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.
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.”