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Music / The Vines

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Craig Nicholls, the driving force behind The Vines, screaming his damn lungs out into another defenseless microphone.
"Outtathaway!", Highly Evolved, 2002

The Vines are an Australian Alternative Rock band who hit it big worldwide as part of the early 2000s Garage Rock revival. The band is fronted by guitarist and vocalist Craig Nicholls, and the original lineup included Craig's former McDonalds co-worker Patrick Matthews on bass, and David Oliffe behind the kit.

The band formed in 1994, and were initially a Nirvana cover band that eventually began to write their own material. When they did, it became a Grungey take on Beatle-esque British pop music that occasionally veered into psychedelia. Their first single wound up creating a ton of buzz at home and in the UK, and after Hamish Rosser replaced Oliffe, they soon relocated to Los Angeles to record their debut album, which became 2002's Highly Evolved. The album, lead by popular singles "Get Free" and "Outtathaway," made a big splash, going platinum in Australia and gold in the UK and America, and it won them a Rolling Stone cover story. As a result, they were firmly wedged them into the Garage Rock scene of the time, featuring such luminaries as The Strokes, The Hives and The White Stripes.

A follow-up, Winning Days, recorded in New York, was released in March of 2004, preceded by the singles "F.T.W." and "Ride." By this point, Craig Nicholls had developed a reputation for rough, even reckless, performances, highlighted by his garbling of words, writhing around and blithely detuning his guitar during performances. Not only was the band kicked off The Tonight Show With Jay Leno after Craig damaged the set during rehearsal, he had an infamous meltdown during a performance on The Late Show With David Letterman that left Dave visibly flustered. But the Winning Days promotion came to a screeching halt when a performance at Triple M radio in Sydney abruptly ended with Craig Nicholls berating the audience, and striking a female photographer. Patrick Matthews walked out on the band immediately. A resulting court case from the assault charges revealed that Craig deals with Asperger Syndrome, and he was acquitted on the condition that he seek treatment immediately (he did).

After quitting drugs and cleaning up his diet, Craig and a revamped Vines pressed on with 2006's Vision Valley, noted by more focused songwriting and markedly shorter songs. The promotion of the record was cut short after Craig's social struggles caught up with him again. They were dropped by Capitol Records around this time, though the label did release The Best Of The Vines in 2008. Studio album Melodia followed in the summer of that year on the Australian label Ivy League, again with slightly limited promotion.

By the time of the promotion of their fifth album, 2011's Future Primitive, Craig Nicholls was the only original member of the band left, with a rotating rhythm section. This didn't slow down Craig - he wound up writing enough material for a double album, which materialized on PledgeMusic as Wicked Nature in 2014.

Their latest is 2018's In Miracle Land.

Craig's younger sister, Jess Nicholls, has been noted to be Craig's "keeper," a middle person between him and management, and taking care of the Vines' social media. This works out well, since in recent years, Craig's become a bit of a loner, shunning most modern technology like smartphones and computers, and keeping his socializing to a minimum.

Craig is also part of an electronic-oriented side project, White Shadows.

Tropes associated with The Vines include:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Vision Valley. (Especially when paired with the band name.)
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Craig's just swimming in this trope. Justified; he has Aspergers.
  • Epic Rocking: The six-minute "Spaceship" from Vision Valley. Especially lengthy compared to the rest of the record - the second longest song is 2:45. Also, "True Is The Night" from Melodia.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Ballad "Autumn Shade" fades into an abyss of ghostly, wind-like sounds that suddenly give way to the crunchy "Outtathaway."
  • Freak Out: His sensory overload on The Late Show with David Letterman may be one of the most awkward examples of this in television history. This is not an isolated incident.
  • Greatest Hits Album: The Best Of The Vines.
  • Grunge: This band might be one of the last bands left who embraces grunge to this degree. Nicholls has never been shy about his Nirvana influence.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: This, for better or for worse, was what really made their live shows memorable at the height of the band's success. It should be noted that someone on the autism spectrum might have difficulty with excessive noise and bright stage lights. Craig Nicholls, as we know now, gets overstimulated very easily, with one critic pointing out that Craig may have picked the worst career for himself. Stories are plentiful about his behavior, from the above incidents on late night talk shows, to at least one assault charge, to the police being called after a fight with his parents. However, he has made some efforts to clean his life up.
    Craig: When I was younger it seemed cool to be crazy. I'm not trying to be crazy now. I'm trying to be normal. What's important to me is my family and making the albums.
  • I Am the Band: Moreso than ever now, since he's been the only original member for some time.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Craig! Settle down!
  • Metal Scream: For starters, this is how to properly read the page quote.
  • Miniscule Rocking: The shorter, more focused songs beginning with Vision Valley.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Especially live.
  • Refuge in Audacity: "F.T.W." - "Fuck The World." It's half-ironic on Craig's part.
  • Revolving Door Band: As mentioned above, Craig's had a hard time keeping a stable lineup behind him, and judging by interviews, it clearly pains him to talk about it.
  • Sequel Song: Highly Evolved had "Autumn Shade." Winning Days had "Autumn Shade II." Melodia had "A.S. III." And, on a dare from a producer, Future Primitive had "A.S. IV."
  • Strictly Formula: The signature Vines aesthetic of "grunge meets Britpop with hints of psychedelia" is on more or less every single album. While Highly Evolved was over 40 minutes, most albums afterward were little more than a half hour.
  • Terse Talker: Craig's been noted to be a challenging interview. Even when he's not constantly drifting from whatever point he's trying to make, he's hesitant to open up.
  • The Stoner: Craig, until his diagnosis.
  • Title Track: Every record sans Melodia has one.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: There's some clear psychedelia influence in some of the lyrics. Also, it's Craig, so they're often pretty strange anyway.