Main Image: Rhubarb: (left to right) Ian Buchanan, Steve Drinkall, David Drinkall and Caleb James (supplied).
In late 90’s Brisbane, there was a growing band and live music scene, riding on the national success of bands like Custard, Powderfinger, Regurgitator and Screamfeeder.
Every weekend in pubs, cafes, church halls and university campuses, you could find bands like Battered Fish (later Leo Nine), Dumpster, Beanbag and Tonjip plying their trade.
Spearheading that scene was Rhubarb, founded by brothers Steve and David Drinkall, their cousin Paul Harvey and friend Ian Buchanan, who hit the national airwaves in 1999 when they were unearthed by Triple J.
With their song ‘Zero’ on high rotation on the national youth network, Rhubarb opted out of the tried and tested major label route, instead forming Toupee Records with the help of Battered Fish’s Jeremy Bennett.
The indie label would grow to include bands from beyond Brisbane including The Frugals, Antiskeptic, Mayfly and Soulframe.
But it was with the release of album ‘Kamikaze’ and subsequent hit single – the two minute long pop-punk anthem ‘Exerciser’, that Rhubarb gained the attention of the nation. ‘Exerciser’ would rank at number 20 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 1999, and national tours with acts like You Am I, The Whitlams, The Cruel Sea and even Creed would ensue.
In 2002, the band returned with follow up album ‘Slow Motion’; an album that highlighted the band’s songwriting prowess, and the production chops of new band member Caleb James, with tracks like ‘Light on Your Shoulder’ being added to high rotation on Triple J.
That record also received critical acclaim from the nation’s music scribes, with Rolling Stone labelling ‘Slow Motion’ as “totally irresistible” and being included in The Australian’s and The Courier Mail’s top ten albums of 2002.
2004 saw the release of what was to be Rhubarb’s final album ‘Start Again’, with the band employing a full horn section on songs like ‘Let You Down’ and returning to their rock roots on others.
Rhubarb called it a day in 2006, finishing with a sold-out show at iconic Brisbane venue The Zoo, stating that the band lacked the “enthusiasm to keep spending our time and money on what is essentially a pretty self-serving venture.”
But almost 25 years after Rhubarb burst into the national consciousness, the band has finally made all three albums, plus ‘Excerciser: The Singles’ available on all major streaming platforms.
The albums have been re-mixed by Caleb James and remastered by Matthew Gray.
Steve Drinkall told The Music that is was a Hottest 100 flashback that prompted him to finally get the music onto streaming platforms.
“A couple of years ago in the Hottest 100, there was an article about someone remembering these great bands from past Hottest 100s, and they picked five or six kind of forgotten bands, and they put Rhubarb as one of them but also as one of the only Hottest 100 bands that you can’t listen to online. That made me think, ‘Okay, this is getting a bit ridiculous. We need to let people reconnect with it again’. I’m looking forward to what kind of conversations and stuff comes out of the woodwork now that it’s out there again.”