THE BENNIES // Chill Bill: Volume Fun

At a tight 23 minutes, Natural Born Chillers is—by a long margin—the shortest of four equally frenzied albums from The Bennies.

That’s not to say it doesn’t do a hell of a lot with its runtime, of course. With cuts like the mosh-ready Very Shit Carpet, the ultra-cruisy Ocean and the unfathomably danceable title track, Natural Born Chillers is a bloody massive album. And so it makes sense that The Bennies are taking it out on the road this month with one of their biggest tours to date – from June 27th to July 28th, the revered Melbourne pot-punks will hit everywhere from Brisbane to Dunsborough playing every flavour of venue from grimy punk bar to grandiose theatre.

MORE: #REALTALK: Punk Is Dead (For Real) // KICK OUT THE JAMS: DROWN THIS CITY: Getting Nostalgic With Alex Reade // GHOST: There Went The Sun // PARKWAY DRIVE: Survivor’s Guilt

One particular reason why the Natural Born Chillers Tour is an especially huge one is the factit’ll be the band’s first on home ground without founding bassist and co-vocalist Craig Selak, who shares the singing duties on the LP pretty much evenly with frontman Anty Horgan. Selak parted with The Bennies in March to focus on his new band, Super Duper, and his replacement comes in the form of Foxtrot bass icon Nick Williams. Before the newly minted Bennies 2.0 hit the road, we caught up with Horgan to get the lowdown on how its new lineup is making the vocal split work, what else we can expect from the tour, and what’s next on the cards for the band once labelled by a co-worker of mine as “what Nutella would sound like if it was music…” Yes, she was high.

For a band that sings so loud and proud about getting high and chilling out, you’re some busy motherfuckers. Do you guys even know what a break is!?
Nah, not really! Well, sort of, but yeah, nah, I don’t know, nah. Breaks are boring. When being in a band counts as being “busy”, then it’s good to be busy because it’s so fucking fun.

I, for one, am fucking stoked that you’re heading back on tour, because if there’s one thing that can pump some life into an otherwise boring night, it’s a set from the motherfucking Bennies. It’s a bit of a generic question, but what do you have in store for these gigs? Is it going to be a classic, no-bullshit party set, or can we expect to see some things that you’ve never done onstage before?
We’ve actually got a meeting on Friday to discuss anything extra that we want to plan for the shows, or vibe on all the ideas we have. But to be honest, I’m not too sure. I mean, our sets are always going to be just pretty high-energy and fun. I guess the main thing is that we have a new bass player, so that’ll be a new thing, and we’re going to be playing a lot of songs off the new album. We haven’t had a chance to play many of the songs off Natural Born Chillers up until this point, so that’s really exciting.

Well there’s only eight songs on Natural Born Chillers to begin with—does that mean we could expect to see the whole album find its way into the set?
I’d pretty much say so, yeah. The only one that’s a little bit tricky is Trip Report, we’re not quite sure how to translate that live just yet. We want to incorporate in there somehow.

The Bennies // By Rick Clifford

I feel like every set would need a different version of it with different random stories.
Well, we haven’t properly addressed it as a band yet, but we were thinking it might be kind of cool to get a different member of the audience to get up and tell a story or something. We definitely don’t want to do our own stories, because it’s like, they’re so spontaneous that we don’t need to do them again, y’know? I do want to hear a whole room singing, “Ah yoooo yo, yo yo yo yo yooooooo yo!” I think that would be hilarious.

As you mentioned, this is also the first Australian tour for you guys with Nick Williams in the lineup. What does he bring to the mix onstage, and why should we be extra stoked to see this new iteration of The Bennies?
It’s hard to say. He’s a pretty non-obtrusive kind of dude, so I don’t know if people will notice that much of a difference, to be honest. He comes from a bit more of a punk background than Craig, so I guess where Craig was a very angelic singer and had a very soft and gentle voice, Nick’s can tend to be a bit more gruff at times, and there’s a bit more of that punk energy—so that kind of changes the dynamic a little bit. In terms of his bass playing, he’s pretty spot on, so you probably won’t notice too many differences there.

Because we did only have so many practices with Nick before we went overseas, and there is this new energy in the band, the excitement to write is unbelievable.

One of the things I’m curious about is that with most of the songs on Natural Born Chillers, Craig had a lot of the vocal parts to his name. How do those songs work now without his voice in mix?
Nick’s been singing pretty much all of them, but there’s been a few little bits here and there where me and Jules sort of step in. There are a few changes—some of them are for the better, some of them are a bit sketchy—but yeah, for the most part, Nick’s pretty much just singing what Craig did, and he’s really doing a good job of it! That was the bit he was the most intimidated about; he’s a very capable bass player and really backs himself on that front, and he’s a great singer, but he was just a little worried about filling in Craig’s shoes. But to be honest, he’s been doing an excellent job.

