Underground Lovers

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Underground Lovers
Origin Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Genres Indie Rock, Shoegaze, Electronic
Years active 1990–2002, 2009 -present
Labels Shock, Polydor, Mainstream/Shock, Mainstream/Rubber/BMG, Reliant/Fiido/Festival, Silvertone/Zomba
Associated acts GBVG, GB3, Mist & Sea
  • Vincent Giarrusso
  • Glenn Bennie
  • Philippa Nihill
  • Maurice Argiro
  • Richard Andrew
  • Emma Bortignon
Past members
  • Derek J. Yuen
  • Andrew Nunns

Underground Lovers (sometimes stylized as undergroundLOVERS[1]), are an Australian indie rock/electronic band and one of the most lauded music acts in the country's alternative scene throughout the 1990s.[citation needed] The nucleus of the band since its inception has been Vincent M. Giarrusso (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Glenn Bennie (guitar).


Vincent Giarrusso and Glenn Bennie met in high school in suburban Melbourne during the 1970s. Sharing an appreciation for likes of Joy Division, New Order, The Cure and Melbourne's underground electronic/experimental scene, they began collaborating musically whilst studying drama at university. The first fruit of their partnership was a one-off 7" released in 1988 under the moniker Blast.

Underground Lovers officially assembled in late 1989, playing their first gig in May 1990 at Melbourne's Corner Hotel, supporting The Macguffins. In addition to Bennie and Giarrusso, the original lineup featured Philippa Nihill (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Stephen Downes (bass) and Richard Andrew (drums); Maurice Argiro replaced Downes on bass following the first show. Underground Lovers self funded and recorded their self- titled debut with producer Simon Grounds and put it out through Shock Records in March 1991. By the end of that year an EP of newer material, Nice, came out, in addition to a contribution to the Youngblood 3 compilation, "Ripe".

1992 saw a considerable rise in the band's fortunes. They won Best New Artist at the ARIA Awards for their self-titled debut, and supported The Cure and My Bloody Valentine on their Australian tours of that year. In January they entered the studio with producer Wayne Connolly (also of The Welcome Mat), and cut their more layered and experimental second album, Leaves Me Blind. The album came out first in the UK in August through the short-lived 4AD imprint Guernica. By that stage Polydor had signed the Underground Lovers in Australia, going on to release Leaves Me Blind locally in December.

Following an extensive tour of the UK and North America for the first half of 1993, the Underground Lovers enlisted Melburnian electronic producers David Chesworth and Robert Goodge (ex-Essendon Airport) for work on their third album. Richard Andrew left the band around this time. Newcomer, Derek Yuen took his place. Dream It Down would surface in 1994, spawning the Triple J favorite "Losin' It". The album was both critically acclaimed and the band’s biggest commercial success. The band quit Polydor in 1995 and, in a quest for more artistic freedom, set up their own Mainstream label (in conjunction with the big-league indie, Rubber Records).

Also produced by Wayne Connolly, Rushall Station, which came out in April 1996, was their most 'bare bones' recording since their debut. Philippa Nihill left the band during the recording of the album (though she recorded vocals for two tracks). Later that year Giarusso self-published a book, also called Rushall Station, that combined his own song lyrics with a preview of his novel-in-progress, The Bogstar Ritual. The band subsequently received a nomination for Best Independent Release at the 1997 ARIA Awards. Also in 1997 Giarusso and Bennie put out the debut album by their experimental side-project GBVG, titled Whitey Trickstar, in addition to the fifth Underground Lovers album Ways T'Burn. The latter saw a move towards more electronic territory. Drummer Derek Yuen departed the band during the "Ways T'Burn" recording sessions, Autohaze drummer Andrew Nunns filled the drum stool for future touring and recording duties.

Giarrusso and Bennie maintained a low profile for much of 1998, though they did release another GBVG project - a cover of Can's "I Want More". The vocals were credited to a made-up Japanese chanteuse named Mitsuame, who in reality was Triple J and Recovery co-host Jane Gazzo. Maurice Argiro left the band at the end of 1998. Emma Bortignon came on board as bass player and the Underground lovers readied their sixth album Cold Feeling.

Cold Feeling was the Underground Lovers' most electronic-influenced album to date. It also featured minor contributions from The Paradise Motel's Mérida Sussex, and ex-Triffids pedal steel guitarist Graham Lee, among other Melburnian indie musicians. The title track received considerable airplay on Triple J.

Following Cold Feeling, Giarrusso concentrated mainly on finalising his feature film debut Mallboy, which he wrote and directed, and starred Kane McNay of SeaChange fame. Inspired by Giarrusso's work as a social worker, the film focused on a troubled youth and his dysfunctional lifestyle in Melbourne's northern suburbs. The film premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival where it was selected for the highly prestigious Director's Fortnight (at the time only the fifth Australian film to have been selected). It later premiered in Australia at the 2001 Melbourne International Film Festival as closing night film and had a limited release in cinemas soon after (through Buena Vista International). McNay won an AFI Award (Best Actor) for his performance. Giarrusso and Bennie composed and recorded the score for Mallboy, which came out as the unofficial seventh Underground Lovers album in 2001. Further live activity was undertaken that year, to preview newer material - none of which has been recorded or released.

Underground Lovers played shows supporting New Order during their Australian tour in January 2002 before taking an extended break.

