Crowded House are a pop rock band formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1985. Founding members are New Zealander Neil Finn (vocalist, guitarist, primary songwriter), and Australians Paul Hester (drums) and Nick Seymour (bass). Later band members included Neil's brother, Tim Finn, and Americans Mark Hart and Matt Sherrod. Crowded House are referred to as The Crowdies by Australian fans.
Originally active from 1985 to 1996, the band have had consistent commercial and critical success in Australia and New Zealand and international chart success in two phases, beginning with their self-titled debut album, which reached number twelve on the US Album Chart in 1987 and provided the Top Ten hits, "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong". Further international success came in the UK and Europe with their third and fourth albums, Woodface and Together Alone and the compilation album Recurring Dream, which included the hits "Fall at Your Feet", "Weather with You", "Distant Sun", "Locked Out", "Instinct" and "Not the Girl You Think You Are". Queen Elizabeth II bestowed an OBE on both Neil and Tim Finn, in June 1993, for their contribution to the music of New Zealand.
Founding drummer Hester left in May 1994, citing family reasons, but briefly returned for their Farewell to the World concerts in Melbourne and Sydney in 1996. Neil Finn had decided to end the band to concentrate on his solo career and the Finn Brothers project with Tim. On 26 March 2005 Hester committed suicide, aged 46. In 2006, the group re-formed with new drummer Matt Sherrod and have since released two further albums, which have both reached number one on Australia's Album Chart.
Neil Finn (vocals, guitar, piano) and drummer Paul Hester (ex-The Cheks, Deckchairs Overboard) were former members of New Zealand band Split Enz, which spent part of 1975-6 in Australia and several years in England. Neil is the younger brother of Split Enz founding member Tim Finn, who joined Crowded House in 1990 on vocals, guitars and keyboards for the album Woodface. Bassist Nick Seymour (ex-Plays with Marionettes, Bang, The Horla) is the younger brother of singer-songwriter and guitarist Mark Seymour of the now defunct Australian rock group Hunters & Collectors.
Formation and name change (1984–1986)
Finn and Hester decided to form a new band during the Split Enz farewell tour, Enz with a Bang, during November and December 1984. Seymour approached Finn during the after party for the Melbourne show and asked if he could audition for the new band. The Mullanes formed in Melbourne in early 1985 with Finn, Hester, Seymour and guitarist Craig Hooper (ex-The Reels) and first performed on 11 June. They secured a record contract with Capitol Records, but Hooper left the band before the remaining trio moved to Los Angeles to record their debut album. At Capitol's behest, the band's name was changed to Crowded House, which alluded to the lack of space at the West Hollywood apartment they shared during the recording of the album Crowded House. Former Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner produced the track "Can't Carry On" and was asked to join the band. He toured with them in 1988, but was unable to become a full member due to family commitments.
Early albums (1986–1990)
Thanks to their Split Enz connection, the newly formed Crowded House had an established Australasian fanbase. They began by playing at festivals in Australia and New Zealand and released their debut album, Crowded House, in June 1986. Capitol Records initially failed to see the band's potential and gave them only low key promotion, forcing the band to play at small venues to try and gain attention. The album's first single, "Mean to Me", reached the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart top 30 in June. It failed to chart in the US, but moderate American airplay introduced US listeners to the group.
The single, "Don't Dream It's Over", was released in December 1986 and reached number one on the New Zealand Singles Chart and number eight in Australia. It was also a big international hit, reaching number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number one in Canada. It remains the group's most commercially successful song. In March 1987, the group were awarded 'Best New Talent', along with 'Song of the Year' and 'Best Video' for "Don't Dream It's Over", at the inaugural ARIA Music Awards. The video also earned the group the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist that year. The song has often been covered by other artists and gave Paul Young a hit single in 1991. It was also used for a New Zealand Tourism Board advertisement in its 100% Pure New Zealand worldwide promotion from October 2005. In May 2001, "Don't Dream it's Over" was voted 7th in a poll of the Best Australian Songs of Alltime by the Australasian Performing Rights Association.
