The Screaming Tribesmen were one of the most enduring and powerfully melodic bands to emerge from the rich Australian underground rock scene of the 1980s. If the indie chart-topping single “Igloo” had been their only legacy they would have been long remembered, but they produced a stack of other memorable songs and toured every nook and cranny of Australia, as well as throughout the US and Europe.
Led by guitarist-vocalist Mick Medew, a veteran of cult band The 31st, the Tribesmen emerged in Brisbane in 1981 as a ‘60s-influenced power trio. The original line-up of Medew, John Hartley (bass) and Murray Shepherd (drums) produced an independent EP and two singles before dissolving. Relocated to Sydney, Medew formed several versions of the band before settling on guitarist Chris “Klondike” Masuak (Radio Birdman, the Hitmen), bassist Bob Wackley (Razar) and drummer Warwick Fraser (Feather, Hoi Polloi). This line-up would last seven years and firmly established itself with the “Date With A Vampyre” and “Top of the Town” EPs before signing to American label Ryko and releasing the “Bones and Flowers” album.
The Screaming Tribesmen had the happy knack of being able to marry power and melody, sprinkling a set of strong originals with lesser-known covers borrowed from the Dictators, the Verterbrats, Paul Collins Beat and Lou Reed. Medew had (and still possesses) one of the most distinctive voices in the country and Masuak’s tightly-coiled and lyrical lead-guitar was an ideal foil. Wackley and Fraser were the inspiring engine room that provided Rolls Royce propulsion.
A successful 1988 US tour eventuated and the band’s “I Got A Feeling” single topped the charts in Los Angeles and gained heavy MTV play. Back in Sydney, an anti-pollution rally in front of 200,000 people at iconic Bondi Beach turned into a farewell and the band dissembled shortly after. Medew continued with various line-ups and focused on Europe, releasing the “Take Cover” EP and “Blood Lust” and “Formaldehyde” albums before calling it a day in 1993.
Masuak would rejoin the HITMEN for 2 SHOWS @ The Sandringham Hotel and then a rejuvenated Radio Birdman as well as play in his own bands, the bluesy Juke Savages and the rocking and still active Klondike’s North 40. He now lives in Spain. Medew fronts Brisbane-based Mick Medew & the Rumours and plays solo shows. Wackley lives in the US and Fraser in Sydney, both staying musically active in local bands.
Interest in the band remained strong down the years with retrospective and collections like “The Savage Beat of the Screaming Tribesmen” (Shock) and “Anthology 1982-93” (Raven) strong sellers.
The offer to reform couldn’t have come at a better time with members able to arrange their schedules to be in Australia. It’s an opportunity for old fans and those who only know this legendary band through recordings to assemble behind the rallying cry: “All Hail the Tribesmen.”