There is always a sense of musical heritage whenever the John Butler Trio performs live.
The Australian roots-jam band – John Butler, Nicky Bomba and Byron Luiters – are obviously accomplished musicians.
Five platinum-selling albums and shelves stacked with ARIA and APRA awards attest to that. But it is more than that.
It is a respect for their wide range of influences; a sort of folksy harmony with musicians of the past.
Butler says: “I have really eclectic tastes, so do Nicky and Byron, so we don’t really just want to play a rock set, or just a country show or a reggae show.
“We kind of want to play it all – sometimes we want to play it all in one song.
“We try to create a ride, try to create a journey – so you’re not lock, stocking, rocking the whole time, you’re not completely vagueing out in the minimalistic folk the whole time – you’re trying to do the whole thing.
“You give them space and then you give them intensity, some distortion and then some very subtle acoustic.”
The trio will headline the Summer Vineyard Tour 2012 at Peregrine Winery, Queenstown, next Thursday night.
“So everyone can expect variety – an eclectic set and passion you know,” Butler says.
“We really love playing, we have a ball. We enjoy the collaboration with the crowd.
“We’re not there to play for them, necessarily, and they’re certainly not there to clap for us. I like it when we’re making the gig happen together. They’re always the best gigs.”
Butler began his career as a busker in Freemantle, before forming the John Butler Trio in 1996 with other musicians from the current line-up and hitting the road. Knowing what works for a live audience has stood him in good stead.
The trio is one of Australia’s premier bands and recently released limited edition box set Live At Red Rocks.
“Our approach is whatever sounds good for an album sounds good for an album, whatever works live works live.
“Now it’s good when you find the sweet spot between both and that helps if you have played the songs live, and jammed them out a bit and really explored them a bit so then you can bring that experiential quality to the album, you know like Floyd or any of the great bands.
“But there is always a fine line you’re trying to find. The song is the most important thing – that will always be what touches people,” Butler says.
“You know, you’ve got to do a bloody good guitar solo for it to really mean something to most people – there’s Machine Gun, or Star Spangled Banner, or Voodoo Child by Hendrix, but you can’t remember many others.
“So it’s always going to be the song – Jolene, Rocketman – the good songs that touch you, and that’s what you build on,” Butler says.
“If you put a solo, some strings or a breakdown percussion section in the set and it enhances the spirit of the song, go for it.
“The song is the boss and I’m the employee.”