In June 1987, a year after its release, Crowded House finally reached number one on the Kent Music Report Album Charts. It also reached number three in New Zealand and number twelve on the US Billboard 200 album chart. The follow-up to "Don't Dream it's Over", "Something So Strong", was not as successful as its predecessor but reached the top ten in New Zealand, America and Canada. "World Where You Live" and "Now We're Getting Somewhere" were also released as singles with some minor chart success.
As the band's primary songwriter, Neil Finn was under pressure to create a second album to match their debut and the band joked that one potential title for the new release was Mediocre Follow-Up. Eventually titled Temple of Low Men, their second album was released in July 1988 with strong promotion by Capitol Records. The album did not fare as well as their debut in the US, only reaching number 40, but it achieved Australasian success, reaching number one in Australia and number two in New Zealand. The first single "Better Be Home Soon" peaked at number two on both Australian and New Zealand singles charts and reached top 50 In the US, though the following four singles were less successful. Crowded House undertook a short tour of Australia and Canada to promote the album, with Eddie Rayner on keyboards. Multi-instrumentalist Mark Hart, who would eventually become a full band member, replaced Rayner in January 1989. After the tour, Finn fired Seymour from the band. Music journalist Ed Nimmervoll claimed that Seymour's temporary departure was because Finn blamed him for causing his writer's block, however Finn cited "artistic differences" as the reason. Seymour said that after a month he contacted Finn and they agreed that he would return to the band.
Early nineties (1991–1994)
Crowded House took a break after the Canadian leg of the Temple of Low Men tour. Neil Finn and his brother Tim recorded songs they had co-written for their own album, Finn. Following the recording sessions with Tim, Neil began writing and recording a third Crowded House album with Hester and Seymour, but these tracks were rejected by the record company, so Neil asked Tim if Crowded House could use the Finn songs. Tim jokingly agreed on the proviso that he become a member, which Neil apparently took literally. With Tim as an official member, the band returned to the studio. The new tracks, as well as some from the previously rejected recordings were combined to make Woodface, which was released in July 1991. The album features eight tracks co-written by Neil and Tim, which feature the brothers harmonising on lead vocals, except on the sombre "All I Ask" on which Tim sang lead. The track was later used on AIDS awareness commercials in Australia. Five of the album's tracks were Neil's solo compositions and two were by Hester, the exuberant "Italian Plastic", which became a crowd favourite at concerts and the hidden track "I'm Still Here".
"Chocolate Cake", a humorous comment on American excesses that wasn't taken well by some US critics and sections of the American public, was released in June 1991 as the first single. Perhaps unsurprisingly it failed to chart in the US, however it reached number two on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song peaked at number seven in New Zealand and reached the top 20 in Australia. The second single, "Fall at Your Feet", was less successful in Australia and New Zealand but did at least reach the US Hot 100. The album reached number one in New Zealand, number two in Australia, number six in the UK and made the top 20 in several European countries. The third single from Woodface, "Weather With You", peaked at No. 7 in early 1992 giving the band their highest UK chart placement. By contrast, the album had limited success in the US, only reaching number 83 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart.
Tim left Crowded House during the Woodface tour in November 1991, part-way through the UK leg. Performances on this tour, at the Town and Country Club in London, were recorded live and given a limited release in Australia, while individual songs from those shows were released as B-sides of singles in some countries. In June 1993 the New Zealand Government recommended that the Queen award an OBE to Neil and Tim Finn for their contribution to the music of New Zealand.
For their fourth album, Together Alone, Crowded House used New Zealand-based producer Martin Glover (aka Youth) and invited touring musician Mark Hart (guitar & keyboards) to become a permanent band member. The album was recorded at Karekare Beach, New Zealand, which gave its name to the opening track, "Kare Kare". The album was released in October 1993 and sold well internationally on the strength of lead single "Distant Sun" and followup "Private Universe". It topped the New Zealand Album Chart, reached number 2 in Australia and number 4 in the UK. "Locked Out" was the album's first US single and received airplay on MTV and VH1. This track and "My Sharona" by The Knack, which were both included the soundtrack of the film Reality Bites, were bundled together on a jukebox single to promote the film soundtrack.
