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- Posted on Mar 11th 2010 12:30PM by James Sullivan
Or Vegas visitors could give in to human nature. It's a scientific fact: all sentient beings are genetically predisposed to appreciate the music of Motown. At the Imperial Palace, onetime Australian boy band Human Nature is earning five-minute standing ovations for its exuberant Motown revue, presented by soul legend Smokey Robinson. "They're kicking butt," Robinson, who is set to deliver the keynote address at SXSW, tells Spinner. "They haven't had the exposure in the US I think they should."
After a year-long Vegas residence, the four members of Human Nature are on the verge of signing on for an additional two years. Spinner spoke with founding member Andrew Tierney about Robinson, American audiences and how they chose their band name.
Your Motown albums have been a change for your longtime fans in Australia, yet so far American audiences only know you for doing Motown.
The white guys who do Motown? [Laughs] We haven't shied away from that. It's always been a dream of ours to come over here and play in the big leagues. To bring Motown back in an unlikely form is kind of exciting for us. I say onstage every night, "I bet you never expected four white guys singing this stuff. Neither did we!" It instantly disarms people. We acknowledge that it doesn't make sense, but they see the respect we give the music, and the soul and passion we put into it. The challenge now for us is to carve a niche out for ourselves.
When the signs says "Smokey Robinson Presents," that tells the audience that you guys must be legit.
We're constantly amazed that he's been so open and giving. We were lucky enough to talk to Carlos Santana the other night, and he told us the two people who started music the way we know it were Curtis Mayfield and Smokey. Smokey tells us, "I'm happy to be there when you need me, but I really want it to be about you." If Smokey believes in us, then I'd say we're doing something right.
Aside from the hip-hop generation reintroducing classic soul through samples, you've got 'American Idol' featuring all these timeless classics.
I hadn't thought of the 'Idol' thing, but these songs are getting exposure on that level that they haven't had in years. I definitely think the downloading generation is a big factor. So many people have been coming for multiple shows. A guy last night brought his sons because he loved the show so much. We're proud of that. In Australia, we had kids right up to grandmas. The music of Motown cuts through everything.
You toured with Michael Jackson, but did his song have anything to do with your band name?
No, it didn't. We called ourselves the 4 Trax for about five years. When it was time to change, we went through a whole list of names. Mike, my brother, suggested Human Nature. It helped represent what we're like as people. When we toured with Michael, his dressing room was at the side of the stage, so he'd listen to us while he was getting his costume and makeup done. When we met him and he told us how much he liked what we were doing, it was a pretty surreal moment. We'd all grown up such huge fans. It's not like we were hanging out with him in catering every night. There was a lot of buildup when we got to meet him. It was quite near the end of the tour.
Did you discover classic soul through your parents?
More through our mentors. When we started, we were doing a '50s doo-wop sort of thing, and our mentor said, "You should listen to the great Motown groups: the Four Tops, the Temptations." His name was Jack Neary. He brought the Beatles to Australia. He was in a vocal group when he was younger called the Four Guardsmen. He loved the Ink Spots, the Platters, the Four Freshmen, all the vocal groups that predated Motown. I think he saw himself in us.
I understand you might be signing for another two years in Vegas.
We're feeling really good about things. I think we'll be here for a while. It's exciting.