CHILL ‘EM ALL

DE­FY­ING THE ODDS WITH TWO LOUD ‘N’ LU­CID AL­BUMS OF FUN-LOV­ING DEBAUCHERY, 2018 BE­LONGS TO MEL­BOURNE’S PRE­MIERE POT-PUNKS, THE BENNIES.

Australian Guitar - - Feature - WORDS BY MATT DORIA

The mere con­cept of The Bennies is one des­tined for fail­ure: a ska-punk-techno fu­sion, post-Reel Big Fish, with songs driven by such anapes­tic cho­ruses as, “I’m into drugs and­get­tingf***edup,I’mcov­eredin­spi­tandI’m

cover edin blood.” They’re the kind of band you ex­pect to drop one al­bum on home-burnt CD-Rs, slug it out in des­o­late dive bars and maybe open for Less Than Jake when they make their tri-an­nual trip Down Un­der. But, lo and be­hold, the Mel­bourne slosh-lords have kept the dream alive for two EPs, four al­bums and al­most a full decade thus far.

“The idea was so crazy that no-one else would do it,” laughs bassist Craig Se­lak. “We’ve got 100 per­cent of the mar­ket share; it’s a small mar­ket, but we’ve got 100 per­cent of it!”

Jules Rozen­bergs is a lit­tle more pro­found. “It’s easy when it’s the truth,” he says bluntly. “If we were full of shit and we had to work at par­ty­ing, things would get real old, real fast. But as it stands, we’re just good look­ing dudes play­ing great mu­sic about par­ty­ing, and there’s no try­ing in that – it’s an ex­ten­sion of who we are as peo­ple. The an­ti­dote to all the se­ri­ous stuff out there is that it’s okay to dumb things up some­times. If peo­ple want to go to shows to cross their arms and cry in their pints, they can do that, but not at a Bennies show. You’ll be danc­ing too hard to cry in your pints – you’ll be too busy spilling them!”

Not only have The Bennies found a ri­otous fan­base in Aus­tralia, but they’ve hooked the in­ter­na­tional punk scene on their whim­si­cal brand of sonic choof as well. Ev­ery­where from sunny Cal­i­for­nia to the per­ilous depths of un­der­ground China, mat­ted-hair skate rats gather in hordes to get their Heavy Disco on. As the band ex­plain, find­ing a crowd over­seas isn’t much of a mis­sion when you just don’t make it one.

“A high-five and a smile is uni­ver­sal,” says Se­lak. “Ob­vi­ously you’re go­ing to have some cul­tural quirks,” adds Rozen­bergs, “But it all comes down to that uni­ver­sal ap­pre­ci­a­tion for mu­sic. If you love ska, and you meet a ska fan from the other side of the f***ing world, you’re go­ing to be united by that. It doesn’t mat­ter if you can’t un­der­stand what they’re say­ing, be­cause that love of mu­sic tran­scends all lan­guage bar­ri­ers.”

The rea­son they’ve stayed so pi­ous on the tour­ing cir­cuit comes down to a con­sis­tent evo­lu­tion. “I just think we’re re­ally good at adapt­ing to our crowds,” de­clares vo­cal­ist and synth mas­ter Anty Hor­gan. “If we play a mas­sive theatre show in Mel­bourne, we’ll cater to that and go all-out to get peo­ple mov­ing. But if we’re play­ing to three peo­ple in some smelly bar in Ger­many, we will still find the most fun that you can have in that en­vi­ron­ment, work the f*** out of it and make it good. There are some chal­lenges, but it’s good for us as a band to have those be­cause it’s con­stantly test­ing our skills. And we all get off on that.”

2018 will see The Bennies em­bark on their most chaotic stretch of tour­ing yet, with stops in vir­tu­ally every coun­try that’ll let them in on the cards. The al­bum they’re push­ing is Nat­u­ral Born Chillers – eight tight and tem­per­ate bursts of raw, smoke-soaked en­ergy. Writ­ten on the road and pieced to­gether with­out the bur­den of a con­cept weigh­ing down on them, the quar­tet em­braced a looser and more laid­back ap­proach to pro­duc­tion.

“This one was def­i­nitely a lot less planned,” says Se­lak. “When we did Wis­dom-Ma­chine [in 2016], we had a re­ally clear vi­sion of how we wanted to sound, but this one was more just a col­lec­tion of songs that we felt stoked on at the time. We still tried to push our sound and try new things, but it un­de­ni­ably sounds like The Bennies, and that’s all that we were aim­ing for.”

An­other rea­son for the new record’s loose­ness is the fact that its fol­low-up is al­ready in the pipe­line. The band started writ­ing for LP5 be­fore Nat­u­ral

Born-Chillers even made it to the stu­dio, and though it’s un­likely we’ll see The Bennies be­come the ska-punk an­swer to King Giz­zard And The Lizard Wizard, they’re adamant on a 2018 re­lease be­ing locked down.

“It’s a goal that we’ve had since we started the band, to put two al­bums out in a year,” says drum­mer David ‘Bowie’ Beau­mont. “I think the plan is to head into the stu­dio in March and track it down,” Se­lak clar­i­fies. “It feels a lot big­ger in con­cept than any­thing we’ve ever done be­fore, so we’re ex­cited to see how it all comes to life. At the mo­ment, it’s like a gi­ant slab of mar­ble, and we’re all just chis­elling it out to­gether un­til we get our own lit­tle David by Michelan­gelo.”

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