Wally De Backer — better known as Gotye — isn’t your typical musician. He’s talented, restless, unpretentious and loyal. It’s rarer still for an artist to imbue all those traits after they’ve landed one of their country’s biggest ever hits.
After a whirlwind two years which have brought a No. 1 across the globe with “Somebody That I Used to Know” featuring Kimbra, Grammy Awards and membership among the music elite, the Australian artist has gone back to where it started: He’s hitting the road to play drums with his old band, the Basics.
The Melbourne trio — which comprises De Backer, Kris Schroeder and Tim Heath — released a new single earlier this year, “So Hard For You,” and they’ll tour around the country this September and October.
“We’re doing shows just because we’re three friends who haven’t seen much of each other for the last few years and we’re keen to play music together again. It’s as simple as that, really. (It’s) to enjoy it,” De Backer tells Billboard.
The Basics have four studio albums to their name. The most recent, “The Basics,” was offered as a free download in October 2010. But their success obviously isn’t in the same solar system to what Gotye has become used to. Whether De Backer and his bandmates try to take the group to the next level, is a wait-and-see situation.
“We’re all just keen to see how this tour goes and how we feel,” De Backer notes. “Maybe we’ll write some new things. It’s quite open for me at the moment. I haven’t been writing while I’ve been touring so heavily with the Gotye stuff. I’m keen to try new things.”
Those “new things” might include making more Gotye music. Or it might be something radically different.
“My process is one of trying a lot of things out and seeing what seems to works. I’ve tried before to think about doing something that’s more structured and more conceptual. And I’m into still trying that. I like to explore, and see what feels like the (right) energy when you fish around. Whether that ends up being a Gotye song or album or a Basics song or album or another project, I don’t know really. I’m just trying to do something that feels interesting and exciting.”
Gotye’s remarkable two years have included a long stint at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat which saw him become the first solo Australian male artist to lead the sales survey since Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” in 1981. There’s since been three Grammy Awards and four Billboard Music Awards. “Somebody” has sold more than 13 million copies globally and has more than 410 million hits on YouTube. Even Prince is a fan. On Monday night, Gotye added another APRA Award to his bulging trophy cabinet, for most performed Australian work overseas.
And how has the success changed him? “I don’t really know yet. Apart from having a bunch of teenagers recognize me in the doctor’s surgery this morning, and giggle excitedly and nervously for 10 minutes while I read a magazine and waited for my appointment. I only get it in some places, not everywhere. That’s one thing that’s changed,” he notes, “but I don’t know if that’s changed me.”