Saying farewell (1994–1996)
Crowded House were mid way through a US tour when Paul Hester quit the band on 15 April 1994. He flew home to Melbourne to await the birth of his first child and indicated that he required more time with his family. Wally Ingram, drummer for support act Sheryl Crow, temporarily filled in until a replacement, Peter Jones (ex-Harem Scarem, Vince Jones, Kate Ceberano's Septet) was found. After the tour, the Finn Brothers released their album Finn in November 1995. In June 1996, at a press conference to announce the release of their greatest hits album Recurring Dream, Neil revealed that Crowded House were to disband. The June 1996 concerts in Europe and Canada were to be their final performances.
Recurring Dream contained four songs from each of the band's studio albums, along with three new songs. The album debuted at number one in Australia, New Zealand and the UK in July 1996. Early copies included a bonus CD of live material. The album's three new songs, which were released as singles, were "Instinct", "Not the Girl You Think You Are" and "Everything Is Good for You", which featured backing vocals from Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. Paul Hester returned to the band to play drums on the three new tracks.
Worried that their goodbye had been too low-key and had disregarded their home fans, the band performed the Farewell to the World concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House on 24 November 1996, which raised funds for the Sydney Children's Hospital. The concert featured the line-up of Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, Mark Hart and Paul Hester. Tim Finn and Peter Jones both made guest appearances. Support bands on the day were Custard, Powderfinger and You Am I. The concert had one of the highest live audiences in Australian history with the crowd being estimated at between 120,000 and 250,000 people. Farewell to the World was released on VHS in December 1996. In 2007, a double CD and a DVD were issued as to commemorate the concert's ten-year anniversary. The DVD featured newly recorded audio commentary by Finn, Hart and Seymour and other new bonus material.
Between farewell and reunion (1996–2006)
Following the 1996 break-up of Crowded House, the members embarked upon a variety of projects. Neil Finn released two solo studio albums, Try Whistling This (1998) and One Nil (2001), as well as two live albums, Sessions at West 54th (2000) and 7 Worlds Collide (2001). 7 Worlds Collide saw him performing with guest musicians including Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr, Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway of Radiohead, Tim Finn, Lisa Germano and Betchadupa (featuring his son Liam Finn). A double CD and DVD of the shows were released in November 2001.
Tim Finn had resumed his solo career after leaving the group in 1992 and he also worked with Neil on a second Finn Brothers album, Everyone Is Here, which was released in 2004. Paul Hester joined The Finn Brothers on stage for three songs at their Palais Theatre show in Melbourne at the end of 2004. Nick Seymour also joined them on stage in Dublin, where he was living, in 2004. Peter Jones and Nick Seymour joined Australian group Deadstar for their second album, Milk, in 1997. Seymour later worked as a record producer in Dublin, producing Irish group Bell X1's debut album, Neither Am I in 2000. Mark Hart rejoined Supertramp in the late 1990s and later toured with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. In 2001 he released a solo album, Nada Sonata.
Paul Hester worked with children's entertainers The Wiggles, playing "Paul the Cook". He also had his own ABC show Hessie's Shed in Australia from late 1997. He formed the band Largest Living Things, which was the name rejected by Capitol Records in favour of Crowded House. It was on Hessie's Shed that Finn, Hester and Seymour last shared a stage, on an episode filmed as part of Finn's promotion for his solo album Try Whistling This in 1998. Finn and Hester performed "Not the Girl You Think You Are" with Largest Living Things, before being joined by Seymour for "Sister Madly" and a version of Paul Kelly's "Leaps and Bounds", which also featured Kelly on vocals. In late 2003, Hester hosted the series Music Max's Sessions. Hester and Seymour were reunited when they both joined singer-songwriter Matt O'Donnell's Melbourne-based group Tarmac Adam. The band released one album, 2003's Handheld Torch, which was produced by Seymour.
