With their debut album slated for release tomorrow, it’s the bookend of a wild few years for The Chats.
Last time I spoke with The Chats was in the beer garden of Northcote Social Club in 2018. They’d just released their single ‘Do What I Want’ and were kicking off their first national tour. They had a rough website, and were posting their own merch.
“We’ve got on pretty far since we last seen ya,” says singer-bassist Eamon Sandwith quite matter-of-factly from over the phone.
The Chats origin story goes something like this: Eamon Sandwith, Josh Price, and Matt Bogis mucked around in music class together. A few bongs were presumably smoked, a song was recorded, and a video clip slapped together by Sandwith racked up millions of views.
The boys were on the news. They were playing shows. They toured nationally. And then internationally. And then again, and again. Around UK and Europe three times in less than two years.
‘Smoko’ now has over nine and half million views on Youtube and the release of their debut album, High Risk Behaviour, is imminent.
I remind Sandwith of their outlook on the success of ‘Smoko’ at the time: “what’s a band without a hit?” they told me.
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Looking back on it, Sandwith says, “I think that was probably something we said at the time, to make ourselves feel better about being one-hit wonders.”
He laughs, “but now it’s looking a bit better for us.”
They’d just booked a spot on the since-postponed Coachella bill, as well as a coveted Saturday night slot at the similarly-postponed Splendour in the Grass.
Check out ‘The Clap’ by The Chats:
With publicists and managers on board, the band are growing up. Though at only 20, Sandwith admits they feel younger than other bands. But quickly deflects it with a comment about how they manage to avoid hangovers.
Their trajectory as a trio of young blokes bears a resemblance to another group of upstarts finding success during adolescence – the Beastie Boys.
Though they didn’t have YouTube to help propel their career, the Beastie Boys had the same boyhood energy and punk spirit propelling them around the world. Besides, one can’t help but think that the video clip for ‘The Clap’ is not unlike the early work of the auteur Adam Yauch, aka MCA.
Before their rap success, the Beastie Boys were a hardcore band (and counted a female member). Like The Chats, they were having mild success at 18-19 making money and playing shows with Run-DMC. But even after the fame, they kept their punk ethos by doing a lot themselves. Something Sandwith wants to continue with The Chats.
Case in point: releasing their debut album on their own label, Bargain Bin Records. In a blistering 28 minutes, the record screeches through 14 tracks.
“It’s a lot of different weird shit, I don’t know, I think kind of everyday life and the aspects of that and just, I don’t know, normal stuff that people don’t stop to think about,” Sandwith says of the album.
‘Keep the Grubs Out’ is the eloquent true tale of Sandwith’s run-in with a bar and their anti-mullet door policy.
Punk-anthem ‘Drunk and Disorderly’ is likely to inspire chaos at shows, and an ode to legendary dine-and-dasher Paul Charles Dozsa, is so aptly named ‘Dine and Dash‘. It’s a calling card of their dead-pan humour and no-frills approach.
The album does have a surprise in-store for listeners though.
“Yeah it’s pretty standard Chats sounds, but on the last track we actually manage to fit in a minor chord and a little bit of acoustic guitar.”
‘Better than You’, the album’s closer, is a welcomed come down from the pure speed the rest of the record delivers. It’s also “really experimental” for the boys.
But Sandwith scoffs at the idea of more experimentation, “I don’t know how far we’d get, we’ve got very limited musicianship.”
Check out ‘Dine and Dash’ by The Chats:
The album was recorded at Billy Gardner’s studio in Geelong over 18 months, booking in time whenever they played in Melbourne. The scattered approach serving as a by-product of their high-energy: “It’s also ‘cos we have shit attention spans.”
For what they lack in the studio, they more than make up for on stage and on the road – which Sandwith credits their success to in-part.
“Yeah I think just our touring schedule, we try to get to the places… we try to play rural towns that no one really thinks of in Australia. Like we’ve been to Toowoomba a few times, we’ve been to bloody Geelong, been to Geelong probably like ten times, more than any other venue.”
“If you just keep playing Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, it’s just going to get to stale.”
And is this a conscious effort by them or management?
“Probably a bit half and half, I think we’re more likely to say yes to what a lot of other bands would say no to.”
“It’s about us having a good time I suppose. We just like playing shows,” he says adamantly.
Amongst all this touring, they’ve tested rider requests too.
“When we were in Europe we asked every venue for a signed photo of Steve Irwin, like a portrait. And the only place that did it was Germany.” A very Chats demand.
Just as the Beastie Boys proved to be so much more than a bunch of knuckleheads in shell-toes and tracksuits, the Chats will show they’re aren’t just a riotous three-headed beer-swilling monster.
But for now, let them enjoy getting drunk and disorderly and avoiding the clap.
High Risk Behaviour, out March 27 on Bargain Bin Records/Cooking Vinyl Australia.