The Chats Are Not Not Cool
Understanding the Aussie Band’s Punk Origins, Recorded/Live Rawness, and High Risk Behavior
The Chats are undoubtedly one of the most exciting live acts in music right now. If you’re not native to the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, you may not immediately grasp their slang-infused lyrics, but their garage instrumentation speaks an international language that is wildly infectious. If you’re a first time listener, let me set some expectations. The Chats’ energy can be best described as the feeling you got carving blasphemies into your desk in middle school or getting a high score in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Anti-authority, reckless, and authentic, The Chats exude a raw energy that is all but unparalleled in music today. In the past, bands like Pennywise and Rancid exuded a similar energy and grunge appeal. And out of this energy, they evoked a purely punk reaction to music: moshing. This is omnipresent at The Chats’ performances– shaking, aggressive pushing, eyes rolled back, and limbs thrashing in every direction. It’s one of the purest forms of punk joy.
Photo: Luke Henery
“One day we just thought, let’s start a band, so we did. … people from Chatsworth, they’re Chat [and] if you roll your ankle or something, you go ‘that’s chat.'” – The Chats.
Made up of guitarist Josh Price, drummer Matt Boggis, and bassist/vocalist Eamon Sandwith, The Chats are unapologetic and apathetic; they couldn’t care less about their popularity… They are unaffected by their poppier Australian counterparts–on the topic of Flume and Tame Impala’s explosive success, the band responds: “[We] don’t really listen to them but good on them for their success.” Ultimately, their influence comes from that which they do outside of music–“Matt is a skater, Pricey surfs, and we all like going to the pub.” God bless the pub and God bless “Smoko” for bringing the pub to the mainstage.
If you are familiar with The Chats and live anywhere other than Australia, chances are you discovered or recognize them as a result of their 2017 ode-to-the-smoke-break anthem “Smoko,” which went viral after they recorded the iconic music video which has now been viewed over 10 million times on Youtube alone.
I’m on Smoko, so leave me alone.
THE OFFICIAL VIDEO
THE LIVE PERFORMANCE
Following Smoko, 2 shorter lengthed projects, multiple sold-out tours, and a massive spike in international exposure, The Chats released their first full-length album, High Risk Behaviour, on March 27th of this year. In anticipation of the album’s release, they performed on The Today Show Australia. This is worth mentioning because it showcases that even on set, you can’t fake what this trio has–they’re not faking shit. Their musical progression comes from hard-work, rather than label guidance, and in place of a calculated brand, you’ll find three mates whose personalities mesh well together both on and off stage.
“We don’t try too hard.”
Prior to the performance, the show’s host Karl Stefanovic desperately tries to relate to the boys and insert his personal fandom and knowledge of culture into the conversation. It’s impossible to get the full effect without watching the clip but the basic response can be surmised by Eamon’s politeness in his to-the-point retort, “We don’t try too hard.” The performance itself is spectacular and while the sound feels out of place on a TV set, guitarist Josh Price makes the space his own, running on and off the set while drummer Matt Boggis closes the performance with some flair in jumping over his drum set into a perfect tuck and roll. These antics are what drive a typical The Chats’ performance and make them one of the most groundbreaking bands today.
In order to get a punk insider’s opinion, we spoke to our friend Diddy, who has been an avid supporter of The Chats for years…
“I solo’d it and didn’t know anyone around so it was easy for me to get super into it. The way they can command a crowd and open up pits, it was like watching a band that had been going on tours for years and years. They definitely take all of their energy into the show. I saw Dave Grohl and a couple of The Red Hot Chili Peppers hanging backstage which was cool… Their ability to get people jumping and moving is one of the best I’ve ever seen. They know exactly what they are and have since the beginning–a garage punk band. They’re not going to change because they don’t need to change, or even evolve.”
“Diddy” (far right) / Photograph: Jadah Pointer
These sentiments were echoed by one of the Kollection’s own writers and editors, Caroline Peacock, who interviewed the Aussie trio pre-show in Washington DC this past summer.
Photo by Caroline Peacock, night of the show.
