There may be a few more silver hairs on the heads of their audience these days, but Mental As Anything has still got the energy and the musical skills – if not the whisky.
“I love performing more than I ever had and I do it mostly on cups of tea pretty much,” laughs lead singer Greedy Smith. “I can’t do it on the whisky anymore.”
“I think that it’s great to have the ability to be able to do things that are familiar and to find things in your life that bring you joy – performing, I just love it.”
The Mentals are one of the key members of the lineup of Apia Good Times 2017, with other friends from the same era – The Black Sorrows, Vika and Linda Bull, Colin Hay (Men at Work) and Deborah Conway.
Smith confides that (in what could be a shock for those of us over 50) the Mentals have been together and touring for more than 40 years now. However, while it may seem as though it’s more of the same with this tour, “we get to do it with some pretty groovy performers this time”.
Naturally, too, all the musicians know each other pretty well and have shared the odd stage over the years. “I have known Joe Camilleri from way, way back,” he says. “We play occasionally together – we played recently together in Bright [Victoria] a couple of weekends ago. Colin Hay? We toured with Men at Work on their two biggest tours through America and Canada in ’82 and ’83. It will be interesting to play back again with Colin.
“And Deborah Conway, … we used to play together a lot when she was in Do Re Mi. We go back that far. I have known all of these people quite well from way back. I have played with the Bull sisters a few times, but hopefully I will get to sing with them this time, which would be great.
“It’s unchartered territory really,” Smith adds. “The whole concept of the Good Times tour it seems to have gone into its own thing – it has its own format. A bit of music from each of the acts and then all get together and do some stuff at the end, which is great.”
Greedy Smith is as passionate as ever after 40 years
And if you are thinking of reliving your younger years on the pub scene, this could be the tour for you. You will probably know the words to all of the songs, says Smith.
“I think the brief in this one is to play the songs that people know, which is pretty much what we do in our live set anyway,” he says. “We do have a brand new EP coming out just before the tour, so we will put a little bit of that, but we are mainly concentrating on getting through some of the classics. People always like “Live It Up” and “The Nips Are Getting Bigger”.
And because the Mentals have been such an integral part of the Australian music scene over the years, there is no doubt that people have a special connection to some of their songs. Smith says he enjoys talking to the audience after the show and hearing how their music has touched people’s lives.
Sometimes the song will bring back memories of great nights out, or first dates and wedding songs … “and that’s quite life affirming, I think”, says Smith.
Like any group of people in their 60s (Smith is 61), the Mentals have had their challenges over the years – singer Martin Plaza is battling cancer at the moment and hopes to make the tour, but is waiting to see how his health is.
Relive the 80s with Mental as Anything's music video for 'Live It Up'
“We have had our ups and downs as everybody has had and we have gone through them together. And that’s quite comforting,” Smith adds.
“Music is a kind of social glue and it’s not a bad glue to get stuck on yourself.”
The Apia Good Times 2017 tour is returning for its fifth consecutive year and touring nationally. Tickets at www.apiagoodtimes.com.au
What is your favourite song from Mental as Anything?