Like the beloved ‘S’ symbol we drew on our highschool notebooks, the Aussie five dollar note trick (warning: NSFW) – immortalised on the cover of Private Function’s second album Whose Line Is It Anyway? – is tried-and-tested horseplay for the ages. “It’s a classic primary school gag,” says affable vocalist Chris Penney. “I was really surprised that the symbology doesn’t exist in any other band’s universe – we stole it forever now! One of the ideas for the album title we were tossing up was Moby’s Dick, actually,” he adds. (They were going to digitally add the sometimes-maligned electronic musician’s famous ‘VEGAN FOR LIFE’ tattoo down the length of the Queen’s neck.)
Gags are liberally spritzed all over Private Function’s approach: from the bandname (which is initially confusing to see listed on any venue’s line-up) to the pun of the album title, the punk-pub-rock five-piece combine joyful abandon with a formidable understanding of (particularly Aussie) rock, and how to harness its grimy, agile vitality.
Take Evie Part 4, the imagined sequel to the Vanda and Young-penned, Stevie Wright-performed, nationwide-adored, 1974 track Evie (parts one to three). “We thought it’d be funny to hear from Evie, what her vibe is,” Penney explains. “And we always wanted to do a song that was a homage to Paradise By The Dashboard Light by Meatloaf.” (NB: Evie’s vocal is provided by Jade Louise of all-female Byron Bay act DickLord; “They’re one of our favourite bands in Australia, without a doubt,” says Penney.)
There’s also the cover of Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way, the original of which Penney says never got the love it deserved because of the era in which it was released. “Rock and roll was a bit of a joke then – it’s a bit of a joke now,” he chuckles. “I think if it had come out 10 years earlier maybe, or 20, or 30, it would have been far more highly regarded. The riffs are just awesome, and we gave it a kind of more ‘80s, Metallica vibe.”
You just cannot, however, go past the thrashing originals of this LP: first single I Don’t Wanna Make Out With You is a mega-catchy, hollered singalong, and there aren’t many songs you can shout along to with the jubilant satisfaction of that presented by their ode to Australia’s twin cities: “Albury Wodonga, I can’t believe the spell that I’m under! I love Albury Wodonga!”
The video for this song is a hilariously affectionate celebration of the township, seeing the fellas stop in at Charcoal Chicken, the Twisted Scissors hair salon, and that old stalwart of watering holes, the Ettamogah Pub – which is named for the local Aboriginal word for ‘place of good drink’, something Penney hazards refers to the “beautiful” freshwater lake behind the venue.
“Oh my days, you’ve got to go to this pub,” Penney says. “It’s not just a pub. It’s all a homage – that’s the word of the day here – to the Australian cartoonist [Ken Maynard, whose comics about the pub were popular in the ‘70s]; there’s a crashed pane in the front yard, a giant truck on the roof, an entire back area with cockatoos. We always try and stop at the Ettamogah and have a beer and walk around the pace and look at all the drawings on the wall. I love it so much.”
Suffice to say you’re going to want to hoon up the Hume blasting this LP the moment you give it a spin.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? by Private Function is out Friday August 28 via Damaged Caroline.
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