PEOPLE OF THE GAME
Catching up with Cam Avery.
Interview • AUS • Culture
"It came to a point where on the weekends instead of playing 36 or 72 hole tournaments, I wanted to go and watch concerts and play music. I remember the day I was scheduled to play The Melville Glades Championship, that same weekend there was an Oasis concert and I went and saw them play instead."
I really wanna touch base on both golf and music because you’re really good at both. At some point you had to make a decision which path you wanted to go down right?
Yeah, when I was 20 and was playing off a pretty low handicap at an elite level of golf I started playing in another band. It came to a point where on the weekends instead of playing 36 or 72 hole tournaments, I wanted to go and watch concerts and play music. I remember the day I was scheduled to play The Melville Glades Championship, that same weekend there was an Oasis concert and I went and saw them play instead.
Not a terrible band to give up 36 holes for i guess..
Right! We had to keep good averages to play in state teams and I remember foregoing my averages to go and watch Oasis. I just went to Brett Rumford who kinda raised me as a golfer and mentored me through my younger years and saying to him “I think I wanna make things not win things”.
You’ve certainly made some amazing music, how did you get introduced to the game of golf?
There was a guy named Ben Unbehaun, he was a state junior development officer and would travel around to all the primary schools in Perth with rubber golf balls and teach a program called “Go Go Golf”. We’d smash these rubber golf balls around with real 7 irons on the oval and I had a bit of a knack for it. I was around 11 or 12 at the time, I’d never played golf before. He then put me in the talented identification program which was run by the state golf foundation and one of the local public golf courses so it sort of went from there.
Sounds like a great way to get introduced to the game, what became your home course?
Royal Perth Golf Club. I remember that's when I started taking golf pretty seriously. I didn't really have a coach, but I was pretty good and could hit the ball far, I had all the tools. One day I was at a junior clinic and a guy called Ian Fowler wanted to get me involved in Royal Perth. So we drove down in the middle of the day and I signed up for a junior membership. I didn't think it would cost my parents too much money at the time, which was lucky. That's where I ended up meeting Brett Rumford, he ended up mentoring me not only through golf, but as a young adult through my teenage years. We became really close friends, he taught me how to think my way around a golf course, how to chip and putt, he has the best short game in the world and I ended up being a groomsman at his wedding.
How did you get introduced to music?
I got introduced to music by my Mum. She was a very talented singer and sang on a boat that would go down Swan River, which is how she met my father. She was a singer on the boat and my Dad was a captain of the boat, they met and hit it off. She would perform at casinos and on boats so music was always around me. Then when I went to high school I remember wanting to learn how to play guitar. Golf wasn't very popular with the girls when you were that age (laughs). Especially back then when we were even dorkier. I loved playing music and I was practising a lot. I would play a lot of Jack Johnson songs. I got into a band with some classmates around the age of 17. When I was 19 and left school I had learnt enough songs to play cover gigs, I had like 20 songs I could play and started getting gigs at Clancy’s Fish Pub in Fremantle. We were playing 3 or 4 gigs a week, we’d just play covers and make semi good money. I had disposable income and I'd just moved out of home and into a share house with my mates, we were drinking beers and I remember it being really fun. We’d play Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night gigs. I slowly started writing music, writing tunes with a couple guy’s named Terry Matheson and Adam Duncan that I went to school with. Adam and I then started a band with a guy named Clint Oliver, we played a couple gigs with some of the guys from the band Pond. I really had fun writing music and writing my own songs, I got a lot of fulfilment out of that. Then I realised I wanted to do that over playing golf, it was just cooler to me. I was playing golf well, I was playing the Lake Macquarie Championship’s and travelling interstate with state teams at the time. I ended up meeting Sophie Lions, Kevin’s wife. We became good friends and would end up at family functions together all the time. One day she asked me if I wanted to come see her friend's band play that weekend. She thought I'd really like them, it turned out to be Tame Impala. So I went to the gig and Sophie introduced me to Kevin Parker. They’ve now been married with kids which is wild to think about, I still talk to Soph everyday and we travel together on tour. I didn’t join Tame Impala right away, we had all moved in together, Kevin asked me if I wanted to join and originally I said no because I had my own shit going on, which was stupid. A couple years later I was opening for them on a US tour with my own band which was called The Growl, half way through that tour Nick didn't want to play bass for Tame anymore, he wanted to focus on Pond so Kevin asked me again if i wanted to play Bass for them. My answer at the time was “I don't play bass”, He said “I've seen you play bass, you can play bass fine”. I was also playing drums in Pond at the time but I took him up on it.
That’s an unreal story.
Yeah it's been 10 years since I joined Tame Impala.
Wow 10 years, that’s a huge accomplishment. Do you have a proudest moment as a musician?
