World’s #1 party band? The Bennies, a quartet out of Melbourne, Australia, make a strong case to claim that title. Equal doses reggae, punk, and ska, The Bennies couple their party-hard-or-die-trying mindset with clever lyricism and ear worm hooks.
We caught up with Anty (lead vocals), Jules (guitar/vocals), Bowie (drums), and Nick (bass/vocals) of The Bennies before their show in Nuremburg, Germany to chat about their new album Natural Born Chillers. Enjoying their time over in Europe supporting the new album, the group had to laugh about playing a rowdy show in Berlin, only to perform in front of literally two people the next day in Chemnitz; The highs and lows of touring thousands of miles from home.
The Bennies also discussed integrating their new bass player, the differences between the Sydney and Melbourne music scenes, and the story behind the worst show they’ve ever played. Anty also shares how he came to wear his famous (and very fashionable) leggings on stage.
Interview: The Bennies
The Pier: Let’s start with the newest member of The Bennies, your new bass player Nick. How’s it been integrating him into the band after the departure of your longtime bassist Craig?
Anty: We were talking about it earlier, it’s been a super smooth transition, real easy. No bad blood, no weirdness. We’ve known Nick for quite a while.
Nick: Yeah, my other band in Melbourne, Foxtrot, shameless plug…Our bands have been playing together for years in Melbourne, in the punk scene. So I’ve also personally known Craig, on a bass respect level. We’ve always really admired each other.
The Pier: Did Craig have to show you the riffs or anything?
Nick: No, he didn’t have to. I kind of knew the songs even before I started learning them, just because I loved it.
Bowie: Nick’s gotta photographic memory. Or bass-o-graphic memory.
The Pier: Now, was it unexpected for Craig to leave the band?
Bowie: Yeah, little bit, yeah. He obviously made the call and had his reasons, but it was a bit of a shock.
Anty: We were having a band meeting to talk about what we were gonna do after this Europe tour. And he was just like: “Yeah, I’m out.” Caught us off guard a bit.
Jules: It’s one of those scenarios where, this life is awesome, but it’s not for everyone, all the time. And he put in some hard yards for close to ten years.
The Pier: On this European tour, you have only two days off between 30 shows. And you’re playing two shows in one day, in two different countries tomorrow. How do you manage that?
Bowie: Yeah, and the first day off wasn’t even a day off ‘cuz Jules did Acid, ha!
Nick: In effect, that was the hardest working day of the tour actually.
Jules: Completely rinsed me.
The Pier: So, when you guys get home what do you do?
Nick: I sell Bennies merch, haha. No, actually I just work in a warehouse and we do band distribution, it’s called Artist First. We distribute band merch for a lot of local Australian bands and international bands. Picking and packing.
The Pier: I meant more so in terms of recovery…
All: Oh yeah, haha!
Bowie: That’s a much cooler question, ha! “But what do you for a living?”
Anty: “Do you have normal jobs? What do you actually do?”
Jules: Me, mostly walk my dog. I have a quiet life, real simple man. Get back, read a book, listen to records, and pat my dog. Love my wife.
Anty: A lot of weed and nightmares. Just trying to sweat out all the bad. All the weird sleeping patterns. So weed is pretty handy for that.
The Pier: Got you. You just mentioned your dog Jules, who also gets a mention in your storytelling song “Trip Report” off the new album. I’m curious if you did that all in one take, or if there are a few alternative versions floating out there?
Anty: When we recorded that, the idea was that we’d all record a different verse without talking to the others about what it was. Just had a loose concept of what we had discussed. Jules is the longer one and probably the more free one, so that was a few different takes.
Bowie: The thing with Jules is that he had a few different characters in his story, and their names kept changing between every take. So, first it was George, then Paul, then Tom, and Peter.
Jules: I was so stoned when I was doing it.
Anty: We had to keep going back to listen to all the versions to work out what the dog’s name was.
The Pier: I was confused as to who was the dog and who was walking the dog, ha!
Bowie: Jules was confused too.
Jules: I’m glad we captured the confusion.
Anty: It’s funny, it’s the strangest song that we’ve written. And particularly off the new one, it’s the weirdest song. We had no idea how it would be received, but anyone who has listened to the album always comments on that song. I think we learn a bit from it as well. It’s a bit weird and a bit strange, but it reflects our personalities really strongly. And I think that’s what people like about our band. So it’s a lesson we learned from writing that song.
The Pier: So, we’re here in Germany now, and you guys have also been to the States, Japan, China, really all over. When you’re planning tours, do you go to places where you know you have fans, or just where you think would be cool to play a show?Anty: Really a bit of both. America is really hard for us. We just haven’t been able to make that really work yet. It’s been tough, particularly because it’s a long distance from Australia. Japan is something we’ve been building up, we’ve been there a few times, but we definitely saw it as like, “Let’s go to Japan ‘cuz it’s rad.” Europe, it’s unreal fun, but we’re still really building a thing, so it kinda made sense to come back.
The Pier: You see some of these bands from Australia, like Sticky Fingers or DMA’s, come to the US and they’ll get a quarter of the crowd they’d have at home, or have to play much smaller venues.
Anty: Yeah, you hear heaps of stories like that. Our friends the Dune Rats, they’re really big at home, and I think they do well over here in Europe as well. I was speaking to them recently about America, and I think they’ve decided they’re just not gonna go do it anymore. There’s no point.
Bowie: New York is pretty kind. We really struggle with the West Coast. In California. That was real tough. We’ve got some friends in New York, and it was pretty friendly. Played a cool couple of gigs.
