THE BENNIES Natural chillers & party fillers

The Bennies are the psychedelic fusion of sound that creates a party vibe whenever you hit play. To maintain that party vibe, they’re bringing us new LP, Natural Born Chillers, out this Friday, February 2. During a recent visit to Perth for their national Get High Like An Angel tour, RYAN ELLIS caught up with bassist, sometimes vocalist, and all-round chiller, Craig Selak, to chat about the album ahead of its release.

It’s always challenging trying to describe The Bennies’ sound, how do you guys describe it?

There’s two ways we describe it, specifically it’s psychedelic reggae ska doom metal punk rock, but broadly, it’s party music. That’s it, a party in any sense. Party doesn’t have to be, you know, you don’t have to be fucking smashed on beers to party, you can watch DVDs and get high, that’s still partying.

Sound wise, you guys tend to throw a bit of everything into the music, it’s sort of, you got to risk it for the biscuit. So, how’s the biscuit tasting?

Taste good man (laughs), taste real good…

Like a good choc chip cookie?

(laughs) love a good choc chip dude, also love a subway M&M’s cookie, yeah. It’s funny, we’ve been a band for like nine years or something like that, and it’s interesting, at the start everyone was like, “fuck you’re playing too many styles”, “this is shit”, “what are you” or whatever, and that’s kind of now become our strength, we’re kind of whatever we want, and it doesn’t matter.

I think it just goes to show any music can be party music doesn’t it?

That’s it, exactly. Party is an energy, it’s a feeling, it’s not necessarily one sound.

So, the new album, Natural Born Chillers, how did that come around. Just due for another album or was there a bit more at play with it?

It was a bit of both, we’re a pretty creative bunch and we’re always writing, no matter what. We just end up having a bunch of songs, and for this, it wasn’t a heap but, for example, for the previous album we did, Wisdom Machine, which came out March last year [2016], we recorded 22 songs and I think it was 10 odd on the album. So this time we were like, we don’t have 22 songs, but we got eight that we really like, let’s just fucking put them out.

Drop what you got and just do another album later.

Yeah, and we’re actually gonna do that.

Cool, so we’re getting a double tap for 2018?

Yeah you are, this one comes out Feb, and then we’re going back in the studio in Feb to record another one that will come out later in the year. We’re just like, fuck it, screw sitting on shit, let’s just get it out there, we like them so let’s just get them out.

How long were you working on this one?

Not that long, in terms of studio recording, not long, but in terms of writing the songs, we’re always writing, so maybe the last 2–3 years of touring, we’ve been working on bits and pieces of things. We don’t waste anything and we’ve got this thing we call the breadbox, so any idea, we chuck it in the breadbox and later on we’ll toast it up.

Some of these ideas that ended up being songs on this album, that have been in the breadbox for maybe three to four years, but it’s not until someone comes in one day and is like, hey, I fucking unlocked it. The way we write it is, we all come in together and write together, so no one comes in with a full song and there you go. It’s like, I got an idea, a riff, a drum beat, whatever, and then we just hammer it out until it becomes something.

Were there any drivers or motivators for the album?

Not necessarily, I think it wasn’t a conscious thing, but I think it has a bit of a defiance feel to it, in that, the more you do, you’re gonna get people that enjoy it, but you’re also going to get more people telling you what you should do and shouldn’t do, and this album was a bit of a ciggie flick to anyone telling you what to do. I think the best thing to do is just do what you like. We hope that there’s enough in there that, if you feel like chilling out, you can put it on, but if you feel like getting pumped up, then you can put it on as well.

Album and track title, Natural Born Chillers, is that a reflection of The Bennies themselves, or anyone in particular?

It’s probably a reflection of what we hoped to be (laughs), yeah. I think the idea of a natural born chiller is as much a myth as it’s something you can embrace. It’s just whatever, you can wake up one day and feel really insecure and not cool about yourself, another day you can feel like nothing can touch me, I’m a natural born chiller. The album tried to encapsulate the feeling when you wake up and you’re like, can’t touch this, I am who I am, this is us and everyone else can fuck off, this is me and I’m happy.