It was announced in July 2009 that the "classic" early 1990s lineup of Underground Lovers would reform for an appearance at the Homebake Festival in Sydney on 5 December. In conjunction with the reunion, Rubber Records re-released Underground Lovers' 1990 self-titled album and post-1996 output digitally on iTunes that November. A 'secret' warm-up show was performed on 1 November at Melbourne's The Toff In Town. Well-received club shows in Sydney and Melbourne were also performed in December.

In October 2010, music writers and critics John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell and Craig Mathieson named the album Leaves Me Blind as the 54th greatest Australian album in their book 100 Best Australian Albums.[2]

The band supported Primal Scream for their Melbourne shows in February 2011 and also supported Mark Gardener (formerly of Ride) on his Australian tour in 2012.

Underground Lovers seventh album, Weekend was released in April 2013. It features the energetic rock stylings and elements of electronica that are now a signature of the band. ‘Weekend’ was created with longtime collaborators Wayne Connolly (recording engineer) Tim Whitten (mix engineer ), Don Bartley ( mastering) and a new addition to the production crew, Tim Prince (recording engineer).

Related projects[edit]

Glenn Bennie has an ongoing solo project named GB3. Rubber Records released the first GB3 album Circlework in October 2003, which was a collaboration with Philippa Nihill.

The second GB3 album Emptiness Is Our Business was issued to critical acclaim in August 2006. The collaborators on the album were Sarah Blasko, Steve Kilbey, Philippa Nihill, Grant McLennan of the Go Betweens, ex-Frente! vocalist Angie Hart, Sianna Lee from Love Outside Andromeda, Stephen Cummings, and Adalita from Magic Dirt amongst others.

A third GB3 album, Damaged/Controlled, released in 2010, was largely co-written and recorded with Steve Kilbey. Philippa Nihill provided vocals for the track "Nectarine", which was also accompanied by an animated video created by Maurice Argiro.

Throughout the 2000s, Giarrusso started developing a number of film and music projects with funding from private and government bodies including Godless, a feature film that was originally slated for production in 2007. That year he also re-emerged under the moniker Mist and Sea - predominantly a recording project in collaboration with Jason Sweeney and Cailan Burns of Pretty Boy Crossover. Their first album Unless was released by Popfrenzy Records in July 2007.[3] Giarrusso also performed live around that time with a new band called Raining Ropes, featuring former members of Bergerac and The Paradise Motel. However, these projects have since remained dormant.

In 2009 Giarrusso performed a couple of shows in Melbourne as Underground Lovers In LA, backed by bassist Todd Hutchinson (Tim Steward Band), as well as cellist/keyboardist Zoe Barry, guitarist Jed Palmer and drummer Steve Griffiths from the Hope Diamond. Both sets consisted of a selection of Underground Lovers songs.

After officially leaving Underground Lovers in 1996, Philippa Nihill released the Dead Sad EP in November 1996, a full-length album A Little Easy in 2000. She also collaborated with Australian singer and film maker Paula Kehoe on the Saoi CD This Drowning Is Dreaming in December 2006.





Live albums[edit]

  • Evil: Underground Lovers 94-97 (self-released, 2000)

As GBVG[edit]

  • Whitey Trickstar (Technical Revolution of Sound, 1997)

Contributions to Compilations[edit]

  • Youngblood 3: "Ripe" (Rooart, 1991)
  • The Velvet Down Underground: "I'll Be Your Mirror" (Birdland, 1992)
  • Screaming at the Mirror Three: "Get to Notice" (Giggle Records, 1992)

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • "Round and Round" (Shock, 1991)
  • "Looking For Rain" (Shock, 1991)
  • "Lick The Boot" (Shock, 1991)
  • "Nice (EP)" (Shock, 1991)
  • "Ladies Choice" (Polydor, 1992)
  • "I Was Right" (Polydor, 1992)
  • "Promenade (EP)" (Polydor, 1993)
  • "Your Eyes" (Polydor, 1993)
  • "Las Vegas" (Polydor, 1994)
  • "Losin' It" (Polydor, 1994) — AUS #93[4]
  • "Splendid (EP)" (Polydor, 1995)
  • "In My Head" (Mainstream, 1996)
  • "Takes You Back/Undone" (Mainstream, 1996)
  • "Rushall Station" (Technical Revolution of Sound, 1997) - as GBVG vs Sonic Animation
  • "Starsigns" (Mainstream, 1997)
  • "From 'Jumbled in the Common Box'" (Mainstream, 1997)
  • "I Want More" (Reliant, 1998) - as GBVG featuring Mitsuame
  • "Cold Feeling" (Reliant, 1998)
  • "Infinite Finite" (Reliant, 1999)
  • "'Trackies' Remix" (featuring Pauly B) (Silvertone, 2001)
  • "'Au Pair" (Rubber, 2013)



  1. ^ Weiss, Krissi. "undergroundLOVERS : Weekend". The Brag. Furst Media Pty Ltd. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  2. ^ O'Donnell, John; Creswell, Toby; Mathieson, Craig (October 2010). 100 Best Australian Albums. Prahran, Vic: Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 978-1-74066-955-9. 
  3. ^ "Mist & Sea: Sprawling Sounds" in Mess+Noise, September, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Australian (ARIA Chart) peaks:

Further reading[edit]

  • Mathieson, Craig. The Sell-in, Allen & Unwin, 2000.
  • MacFarlane, Ian. The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, Allen & Unwin, 1999.

External links[edit]