NOSTALGIA isn’t a term that sits comfortably with Paul Dempsey.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines nostalgia as “a feeling of pleasure and also slight sadness when you think about things that happened in the past.”
It’s that last word, past, that particularly irks the Something For Kate frontman.
Because when Dempsey takes a call from Weekender one Friday morning he’s busy writing lyrics for the celebrated alt-rock band’s forthcoming seventh album.
“To be honest it does make me feel uneasy because we’re working on a new album now and we always feel like our best work is ahead of us,” Dempsey says.
“We don’t feel like we’ve reached our prime and now we’re flogging a dead horse. We feel like a new band that’s always working on new ideas.
“We went out on tour last November and felt like they were the best shows we’ve ever played. We feel like we have as much vitality as we’ve ever had.”
However, Dempsey knows nostalgia is unavoidable regardless of how creatively fruitful the Melbourne three-piece remain.
The next time Something For Kate will perform for a Newcastle audience is at the inaugural Scene & Heard Festival, which markets itself as a return to the spirit of the late ’90s and early 2000s with bands like The Living End, Spiderbait, Killing Heidi and The Sneaky Sound System.
“I’m realistic that we’ve been around for over 20 years, so we can’t escape the fact when you’ve been around a long time that you’ve been in people’s lives a long time,” he says.
“So when a line-up like this gets put together with bands from the last 20 years then naturally you’re going to be included in a part of that, and that’s a great thing.”
We feel like we have as much vitality as we’ve ever had.Paul Dempsey
Of course, as Dempsey points out, nostalgia isn’t a negative. Only something beloved can be nostalgic, and Something For Kate remain one of Australia’s most passionately loved bands to emerge from the golden alternative scene.
Albums like Beautiful Sharks (1999), Echolalia (2001) and The Official Fiction (2003) are undeniable classics.
And Dempsey’s combination of raw intensity and emotive lyrics continue to ensure he’s one of Australian pre-eminent frontmen.
That was plainly clear when Dempsey performed the iconic song You’ll Never Walk Alone before an AFL game last month in memory of Maddie Reiwoldt, the sister of St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt, who died in 2015 from a rare bone disease.
Dressed in a St Kilda scarf and playing alone at Etihad Stadium surrounded by a sea of mobile phone lights, Dempsey admits he performed on autopilot to avoid becoming overly emotional.
“You rehearse and go over it in your head and tell yourself to focus and you have to lock down certain parts of your brain,” he says.
“But when the moment arrives and you’re actually out there doing it, it’s just over in a second and it’s done.
“You think more about it afterwards as it’s over in the blink of an eye.”
It was over a year ago that Something For Kate announced they’d begun work on album No.7, their first since 2012’s Leave Your Soul To Science.
The majority of the music is written, leaving Dempsey to refine lyrics for the demo stage.
Dempsey admits the daily distractions of family life – he and wife and Something For Kate bassist Stephanie Ashworth have two children – and his solo tours mean work is slower than past albums.
There’s also the band’s commitment to never repeat past glories.
However, Dempsey predicts a new track or two will be complete to showcase at Scene & Heard. A prospect that will have STK fans salivating.
“It’s starting to have a consistent vibe across some of the songs,” he says. “The main thing is it’s different. It doesn’t sound like anything we’ve done before and that’s our kind of yardstick.
“We steer away from anything that feels like anything we’ve done before. We only pursue the ideas that feel different and fresh. It’s definitely feeling that way.
“The demo stage is always very random because you throw a lot of crap at the wall and see what’s good. When you’re really ready to go into the studio that’s when you’re refining things.”
Something For Kate play Scene & Heard at Wickham Park on November 4.