Formed when all three members were 12-year-old students at Newcastle High School in New South Wales, Australia, Silverchair released their first single, Tomorrow in 1994. It hit #1 locally in their native Oz.
Their debut album, Frogstomp (1995), gave them a US hit while the three band members – Daniel Johns (guitar/vocals), Chris Joannou (bass) and Ben Gillies (drums) – were still in high school. The album couldn’t be more heavily date-stamped “1995” if it tried – it’s as grunge as anything gets. But so was the world in ’95, which bought 3.5 million copies of the album.
The follow-up album, Freak Show (1997), reached #1 in Australia and yielded three Top 10 singles – Freak, Abuse Me and Cemetery. The album was certified gold in the US and double platinum in Australia, with global sales eventually exceeding 1.5 million copies.
By late 1997, the trio had completed their secondary education and, from May 1998, they worked on their third album, Neon Ballroom. Released in March 1999 it also peaked at #1 in Australia, providing three Australian Top 20 singles: Anthem for the Year 2000, Ana’s Song (Open Fire) and Miss You Love.
Johns announced in 1999 that he had developed the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, due to anxiety. He sought therapy and medication while Silverchair added an auxiliary keyboardist, Sam Holloway, for their ‘Neon Ballroom’ Tour. Following the tour, the band announced they would take a 12-month-break.
Silverchair’s fourth album, Diorama (2002) became their fourth #1 album and produced five singles – The Greatest View, Without You, Luv Your Life, Across the Night and After All These Years.
That same year, Johns was diagnosed with reactive arthritis which made it difficult for him to play the guitar and subsequent performances supporting the album’s release were cancelled.
The band announced an indefinite hiatus with Johns saying that it was necessary “given the fact the band were together for over a decade and yet were only, on average, 23 years old”.
Silverchair reunited in 2005 and began recording at Los Angeles’ Seedy Underbelly Studios with the Beach Boys‘ ornate arranger Van Dyke Parks arranging orchestral tracks for the band (as he had on Diorama).
The band toured extensively before releasing the Young Modern album in 2007. On 25 May 2011, they announced an indefinite hiatus.
Silverchair proved beyond any doubt that they were more than just a grunge tribute band during a career in which they branched out before finally splitting in 2011 after unbroken Aussie success.
Hints of staying power were already present in singer/guitarist Daniel Johns’ lyrics. Although his voice was a faithful facsimile of Eddie Vedder‘s, his perspective was distinctly small-town; the band members had mostly spent their lives in Merewether, a former mining suburb of Newcastle in New South Wales.
Their sense of run-down isolation was ramped up on Tomorrow, in which Johns welcomes us to “a little town” where “the water in the tap is very hard to drink”. It sounds more like the sort of dusty, rusty outback hell-hole passed through in Ozploitation B-movies like Mad Max (1979) and Wake In Fright (1971), rather than Merewether’s nondescript, beach-heavy reality and Johns admitted that those early lyrics were TV-inspired, imaginative leaps.