Fun, wild, and ridiculously talented, The Bennies embody everything we love about live music. While even their studio releases embody the same brand of unique chaos that they bring to the stage, physically partaking in a show put on by The Bennies can be likened to a spiritual experience. So it’s especially cruel to imagine this gorgeous beast, this stunning hybrid of punk, reggae, and ska, locked up and denied its primary objective – to unfurl itself before a live audience – for more than a year.
Having said that, The Bennies are more fortunate than most in the sense that they did manage to squeeze in one authentic live show before Lockdown 2: Lockdown’s Revenge hit most of our major cities. They saw the light, the touched it – and it was an exhumation of all of the energy they had kept buried since the pandemic first reared its ugly head.
Now with the taste of the live experience back on their tongues, The Bennies are eyeing off their return to the festival setting as part of the forthcoming Ska Nation Festival 2021, a gathering of Australia’s finest ska and ska-adjacent acts encased in a weekend of stalls, markets, and black-and-white-checkered mayhem. We caught up with Snes from the band to chat about it all.
A lot of bands got to play COVID-safe shows, but The Bennies managed to pull off a fully-fledged, legit, no-masks live show. How did it feel to experience that again?
We just snuck one in and it was amazing. I went to see a few shows during lockdown and it was a different performance. The whole time I was just thinking, “Man, I’m lucky this isn’t a Bennies show, because it would be so heartbreaking.” Because the vibe’s usually not like that at all. I couldn’t imagine how that would translate if everyone was sitting down or whatever.
I think it was a mixture of that, just the relief that it wasn’t that, plus, because people haven’t been outside in so long. it was a fucking massive fireball of energy. It was great. Everyone was flying, you know? Lots of smiles and energy. It was just mint.
Touring always contained so much grunt work – standing around, waiting. Did you find a new appreciation for these so-called downsides of live music, having been denied it for more than a year?
Oh, hell yeah. Even stuff that I didn’t think I would ever miss, like trying to find missing cables and setting up, and doing sound check. “I can’t quite hear anything, something’s wrong…” It’s like, those little mishaps that you take for granted. I was like, “Awh man, I actually miss this stress.”
We’re only going to discuss Ska Nation in positive terms. It will go ahead. What’s got you the most buzzed about headlining a ska festival?
I’m really excited to, in general, to have that many ska bands all in one place, at one time. Because, if you think about just how many people are in one ska band…Even if not many people came, which I doubt will be the case anyways, even just how many band members are going to be there. It’s going to be a massive crowd.
There’s a few bands that I haven’t seen their names appear in years. Like Loin Groin, I remember seeing them decades ago. It’s cool to see them on the bill again. There’s the Kujo Kings, as well!
It’s going to be ridiculous. I want to try to really push the air horn agenda. I’m assuming, because it’s a camping thing, there’s going to be a time where everyone’s hanging around in tents. I want to really try and get some air horns going. Try to push that agenda a bit.
So, just when mankind is finally being able to gather again, you’re going to fuck with everyone…
Good plan. I want to talk about the new music as well. It’s been a couple of years since releases, which seems to be The Bennies’ format. I imagine that stuff is in the pipeline now?
It’s been a tough one. Just when COVID really started launching, we took a year’s break. Which was really well-timed, because other people couldn’t do anything, anyway. Prior to that, we had a bunch of songs that we demoed. We recorded four of them. They’re all sounding so good, but it’s just really frustrating because we’ve been listening to it for so long. I just want to actually get them out there and show other people.
They’re all quite varied, too, style-wise. Everything kind of takes some weird turns, which is good. As far as other bands I’ve played in, this has been my favorite band for the reason that you can throw your ridiculous idea in the mix and everyone will give it a chance. It’s really good because some of the stuff that comes out of it is just like, “Aw, man. Who else would even try and do that in a song?” When I’ve played in other bands it’s all been good, but everyone’s sort of felt, “No, that doesn’t really fit our sound,” or people are more restricted.
Am I asking too much for a release date?
Time lines keep changing as far as dates and stuff. There are a lot of factors to take into account. But we’re definitely going to have something. Regardless of what we end up doing with it, there’ll be something out at some stage this year.
Catch The Bennies performing at Ska Nation this October.
Ska Nation Festival 2021
Friday, 29th October – Saturday, 30th October
Ti Tree Hotel, Warrion VIC
Tickets: Ska Nation
The Isolators (SA)
House Arrest (WA)
Alla Spina (QLD)
Special Guests TBA