Fasten your seat belts for The Chats’ upcoming debut album High Risk Behaviour, which crams 14 blistering punk-rock tracks that explore uniquely ’Strayan bogan (in the best possible way, obvs) themes such as STDs, mullet discrimination and mozzie-borne diseases into 28 short, stabby minutes.
When we ask singer/bassist Eamon Sandwith how he would’ve reacted if someone told him a year ago that The Chats would go on to play live on The Today Show, he admits, “I would’ve said, ‘No way!'” The Chats performed their track Pub Feed on said breakfast TV program in early February and Sandwith reflects, “I think we came off a bit too awkward, but it was just a little bit uncomfortable to be in that setting; you’re cautious of what you’re gonna say, you’re trying not to swear.”
For obvious reasons, The Chats didn’t perform their latest single The Clap (aptly described as “a cautionary tale about a root gone wrong” on the press release) on The Today Show. Lead guitarist Josh “Pricey” Price takes lead vocals on this one and Sandwith confirms the song was actually penned about his bandmate’s lived experience. They must’ve been delighted to discover that “root” rhymes with “ute” – the basis for a winning rhyming couplet in The Clap. “Yeah, that was like a lightbulb above the head kind of thing,” Sandwith chuckles.
During another album track, Drunk N Disorderly, there’s a super-catchy rhyming-chant section that goes, “Relaxation/ Mood alteration/ Boredom leads to intoxication.”
“I actually got that particular rhyme when I was doing my bar training, when you have to get your Responsible Service of Alcohol,” Sandwith enlightens. “So that was in this section about why people drink, and what leads to them being alcoholics, and I was like, ‘Oh, that rhymes! I could chuck that in a song!'”
The Chats songs are littered with Australianisms and even Iggy Pop – who handpicked the self-proclaimed “dropkick drongos from the Sunshine Coast” to be his support band – hit them up for some translations. “I think he was on his way out of the show but he came over to say hi, which was nice, and we were like, ‘Oh, f-ckin’ what’s up, man?’ And then he was like [does his best Iggy impression], ‘I gotta ask you kids, what’s a dart?’ And we said, ’Oh, that’s a cigarette,’ and he goes, ‘Ok, what’s a smoko?’ And we had to, like, explain to him what it was – I don’t reckon he really understood, but he kinda pretended he did.”
Sandwith reminisces about the first time The Chats played in front of an audience: “We did a Battle Of The Bands at the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club and it went pretty poorly ’cause we were up against, you know, folk kids with acoustic guitars and stuff. Then we came out and I think it just shocked everyone, and they were like, ’Yeah, this isn’t gonna work in this competition.’ We kind of took it with a bit of pride, we were like, ‘Sick!'” he laughs.
But then the whole world certainly took notice when The Chats dropped their three-minute ode to informal work breaks, Smoko, back in 2017: it went viral thanks to the accompanying DIY film clip starring Sandwith sporting his trademark ginger mullet, a surf lifesaver shirt and speed-dealer sunnies that look like they were purchased from a servo (probably discounted). Fast forward a couple of years and The Chats have toured internationally multiple times (currently their biggest territory is the UK) and supported Queens Of The Stone Age (as well as Iggy).
At the time of our chat, the boys were also in recovery mode after touring as part of the 2020 Laneway festival line-up. “It was epic!” Sandwith enthuses. “It was the first time we’d done a travelling festival, so it was really fun.”
When asked to single out a memorable Laneway moment, Sandwith comes up with an absolute corker: “There was this one – I think it was Adelaide, but the security guard at the front of the stage was, like, eating Red Frogs out of a packet and I was like, ‘Oh, give us some,’ and he actually gave me a few. I was chewin’ ’em up in my mouth ’til there was a big, Red-Frog ball and I spat it two metres in the air above my head, and then I caught it!“ What? In his mouth? “Yeah.” Is there photographic evidence of this? “I dunno,” he confesses. “I haven’t seen anything, but I swear I did it.”
Sandwith then reels off his personal highlights with The Chats so far: sharing Iggy Pop’s stage, playing Laneway and “just havin’ a record comin’ out.”
On writing and recording the material for High Risk Behaviour, Sandwith reveals, “It was pretty messy, because some of the songs I wrote about three years ago and then some of the songs I wrote on the day in the studio – it just depended how I was feeling and what my creative vibe was, I guess.“ He then adds,
“I don’t really spend longer than 30 minutes on a song.“
Whenever The Chats’ touring schedule took them to Victoria, they would drop into engineer Billy Gardner’s Geelong studio to record for the day. “We became really good mates with him and we really hit it off and kept booking recording sessions with him,“ Sandwith explains. On whether Gardner made any suggestions during the band’s recording process, Sandwith considers, “He did have a little bit of input, like, on a couple of songs he said, ‘Oh, you should chuck in a couple of tambourine hits or some claps’ – kinda stuff that we’d never think about it; we just think about plugging in and playing. And he had some pretty good tips about overdubbing guitar solos over rhythm parts, which is something that we’d never really experimented too hard with before. He really helped us out.“
After singling out Dine N Dash and Keep The Grubs Out as his favourite tracks on High Risk Behaviour (“I reckon they’re pretty strong”), Sandwith quickly adds, “I think Better Than You’s pretty good; we even snuck a minor chord into that song!”
High Risk Behaviour by The Chats is out March 27 via Cooking Vinyl.
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