Dom Mariani - Popsided Guitar 1984-2004:
As the Gostarts wound down, Dom was finding himself drawn more and more to '60s sounds – beat, garage, psychedelia, Nuggets, etc. – as well as the classic powerpop of outfits like the Raspberries, Big Star and the Plimsouls Casting about for similarly-inclined musicians he eventually hooked up with Richard Lane (vocals, guitar, keys), Gary Chambers (drums) and Julian Matthews (bass). The band was dubbed The Stems, and their recorded debut was to be an auspicious – some might even say audacious – one.
Entering a Perth studio in late '84, the Stems laid down a brace of tunes which their manager, fortuitously, was able to place in the hands of Sydney's Citadel Records. Marking the beginning of a Citadel-Mariani relationship that would extend to over two decades (and counting), the label released in May of '85, the 45 'Make You Mine' b/w 'She's A Monster'. Out of the blue the single stormed the Australian alternative charts. With the Stems suddenly in demand not just on their hometown turf but on a national basis as well, the band temporarily decamped to Sydney to be near their label and where high-profile gigs could be secured.
While in Sydney the band recorded another 45 'Tears Me In Two' b/w 'Can't Resist' and the four-song EP 'Love Will Grow - Rosebuds Volume 1' under the skillful guidance of the Rob Younger - Alan Thorne production/engineering team. "That was a great, really exciting time for the band, when we were linking up with people like Younger and Thorne," Dom recalls fondly. "It was a golden period, they were the Citadel production team and it was pretty cool."
Issued in early '86 the EP handily duplicated the two 45's success, and with three chart hits under their belts, the Stems returned home to Perth as conquering heroes. By then they'd drawn the attention of Mushroom Records, which signed the band and quickly sent them into the studio to record their full-length debut. May 1987 saw the appearance of their first full length album At First Sight – Violets Are Blue.
"Most of the songs on that album were written and performed over a two or three year period," says Dom. "so it was a pretty good collection of tunes that we had to work with. It was also the first time we'd really utilized the studio for production ideas. Prior to that, we'd never done too much in the way of overdubbing. I wanted the album to show that we'd progressed to a more melodic Power Pop sound while still retaining our '60s punk aesthetic. 'At First Sight' (the first of three singles culled from the album) was along the lines of something like 'Let's Pretend' (the Raspberries) or a Badfinger tune but ended up sounding quite unique. The Monkees and the Easybeats were an influence and I guess the Stems album had some of those references, but we had our own distinctive sound."