In May 1999 Crowded House issued a compilation of unreleased songs, Afterglow, which included the track "Recurring Dream", recorded when the group were still called The Mullanes and included Craig Hooper on guitar. The album's liner notes included information about the songs, written by music journalist David Hepworth. Some limited-release versions included a second CD with songwriting commentary by Finn. The liner notes confirmed that Crowded House had no plans to reunite at that time. A 2003 compilation album, Classic Masters, was released only in the US, while 2005 saw the release of the album She Will Have Her Way, a collection of cover versions of Crowded House, Split Enz, Tim Finn and Finn Brothers songs by Australasian female artists. The album reached the top 5 in Australia and New Zealand.
On 26 March 2005 Paul Hester was found dead, after hanging himself from a tree in a park near his home in Melbourne. He was 46 years old. His obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald stated that he had fought "a long battle with depression." Following the news of Hester's death, Nick Seymour joined The Finn Brothers on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where the three played in memory of Paul. A snare drum with a top hat on it stood at the front of the stage as a tribute. Writing in 2010 Neil Finn said, "When we lost Paul it was like someone pulled the rug out from underneath everything, a terrible jolt out of the dark blue. He was the best drummer I had ever played with and for many years, my closest friend."
Reunion and Time On Earth (2006–2009)
In 2006 Neil Finn asked Nick Seymour to play bass on his third solo album. Seymour agreed and the two joined up with producer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Johns to begin recording. As the recording sessions progressed it was decided that the album would be issued under the Crowded House band name, rather than as a Neil Finn solo album. In January 2007, the group publicly announced their reformation and on 23 February, after 20 days of auditions, former Beck drummer Matt Sherrod joined Finn, Seymour and Mark Hart to complete the new line up. As Sherrod and Hart had not participated in the initial sessions, four new tracks were recorded with producer Steve Lillywhite including the album's first single "Don't Stop Now".
On 17 March 2007 the band played a live show at their rehearsal studio in front of around fifty fans, friends and family. The performance was streamed live as a webcast. The two-and-a-half hour set included some new tracks, including "Silent House" co-written by Finn with the Dixie Chicks. A concert onboard The Thekla, moored in Bristol, followed on 19 March. Crowded House played at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, Arizona on 26 April as a warm-up for their appearance at the Coachella Festival on 29 April in Indio, California. They also played at the Australian Live Earth concert in Sydney on 7 July. The next day, Finn and Seymour were interviewed on Rove Live and the band, with Hart and Sherrod, performed "Don't Stop Now" to promote the new album, which was titled Time on Earth. The single was a minor hit in Australia and the UK. The album was released worldwide in June and July. It topped the album chart in New Zealand and made number 2 in Australia and number 3 in the UK.
On 6 December 2008 Crowded House played the Homebake festival in Sydney, with warm up gigs at small venues in Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney. For these shows the band were augmented by multi-instrumentalist Don McGlashan and Neil's younger son, Elroy Finn, on guitar. On 14 March 2009 the band joined Neil's older son, Liam Finn, on stage for three songs at the Sound Relief concert in Melbourne.
Crowded House began recording their follow-up to Time on Earth in April 2009, at Finn's own Roundhead Studios. The album, Intriguer, was produced by Jim Scott who had worked on The Sun Came Out by Neil's 7 Worlds Collide project. In August 2009, Finn travelled to Los Angeles to record some overdubs at Jim Scott's Los Angeles studio before they began mixing tracks. The album was released in June 2010, in time for the band's appearance at the West Coast Blues & Roots Festival near Perth, Western Australia. Finn stated that the album contains some, "Unexpected twists and turns" and some songs that, "Sound like nothing we've done before." Intriguer topped the Australian album chart, reached number 3 in New Zealand and number 12 in the UK.
Crowded House undertook an extensive world tour in 2010 in support of Intriguer. This was the first album where the band regularly interacted with fans via the internet on their own re-launched website, Twitter and Facebook. The band sold recordings of the shows on the Intriguer tour on USB flash drives and made individual live tracks available for free download.
A new compilation album, The Very Very Best of Crowded House, was released in October 2010 to celebrate the band's 25th anniversary. It includes 19 of the band's greatest hits and is also available in a box set with a 25 track DVD of their music videos. A deluxe digital version, available for download only, has 32 tracks including a rare 1987 live recording of the band's version of the Hunters & Collectors song "Throw Your Arms Around Me". No mention of this album has been made on the band's official website or Twitter page, which suggests that they are not involved with its release.