Anty: We played the worst gig we’ve ever played in New York actually. We talk about this one a bit because it makes us feel a little better. But man, we had two shows in one night in New York. One of them was called the Aussie Barbecue, all Aussie bands playing. That was awesome, and we had a really good show. Lot of people came down, and it was later in the night.
But before that, we had to play in this coffee shop for this showcase thing. And unless you work really hard to promote those showcases, it’s hard to get people to come watch you, and you actually don’t play for anyone. So we played to the other band, who didn’t really watch us. They stood outside and smoked ciggies. So we’re in this room by ourselves, and they didn’t serve beers or anything like that. All of us coming down really hard. We’d all got up at 6 o’clock in the afternoon because of the night before. So we’re in this coffeeshop, and all they have to offer us to drink was coffee. So hungover. We soundchecked. I went and vomitted, then we played and it was just…
Jules: The only thing we had in our heads was…One of the spirits of The Bennies is, “Fuck it we’ll throw some beers at it, and it’ll be fine.” All we need is a couple fuckin’ beers. We get there and they’re like, “Latte?” Are you fuckin’ kidding me man, haha!
Bowie: America doesn’t even do a good coffee. You can’t even get a latte there. Only black, like, “You want a cup of Joe?” No, no, I want a fuckin’ latte!
Anty: Sitting there and all we could hear was cups on saucers. So Jittery.
Jules: It sucked. Although, it’s a great reference point to…You know, wherever we are, and it kinda gets a bit tough sometimes. You get tired. But I think of that fuckin’ place, and at least it’s not there. That fuckin’ place, with that band outside smoking their cigarettes. Walking out on us. A real hit to the pride. Humbling.
Bowie: We’re in one of the biggest artistic hubs in the world, and no one came to watch us, ha!
Watch: Natural Born Chillers – “Get High Like An Angel”
The Pier: You guys are from Melbourne, which seems to be putting out a ton of great music right now. What is the difference between the Melbourne music scene and the Sydney scene?
Bowie: The difference is poker machines and liquor licensing laws. If you hone in on it.
Anty: And Sydney’s fucked.
Bowie: Sydney has a really weird entertainment industry. It’s only poker machines and sports bars. All the music venues have shut down. It’s such a shit scene.
Jules: It really does fuckin’ suck.
Bowie: It’s so hard to make ground there. Nobody goes to watch music.
Anty: It’s so weird. We can do well pretty much anywhere in Australia, but Sydney we just never know what’s gonna happen. We never have any way of predicting whether we’re gonna get people there or not.
Jules: In Melbourne, we have good communities of different venues, different styles, everything. You can watch music seven days a week. There’s an infrastructure there to foster a scene. From venues that can hold 50 people to venues with 300 or beyond, but I think that’s an important factor. In Sydney it’s become so divided and fragmented, there’s not this sense of community. It’s just kinda more fending for yourself. And there’s nothing to foster the emerging talent. You don’t have a sense of community. It doesn’t mean there’s not good people, or that there aren’t great bands that come out of there, but it’s tough.
The Pier: So, do you see more bands in Melbourne supporting each other out along the way?
Jules: Yeah, it’s built on that. It’s the only way you come up, ideally finding yourself a couple bands you can put on a show together with. Make your friendships, and beyond that you can expand and explore. If you don’t have that you haven’t got shit. You really don’t. It’s so much tougher.
The Pier: Now, Anty you recently started a solo project. Are you just playing gigs, or are there any plans to put out an EP soon?
Anty: Yeah! I don’t really know. I’ve got pretty much an album recorded, but we’ll see. My solo thing is just taking old ska reggae songs and a friend of mine is remixing them for me. When this tour is finished, I’m actually gonna go to Amsterdam for about a week and stay with Geoff from Jaya The Cat. We’re gonna record an album together. Should be a lot of fun.
Jules: Heaps of sleep…
Anty: Yeah, I know. Fuck, ha! My voice will be in good nick by then.
The Pier: That would be a fun tour together with The Bennies and Jaya The Cat.
Anty: Yeah. I’ve sort of got a hidden agenda with this whole thing. I hope that connection is made and that we get to do a Bennies/Jaya tour across Europe sometime. And I’d love to bring him to Australia sometime. I think it would work so well together the two bands.
The Pier: Anty, how come you haven’t convinced the rest of the band to wearing leggings on stage yet with you?
Anty: No! I’m trying to convince them not to. That’s my steez.
Jules: We convinced him.
Bowie: I’d probably die, I reckon. Of sweat.
The Pier: When did you first decide to sport the leggings?
Anty: We played this warehouse party, and the people that threw the party were all these sort of fashion people. Real stylish, and put a lot of effort into the theme. It was a rock ‘n’ roll theme. So we’re like, “Let’s all get dressed up, glam, metal.” So we were all dressed up really funny, with tights and big perms, bandanas, fishnet tops. And afterwards I was like, “Fuck, playing in tights is fuckin’ awesome!” It’s maximum movement and it kinda looks cool. So I just kept doing it. Complete freedom of movement.
Jules: It’s real ska.
The Pier: We’ll have to test that out!
Big shout out to Anty, Jules, Bowie, and Nick from The Bennies for hanging out for a bit before their show in Nuremburg, Germany. A real genuine, down-to-earth group of guys. Do yourself a favor and check out the new album Natural Born Chillers, and be sure to catch The Bennies live next time they’re in your city. You won’t be disappointed.
Watch: The Bennies – “Dreamkillers” (Official Music Video)
Watch: The Bennies – “Corruption” (Official Video)