Glenn Richards: vocals, songwriting, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, apologising, etc.
- Adam Donovan: lead guitar, backing vocals, etc.
- Edmond Ammendola: bass, guitar, backing vocals, etc.
- Dave Williams: drums, backing vocals, keyboard, etc.
- Rob Dawson (2000-2001): keyboards, piano, guitar, etc.
Kiernan Box (2001-present): keyboards, piano, accordion, etc.
- Thanks For The Memes EP (1998) (re-released in 2003 w/ extra track)
- Waltz EP (1999)
- The Hole In Your Roof single (2000)
- Sunset Studies LP (2000)
- Here Comes The Night EP (2001)
- The Vineyard EP (2002)
- Strange Bird LP (2002)
- Little Wonder EP (2003)
The band, who got together in 1998 in Melbourne, Australia, are named after the main character of Saul Bellow's "The Adventures of Augie March". Glenn Richards, Adam Donovan and Dave Williams were originally all from a Victorian country town called Shepparton, where they allegedly played what Victorians call "football" together and listened to the likes of Iron Maiden and Dire Straits. At some point after finishing high school, they moved to Melbourne and found themselves in various forms of higher education. Richards studied English Literature at university, while Williams and Donovan did a music course at TAFE, where they met Edmond Ammendola. Thus was born Augie March.
After only a handful of gigs they were signed by Ra Records, a label of multinational BMG (also home to the illustrious You Am I). Their first studio recording, "Juggernaut Boy" (a comparatively direct recording with catchy hooks and falsetto vocals from Richards) apparently stirred up a small fuss in record industry circles in Melbourne, a BMG grunt apparently telling the band it was destined for the top 40. The band sensibly refused to release it as a single, fearing it would be a "Creep", a spectre that would hang over the rest of their career. BMG were undoubtedly impressed.
Later in 1998, their first EP, Thanks For The Memes was released to a chorus of critics carping about "potential" and "promise". It was loud, messily played and all over the shop; the band recording their most direct, live-sounding material. Highlights include the upbeat rocker "Century Son" - "what about the starlight on your head/ it took a million light years to reach you" - and "Future Seal", a dark, feedback-laced epic with blatantly political lyrics, which the band now refuses to play live. Demos of the time, like "Dog Cosmonaut" (briefly available as an mp3 from their official site) and "Darling Little Ones" (later released on a Ra compilation) show a more subtle band than Memes portrayed, with a well-developed sense of melody and structure.
In early 1999, they released Waltz, an EP which approaches the length of some Weezer albums. A tour with cult favourite Something For Kate and heavy airplay on national radio station Triple J of first track "Asleep In Perfection" saw the EP sell slowly but quite steadily, staying in the lower half of the Australian top 100 singles chart for some time. Lyrically, the idea of Waltz, according to Glenn Richards, was to explore the idea of the waltz as a metaphor for domestic bliss/drudgery. It eschewed the loud and messy approach of Memes, being largely acoustic and melodic. "Asleep In Perfection" was perfect; a waltz ballad not dissimilar in some ways to Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over", with a nagging melody and several hooks. "The Moth Ball" was even better and "Departure" sent tingles down the spine of everyone who listened to it. Predictably, Richards grew to hate the success of "Asleep In Perfection", and referred to it as "Piece Of Shit" in concert.
Augie March were becoming notorious for their hot-and-cold approach live; on a good day they were the best band in the world, and on a bad they were the worst. This stemmed partly from their dislike of rehearsing and partly from a belief that the spontaneity and inspiration of a good day were worth the shit gigs.
Finally, in 2000, they released their first album, Sunset Studies, to unanimous critical acclaim. Sunset Studies was a logical progression from Waltz, but also noticeably a great leap forward. "Asleep In Perfection" - placed on the album at the insistence of the record company - sounded out of place, lesser. Where the highlight of Waltz was Richards' angelic vocals, reminiscent of a Jeff Buckley or Thom Yorke, the band's now-predictable disdain for getting put in a box with the likes of Coldplay, George and Travis saw the focus of Sunset Studies turn elsewhere, Richards singing in a cracked whisper or in the lower registers of his voice more often than not.
The focus of Sunset Studies was instead Richards' songwriting, which (this album made clear) was of the quality of the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. While most lyricists are content to write throwaway lines about sex and drugs and rock and roll or stream of consciousness absurdities, Richards' lyrics on Sunset Studies were full of poetic technique and devices - alliteration, assonance, puns, wordplay, internal rhymes and archaic words - but also grounded in reality, painting an evocative, sometimes nostalgic and sometimes harsh, picture of the dwindling of the old traditional Australia of past.:
"...in a den of quitters, in a hall of hosts
Between worn out waltzes and wedding toasts
I heard a man confess that what he struggles with most
Is the freedom, for so long,
Without a strong enough voice to tell him what's wrong
Without a will, without a prayer, without a passionate song to sing..."
- from "Sunset Studies", Augie March.
A long, long, but strikingly consistent album, it wasn't all about the lyrics; Richards' vocal melodies were Beatlesque (even swiping a little "Norwegian Wood" for part of the verse melody of "Tasman Awakens"), subtle, complex and ultimately insidious; while it's not immediate, you will get "The Good Gardener (On How He Fell)" stuck in your head. The arrangements were also diverse but ultimately consistent, ranging from the 50s rock and roll of "The Offer" to the sea shanty of "Heartbeat and Sails" to the feedback and guitar effects of "The Hole In Your Roof" to the spooky closer "Owen's Lament".
At some point between the recording and release of Sunset Studies, Rob Dawson, a long-time friend of the band (who played on Memes) officially became a member of the band, on keyboards and piano. Tragically, in early 2001, he was killed in a car accident in country Victoria, devastating the rest of the band and everyone who knew him. Kiernan Box, keyboard player for Melbourne's The Blackeyed Susans, eventually replaced him in the band.
In late 2002, they released their second album, Strange Bird, also to predictable and unanimous critical acclaim. Where the lyrical focus of Sunset Studies was on Australia's past, Strange Bird is a record of the here and now. Musically, it's more confident, louder, angrier, and more intense. For those that hadn't heard the likes of "Future Seal" from the Memes era, the likes of "This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers" were a bolt out of the blue. Who would have thought that the Augie March of the sedate, largely muted Sunset Studies was capable of such power and force, that Richards could spit out words (which criticise Australia's policy towards refugees, and generally compare Australia to hell, for good measure) as well as Nick Cave or Bob Dylan at their best, or had any inclination to scream the word "train"? Other highlights were "The Night Is A Blackbird", the heartbreakingly direct and emotional ballad about Dawson, the jazz-influenced "The Keepa", the uptempo "Addlebrains", about the disparity between the many homeless and the politicians in Canberra, Australia's capital, and "Brundisium", which isn't a patch on the stunning, brutal live version, but which still packs a punch.
Their sound is impossible to describe, but, if the songs they've covered live are any indication, Split Enz, Will Oldham, Dire Straits, Huey Lewis and the News, The Beatles, Del Shannon, The Pogues and The Church are influences on the band. The band recently released "Little Wonder" as a single, with a striking video involving a fish suit, and are currently playing their last shows before they head overseas for the first time (New Zealand doesn't count) to play some shows in Europe.
Some Augie March lyrics (and analyses) have found their way to E2: