Craig Nicholls of The Vines
Homebake, Sydney, December 2003
|Birth name||Craig Robert Nicholls|
31 August 1977 |
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Genres||Alternative rock, garage rock revival, post-grunge, grunge (early), indie rock, neo-psychedelia, garage punk|
|Occupations||Musician, artist, songwriter|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, bass guitar, keyboards|
|Associated acts||Rishikesh, The Vines|
|Fender Stratocaster, Garage Spalt & Scala Custom|
Craig Robert Nicholls, (born 31 August 1977) is an Australian musician, best known as the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the Australian alternative rock band The Vines, of which he is the only mainstay member. He formed the band in 1994 in Sydney, New South Wales.
Nicholls was born on 31 August 1977 and grew up in Sydney. Terry Nicholls, his father, was the guitarist and vocalist in a 1960s group, The Vynes. Later Terry worked as an accountant for Sony Music Australia. Nicholls' older brother is Matt, he has an older sister and a younger sister, Jessica. Terry taught him to play guitar during childhood. He preferred listening to The Beatles, painting art works and skateboarding. He grew up as "a loner... I never socialized. I stayed at home and listened to music all day. Music became a mystical world".
Nicholls attended Marist College Penshurst until he dropped out of high school during Year 10. He enrolled in an art school for six months to study painting. He supported his ambition to be a musician by working in a fast food service job at a local McDonald's restaurant in South Hurstville. There he met future band mates bass guitarist Patrick Matthews and drummer David Oliffe. To form a quartet named Rishikesh, Nicholls invited his school-mate Ryan Griffiths to join on guitar. Nicholls provided the band's name, Rishikesh, from the city in India where The Beatles had attended an ashram. Reviewing early gigs, newspapers would misprint the name as 'Rishi Chasms', so Nicholls decided to change it to The Vines—a reference to his father's group.
Nicholls had never written songs until The Vines started playing gigs. Early performances included playing for backyard parties, and a regular spot on a local radio station. They gathered a following in Sydney and eventually reached the notice of Capitol Records. Once he started writing songs, he loved it and continued to write more, the writing was a good outlet for him. Nicholls wrote "Factory", the band's first single, which became NME's Single of the Week in November 2001. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2002, The Vines won 'Best Breakthrough Artist - Single' for "Get Free", which was also written by Nicholls. At the APRA Awards of 2003 he won the 'Breakthrough Songwriter Award'.
Griffiths, Heald and Rosser eventually quit from their roles in the band, and Nicholls returned with new band members for the release of the Vines' independently released sixth album Wicked Nature, described as a "comeback" by Darren Levin of the Faster Louder online music publication. Nicholls also produced the album that was recorded with Tim John (bass) and Lachy West (drums) of the band The Griswolds. Regarding the departure of his former bandmates, Nicholls explained in August 2014: "It’s not the most comfortable thing [to talk about]… It’s just a shame that it didn’t work out."
Several of Nicholls' paintings are used for Vines releases, including for the albums Highly Evolved, Winning Days (self portrait only), and singles "Highly Evolved", and "Outtathaway!". Nicholls' work on Highly Evolved was nominated for "Best Cover Art" at the 2002 ARIA Awards.
By 2002, Nicholls had gained a reputation as an erratic performer. In August, The Vines' performed "Get Free" on Late Show with David Letterman with Nicholls trashing Hamish Rosser's drum kit. In December, they were prevented from performing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after Nicholls damaged the set during a rehearsal. His behaviour was seen as "a sign of stress and mental exhaustion."
In late May 2004, the Vines appeared at a promotional show for Triple M radio, where Nicholls bleated at the audience and demanded they not talk during their performance. When he heard a laugh, he said to the crowd, "Why the fuck are you laughing? You're all a bunch of sheep. Can you go baa?". An official photographer, Janie Barrett, snapped a picture of Nicholls who allegedly kicked out at her, smashing her camera. As a result, Matthews left the stage and never played with The Vines again (he later joined Youth Group) and Triple M banned the group's music from being broadcast by their station. Subsequent performances on their Australian, United States and European tours to promote their second album, Winning Days, were cancelled.
In November 2004, Nicholls faced assault and malicious damage charges at Balmain Local Court in Sydney, he was accompanied by his brother Matt, and his manager and friend Andy Kelly. It was revealed that Nicholls has Asperger syndrome, which is a neurological disorder of the autism spectrum.
His condition had been suspected by Nicholls' guitar technician, English road crew veteran Tony Bateman, who had toured with The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and Black Sabbath. Bateman felt there was something clinically different with Nicholls and downloaded information about Asperger syndrome, handing it over to Kelly. Professor Tony Attwood, an autism spectrum disorders specialist, confirmed the diagnosis after seeing Nicholls and his family in August. The judge dropped all charges against Nicholls on the condition that he seek immediate treatment. Nicholls yelled "I'm free!" upon leaving the courthouse. He was under medical treatment and therapy for six months, and gave up his intake of fast food and marijuana habit. He spoke about his condition in subsequent interviews.
In November 2008, The Vines cancelled shows in Australia and Japan, as Nicholls' mental health had deteriorated over the previous month, and he required further help.
Nicholls was arrested on 13 October 2012 at his Sydney home on allegations he had assaulted his parents, and injured a responding police officer as he resisted arrest. He appeared before a judge at Sutherland Local Court on 17 October 2012, where a trial date of 14 November was set. The charges include "two counts of domestic assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, stalking and resisting arrest."
In a 2014 Rolling Stone Australia article, Nicholls revealed that he moved back into the family home in 2013 after receiving "medical intervention". On the subject of his mental health, he said:
I have been out of my mind a couple of times in my life ... To me, that's just what I'm like. 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.
In an August 2014 interview with the DIY publication, Nicholls explained that he manages his condition by rarely socialising, stating that "I’m just following my instincts so… that’s alright." During the same interview, he also revealed that he shuns 21st century technology, such as smartphones and computers, as he prefers to minimise his responsibilities to live "like a kid". Nicholls maintained that music has "really been the thing that’s saved me".
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