Following the success of the album She Will Have Her Way in 2005, a second album of cover versions of Finn Brothers songs, He Will Have His Way, was released on 12 November 2010. All tracks on this album are performed by Australasian male artists. In November 2011 there was an Australian tour by various artists involved with the "She Will Her Way" and "He Will Have His Way" projects, under the name "They Will Have Their Way." The tour featured Paul Dempsey, Clare Bowditch, Seeker Lover Keeper (Sarah Blasko, Sally Seltmann and Holly Throsby), Alexander Gow (Oh Mercy) and Lior.
Former Crowded House drummer Peter Jones died from brain cancer on 18 May 2012 aged 49. A statement issued by the band described him as, "A warm-hearted, funny and talented man, who was a valuable member of Crowded House."
Songwriting and musical influences
As the primary songwriter for the band, Neil Finn has always set the tone for the band's sound. Allmusic said that Finn, "Has consistently proven his knack for crafting high-quality songs that combine irresistible melodies with meticulous lyrical detail." Neil's brother Tim was an early and important musical influence. Neil first saw Tim play with Split Enz in 1972, he said, "That performance and those first songs made a lasting impression on me." His mother was another significant musical influence, encouraging him to listen to a variety of genres, including Irish folk music and Māori music. She would play piano at family parties and encourage Neil and Tim to accompany her.
Album covers, costumes and set design
Bassist Nick Seymour, who is also an artist, designed or co-designed all of the band's album covers and interior artwork. He also designed some of the costumes worn by the group, notably those from the cover of the group's debut album Crowded House. Seymour collaborated with Finn and Hester on the set design of some of their early music videos, including "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Better Be Home Soon". Since the band reunited, Seymour has again designed their album covers.
The majority of the covers for the band's singles were not designed by Seymour. The artwork for "Pineapple Head" was created by Reg Mombassa of Mental As Anything. For the first four albums Mombassa and Noel Crombie, who had been the main designer of Split Enz's artwork, assisted Seymour in creating sets and costumes. For the Farewell to the World concerts Crombie designed the set, while Mombassa and Seymour designed promotional materials and artwork.
- Current members
- Neil Finn - vocals, guitars, keyboards (1985–1996, 2006–present)
- Nick Seymour - bass (1985–1989, 1989–1996, 2006–present)
- Mark Hart - keyboards (1993–1996, 2007–present; touring member - 1989-1993)
- Matt Sherrod - drums (2007–present)
- Former members
- Paul Hester - drums (1986–1994, 1996; died 2005)
- Tim Finn - vocals, guitars, keyboards (1990–1991; guest appearance - 1996)
- Peter Jones - drums (1994–1996; guest appearance - 1996; died 2012)
- Touring members
- Gill Civil - keyboards (1986)
- Eddie Rayner - keyboards (1987, 1988)
- Mike Gubb - keyboards (1988)
- Liam Finn - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals (2007–2008)
- Davey Lane - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals (2007)
- Membership timeline
- Studio albums
- Crowded House (1986)
- Temple of Low Men (1988)
- Woodface (1991)
- Together Alone (1993)
- Time on Earth (2007)
- Intriguer (2010)
Crowded House has won several national and international awards. In Australia, the group has won eleven ARIA Awards from 26 nominations, including the inaugural Best New Talent award in 1987. The majority of their ARIAs were awarded for their first two albums, Crowded House and Temple of Low Men. They won eight APRA Awards from eleven nominations and were nominated for The New Zealand Silver Scroll for "Don't Stop Now" in 2007. "Don't Dream It's Over" was named the seventh best Australian song of all time in 2001. In 1987, Crowded House won the American MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist for their song "Don't Dream It's Over", which was also nominated for three other awards. In 1994, the group was named International Group of the Year at the BRIT Awards. In 2009, "Don't Dream It's Over" was ranked number fifty on the Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time, voted by the Australian public.
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Image from Discogs