in-store support for the release. The album officially streeted Oct. 20 here.
“We’ve done very well with Powderfinger,” says an HMV spokesman. “The band really suits our customer profile as well. Now is a brilliant time for them, thanks to this renewed interest in new music. It should prove a fertile time.”
With Australia and its neighbor New Zealand increasingly seen by labels as an alternative English-language repertoire source, Powderfinger is well placed to leverage its credentials. Each of the bands’ previous three releases won the coveted Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) album of the year award. No other artist has won that prize more than once.
Since its domestic release August 11, 2003, “Vulture Street” has gone six-times platinum in Australia (where the band remains signed to Universal Music). The album is approaching 450,000 shipments there, according to Piticco.
He says plans are to bring the band to Europe three times this year. The U.S. is also on the band’s horizon, with performances planned at SxSW and elsewhere.