Is there a bigger natural born chiller of the group?

Pfft, I think that is an argument that will rage forever. I think Bowie’s probably the most logical, so that makes him quite a chilled cat, but I think Jules has the most Teflon man, and nothing will stick, he’s like (shrugs), so yeah, he’s probably the most natural born chilled guy.

It’s a typical Bennies album, fun and easy to listen to. Was it as fun to make as it sounds?

Definitely, particularly with this one. With Wisdom Machine, it was a real hard task. I don’t know if it comes across that way in the music, but we really fucking sweated on that one, we wanted it to be good and really um’d and ah’d over things. Natural Born Chillers was a bit more of an ‘ah fuck it’ moment, it just feels naturally born. And I think your right, when you listen to it, it’s quick, the songs flow into each other in a natural form, I think it’s just the way it fell out, sometimes you just gota bottle that and go with it.

We tried a few more layers and things that we haven really done before. I’d probably say quirky more than crazy, but there’s a song on this album called Trip Report, which is a spoken word song. They’re all true stories, and it’s basically just us talking about a story each, we didn’t tell each other until it was getting laid down. So, the first time I heard Anty and Jules’ verse was when I was in the control room and they were putting it out. I feel it captures the spontaneity about us, there was no editing, none of that, that’s just how it came out, and we had a real fun time recording that one. It was kind of nerve-racking not having prepared anything, but also fun to just see what happened.

I noticed Trip Report was 4:22 long, was surprised you didn’t go for 4:20 on the dot…

To be honest, I think we did, but we cut it wrong (laughs). Maybe its two more seconds of chilledness than 4:20. 4:22 is the new time, 4:20 is too strict anyway, keep it loose.

Any favourites of the band on there, or yours in particular?

Me personally, I really like Destination Unknown, I think it’s a bit of a different feel for us altogether, we um’d and ah’d about that as a single because we love it so much, but I don’t necessarily know if it best represents the whole album for a single. Personally, I just like Anty’s verses and the fact that we play really restrained as a band in those verses, it’s something a bit different for us. I also really like Natural Born Chillers.

I really dig the ska fusion in Apathetic Revolution and Natural Born Chillers, the sort of songs you can sit back and chill to, or rock out to as well…

That’s it, it’s (Natural Born Chillers) really on a lean isn’t it. It’s on the back of the beat and, I think that songs the only song I can think of that we’ve done as one style for pretty much the whole song. When we were writing it, there was a huge tendency to want to throw a punk beat in or fuck it up, and we were just like, no, let’s just fucking let this one hum along, it’s the same rhythm, it’s nice and its cruisy, it felt nice to hold back.

And it’s funny you mention Apathetic Revolution, because that’s an example of a breadbox song. The verse of that song was from when we first started the band, we were actually called Madonna, but unfortunately that was taken, but that songs been kicking around since 2009 in some form. Every time we’ve written an album since, it’s come back through but hasn’t quite landed, until Anty came up with that cord line and it finally found a place, we kind of got the disco ska in there and we’re off.

Any sort of key messages or hidden eggs in the album, things you want people to take away from it?

I think there’s definitely like a self-appreciation egg in there. Also, on a more musical level, it’s not that obvious, the complexities and the kind of stuff we put together. We don’t try to wank off on stage with how technical songs are or anything like that, because they’re pretty basic on some levels, but with this album in particular, we really worked hard on infusing multiple genres that feel seamless. I think that’s kind of tricky to do, and hopefully people will respect that work. I mean Get High Like An Angel, starts off spoken word, goes to reggae, chorus is pop punk and then there’s a vocoder into a psychedelic solo, and then the very outro is an electric drumkit fusion. You could just say it’s a pop punk song or whatever, but we try to infuse all that in there, so it doesn’t feel jagged or random, that’s kind of hard to do. Hopefully people take that from it, there’s a lot of hidden technicalities in what, something that sounds pretty dumb and about drugs, which it also is (laughs).