The Vines, for those of you who remember or care, made a really big impact in 2002-2004. I thought that was their entire time in the sun but it turns out they are still going strong.
They are from Sydney in Australia, and while their commercial breakthrough happened just after the turn of the century they had first got together in 1994 as teenagers, consisting of Craig Nicholls (guitar and vocals), Patrick Matthews (bass) and David Olliffe (drums). They seemed to appear out of nowhere in 2001, having rarely been mentioned even by the Australian press, when a small UK indie label, Rex Records, put out a 7″ single featuring a demo version of a track called Factory. The single was given a huge write-up in the NME and in due course the paper began to champion the band which in turn got them a deal on Heavenly Records.
The next single, Highly Evolved, clocked in at just over 90 seconds and was an NME single of the week in March 2002 while the release of the debut LP with the same name was met with huge critical acclaim – one summary said “It’s rare for a band to channel the Velvet Underground, Nirvana, Dandy Warhols and the Beatles within the span of 45 minutes and sound unique, but the Vines have crept into that select category with Highly Evolved.” It was the Nirvana comparisons that got many excited thanks to the often raspy vocal delivery and erratic on-stage behaviour of the frontman.
Two years later, the follow-up LP Winning Ways was released. This time the reviews weren’t so kind despite, or perhaps because of, it being similar sounding to the debut. Craig Nicholls wasn’t happy with things and his behaviour during promotional activities and on stage was of increasing concern – there was even one piece in a magazine which suggested he was going the same way as Kurt Cobain and his life was likely to end just as messily.
In November 2004, following his arrest after an incident in Sydney, he revealed during his court appearance that he had Asperger syndrome, a condition that was confirmed by medical specialists. His treatment and therapy took him out of the public eye for a while and it wasn’t until the release of the 2006 LP Vision Valley that he had to deal with the press to any great extent. Oh and by this time, his long-time friend Patrick Matthews had quit the band which was another difficult issue to deal with.
The new LP got a poor reception and the media didn’t really appear to be all that sympathetic to the singer’s problems. That was the beginning of the end in terms of the band having a worldwide profile, but they have continued to record and gig back home, albeit there have been a number of personnel changes over the years with Craig Nicholls the only constant.
His health has remained a serious issue – tours have been cut short or postponed altogether and then in 2012 he was arrested again on allegations that he had assaulted his parents and injured a responding police officer while resisting arrest.
The Vines have thus far six albums in total, the last being Wicked Nature back in 2014, but gigs in 2016 saw a fair bit of new material aired leading to speculation that a new record was in the pipeline but nothing has yet materialised. If and when it does, then it’s a near certainty that any efforts to promote it will be restricted to Australia.
It’s a shame that Asperger’s has caused all of this as a few of the early songs were more than decent:-