The Bennies: Queens Of The Stoned Age (Page 2)
It was just over a year ago today that The Bennies were walking offstage, dripping with sweat after sending Soundwave ’15 up in smoke. Those shows served as somewhat of a breakthrough for the Melbourne quarter-ounce-tet, introducing a whole new legion of soon-to-be-stoners to the wondrous, smoke-soaked realm of the Heavy Disco. In the months that followed, the blokes grew from small-time record store jammers to a blossoming theatre band, now in the craft of smashing party-punk bangers to crowds of thousands on the daily. And the gas-doused tinder to send their flames into space? Wisdom Machine – 11 cuts of raw, ravenous anarchy set to leave smoke alarms pillaged and conservatives disgusted, all around the world. In the build up to The Bennies’ world domination, BLUNT caught up with bassist Craig Selak to get the grind on why album #3 is well worth a blaze.
You and Anty have always thrown vocal duties back and forth, but on this record it sounds like you have a pretty equal split of microphone time. Is that what you were consciously aiming for, or is it just how shit went down in the studio?
I think it’s just how it happened, probably in the writing process. We definitely didn’t consciously think beforehand, “Let’s split the mic time a bit more.” I think that when we were writing, that’s just how the ideas came through. A lot of the vocal stuff, as well, it’s not always ‘whoever wrote that part sings that part’. In the past, it used to be, but for this release – and Heavy Disco – we’ve sort of discussed a bit more, like… Jules has come up with some great melodies, but he didn’t want to sing them, so he’d be like, “Maybe Craig should sing this verse,” or “maybe Anty should have a crack at it.” Ultimately, we were just trying to do whatever worked best for each song, so I guess for the collection of songs that ended up on Wisdom Machine, that’s probably just come out that way. But y’know, I think it works! For the tunes that are on there, we’re really happy with how it’s all split up – it sort of gave Anty a bit more freedom to experiment and take his usual vocal abilities even further. He didn’t have such a big amount of vocals to think about, whereas previously he’d have a lot more vocals than everyone. So he was able to get a lot more creative with what he had, and I think he did a really great job.
After the album drops, you guys will be off on your biggest headline tour to date. I know the Oxford Arts isn’t exactly the best venue for pyro, but do you guys have any crazy shit in the pipeline?
[laughs] I’m so glad you said pyro, because that is our ultimate goal. Like, we would sacrifice the quality of our music to improve the pyro situation. We recently found out about these flames, which – I know metal people have known about for years – but there’s these indoor flames that don’t burn anything, so you can have them in, like, a fucking one-metre high space, and they don’t burn the roof! We’ve got so many stupid ideas for inflatables, flames, and all kinds of stuff, but we’ll see how we go. But also, like, as many ideas as we have, we’re also just a bunch of stoners, so it’s really hard to make any of them happen, y’know? It’s just couch dreaming, until the reality of it sinks in.
How much weed do we need to bribe you with to get the TISM cover on this tour setlist?
[laughs] A surprisingly little amount.
“You see a lot of other bands taking the elevator, but you’ve gotta take the stairs if you want to make your band a legit, sustainable thing.”
You guys tour like fucking crazy – which is not a complaint, because every show I see you guys smash out is better than the last. What fuels that fire that you guys have to always be out on the road?
I think it’s a combination of ambition – y’know, the four of us as a collective, we really want to take our band all the fucking way! The only road is the hard road, man. You see a lot of other bands taking the elevator, but you’ve gotta take the stairs if you want to make your band a legit, sustainable thing. All four of us are lifers, man – we’ve always loved music, we’ve always wanted to do it, and we see touring as the vehicle for that. Plus, it’s so much fucking fun meeting people, and performing is easily the best part of it all for me. And also, just the friendship between the four of us, y’know? Before this tour, we’ll have had a good month and a half off, and really, I just can’t wait to hang out with the dudes! I’m sure it comes across like it’s a fun time in our band, and that’s because it is. The four of us have a great time together, and I that’s an infectious vibe that we like to share with everyone – everyone’s welcome! So it’s like, if you could spend time with your four best mates doing what you love, why the fuck would you ever want to stop touring?
You guys also do hella festivals. How does the vibe of a festival compare to the vibe of a sweaty club headliner?
