Tim Rogers is known as lots of things.
To most Australians he’s the hip-shakin’, bare-chested, tattooed, booze swillin’ rock animal at the helm of enduring icons You Am I.
In solo mode he’s a poetic folk troubadour and a wry lyricist.
But thanks to Bamboos bandleader Lance Ferguson, Rogers is now a smouldering, sensuous soul singer.
“We were half way through recording the Medicine Man album and I felt that it was missing a song,” songwriter Ferguson says of the Bamboos’ fifth studio record.
“It woke something that was a bit low-slung and swampy – that southern sound.”
To add the missing piece of the puzzle, Ferguson went home from the studio that day and wrote a track called I Got Burned.
Musically, it is perfectly in tune with the Bamboos’ sexy fusion of soul, jazz and funk.
But it’s not a number that most songwriters would associate with the mercurial singer of loud garage rockers You Am I.
“I went home and wrote that song really quickly – in about an hour,” Ferguson recalls.
“Tim and I had met when I was playing guitar with Washington on the Big Day Out tour. We hit it off and talked back stage – real music nerd stuff – about old records.
“We talked about involving him with a Bamboos thing at some point.
“So I had that in the back of mind and, once I had written this I Got Burned tune, I knew it would fit Tim’s voice – as a vehicle, if you will.
“Although I didn’t write it with him in mind, he came into my mind as soon as [the song] arrived.”
Such was the success of I Got Burned, which received high rotation radio play, the Bamboos and Rogers are embarking on a national tour called the Rock ‘N’ Roll Medicine Show.
“It’s definitely Tim Rogers and The Bamboos rather than The Bamboos featuring Tim Rogers,” Ferguson explains of the joint venture.
“We’re basically putting together a whole new bunch of stuff to play, which will include some Bamboos songs sung by Kylie Auldist and Ella Thompson.
“Then we’ve hand-picked a whole bunch of classic covers, which will be fun to play.
“We’re also going to revisit a couple of You Am I things and rearrange them for this line-up.
“Tim will obviously sing I Got Burned, and a couple of new original things.”
While Rogers had occurred to Ferguson as a candidate to sing I Got Burned, the You Am I singer’s cooing delivery still took him by surprise.
“I wasn’t sure if the key was going to suit Tim, but when he came in [to the studio] it worked out that it was much more affecting for him to sing in the falsetto range,” Ferguson says.
“It was a side of Tim’s voice that I hadn’t been aware of.”
Ferguson formed the Bamboos in Melbourne in 2001, inspired by the “raw funk” of the ’60s and early ’70s.
Across their five records, Ferguson has demonstrated an ability to flirt with almost every genre while keeping a cohesive and recognisable sound.
“We’ve been around for 11 or 12 years now and we’re doing a new record this year – it will be our sixth studio album,” Ferguson says.
“That’s a fair amount of time and a lot of music that we’ve put out.
“With the last record we broke out of that genre thing that can be imposed on an artist really easily.
“It feels exciting to me that it can go in many directions and we’ll still have the Bamboos’ stamp on it.
“That’s really liberating and what everyone aspires to.
“I’m not saying we’ve achieved it but we’ve walked up that road a little bit more.”
Ferguson puts the band’s consistency down to where their albums have been recorded.
“Technically speaking, there’s a sonic sound that comes from the way I put songs together but also the fact that every Bamboos record has been recorded in the same studio, which is John Castle’s Shed studios here in Melbourne,” Ferguson says.
“That’s a more physical aspect, but on record it has given the Bamboos a sound.
“It’s not for me to say, but I would like to think that the songs I write have a certain twist that is idiosyncratic to me.
“I’m not sure if that’s the case, but people do come to me and say that the songs have a [quality] that is us.”
Ferguson is constantly attached to a stream of releases, either as a musician or producer – the hallmark of a creative force that rarely takes a break.
“I have my solo stuff as well and I’ve got various other projects on the go, so when I’m not doing Bamboos stuff I’m doing someone else’s record,” he says.
“There’s always some sort of songwriting going on at some time of the day, it seems, whether I’m thinking about it or sitting down in the studio with my guitar.
“I enjoy taking a proper holiday, when it happens, and just enjoy listening to music and not thinking about constructing it.
“That can be a welcome change.
“Just sitting down with my headphones and soaking up albums - I’m the kind of listener that enjoys listening to a whole album from beginning to end.
“I try to make records that can be enjoyed like that as well.”
Ferguson acknowledges that the art of crafting an album that flows from its first track to its last has been lost to the pick-and-choose browsing of iTunes users – but he’s going to try anyway.
“Its like some arcane, dark art of the past it seems.
“Obviously kids are just buying tracks and even when they listen to [a whole record] they’ll put a playlist on shuffle,” Ferguson says.
“But whether people do that or not, as a music maker it’s important to me to put it together that way.
“If the intention gets lost, then it doesn’t bother me that much in the end, as long as I know the intent was there to do that.”
Medicine Man attracted an impressive roster of collaborators.
Along with Rogers, Ferguson enlisted the help of Aloe Blacc, Megan Washington, Daniel Merriweather and Bobby Flynn.
But looking ahead to album number six, Ferguson would like the focus to be on his band’s own prowess.
“The last record was so guest heavy – which was great – but that can sometimes pose problems in the live setting because people are used to hearing a certain voice on a song,” Ferguson admits.
“That said, I think the regular Bamboos vocalists Kylie Auldist and Ella Thompson do a great job of owning these [Medicine Man] songs and making them their own when we play live, which is no easy feat.
“The live line-up we’ve had going over the last year and a half, for me, is the strongest Bamboos line-up of all time.
“I’d really love to do something that really features that line-up.”
Tim Rogers and the Bamboos perform at the Cambridge Hotel on Friday, March 8.
Tickets are selling fast through Bigtix.com.au
The Bamboos (without Rogers) perform at Jazz in the Vines at Tyrrell’s Vineyard on Saturday, October 26.
Tickets on sale at www.jazzinthevines.com.au
Alive has two double passes to give away to see the Bamboos at the Cambridge Hotel.
For your chance to win simply fill out the coupon in today's Mercury and return it to our office by noon next Wednesday.
Medicine Man is out now.