The Bennies’ new album Natural Born Chillers is a sometimes thoughtful, sometimes madcap look into the ska-punks’ worldview. We spoke with vocalist/keys player Anty Horgan and bassist/vocalist Craig Selak.
You’ve spoken about playing on bills where there’s a really hierarchical environment, which you don’t dig very much. Is the Pool House Records vibe very much a family?
Craig: Oh yeah. It’s awesome. And particularly in our camp, it’s something we like to spread even beyond Pool House; it’s something we take on our own tours. I mean, we’d love to have a beer left when we come off stage! But we remember all those times when we were that band, and now it’s just about high fives and all getting together and doing it.
Your live shows are renowned; how do you render that energy in the studio?
Anty: It’s hard to say – I think we always try and emulate that live thing. I don’t know whether we’ve got there yet. It’s something we’re always going to work towards, and always try to find ways to make it feel more live. There are a few different approaches on this recording.
The message of Destination Unknown is very cool; it’s weird how ‘It’s the journey and not the destination’ is one of those things you get told a hundred times, but you never properly comprehend it until you experience it.
C: It is. Being on tour in a band, and constantly with your head down, just working and working for the next goal, next goal… and it’s never good enough. Then you kinda look back and you’re like ‘Fuck, we’ve done a lot of cool stuff! We’re currently in Europe, and I’m too busy thinking about what we have to do when we get back.’ And we all kind of had that click moment at the same time. That was one of the first songs when we were writing that we actually talked about the theme of the song and tried to write it together! A lot of the time it’s just ideas about partying that loosely fit, but this song was a really satisfying team effort across the board.
A: It’s my favourite, that one.
Anty, how did you go about choosing the wonky synth sounds which link Destination Unknown from Dreamkillers before it?
A: It was a bit of a trial and error thing, because with a few of the songs we had the keys setting the tempo. So we started with the click track and we went off the demos, and as we were recording we realised that the microKORG [analogue synthesiser] that I use, the arpeggio can lose time a little bit. We were going a bit mad, because slowly, slowly, each round, it goes out a little bit. It plays tricks on your ears.
C: The start of the song was sweet, and then by halfway through the first verse it sounded weird! We thought ‘Oh, Bowie’s stuffed the drums!’ But no one expected the computer to be f-cking up.
A: The microKORG’s not old, but it’s such a simple processor it sort of flips on itself. We ended up having to go buy this thing, a midi clock, to dial in the tempo. It was a massive learning curve with the synth, for sure. In terms of sounds, I’ll just be f-cking around, and whatever sound makes the guys laugh the most is what I end up going with. Yep, that’s how we work out the synth noises.
Of the three spoken-word tales in Trip Report, I think the one about smoking in China is my favourite. Did that truly happen?
A: Everywhere you go [in China] people are just charging ciggies, and Jules embraced that attitude. We were leaving, we were at the airport counter, and he just lights a ciggie.
C: We’re giving in our passports, handing over our bags, and he’s just smashing a durrie. It was hectic. He was trying to out-China China. We didn’t actually tell each other the stories before we were in there recording it, so the first time everyone heard each other’s stories was when we were laying them down. It really kept the spontaneity. You could hear everyone pissing themselves through the booth. It was a really fun experience, that one.
A: Seeing [everyone] do their verses, it was really [illuminating] of the three of our approaches to how we record and how we write. Jules never did the same thing twice in that recording, he was telling a different story every time and the names got confused. Then Craig’s bit was really spot on, it was well-rehearsed. It was kinda nice to see that.
The cover artwork for your last album Wisdom Machine was a collaboration between Anty’s dad and The Smith Street Band’s Chris Cowburn. Natural Born Chillers also has a rather striking look to it – did you enlist the same artists?
C: The new album was actually a collaboration between Anty and Chris. Anty does this really awesome collage artwork – @cpw420, if you wanna check it – and Chris did the layout. And he did, and we did, so there you go.
Natural Born Chillers is out February 2 via Pool House Records/Remote Control.
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