I’ve played a lot of big shows with Tame, playing Glastonbury with Tame is one of them. There's so many now, we’ve been doing fun stuff for a long time. We just did this show in Brazil with hundreds of thousands of people attending. I’ve played The Royal Albert Hall with the Arctic Monkeys, that was really fun but If i had to pick one, it would be playing Glastonbury with Tame Impala in 2018. We headlined the other stage, headlining Glastonbury on any stage was always a dream of mine growing up. It’s my favourite place and it’s well publicised how much I love Glastonbury. Getting to headline there is probably my proudest moment. The other would be when I performed with the Arctic Monkeys. I ended up singing a song on the Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino Album for them. I got up at The Albert Hall with the Arctic Monkeys and played that song, I sing the Chorus on “She Looks Like Fun”.
Al Turner was like “why don't you come out and play 3 or 4 songs with us”? He was so successful so young and I was such a huge fan of his in the early parts of my music career and still am. If you told me when I was a kid I’d get to play with him and The Royal Albert Hall one day I wouldn't have believed you.
Must be insane standing up there and seeing a couple hundred thousand people staring at you.. Do you have a proudest moment as a golfer?
I remember playing the Lake Macquarie Championship in Newcastle, have you been to Newcastle?
Of course I have, lovely part of the world.
There’s a links course there and they have an amatuer event called the Lake Macquarie Championship’s every year. One of my proudest moments was competing there. Danny Lee won it, I shot two under on the final day and Danny shot ten under on the last day and won the Championship by ten strokes, I ended up coming eighth. What I remember was the captain of the state team, Gavin Reed had MC’d so he followed me around the final day. Me coming home and shooting 70 at one of the bigger amatuer events in the country was a pretty proud moment for me. I felt like I was part of the best young Australian golfers at that time.
It must’ve been a great feeling to know you had that in you, what other golfers were in the field that week?
I can't remember who else was there that week. My contemporaries at that time were guys like Jason Day, I'm a little older than Cam smith but other great Aussie golfers like Rick Kulacz and Michael Sim. There were so many good golfers, right when I started playing bigger Amatuer events J Day was still an amatuer. They had this TV show called “The Cut '' and he was on the show. I think about it now because these guys are all my age and I do wonder what could have been.. Back then there was a little bit of money in golf, now it's such a popular mainstream sport. I wonder what would've happened if I got a scholarship and came to America to play golf, how different my life would be if I'd gone that way. I’ve seen so much of the world and done cool stuff playing in Tame Impala, I wouldn't change it for the world. I love playing music but I wonder if I'd stuck with golf what could’ve happened. I could be on the LIV tour making 100 million dollars Jackie.
You’d still be a rockstar, just two completely different contrasts. One is up at four in the morning at the course, training and getting ready to tee off at an event and the other hasn’t slept, still up at four in the morning doing other fun stuff. What’s the best foursome you’ve ever been in?
I used to just love playing with my mates and just cruising around the course. My greatest memories playing golf are with Brett Rumford, Gavin Reed and Lincoln Reemeyer. Gavin is a teaching pro now, Lincoln is the head pro at Margaret River Golf Course and Brett Rumford is one of the best short game golfers in the world and one of my best mates. I played with young pros growing up, I was the worst golfer out of all my mates.
"Kevin Parker by a mile, the mans a genius. I love watching him make things, the way his mind works musically."
Who’s your favourite person to play music with?
Kevin Parker by a mile, the mans a genius. I love watching him make things, the way his mind works musically. Growing up I always thought I'd eventually meet someone who was better than him, someone cooler and a better producer, I still have not met that person.
He sure does know how to make good music. Top 5 courses around the world?
Number one has to be Fisher Island, number two is Dallas National, number three National Golf Links, four is Austin Country Club, number has to be an aussie course so i'll go with The Cut in WA.
5 favourite venues to play music?
Oh Jack, that's hard. Glastonbury is number one, Madison Square Garden second, Royal Albert Hall is number three, The Gorge Amphitheatre is number four and number five is a small one, I think it’d be the Beacon Theatre in New York.
I just saw Crowded House play there.
I love it there. If I could play the Beacon Theatre just once a year for the rest of my life I'd die a happy man.
Have you ever caddied?
Yeah I caddied for Marcus Fraser in the German Invitational. I used to Caddie for Brett Rumford too, the best time was at the New Zealand Open, we came second. Jared Lyle Won that week.
That’s amazing, he seemed like a great bloke.
He was a really good guy, I played with Jared a couple times. He was very chill and a bit of a funny bastard.
Lowest score you’ve ever shot and what course?
It was a 67 around Royal Perth, I was 17. I was playing with Gavin Reed and a couple members.
Do you have a favourite golfer of all time?
He’s the best ever, Tiger by a mile. I don't even have a close second. I was 12 when he won in the year 2000. I have blinders on for everyone else.
Favourite musician of all time?
Tom Waits, do you know who that is?
I do not.
He’s an amazing musician from San Diego, he ruled in New York. Google him, you uncultured swine.
I’ll have to. Why do you love him?
Oh man, he’s just the most unique and the most creative. He played bar room stuff and his album Bone Machine changed my life. This girl gave it to me when I was like 20, I had a crush on her and she was like “have you ever heard Bone Machine?” I was like “what the fuck is that?”. She gave it to me and it literally changed the way I think about music, I was into blues and The Black Keys, when she showed me this my mind was flipped on its head. It's the most creative, awesome stuff I've ever heard. I guess some of it just sounds like noise, very industrial but it's so beautiful in the same way. Like it's got this elegance to it, this honesty, it’s really raw. Waits is a myth in my opinion.
Favourite golf club in the bag right now? I know its not putter
I can't wait, I'm going to KBS tomorrow to get fitted for a new set of bats. I don't know if I have one right now, I guess my hand me down driver. I’ve been hitting that thing pretty good right now.
It's getting boring watching that thing fly 40 yards past me.
Yeah yeah. Favourite Instrument?
Piano! I used to have a grand piano in my apartment in New York. Piano I feel most comfortable, I could just sit around and play that thing all day.
When did you learn how to play Piano?
I played as a kid when I was younger and I played basic piano in my first couple of bands. When I got my own piano in 2013 after I moved to New York I would just play everyday, all day. I started to get good at it, I became a lot more of a bar room piano player and could kind of accompany myself.
I’ve seen you play, very talented mate. What's your 5 favourite pubs?
These are good questions! It's gotta be the South Beach Hotel in Freo number one, number two is The York on avenue B, third is Josies, number four is The Flower Shop, number five is my bar, Jones Bar in Queens. That's just NYC and Perth, I have many other favourites around the world.
There’s too many greats to choose from.. What's your favourite thing to wear on the golf course right now?
I really want to make a pair of golf pants! The answer you wanna hear is my White Kooka Polo, I wear it with everything. I can wear it with shorts and pants. I have the navy one somewhere and I really like that one a lot.
Doesn’t have to be about us mate.
I’m really loving the new golf shoes you got me, the Adidas MC80’s are great. They’re the most comfortable golf shoes I've ever worn. That’d be my answer.
Yeah they’re amazing.. What do you like to wear on stage? Do you think about it?
Nah not really, I usually just wear whatever I put on that day, I guess the most consistent thing is my leather jacket. My Celine leather jacket, it lives on me.
Best golf trip you’ve ever been on?
Fisher Island, my mate is a member there so it's kind of cheating now but it's my favourite. I usually fly into New London and you have to get a mate to pick you up on a boat to take you over to the Island, it takes about 20 mins. Then my mate Mateo Burr picks me up. He's a great guy, he runs a non for profit out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mateo picks me up in his 1965 Chevy pick up and we listen to cassette tapes on the way to the golf club. The course is just so hard, if you're out of position you are so screwed. You don't realise how big it is but when you tip it out it gets so hard. The fourth hole is a 230 yard island green surrounded by water and a 30ft deep bunker on the left. I three putted it last week, I hit a four iron to 40 ft. It just makes you think and you can't really tear it up, as much as you want to.
Yeah I can't wait to get out there with you, it sounds like heaven.
Favourite Australian Golfer?
Adam Scott. I idolised him as a kid, that's why I swing the club the way I do, I wanted to swing it like him. I used to dress like him, I used to get golf bags that looked like his, I played 681 blades like his, I had steel shafted 975 JBS’s. I just wanted to be him.. I’m no shit wearing a pair of Adam Scott style Burberry pants right now as we speak.
He’s every Aussie golfer’s hero. Favourite Australian band?
It’s a tie between The Vines and AC/DC
AC/DC is mine also, Do you have a current home course?
I guess New York Country Club, I play there most with you. You don’t hit it as far as me but you’re good company.
Thanks mate, Garrets the real hero here. Do you hold a handicap right now?
Ok, some quick fire questions to end it.. Favourite Beer?
Draw or fade?
Chip or putt? That's easy we'll just put chip in there for ya…
Pie or sausage roll?
Polo or T-shirt?
Sunrise or sunset tee time?
Walk or ride?
Cap or Bucket?
Stinger or bomb?
I'm not a great stinger hitter so I'm gonna say stinger, but I do hit bombs.
I know mate, Music on course or no music?
Music! I’ve only just started doin it, it’s fun.
Thanks for jumping on the phone mate
No worries, let's play again this week mate