“The Chats hold their own with every true punk band. My 60 year old dad, who grew up on punk music, became obsessed with The Chats after listening to just one song. To say he was jealous when I interviewed them would be an understatement. In the few hours I spent with them before their show, they proved to be everything I thought they would be. They dropped ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ every other word, consumed their fair share of beer and booze, and exuded the same sarcastic, authentic attitude as their albums. They’re genuine in every way; they’re blunt, they’re thoughtful, they’re rowdy, and they’re funny. They’re just plain cool. Our conversations ranged from their favorite bands growing up, to gun laws, to tour food (they love In-N-Out and California’s “bitchin’ Mexican food”), to their favorite shows. In a display of their humility, Josh cited San Antonio as their favorite show during their 2019 U.S. tour, as it was the only one that didn’t sell out, and they ‘weren’t expecting anything good.’ Josh said the San Antonio crowd ‘brought the party,’ and I’d say the same about DC. And though the crowd must be given some credit, the raw energy of the shows can largely be attributed to The Chats. Like their music, their performances are fast-paced, high-energy, and completely intoxicating. Their shows, their sound, and they themselves are some of the best in music.”
Even with their exponentially explosive exposure, the band remains humble in a tastefully cynical tone. In an interview with Academy Music on the weekend they played the world-renowned Reading Festival, Eamon reasons with the journalist–“When Smoko got big we never even played a gig outside of Queensland. We didn’t think we’d ever tour anything. We didn’t think we were any good. We still don’t really.” Ultimately, the music that they make still speaks to the life and plight of the Australian tradesman, but their attitude applies to people from all walks of life.
The tracklist of The Chats’ High Risk Behaviour–titled after Matt’s risky skating endeavors–is garnished top to bottom with the explicit symbol. Beyond explicit language, the songs could be deemed “inappropriate” because the band is comfortable saying things that you or I would be hesitant to voice aloud in any setting other than cracking humor with close friends. In response to our inquiry if they’ve felt the need to self-censor to gain mainstream support, Eamon’s answer remained on brand–“Fuck that, our song The Clap got played on the radio and it’s about chlamydia. Write about whatever you want.”
Their first project from 2016, self-titled “The Chats”, takes a softer tone vocally and lasts a total of 17 minutes across the 7 tracks. Their second project, “Get This In Ya” was released a year later, featured the breakout track Smoko, and was also 7 tracks, but was 3 minutes shorter than the previous release. This project showcased Eamon’s vocals at their full ferocity for the first time and gave the project the vocal life that it warranted. High Risk Behaviour doubled down on the format of the previous release–“There are not a lot of people putting out a 28 minute 14 song album. It’s unheard of. The fact that they’re bringing the punk genre back to what it’s rooted in and doing it in a way that has [touched] the mainstream is insane” (Diddy).
“Stinker” kicks the album off both in energy and theme; motifs include the unbearable heat, copious amounts of beer, and time spent with the mates. When tracks are just over a minute, the breakdown of lyrical structure becomes muddled. In a hook of sorts that only appears once on track 2, “Drunk n Disorderly,” Eamon belts “Relaxation, mood alteration. Boredom leads to intoxication” once and then Josh and Matt join him as it’s repeated once more. It is these fleeting moments that those attending their shows likely look forward to and are satisfied once the 5 second part wraps. As the album progresses into “The Clap” (track 3)–an energetic run-through of a positive STD test–we see The Chats’ “don’t give a fuck” attitude really take form. This attitude then builds upon itself in “Identity Theft,” the song opening with, “I was paying for drugs on the internet. I was feeling invincible with my VPN. Now hackers got my credit card number and my identity true.”
Track 5 of the album, “The Kids Need Guns,” demands isolated commentary as the subject matter becomes politically charged. “I wrote the song when people in the US were saying all kids should go to school with guns to protect themselves. I thought that was hilarious,” says Eamon. At only a minute and 18 seconds, the song opens with “Little Johnny and Petey, Both went on a shooting spree. They learned it from the TV. USA, land of the free.” While Johnny and Petey were names selected based on their commonality, it parallels real life: Johnny could refer to John Jason McLaughlin, who shot and killed two students at Rocori High School, while Petey could point to Peter Odighizuwa, who went on a shooting spree at the Appalachian School of Law campus. The weight of the opening verse is amplified by the chorus that follows–“The kids need guns, the kids need guns. The kids need guns, guns, guns, guns, guns. The kids need guns, the kids need guns. The kids need guns, guns.” The second verse negates the connection to the aforementioned shootings as those shooters survived their crimes–“They didn’t get no jail time. Offed themselves at the scene of the crime. The other gun-less children died. In a tragic murder-suicide.” The word guns is used 32 times throughout the track before it wraps out in under one and a half minutes time. Unbeknownst to the group, in a span of 46 weeks in 2019, 32 school shootings occurred at K-12 schools. While there were 417 mass shootings in the US last year, minimal legislation was passed in response to these matters–highlighting the absurdity of “the kids need guns.” In a twisted, perhaps blind, sense of national pride, The Chats simultaneously pay homage to the fact Australia has not had a mass-shooting since 1996 when the “Australian governments united to remove semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles from civilian possession” following the Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people were killed.
