Tim Rogers formed the first version of the band with his school friend Nick Tischler and his older brother Jaimme in December 1989. The band’s name was derived from late-night sessions under the influence of alcohol. This initial line-up was short-lived and by the end of 1990 both Nick and Jaimme had left the band. (In the band’s 1993 song “Jaimme’s Got A Gal,” Tim explains why his brother left.) They were replaced by the group’s one-time sound mixer Andy Kent (bass) and Mark Tunaley on drums.
The band released several EPs and singles in the early 90s, though the real breakthrough came when Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth caught the band performing at the 1993’s Big Day Out festival. Ranaldo also produced their debut album, Sound As Ever. The album went on to win the 1993 ARIA Award for Best Alternative Release. The band was signed to Ra Records, an alternative rock oriented sub-branch of rooArt Records, with U.S. distribution by Restless Records.
After the release of their first album, Tunaley and the band parted ways. He was replaced by Russell Hopkinson (formerly of the band Nursery Crimes), creating the core line-up of the band to the present day. Since then, the line-up has been augmented by Davey Lane of The Pictures on second guitar. Lane is said to have come to the band’s attention via his own work with The Pictures, and by transcribing, with extreme accuracy, the band’s guitar tabs on a You Am I web website. Lane has also said (on the Cream & The Crock documentary) that he almost decided not to be a part of the band, saying he was “fucking up his favourite band by playing in it” after playing his first show with them and stuffing up a bunch of solos.
You Am I had toured the United States beginning in the mid-’90s, including playing with Soundgarden on the Lollapalooza festival, Redd Kross, The Strokes, and Smoking Popes. (Soundgarden first came across them at the 1994 Big Day Out festival) Despite little success in The States, the band became well known throughout Australia.
Further success came with the albums Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily, with both picking up ARIA Awards. Hourly, Daily was the first album released on the Shock label to go to number one in the ARIA charts upon launch. These albums were marked by retro-inspired ’60s bop and folky 12 string melodies, a departure from the band’s earlier hard rock/ grunge sound.
Subtle country influences were apparent on their 1998 #4 Record, that included “Heavy Heart.” A heart- rending, borderline- karaoke inspired ballad… about being dumped by one’s girlfriend.
In 1999, front man Tim Rogers released his first solo album What Rhymes With Cars And Girls.
After an album absence prolonged by touring and record label interference, Dress Me Slowly was released April 2001. Dress Me Slowly was guitarist Davey Lane’s first bona fide appearance on a studio record.
Deliverance was released in 2002, but did not enjoy the kind of critical and commercial success that the band’s earlier work had enjoyed. The band released “Who Put The Devil In You?” as a download-only internet single that year.
In September 2003, the band parted ways with its record label BMG, with whom it had been signed in 1998 after BMG acquired rooArt Records.
In the four years between Deliverance and You Am I’s next album, Convicts, both Davey Lane and Tim Rogers kept busy with their own solo projects. Lane performed at the 2004 ARIA Music Awards as part of the supergroup The Wrights, featuring members of many other Australian rock bands, and in 2005 released an LP with The Pictures, Pieces of Eight. Rogers released two albums with The Temperance Union in this period, Spit Polish in 2004 and the Dirty Ron/Ghost Songs double album in 2005.
On 29 January 2005, You Am I performed at WaveAid, which was to raise money for the relief effort after hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the 2004 Indian Ocean tidal wave disaster. In late 2005, You Am I recorded their seventh studio album entitled Convicts with producer Greg Wales. The title is believed to be a tongue in cheek dig of English people referring to Australians as convicts because of their First Fleet origins. It may also refer to the alternate name used by the band to perform secret gigs during the Hi Fi Way – #4 Record era. The album was released on May 13, 2006 on the band’s new record label, Virgin. The Convicts album was also released in the USA on Yep Roc Records. The band toured America in the fall and summer of 2007 to promote the record.
The band’s 8th studio album, Dilettantes, was released on September 13, 2008, alongside the radio-only single Erasmus. The album debuted at number one on the ARIA Australian Music charts, and number twelve on the overall chart.
You Am I performed at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 14 March 2009 for Sound Relief, a benefit concert for victims of the Black Saturday Victorian bushfires and the Queensland Floods.
In July 2009 You Am I came in at #52 with “Berlin Chair” in Triple J Hottest 100 of all time, voted by the Australian public.
In August 2010, it was announced that they had left EMI to sign with new Sydney label Other Tongues. Their ninth studio album is self-titled and was released on 8 October. The band went on to perform at the 2010 NRL Grand Final & then kicked on a nation-wide tour. The album debuts at #18 on the ARIA charts & #1 on the Australian Independent charts. The album is chock full of subtleties and surprises, from the controlled rocking grandeur of [the first radio single] “Shuck”, to the smouldering [second radio single] “Trigger Finger”, to the Beatles/Beach Boys beauty on “Waiting to be Found”. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear these new songs, which are destined to become YOU AM I classics.
In an interview with music journalist Nick Milligan on Friday 24 September 2010, Tim Rogers said of the new self-titled album, “I’m still bewildered by this record. I haven’t gotten my head around it. It was extraordinary making it and I don’t feel like I’ve finished the creation of it. I’m still yet to understand it. I like that. I think with previous records I felt I understood what went on and what we were supposed to do. What its references were. With this [record] I just let myself freefall into it and get lost in the creation of it. I haven’t got a grasp on it and I’m enjoying the exhilaration of that. I’m still listening to this record wondering who the person was that wrote that… and whether I’d like to meet him.”
You Am I kicked off 2011 with a national tour including a performance at the Soundscape Festival. In June, You Am I performed at the annual Community Cup & then geared up as special guests for the Cold Chisel ‘Light the Nitro’ national tour.
You Am I have chosen their only 2012 festival appearance to be, and first time ever actually, at Queenscliff Music Festival.
The ‘Hi Fi Daily Double’ tour will coincide with the reissue of their first three albums Sound As Ever, Hi Fi Way and Hourly Daily.
Two of those albums, Hi Fi Way and Hourly, Daily, which both appeared in the top half of the Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time list, will be played back-to-back at shows in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney.
The stats read well, most of us know them, 12 records, 3 number 1’s, 9 ARIA’s…32 nominations no less, live music awards, soundtracks and nearing 2,000 shows all over the globe. Come and check the kings of swagger…