Words by Joseph Carbone
“On one of his songs, there’s a line ‘We could’ve been someone’ – well they want to find out he was someone,” claims The Triffids’ Rob McComb, discussing his younger brother David McComb.
He was a man who personified the connection between intensity, drive and vulnerability, while at the same time having an astonishing command over the language. He was a man who contributed significantly to the Australian and international music scene. He was a man who died tragically in 1999 at the age of 36.
When talking to Rob as well as Graham Lee – both former members of Triffids – it’s clear that despite his untimely death, McComb’s cultural footprint is still very much alive as explored through Jonathan Alley’s documentary. Love in bright landscapes.
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As one of the last events of Melbourne Music Week, a screening of Love in bright landscapes will be shown on February 5, 2022 at the Capitol Theater. The documentary will be followed by a live music showcase titled The Songs of David McComb + The Triffids, with Evil Graham Lee & Rob McComb (the Triffids), JP Shilo & Rob Snarski (Blackeyed Susans), Mick Harvey (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey) and Romy Vager (RVG).
The documentary has been developed over the last thirteen years and explores McComb’s life and legacy through the eyes of his loved ones, including family, friends and former bandmates – many of whom have since passed away.
In addition, his personal poetry and letters are read by the Man Booker Award-winning Australian author, DBC Pierre. McComb praises Alley’s respect for “the importance of Dave as an artist” and notes that “he has done an amazing job by pulling all the strings together.”
The iconic Australian musician was a force to be reckoned with, but despite his frontman roles in numerous bands as well as solo projects, it is clear that his natural genius lay in writing. “Not necessarily songwriting, but words,” Lee separates.
The documentary highlights McComb’s true aptitude for words with Rob, noting that “the depth of his abilities is dizzying”, while also summing up David as his “genius brother” – two words that not only highlight the bond between the two and Rob respect for his brother, but also the weight of such a loss, and how “it still feels very raw” even 22 years later.
Audiences can ultimately expect a celebration of McComb’s life. Although Lee notes that most people who come to watch the documentary “unfortunately know the ending”, he hopes that the showcase after the screening “will make people realize … why Dave was here”.
The set list for the showcase will present a number of songs in McComb’s catalog, including pieces from Blackeyed Susans era, they lost songs by David McComb with on Truck with Sky record, as well as work by Triffids and McComb’s solo repertoire. Rob ensures that each song has “earned their place in a very tight set.” Crossing fingers for a particular song about a street that happens to be wide and expansive …
Both Lee and McComb have highlighted the need to keep their friend and brother alive through music, with Lee noting that “This is the only way to honor Dave and preserve his memories”.
The team that contributed to Love in bright landscapes along with Alley, including Danielle Karalus and Tait Brady, have given the public the opportunity to discover or retrieve an iconic musician.
The accompanying showcase also allows the audience to experience the songs they have just learned about, which ultimately provides a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of the art and the artist.
While one may be tempted to mourn the loss of a musician who is so inherent in Australian culture, it seems quite fitting that when we think of David McComb, as opposed to playing the bittersweet game ‘what if … ? ‘, we cling to Rob’s sight when we he expresses simply: “I enjoy playing the game’ see what he has left ‘.”
You can read another interview with The Triffids from our archives here.
Watch the amazing David McComb tribute and Melbourne Music Week program here.