Both fantastic in their own rights! I think, like, as a performer, you’re always just thirsty for the biggest crowd humanly possible [laughs]. I’m always watching these sweet Iron Maiden live DVDs, Rock In Rio, they’re playing to like, two trillion people – that’s fucking rad! That’s the dream. And I think we’re starting to get enough tunes in the bank now, that we could justify playing in a better time slot, get a few more people down and partying with us… But then again, y’know, some of my favourite shows ever have been at the Time Machine in Namboor, or even the last Sydney show we did at the Factory floor – that was just fuckin’ boxy and sweaty, God, that was just fucking rad. We try to do the same performance, no matter if it’s a small club or a big stage, and hopefully these tunes will work across both settings, because they’re both parts to partying.
So it’s never been any secret that you guys are into drugs and getting fucked up, but how do you balance that side of The Bennies with the serious components that come with being a band?
I think you just roll with it. One thing that we’re all really in tune with is the vibe within ourselves, and the chemistry within our crew. So y’know, if the party’s getting a little bit too hectic, it’s easy to be honest with each other and pull it back in. Or if shit’s getting too stale, it’s good to have someone come in and throw a fuckin’ cocktail in there, and say, “Y’know what, man? Fucking get off your phone for twenty minutes, let’s have a long island iced tea and vibe about how fucking fun it is to be in Perth today!” Just together, that’s how we manage it – I mean, we always used to post out our own merch, and only recently have Poison City taken that on, which is great for the fans because we’re pretty fucking slack at getting that shit out when we’re on tour all the time. But y’know, we used to just fire up a few jays, put on some Sabbath, and just do a fucking working bee at Bowie’s house – pump out the merch – so you can mix and match both, but ultimately, like I said before, we want to do this for a long time. We want to be sustainable, we want to be able to always be on tour, and the reality of that is, sometimes, you’ve gotta put the fuckin’ beer down and get some shit done. But then, don’t forget to reward yourself with a beer after you’ve done the hard work.
“If shit’s getting too stale, it’s good to have someone come in and throw a fuckin’ cocktail in there.”
I don’t want to ask about tour moments because that’s stale as fuck, but what’s the dodgiest situation that you’ve ever found yourself in as The Bennies? Can you talk about it, or will you have gang members knocking at your door?
Nah, nah, that’s all gravy. All of our stuff is pretty harmless, like, I think the fact that the music isn’t that aggressive – it’s a different kind of dodgy crowd that comes to us. It’s more your sweet dudes that just want to smoke a jay with you and talk a bit of shit, something like that. Probably the dodgiest thing that’s happened was, we played an all ages show, and there’s this dude that couldn’t have been more than ten asking if we wanted to go back to his house for a bunch of hongers, and we just had to fucking laugh. We were just like, “Dude, that’s fucked up, man. Go to school!” But yeah, other than that, it’s generally all pretty positive – even if there are some grey areas in terms of legalities.
No relevance to anything we should be speaking about but it does need to be asked – what historical figure from music, or just pop culture in general, do you think would be the biggest sick cunt to smash a bowl with?
Tough question! Great question, but a tough question! There’s so many choices… Look, you can’t say Marley because he’s more of a spliff guy, I think… Bradley from Sublime – he’s more of a drug guy. I’d probably have to go with someone hilarious, like Andre The Giant, or some kind of larger-than-life personality. Maybe even, like, the tallest man in the world. Robert Wadlow; do you remember him? Smashing a bowl with him– he would need to have a whole fucking plant!
Do you reckon you could out-smoke him?
[laughs] Nah, I definitely couldn’t, but I reckon Jules could give him a bit of a push.
We might wrap things up here, but just before we head off, the most important question of the entire interview – fuck, of any interview you do for this run – what strain of bud should we be puffing when we spin Wisdom Machine?
Ah man, a bit of Afghan Kush is always gonna fuckin’ do the job. Or anything homegrown – there’s a homegrown element to this album, so if you’ve got your own strand that you’ve been rotating around your backyard, getting the most sunlight, that’s probably your go-to! Otherwise a bit of Afghan, or some AK-47, that’ll do the trick.
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The Bennies / Off With Their Heads / Hightime
Saturday March 26th – Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
Sunday March 27th – Club 54, Launceston (18+)
Monday March 28th – Brisbane Hotel, Hobart (18+)
Thursday March 31st – Uni Bar, Adelaide (AA)
Friday April 1st – Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
Saturday April 2nd – Amplifier, Perth (18+)
Sunday April 3rd – Prince of Wales, Bunbury (18+)
Wedday April 6th – Transit Bar, Canberra (18+)
Thursday April 7th – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (18+)
Friday April 8th – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (18+)
Saturday April 9th – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane (18+)
Sunday April 10th – Sol Bar, Maroochydore (18+)