Photograph: Matt Walter
The casual transition from The Chats’ most controversial moment on the album–from an American’s perspective, at least–into the 6th track, “Dine N Dash,” happens in the blink of an eye. On this track and the following, “Keep The Grubs Out,” the band lightly mocks the service industry and the very establishments they first started performing in. On track 6, the boys take on a rebellious, even slightly abrasive, tone as they sing the lines ”Any restaurant, any time. We can commit the perfect crime. You just gotta run when you’re done. Dine ‘n’ dash, it’s only fun.” In track 7, they mockingly take the manager’s point of view, singing “I’m the manager at this venue … And I’ve worked my arse off to ensure that my venue is the best venue in this small, pathetic town and I certainly don’t need scum like you ruining that for me.” In the following track, “Pub Feed,” the boys’ mocking tone becomes one of affection as they pay tribute to pub staples like chicken schnitty, parmigiana, and rump steak (medium-well).
Nothing is random about the album, despite them “not trying too hard.” “Ross River” (track 9) compares two interactions to contracting a mosquito carried virus. “Heatstroke” drives home the heat motif in the poppiest of all the tracks. “Billy Backwash’s Day” is “a personification of all [of] the ugly, violent eshay culture” (eshay referring to Sydney’s preppy gangster subculture). “4753”–the postcode for Devereux Creek and Marian, Queensland–paints a picture of the drinking culture in the area. Someone great must have said, “You write best on that which you know about or experience for yourself,” and that sure as hell applies to this slew of tunes.
The Chats on the cover of NME Australia #03
The final two tracks on the album, “Do What I Want” and “Better Than You,” we see a shift once more in the form of a two-part palate-cleanser of sorts to remind us who we’re listening to. On “Do What I Want,” the band extends their middle fingers to cops and security guards, in a tone that is more childly rebellious than violent. Following this distinctly punk-y song, the album closes with “Better Than You.” The vocals on “Better Than You” are less grungy than some of their other songs, and the chords are more pop-punk than punk alone. But despite straying away from their fast-paced punk sound on this track, they maintain their sarcastic, mocking tone. The target this time? Themselves. They mock themselves and their “better than you” attitude, shouting “best solo ever” as Josh Price rips the guitar. With these two closing tracks, The Chats leave us with a reminder of everything we love about them: high energy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude, and damn good music.
Let us repeat ourselves once more: The Chats are brilliant. On High Risk Behaviour, they successfully packed more detail, passion, and energy into 14 tracks and 28 minutes than most artists do over the span of multiple albums. High Risk Behaviour may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who appreciate artists that are unapologetically themselves, it is gold. If you don’t vibe with it at first, take the group’s advice and “down a case of piss before you [listen].” The Chats’ make confident, crude, liquored-up punk music, and for this reason, they remain surprised at the widespread acceptance and support they’ve received. But between their blunt lyrics and their odes to things down and dirty, they are the type of group the world needs most right now–real humans talking about real things. When asked if they anticipate that they’ll change with time, Eamon satisfies with a pleasantly predictable, “Nah, we’ll probably just keep doing what we do.” Cheers, ya sickos.
STREAM: HIGH RISK BEHAVIOR
Check out the Chats’ merch and vinyl and be sure to show the boys some love on Spotify, Facebook (they also have a hilarious group for their fans called SMOKOPOSTING), and Instagram. As always, let us know your thoughts at [email protected]!
The Chat’s backstage with Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and Alex Turner and Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys.