The Red Paintings are an orchestral art rock band originally formed in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. The band consists of lead vocalist and songwriter Trash McSweeney on guitar, sequencing and samples, with a revolving line-up across the globe. McSweeney drives all the band's musical and staging concepts. The current touring line up as of 2015 is Alix Kol (violin, Backing vocals); Ginny Eck (bass), Hiroshi Kamoshita (drums) and Emma Baker (cello).
The band is known for their unique, confronting and intense themed performances incorporating elements of theatre and art, often dubbed "orchestral sci-fi art rock". Band members often dress in elaborate themed costumes, ranging from geisha outfits, alien costumes and more recently, sea creature/Neptune themes. They employ elaborate and eccentric stage props to support their shows, varying from statues, giant robots, children's toys, literary and Tim Burton-themed props and self-made video projections. The act are renowned for inviting members of the audience and local artists to paint on blank canvasses and human canvases during their shows to reflect their own feelings in the live music set.
The band has a strong underground fanbase in Europe, Australia and the United States, and their debut studio album was produced almost entirely on fan donations. Their many costumes, props and street performances are often organised and produced with help from their large volunteer street teams. They are also known for their vocal support of animal rights issues, and in particular, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The band and concept was formed in 2000 in Geelong, Victoria by songwriter Trash McSweeney after he suffered a violent seizure. As a consequence of the seizure McSweeney was purported to have developed colour-sound synethesia. During this period they had little success breaking into the local music scene. They mainly managed to confirm shows in battle of the bands gigs, however, despite being successful in these, they still were unable to break through. While on a holiday in Brisbane, Queensland, McSweeney received positive feedback and show offers at an impromptu gig, and thought relocating there might give the band better chances. Frustrated with the Geelong scene, McSweeney offered other band members the opportunity to relocate, but eventually moved to Brisbane and formed a new lineup. During this period the band produced three independent EPs, Angel Flummox, Reality (Ahead of Schedule) and Cinema Love.
In Brisbane they soon became known for their unique shows, experimentation and friendliness. After some initial hardships, McSweeney soon found like-minded musicians in Josh Engelking (percussion), Bo Whitton (bass guitar), Ellen Stancombe (violin) and Wayne Jennings (cello). The newly formed lineup soon released the "Rain" single. Based on the single and performances, McSweeney soon began to feature heavily in local media, becoming known for his revolutionary views on music, eccentric interviews/performances and the influence of his colour synesthesia on his music and art. In 2003 the band conducted two extensive national tours, including sets at the coveted Livid and Big Day Out festivals. Following this success, a live performance was recorded with Brisbane community radio station 4ZZZ FM and was released in 2004 as the album The Virgin Mary Australian Tour Acoustic/Strings Album, which received yet more positive feedback. They also headlined the 2004 Valley Fiesta, and played support for Australian singer–songwriter Missy Higgins. 2005 saw the band conduct a two-week tour of China, and release the Walls EP with Modern Music/Sony BMG to critical acclaim. The EP received high rotation play on the national Triple J radio station and generated plenty of new fans. The title track, "Walls", entered the stations "Net 50" chart at #3 and charted for fifteen weeks. Sometime around this release bass player Bo Whitton left the band and was replaced by Amanda Holmes.
The next release from the band in 2006, the Destroy the Robots, would see the emergence of the Robot Trilogy concept. Also, after a period with no regular percussionist, current drummer Andy Davis was hired. Clashes with their Modern Music label/Sony BMG label at the time over creative direction saw the band ending its relationship after the EP was released, and becoming independent of a label or outside management. The band toured Australia's capital cities and regional centres for the Destroy the Robots EP. In each capital city, unannounced 'Robot Marches' were staged, where fan-made giant (up to 9-foot) robots were paraded through pedestrian malls.
Recognition and radio airplay from this tour saw them picked as support for Mogwai, and play at The Great Escape (festival). Off the back of this success, their sounds reached the ears of Amanda Palmer, of The Dresden Dolls, who contacted the band with an offer to support their 2006 Australian tour. The tour was a great success for the band, (although the band's van was broken into twice and equipment and paintings were stolen) and they were invited to continue as support for the tour in New Zealand, the UK and US. Before leaving for the US, long-time cellist Wayne Jennings departed the band, and upon returning to Australia, new cellist David Sue Yek joined the band after answering a university advertisement. The band received significant attention in the US, and were able to release a live EP and documentary DVD from the tour; Live in Minneapolis and Seizure & Synesthesia. The band returned to play two special Christmas-themed charity events, and released the third EP in the Robots Trilogy, the Feed the Wolf. This EP was funded entirely from fan donations and was also the last album bassist Amanda Holmes featured in. 2007 saw the band on another large national Australian tour for this EP, with accompanying street parades featuring genetically engineered animals marching into a giant Ark. The EP received good airplay on Australian and US radio stations, and spawned the single and music video for "We Belong in the Sea", which received top honours on YouTube.
In June 2007, songwriter Trash McSweeney announced his plans for recording their debut LP record, and based upon the successful model of the Feed the Wolf EP, made a request on the band website for fan donations to support this endeavor. He was met with mixed reactions from the Australian music industry, but nonetheless fans responded and he achieved his goal, raising A$40,000 towards their independent LP. The band also played further support for Amanda Palmer's 2007 solo tour in Australia.
In 2008 the band embarked on another Australian tour and also their first headlining tour of the West Coast of the United States. The tour was successful and saw them receive radio airplay, including on Los Angeles Indie 103.1FM, Portland's KNRK and San Francisco's Live 505 radio stations. The band were also invited to play at the prestigious Musexpo 2008. During this tour singer Trash McSweeney also met and became personal friends with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society captain, Paul Watson. This partnership led the band to play a benefit show for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on the eve of the departure of MY Steve Irwin from Brisbane; and later that year a collaboration with Paul Watson covering the Midnight Oil song "Beds Are Burning", titled "Whales Are Dying" and accompanying music video. The collaboration, and McSweeney's outspoken support, received wide media coverage in the US.
2009 saw the band tour performing sporadic free/benefit shows in Australia, as the band took time off to work heavily on the upcoming album and for McSweeney to also personally direct the music videos for it. They did however support the national tour of punk band Mindless Self Indulgence, and open shows for the Australian tour of poet Saul Williams. In an effort to complete the record, the band relocated to Los Angeles in preparation for their album release. A long period of post-production and mastering attempts followed, taking place in Brisbane, Winnipeg, Toronto, Los Angeles and Nashville. Through this time, the work in progress reportedly generated positive reviews and interest from United States and UK record labels, although McSweeney still appeared determined to release their LP independently. While in the United States, McSweeney also played several solo shows and teamed up again with Captain Paul Watson to perform at Worldfest 2009.
2011 saw the band back on the road with a 20-date tour in the US which included shows with Alien Ant Farm, Chad Smith (RHCP) and his new band, a main stage appearance at SubZero Festival in San Jose, being hand picked by The Posies for their Los Angeles show in July and support for German industrial act Atari Teenage Riot. McSweeney spent most of the year finalising the mix on the album in Los Angeles.
In 2012, after a lengthy period away from their home country, the band posted a message on their website, stating that if they got 1,000 likes on their new Facebook page, they would return to tour Australia. The fans answered the call and the band returned in January for The Black Paintings tour across the country, accompanied by the release of the first single from the album, "Streets Fell Into My Window". The innovative Alice in Wonderland-themed music video picked up a slew of awards at festivals worldwide and generated significant interest from long-time fans over the album's imminent release. During the ensuing months, McSweeney continued working on plans for releasing the full-length album worldwide, as well as touring the globe. In addition, elaborate plans for the release were revealed involving launching helium balloons in thirteen countries, accompanied by cam-corders and USB sticks for fans to chase in each city during the release of the album.
In August, it was announced the band would be touring Australia again, playing an intimate run of club shows for the 'Chinese Whispers' tour.
In October, dates for the band's return to the UK were announced, with a 40-date tour spanning UK and Europe. Despite enduring difficult conditions during the European winter, the band received positive reviews from shows and saw their new track "You're Not One of Them" played on over 140 radio stations across the UK and Europe. With influential stations such as KFM, Kerrang!, BBC and Q all playing the track, this opened the act to a new market and saw them picked up by UK agency Northern Music (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Opeth).
In January, Trash McSweeney opened the Brisbane and Melbourne shows for the 65daysofstatic (UK) tour, performing TRP material in a stripped-back format and hosting an Alice in Wonderland-themed after party for fans.
In March it was announced the band had teamed up with The End Records (The Prodigy, Fat Boy Slim) for the release of a new EP in North America, featuring "You're Not One of Them" and a series of B-sides featuring popular Australian radio hits from previous releases. The band were also announced as main support for Mindless Self Indulgence on their US theater tour during April and May. It was also announced that the band would release You're Not One of Them in the UK and Europe through iconic UK distributor Rough Trade in April and tour with prog rockers The Pineapple Thief on their sold out UK tour in May.
Following these shows, Mindless Self Indulgence invited The Red Paintings to tour as the main support for their theater tour across the UK and Europe in November and December 2013. Soon afterwards, seminal cult act ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead announced the band as the opener for their North American tour in July 2013. The band also revealed its plans to release and tour the album The Revolution Is Never Coming with a new stage show beginning in Australia in June, with an international release date set for 1 October, along with a massive 4-part world tour to follow.
During their US tour in July, the band announced the worldwide release of their new music video 'Wasps,' which premiered on American music TV channel [[mtvU]] on 15 July. After a successful US tour with Trail Of Dead (where TOD bandleaders Conrad & Jason joined the band painting on stage at numerous shows), The Red Paintings performed their first UK festival dates at Y Not Festival in Derbyshire & Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, to rave reviews.
In September, the band announced that Smashing Pumpkins bassist Nicole Fiorentino would be performing with them on US television program AXS TV, on 7 October. The band also announced plans for a promotional tour of the USA, with shows in San Diego, Los Angeles and more. The tour will be followed by extensive touring throughout the UK & Europe with Mindless Self Indulgence.
In November, the band announced further US tour dates with Spacehog & Sponge for December, with headline club dates in Chicago and more to follow.
In 2014, The Red Paintings continued their 'Wasps' world tour in the UK & Europe, with a 22-date headlining tour visiting the UK, Germany, France, Belgium and The Netherlands in February and March.
In February it was announced the band would return to the UK in May, playing a run of dates with British band InMe. Following this, they returned to Australia as support for Gary Numan, before heading back to the UK for performances at Rebellion Festival and hosting a performance with a youth orchestra in Corsica, France.
Late 2014 saw the band return to North America for an extensive tour in support of The Birthday Massacre and New Year's Day. Immediately afterwards, the band announced a 40-date headlining tour of the US in January and February, only to find after a handful of dates that their agent had not contracted or confirmed many shows. The band changed agencies to pursue a headline club tour of the US in May and June.
Meanwhile, The Red Paintings were announced as main support for Scottish post-rockers Mogwai at the opening night of Adelaide Festival in March 2015. The full band returned to Australia to perform, with Trash McSweeney and Alix Kol joining Japanese act Vampillia for their Adelaide Festival performance the following week. Trash and Alix also opened for UK act 65daysofstatic and Perth's Tangled Thoughts of Leaving at shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The band then returned to the UK after being invited to join The Birthday Massacre on their sold out UK dates, including a show-stopping performance at Whitby Goth Festival, with the festival's founder declaring them 'a band of the future.'
After wrapping up the 'It Is As It Was' tour in North America in June, the band released a video for 'It Is As It Was' which premiered on UK site Kerrang and coincided with the announcement of a headline tour of the UK for November.
The band also announced their return as national support for ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead in Australia and New Zealand, as part of Trail's 20th anniversary shows. The dates marked the first full national Australian tour for TRP in 2 years as well as their first New Zealand shows since performing with the Dresden Dolls 9 years earlier.
The Red Paintings continued touring relentlessly, joining German industrial act Die Krupps for a run of sold out clubs across Europe throughout September.
In November, the band kicked off their headline tour for the UK and announced plans to head to Japan for the first time in December.Albums
The Virgin Mary Australian Tour Acoustic/Strings Album (2004)
The Revolution Is Never Coming (2013)
Angel Flummox (1999)
Reality (Ahead of Schedule) EP (2000)
Cinema Love EP (2002)
Walls EP (2005)
Destroy the Robots (2006)
Feed the Wolf EP (2007)
You're Not One of Them (2013)
"We Belong in the Sea" (2007)
"Whales Are Dying" (2009)