I haven’t had the privilege to see him live with you guys yet, but the idea of having The Bennies with Nick Williams in it is just insanely exciting. How did you get him onboard to begin with?
Yeah, it is really exciting! And after being overseas and doing 30-something shows together, he’s really all over it, so it’s fucking unreal. He’s just fit in so nicely, so it’s all very exciting for us as well. In terms of getting him in, we’ve been mates with the Foxtrot guys pretty much since the start of the band, and we’ve always loved their music. We took down some names, when Craig decided to leave, and Nick was like really high on the list—everyone gets along with him really well, and even when we spoke to Craig after he left, asking him if he had any good ideas for his replacement, the first person he mentioned was Nick. I gave him a phone call and I was like, “Is this something you’d be keen on doing?” And he was like, “I can’t hold the phone, I’m shaking!” And then I was like, “Oh yeah, and the first thing we’re going to be doing is head off to Europe in three weeks time, doing 30 dates,” and he was just frozen [laughs]. It was like a dream come true for him, so his energy and excitement about it all was so infectious on everyone in the band. And the guys are Foxtrot are all super supportive of it as well, so it’s all a good vibe.

The Bennies // By Rick Clifford

Was there much of a learning curve with there only being three weeks to learn the whole set?
Nah, he’s been so all over it. I mean, he did a lot of work behind the scenes. We asked him to join the band and then we said, “Alright cool, we’ll have a practice in a week’s time” and gave him a list of the songs that are pretty staple in our set—like, we’re not really going to play a set without playing those few songs, y’know? We had our first practice, and we ran through pretty much every song twice—the first time, you could tell there were a few nerves, but by the second take of everything, he was all over it. We had six practices with him before we went overseas, and he just fucking killed it every time. And in that time we spent together, we managed to even write some songs. It’s a pretty good vibe.

I remember the last time we spoke, you were saying that you guys were planning to drop another Bennies album later in 2018. Is that still on the cards?
I doubt it, to be fair. I would love it, but just with the lineup change, I just don’t see us being able to work that quickly. It was always a dream of the band to be able to put out two albums in a year—it was something we always wanted to tick off the list. I don’t see it happening, but who knows? Because we did only have so many practices with Nick before we went overseas, and there is this new energy in the band, the excitement to write is unbelievable. The energy for writing is fucking huge right now, and there’s ideas flying everywhere. I think the plan is that we’re going to do this tour, and then as soon as that’s done, it’s like, “Alright, this is phase two of The Bennies!” We’re pretty keen for that. I think we’re even going to take some time away; we’re going to go to a farm for a couple of weeks and try to write… It’s just that, knowing how long these sorts of things take, I don’t imagine it would be out this year. I well and truly think it will be written by the end of 2018 at least.

I have this idea for a movie called Zombie 420, which is about people that turn into zombies and then discover that the only cure is to smoke weed.

What can you tell us about the sound, or the style of the next phase of the Bennies? Can we expect a few curveballs to come flying at us, or will it be more in line with the chill, party-friendly ska punk we know and love?
I just don’t know! We keep talking about how we want to “bring back the shame”, and I don’t quite know exactly what that means, but that’s been kicked around a lot. I think there’s a bit of a roughness that we kind of want to bring back a little bit – make things a little more dirty – but also, I think there’s also an excitement to explore a bit more of an electronic kind of vibe. Nick is capable of recording stuff at his house, so I think that’ll bring a slightly different sound, just from being able to record and reflect and maybe fuck around a bit more in a digital regard. Yeah, who knows? It’s hard to say. I really want to write a concept album!

We need a Bennies concept album. I will fund it right the fuck now. What’s your pitch?
[Laughs] I don’t want to reveal too much. It’s probably a bad thing to say in an interview because it probably won’t happen, so it seems ridiculous, but I want to write the soundtrack to a movie—so all the songs in the movie are just Bennies songs—and then I want to make the movie. I have this idea for a movie called Zombie 420, which is about people that turn into zombies and then discover that the only cure is to smoke weed. So then there’s these people that essentially need to box out the world.

Yeah, I need to see this movie.
We’ve got so many stories and gags in mind for it! And obviously, an album that focuses on weed and how it saves the world is pretty far up our alley. It’s just, like… It’s something I really want to do, but I don’t know if the other guys see eye to eye on that yet.

‘Yet’ being the operative word, of course.
Exactly. I just want to do something really over-the-top and silly, and I feel like that’s pretty over-the-top and silly!

Tickets for The Bennies’ national tour with The Gooch Palms and Young Offenders are on sale now:

Wednesday June 27th – The Triffid, Brisbane
Thursday June 28th – Shark Bar, Gold Coast
Friday June 29th – Small Ballroom, Newcastle
Saturday June 31st – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Sunday July 1st – Uni Bar, Wollongong
Thursday July 5th – Uni Bar, Adelaide
Friday July 6th – Howler, Melbourne
Saturday July 7th – Worker’s Club, Geelong
Sunday July 8th – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave
Friday July 13th – Saloon Bar, Launceston
Saturday July 14th – Brisbane Hotel, Hobart
Sunday July 26th – Mojos Bar, Fremantle
Friday July 27th – Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Saturday July 28th – O’Borough Tavern, Dunsborough

Latest News