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DUNE RATS // Dance Lessons & Thinking Outside The Box: The Extraordinary Journey Behind The New Dunies Album ‘Real Rare Whale’.

Hampered by a global pandemic, a global vinyl shortage, and a lack of live performances over the past few years, it’s safe to declare that life as a musician has been less and less rosy as the repercussions of 2020 and 2021 have filtered through into 2022.

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But where there’s a will there’s always a way, and for professional Brisbane party-starters Dune Rats it would take more than multiple global hurdles to stop them from gifting their long-awaited fourth full length album to the world; and as of Friday 29 July, their phenomenal new release Real Rare Whale finally saw the light of day, brandishing everything you know and love about the larrikin trio, along with some welcome fresh surprises. 

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Notorious for their love of substances, good times and tongue-in-cheek yet witty ratbaggery, it’s on Real Rare Whale that the trademark Dunies zany fun and infectious punky goodness collides with noticeable maturity, with the trio brandishing cohesive craftsmanship, buoyant arrangements and sharpened technicality. And while Real Rare Whale has emerged as a glowing addition to the group’s burgeoning collection, the latest album also inadvertently somewhat fulfilled the prophecy of its predecessor’s title, 2020’s #1 charting Hurry Up and Wait, as Dune Rats guitarist and vocalist Danny Beus divulged fresh out of rehearsals for the band’s upcoming launch parties and on the eve of the new album’s release.

“It’s pretty surreal because it’s been such a long process,” Beus reveals. “But I also think it’s sweet that we didn’t actually release it any earlier! We actually started writing it right when the lockdown first started, we’d finished the tour for Hurry Up and Wait, and we were like: let’s just take all this energy of playing shows to, like, 4000 kids into a writing session. Rather than the usual stuff, a lot of the time you’ll do the album cycle, release it, tour it, all of that. But then after that, you’ll go back into writing again, and you’re a bit exhausted, or just played out a little bit and you need a bit of a rest – and then you start again!

I think, honestly, we’ve sort of slowly started becoming the ‘old dogs’
[ Danny Beus ]

“For Real Rare Whale we were kind of like: fuck it! Let’s just write songs that we wanna play at the sort of shows we were playing at the time, really energetic, fun, screamy, chant-y songs. It was pretty sick to go into this with that mindset. And weirdly enough, now that the time’s here and holding out for shows to come back … just rehearsing it, even yesterday, you just get that feeling of what it’s gonna be like to play it in front of a crowd. I’m really stoked we did wait to release it now and be able to do that.”

The wait, while also exacerbated by a manufacturing issue with the accompanying vinyl, is finally over for Real Rare Whale. And for the trio, it was a chance to further explore exactly who they are as deep down artists. With their previous albums, 2020’s Hurry Up and Wait and 2017’s The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit both snagging the top spot on the Australian Albums Charts upon their respective releases, there was inevitably always going to be heightened external expectations for whatever endeavour would come next from the Brisbane gents. But internally, the tried and true foundation of the group’s lack of ego, authentic skillset and dedication for fun meant that their new material was always destined to be all killer, no filler, while also unfolding as an entirely organic process.

“I think, honestly, we’ve sort of slowly started becoming the ‘old dogs’,” Beus muses. “The first number one record we ever got really caught us by surprise, we knew we had a strong fanbase that would come out and buy our album. But when we ended up going #1, we were just like: fucking hell!! And then the second one?! After the first #1 we didn’t expect anything more than that, but we actually got the monkey off our back with on the second one. From there, we were like: fuck it – we’re good now, we don’t need any more! And that actually made making this new album easier.”

Beus pauses and laughs for a moment. “I mean, Beyonce dropping the same week as you is pretty easy, right, for getting another #1?!.”

With the Dune Rats firmly focused on writing an album that was joyous and unencumbered by external pressures, alongside producer Scott Horscroft, the eventual end result of Real Rare Whale may be 10 punk, pun and fun-soaked delights; but initially the band had countless songs written for their fourth LP, with Horscroft helping cull and hone the Dunies into their most focused endeavour to date. 

“It actually made it so easy because we had decided to just write an album that was super fun! We decided not to stick to any one thing,” Beus explains of Real Rare Whale’s early days. “That’s why Scott Horscroft was amazing, the majority of his work is as a pop producer. But we wrote about 60 songs for this album…I’m not saying all were good either, there were a lot of really shit ones. But you do just have to write a shit ton, and then you eventually just have to call it and go: OK, look, we’ve got 60 songs here, there’s gotta be 10 that we can take to the next step.

“And Scott was just like: man, this is banging! We got it down to 15 songs and then from that 15, normally some producers tell you to take your best 15 into the studio and then find the best 10. But Scott literally said: we’re recording 10, you pick them. Right. Fucking. Now!

“He made sure we did the most we could with those 10 songs because they started out real raw and fast-paced at first, and we just were able to open it up. For example, Skate Or Don’t has that pre-chorus on it with a bit of a ska-y, horn section. With Dunies, we’ve always tried to put a bit of the Duniverse into songs where it’s a bit weird. It all sort of started with The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit, we just put little samples in to try to make it so that when you’re listening to a Dunies song in your bedroom: there’s a little bit of weirdness in each song”. 

With infamous live shows and festival anthems cemented in their wake, particularly in the form of the group’s breakthrough track Scott Green, Real Rare Whale still harbours odes to day drinking and substances peppered throughout. But alongside the trademark Dunies irreverence on the new album, notions of teenage crushes, changing the world and a full-blown love song also lie in wait, with the band actively refusing to be pigeonholed with their new material while also reflecting their own growth as musicians and individuals.

