Tribute bands these days mean both big business and big fanbases. With countless tributes to bands ranging from The Beatles to KISS to even Sublime making worldwide noise, the tribute genre seems ready for a brand new refreshing homage to further expand the concept's capabilities.
The brainchild of UK singer Lee Knell (playing the part of Darren Hayes), he's joined by guitar virtuoso Daniel Hardy Wallace (the Daniel Jones to Knell's Hayes) three backing vocalists and the session tracks to bring the duo's iconic late '90s pop staples back to the stage. We spoke to Knell about putting together a tribute that's truly, madly and deeply as faithful and satisfying as a chicka-cherry cola!
OC Weekly (Chaz Kangas): How did you first discover the music of Savage Garden?
Lee Knell: Well, the story of [this] whole Savage Garden tribute is deeper than I think people realize. When I was younger, around the age of 15, I was having very troubled moments in my life. My family was all splitting up in different ways, my first ever relationship was coming to an end and it was just one of those moments where I didn't think anything was going to happen. I felt very down, very depressed, very upset and almost trapped. I didn't want to be at home, I always wanted to be outside. I couldn't find anyone to talk to.
Funny enough, I went into class and this guy, who'd sat next to me in English lesson for the better part of six months hadn't spoken a word to each other, I think could see how depressed I was and made the effort to start talking to me by saying "Have you heard this song on the radio?" I said I had and I quite liked it, and he said "funny enough, I've got the album, you can borrow it if you want." It was the Affirmation album. I went home that night and put the album on and it completely changed my perception of everything at the time. Before that there were moments I was running out the house and sleeping rough out in the streets for a week. I listened to this album and song-by-song-by-song it made me realize that maybe I'm not the only person who's felt like this before. Then, I started singing the song and got to know all the lyrics, it was my new escape.
I went back into school about a week later and gave the album back, said I loved it. We got bored and there was a moment where the teacher left the class. There was a moment when I started to sing one of the songs under my breath, and my mate began to sing it with me. We looked at each other and thought "wow" because we realized for the first time we sounded almost like the band. Eventually we wound up learning all the songs and entering talent contests at the college, which we won with "Truly, Madly Deeply." We put a band together and played a show in front of 70 of our friends and family, and it was a complete flop. People caught wind we were doing it and asked up to perform at their venues. We did a few pub shows, but then realized we both wanted to do different things. I moved abroad and spent four years working on different projects. In 2007 I came home and went on a show here in the UK called "Who Dare Sings" and won. With the prize money I decided to go into a studio and get my own tracks produced, which got me into the UK top 100 with one of them. I went into the judging side of things, ended up producing my own shows and in the UK now I own three very, very big talent competitions, "Factor Essex," "Essex Talent" and "Essex Entertainment Awards" as well. Late last year, I told people something wasn't feeling right. I'd given a lot of opportunities to other people, but never really did anything that made me happy. I was thinking what made me truly happy, and it was when I was in that band years ago. So, I got people together who I thought were reasonable good in their field, turns out they're absolutely amazing in their field. We all compliment each other, it just sounds really nice.
The idea of the project is get as many performances as we can, get our name out there as much as we can, get as many of those Savage Garden fans who already exist back on board. It's been the better part of 14 years since Savage Garden split, so that's why a lot of people, I think, have forgotten their hero, and we get to reintroduce them to all generations. I just got off the phone with a festival in the UK we've been offered. We got our own big concert in November, which will be a big auditorium. That's pretty much the story.
Is there much of a tribute band scene where you are?
There's a huge tribute scene in the UK, especially around our area of London and Essex.
Are you the first you know of who've attempted a Savage Garden tribute?
As far as we know, we are. I've come across a few photos of people who've tried to do a Savage Garden tribute quite a few years back, but couldn't find much on them or any performances. I like to think we're the official one as we've had the blessings from the man himself, Darren Hayes.
What was it like interacting with him?
We got a couple of people from our fan page sending him tweets. He messaged us about a week ago and said he was very flattered we were doing a band towards [them] and that we appreciate the music. He did also mention we need to think about changing the name, and I do think that as we're just "Savage Garden: A Tribute" and that could be misleading if anyone failed to read the "Tribute" part.
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Did you ever get the chance to see Savage Garden live when they were still together?
No, this is a funny story, I was going to be buying tickets when they came over to London for the Superstars and Cannonballs tour. I missed getting a ticket, which I was highly gutted about and thought "there's always next time." At the time I was working as a chef near where I lived and, which preparing some food, we had the radio playing. The radio played "Affirmation" and I was singing along, bouncing along to it as one of my favorite songs was on the radio, and after that the presenter said "That was a bit of Savage Garden, as the band announced today they've split up." I'm not gonna lie to you, I went into the toilet crying. It was four years until Darren put out his first solo album, and I have been to see him about four times. I've seen him perform the famous Savage Garden songs as him, but I've never got to seen Savage Garden, and what hopefully we're doing with this band is almost re-creating all we can.