Interview: Lee Naimo / Axis Of Awesome
Axis Of Awesome
Conquering America Four Chords At A Time
By Caitlin Welsh
After ‘evil’ and ‘symmetry’, ‘awesome’ is the third most popular AutoComplete option in Google when you type in ‘Axis of’. When I inform Axis Of Awesome’s Lee Naimo, he’s quite impressed. “The axis of symmetry, especially, has been around for quite a while,” he muses, before confessing he recently had his own surreal AutoComplete moment: “The other day, really stupidly, I was wondering what happens if I typed ‘Lady Gaga is an…’ And I typed ‘i’ as in ‘Lady Gaga is an idiot’ and it came up ‘Lady Gaga is an Illuminati.’ And it came up with this column of things claiming to be proof that she’s in the Illuminati, how she uses all these symbols and things.”
The internet is a wonderful place. Certainly Naimo, and his bandmates Jordan Raskopoulos and Benny Davis, have much for which to thank it. From humble beginnings in the Sydney theatresports and university revue scenes, the rock-comedy trio now have a significant international profile, count compulsive internet oversharer Ashton Kutcher among their fans, and will play three nights at a venue no less venerable than the Sydney Opera House this weekend – and all of this in no small part due to the viral success of ‘4 Chord Song’ on YouTube.
A concoction of Davis’s that dates back to his Sydney University days, ’4 Chord Song’ is a montage of lyrical grabs from dozens of pop and rock hits, sung to a repeating round of the same four chords (think the beginning of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’). Like a comedic Girl Talk mix, the funny comes from the combination of recognition and revelation, as every song fits neatly into the chord structure – an idea so brilliantly simple, it seems amazing nobody thought of it before. The video, in its various official and non-official permutations, has racked up in excess of 17 million YouTube views.
‘4 Chord Song’ is updated regularly as Davis’s prodigious ear discovers more examples; and while this particular act is nudging five years of age, Naimo is showing no signs of four-chord fatigue. “I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to ride Benny’s coattails, and that ‘4 Chord’ has opened so many doors for us,” he says with a laugh, adding that a lot of the Australian material’s had to be excised for the benefit of their upcoming US tour beginning in April this year. “Seeing as we’ve never really toured the States, nobody there has ever really seen ['4 Chords'] live before. So when you go to play a show and a lot of the people have come to see this song – and let’s face it, it’s the reason why a lot of people come to see us live – they still want to see it in person.”
The Axis of Awesome are a ways off becoming the Don McLean of musical comedy, however: “If people come to see ‘Four Chords’ and then stay or become fans of the other material, I guess that’s the goal,” says Naimo.
The US tour will traverse the college circuit and include meetings with television networks – which suggests that big things are on the cards for the boys this year. In fact just weeks ago it was announced that the trio would be managed by the same company as Kanye, and represented by the same agency as 50 Cent. This, I conclude, makes them the most gangsta musical comedy rock band in the world. “Well, they also manage Alanis Morissette,” says Naimo seriously. “So we’re not the whitest act on their books, I guess.”
What: Songs in the Key of Awesome
When: February 4 – 6
Where: The Studio, Sydney Opera House