Datura4 RobbieHarroldRobbie Harrold photo

One of the album highlights of 2016 was "Demon Blues", the debut release by Perth-based rock-psych-boogie band Datura4.

A quartet led by Stems/DM3 songwriter Dom Mariani and ex-New Christs, You Am I, Bamboos and Monarchs guitarist Greg Hitchcock, With Stu Loasby (bass) and Warren Hall (drums) completing the line-up, Datura4 conjure a heady mix of guitar-raunch 'n' roll and heavy melodic jams - in the tradition of the Colored Balls and Masters Apprentices, yet unlike any other Australian band currently treading the boards.

Their second album "Hairy Mountain" has recently been unleashed by US label Alive Natural Sounds and we chased down Dom Mariani for a brief grilling, ahead of a quick-fire tour of Australia's East Coast.  

How did Datura4 get together and what do you recall of the bands you and Greg Hitchcock were part of before Datura4?

Greg and I live literally 200 metres from each other. It was a fairly casual idea at first. Greg was at a loose end and I’m always up for a jam, so we decided to put something together just for fun. We reminisced about the bands we’d listen to and how we still loved them, delving back into the old records and how we’d come across all this cool stuff. Hard rock, blues, boogie and heavy psych. As guitar players we both really gravitate to this kind of music.

Greg and I spent a few years playing together in the early '80s. We’d moved on from the hard rock and we were exploring other sounds, but eventually found our way back to rock and roll.  I went on with the Stems and Greg with the Bamboos. The Stonefish was in the middle of all that.

Your histories are well known but what about Warren Hall and Stu Loasby?

Warren was in an early line-up of The Drones. He’d also been in The Volcanics, M16 and recorded with Johnny Casino. Stu has been with me for a quite a while now. We are the core of The Majestic Kelp.

Datura4 has been a going concern since 2011. How often has Datura4 played out on the West Coast and did it take long to work up to recording?

We’ll play on average 15-20 shows a year here in the west. Some of these down south.

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"Demon Blues" took near on four years to come out. We’d been going a year and things were very causal. The bulk of it was done over 2 main sessions a year apart, with overdubs when time permitted. We would play shows to finance the recording.

How does the band work up songs and who brings what to those sessions? Is it hard personally to quarantine song ideas for Datura4 from your other bands like DM3 and The Stems?

I’ll have ideas that I’ve worked up at home and bring them along to a rehearsal. From there we like to jam them out. Greg and I will offer up riffs and everyone contributes to the final outcome. Warrens drumming style and Stu’s semi acoustic bass tone are key ingredients.

It’s a different approach to say DM3 or The Stems where the songs are more structured.

The songs that I write for Datura4 come from a different place in my brain, so it’s fairly clear cut what songs go where, but having spent years trying to write a catchy tune and depending on which way you look at it, some of that experience is going to benefit or hinder the process.

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Talk about the influences you brought along with you from your early days. How did you catch onto them and how far back are we going?

My early teens were spent listening to Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival records, and whatever came on the radio. From the age of 15 I got serious about playing  guitar and it was Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and so on. I’d watch GTK religiously every week night before dinner. Only five minutes long, but you would see some great stuff like The La de Das, Coloured Balls, The Aztecs, Daddy Cool, Carson.. mostly Aussie.  I got to see The Coloured Balls and Buffalo play in Fremantle on separate occasions in the mid 70’s. We’d see local heavies Bakery, Fatty Lumpkin and Sitting Bull play free concerts and our school socials.

How did Alive Natural Sounds cotton on to the band and how widespread has their reach been? I’m presuming you’ve had reviews and feedback from far and wide?

I’d got to know Patrick (Boissell - owner) from Alive from doing The Stoneage Hearts album a few years back. I made contact with him to see if he’d be interested in releasing our first album. I thought it might be something that might fit into the label's roster.  Both albums have been very well received.  We couldn’t be happier with the response.

You’ve released “Hairy Mountain” as a follow-up to “Demon Blues”. How different are the two albums to each other from the band’s perspective?

Recording in different studios has a role to play in the overall sound, but there are some subtle differences between the two. "Demon Blues" has a more distinctive jam feel to it. "Hairy Mountain" has continued with the jamming , but there’s also a classic song writing thing going on. It was also done over a shorter period of time.

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You’ve been washed up on a desert island and been asked to pick five albums. The complication is that they all have to relate to Datura4 in some way. Go for it.

"Electric Ladyland" – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

"Led Zeppelin IV" - Led Zeppelin

"Parachute" - The Pretty Things

"Tres Hombres" – ZZ Top

"Tons of Sobs" - Free

So two albums down, what’s next? How likely are you to take Datura4 overseas?

There are plans to go to get over to Europe and start on album #3 sometime this year.

Catch Datura4 on their Australian east Coast tour in March 2017. "Hairy Mountain" is out now on Alive Natural Sounds. Buy the albums here.

Datura 4 East Coast Tour
Mar 2 – Wickham Park Hotel, Newcastle
Mar 3 – The Factory Floor, Sydney - Buy tickets
Mar 4 – Cherry Bar, Melbourne