The rise and rise of Bendigo-based alt country outfit Four Lions matches the city’s growing reputation as a music hub.
“Bendigo, I think, could be the Seattle of Victoria,” says songwriter and front man Shann Lions. “I would love Four Lions to be a band our town is proud of – like we are proud of this town.”
Four Lions are very much of Bendigo. The band’s name comes from a historic drinking fountain in Bendigo designed by William Vahland. The fountain consisted of four lions around its base. Their debut album is called Charing Cross and the images used throughout their artwork and promotions shout “Bendigo!” very loudly.
Four Lions came together in Bendigo in late 2014 as a studio project. They started playing live in October 2015. All the band members, Shann Lions, vocals, harp, guitar, Keith MacQueen, lead guitar, vocals, Greg Perry, bass and Jordan Allen, drums, live in Bendigo. Live shows often see a fifth Lion, pedal steel virtuoso David Moore joining them.
Shann Lions’ journey to Four Lions’ distinctive alt country sound has been an interesting one. “I didn’t start playing music until I was 18 though had been listening to my brother’s record collection and was inspired by the mix of metal, punk and hip hop.” Lions said, before joking, “I was more interested in skateboarding as a 13 year old!”
“My dad listened to blues artists like Robert Johnson, BB King and Muddy Waters though I was more into in the sound Jimi Hendrix made with his guitar. To this day he is my favourite guitarist.”
Four Lions released their debut album Charing Cross through their own Verse Chorus Verse label in late 2015. Three singles, Twenty Seven, Brittle and Charing Cross, have come off the album – all reaching Triple J Unearthed’s Roots Chart’s top 10.
Lions takes a pragmatic view of the music industry. “Recently Four Lions was offered a record deal but we knocked it back because we want full control and rights pertaining to our releases. I don’t like the ideal of someone owning the rights to our art. I have no doubt our second album will obtain a release – though we are only looking for a marketing and distribution deal so we can release through Verse Chorus Verse.” Clearly a man who has taken heed of some of the tales of woe experienced by countless musicians over the years.
Four Lions has a busy live schedule over the next few weeks with gigs at the Golden Vine on Friday 18 March, Bendigo Craft Beer Festival on Saturday 19 March, Handle Bar on Thursday 24 March, in Rosalind Park on Saturday 26 March and at the Black Swan on Sunday 27 March.
Then it will be an extended break from gigging for a while when Four Lions head back into the studio to record their second album, “using reel to reel tape in an all analog studio in Central Victoria,”
Shann Lions stresses to point out, keeping it real. And local.