Without skipping a beat, Beus captures the shifting sands of time and styles underlying Real Rare Whale: “Without trying: we’re just getting older. We’re still dudes that love drinking and smoking and doing all of that stuff. But the best thing about this record is that it wasn’t us trying to write differently. It’s just shit in our lives and we’ve always felt like we never just wanted to write Scott Green a million times. That happened with Hurry Up and Wait, after The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit…we could’ve just started writing another total party album. But by doing that, we would’ve just put ourselves in that box that we’re not. We’re a bit deeper than that”.

And it’s on Real Rare Whale’s rarest moment of all – an unconventional yet wholehearted Dune Rats love song Melted Into Two – that the underlying wholesome camaraderie between Aussie artists flaunts also its thriving ways, with Shane Parsons from DZ Deathrays stepping into proceedings. And, as Beus reveals, it’s not a rare occurrence for the Dunies to call on their mates for creative advice, with a veritable Who’s Who in their orbit along the way – and a surprising lack of egos.    

“Shane from DZ helped us on Melted Into Two,” Beus explains. “And that brings up another element in Dunies writing, if we ever get stuck: we’ve got a million mates that we can send a song to. And they’ll go: dude, I reckon you should do this here, or that there.

I think that’s the thing with the music industry. It’s actually really fucking tiny! And luckily we’ve never been dudes with super huge egos, so we’ve never burned any bridges … that haven’t deserved to get burned
[ Danny Beus ]

“We’ve had Zac Carper from FIDLAR and James Tiswell from Violent Soho help us on previous albums, and with Melted Into Two on the new album: we were just totally stuck with the verses. Shane from DZs was in the studio, and he announces he might have something for the verse, and he just suddenly does the verse melodies. We just massaged some lyrics around that, and he knew exactly what the song was about. That was all there was to it, and that kind of stuff always just makes the process super fun!”.

Recently featuring on Ocean Grove’s single BORED from the Melbourne group’s 2022 album release Up In The Air Forever, Beus and the Dune Rats crew may indeed have multiple friends in high places in the Australian music scene. But the small reality of the industry has never been lost on the band as they have continued to skyrocket over the years.

“I think that’s the thing with the music industry,” says Beus, poignantly pausing. “It’s actually really fucking tiny! And luckily we’ve never been dudes with super huge egos, so we’ve never burned any bridges…that haven’t deserved to get burned,” Beus says with a smirk.

With impending album launch parties lined up to accompany the album’s release, the Dunies are ensuring their fans have an unforgettable experience hearing Real Rare Whale live in action for the very first time, with intimate venues boasting everything from lawn bowls to all-ages acoustic sets, and even the Young Henrys Dune Rats Dunies Lager on offer at all events. And if you’ve been hanging for an up-close-and-personal raucous Dune Rats experience, Beus has extremely good news for punters attending these special events.

“When we were planning these shows, our booking agent was like: well, what sort of shows do you guys wanna go out and do?” says Beus. “We had these big shows, Enmore Theatre, big venue sort of shows and everything booked…but then all of a sudden it just felt boring. It just felt like we were going to go back in and just do the same sort of shows that we’d just finished doing two years ago.

“We decided because it had been such a long time between shows and because it was an album release and launch that we wanted to actually play the full album. We wanted to have a show that was for all of the people that really, really froth the band. So we thought: fuck it! Let’s just do a bit like what they do in Europe, where we can play to like 300 or 400 kids and actually go mingle with them, and actually have a bit of a sweaty, up close and personal, DIY sort of punk show. Which we haven’t really done in Australia for nearly five or six years, that was the last time we did anything like this here.

“It’s a sick way to reintroduce the band to our fanbase, which makes it super enjoyable for us too because that’s the whole reason why we started the band, to play these sorts of shows!”.

As to whether or not we’ll witness some of the newly acquired dance moves the Dune Rats displayed in their music video for Real Rare Whale’s single UP?

“We had an amazing choreographer for UP,” Beus says, dissolving into laughter. “She really drilled our asses into shape! At the time, our label were telling us to do a TikTok and dance on TikTok. And we’re like: no one wants to see three stoner dudes dancing on TikTok?! But then we were like: well actually – maybe they do! We’ll just do it in a film clip!

“We decided we’d just do a super fun dancing clip…and then we realised that super fun dancing clips take a shit tonne of work to learn to dance,” Beus giggles, then continues. “We grew up with the whole MTV era, loving Britney Spears and Blink-182’s All The Small Things videos, all that sort of hoo-ha.

“So for UP we decided: we’ve gotta dance! And in between our shows, our choreographer just drilled us! I remember we had four days of shows in Brisbane back-to-back and we had mates saying: do you wanna come to the pub? And we’re like: no, we’ve got dance rehearsal!

“In between soundchecks we’d do dance rehearsal, in the morning’s we’d have dance rehearsal. I’ve still got some videos of our first session – and we were so horrible. But our choreographer just worked her ass off, and two weeks later: we could dance”.

Dancing shoes aside, there’s a whole lot to love on the brand new album from the Dune Rats. A musical gimmick these guys most certainly ain’t, and Real Rare Whale is pure joy, clear intent and healthy lashings of rough and tumble punk, perfectly balanced with just the right amount of grit around the edges. And when it all boils down to it, there’s no difficult secret recipe as to why the Dune Rats continue to snag critical acclaim and undying love from fans, as Beus sums up the ultimate Dune Rats mantra: “We never really take it super seriously. Because we know with the Dunies, that’s where that little bit of magic comes from: keeping it fun”.  

Real Rare Whale is out now via Ratbag Records/BMG. 

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