"I had sent in a tape of some songs recorded at home on the four-track" begins Hawkins, the bands vocalist and rhythm guitarist. "Only trouble was that (to play the songs live) I needed to get a bass player and someone who could sing harmonies". Cain Turnley, a trusted friend and a more than competent guitarist, was called on for a favour, "I had two weeks to rehearse the tunes and Id never picked up a bass before."Performing under the name Mr. Pink, they were knocked out of the contest in the first round but continued to play together for the next four months. It was an exciting period, not only were they getting paid to play (a definite first), they had unlocked a formidable songwriting partnership. It was early days, yet under a heavy influence of The Beatles, Crowded House, Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden, the tunes were dynamic and exciting, all the while featuring strong melody and beautiful harmonies.
1998 saw Scott Nicholls (Lead Guitar) and Ben Mills (Drums) complete the line-up and heralded the beginning of the band that was now affectionately renamed Cartman.
"It cost $900 and took us 3 days to record, mix and master" explains Hawkins. We never expected it to do a lot, but it kind of took off"The single "Drive" was picked up by the National radio station Triple J and added to high rotation. Many independent radio stations, including Perth's own RTR-FM, jumped onto the single. Similarly, the West Australian Music Industry rewarded the song by crowning WAM Song of the Year in 1999 (the song also won in the category, 'Best Pop Song') with the band also winniong the 'Best Acoustic Song' for "Pieces". Throughout 1999 and into 2000, Cartman continued to win awards and nominations for many of their tunes and accompanying filmclips, at the same time landing some prize gigs including The Big Day Out and supports for Pollyanna, Gerling, Sneeze, Eskimo Joe and Shihad.
The band released their second EP, Nobody, in March 2000 (the actual launch gig featured Fourth Floor Collapse and The Sleepy Jackson as support). Recorded at Revolver Studios and produced by Ben Glatzer, this was the beginning of the relationship that would later see them utilising the studio and 'Benny G' for the recording of Go!. The initial single "Nobody" was immediately added to playlists across the country, while the filmclip opened the band up visually to a national audience. On a grander scale, the single was also picked up by the legendary UK Radio One DJ Steve Lamacq, who added it to the stations playlist, along with the independent UK network X-FM.
Capitalising on their heightened profile, the band embarked on two tours. The first saw them heading to Adelaide to perform at the National MICA Awards where they had been awarded "Best Unsigned Act in Western Australia" for 2000. Soon after, Cartman began their "Nobody Tour". Travelling from Sydney to Melbourne and playing all stops in-between.
Hawkins explains:Returning home, Cartman took a much needed break.
"Its great being a band from Perth, but after a while you've played all the venues there is to play, you've played with every band there is to play with, and you end up playing to the same audiences at every show. Unless you're prepared to travel 600km each weekend to play at a different venue, its a real hassle."
"Being on tour was great because everything was new. It didn't matter that it was raining, or you'd only had 3 hours sleep or that you were still hung over from the night before everything was good. New towns, new pubs, new people, and you were actually in the land of the Big Boys. We were finally able to go into Triple J!!"
"There was no way we would have stayed together as a band unless we took some time off" says Turnley. "It was time to rethink the game plan."
"People were saying we'd missed the boat, that we'd split up it was all bullshit. We were just four really tired guys who'd put in a shitload of effort into the band. Now we wanted to take a rest"
"We wanted to have an album that was different, where each song sounded unique, like they could have all been written and played by different bands. At the same time, the album had to be cohesive and sound like an album. It doesn't make sense, but that's what we wanted and that's what we ended up getting"
Cartman grabbed the national spotlight in early 2002 with their breakthrough album Go! being selected for Triple J Album of the Week. The first track to be lifted from the album, "Shock" raced across the national airwaves and was selected as the eviction music for reality TV show Big Brother. "Shock" spent 17 weeks in the Triple J Net 50 and was voted in the Triple J Hottest 100 songs for 2002. "Shock" was followed closely by the country tinged break up song "Got No Reason" which spent 5 weeks in the Triple J Net 50 and received significant airplay across the country, The third single lifted from the album was the pop rock ballad "George", a Joe Hawkins/Cartman song. Rotation on Triple J and the commercial networks cemented the album as one of the best Australian releases for 2002.
The band have been on a permanent hiatus since late 2003. Turnley has been performing lead vocals in Perth band The Avenues.
Joe Hawkins - Vocals, Electric Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Cain Turnley - Vocals, Bass, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Scott Nicholls - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
Ben Mills - Drums, Percussion