Byron Bay trio Skegss are playing their first ever BIGSOUND this year, riding in on a wave of hype after their signing with Dune Rats’ own Ratbag Records as the first ever band on that label, a set at Splendour, a tour of the United States and Canada already in the books and with a debut EP and national tour looming. We caught up with the boys to talk about it all. Before we can start, drummer Jon asks if they wouldn’t mind if I wait while they get a few more beers, offering me one. (Never one to turn down a free beer, I graciously accept).
Bassist Toby is chatting to me as the beers are brought back. He’s a giant, friendly dude who, even after only 30 seconds of having met him, already seems like the kind of person I would have fun just being within 10 feet of. He tells me about an interview they had earlier this morning:
Toby: They were doing this thing where they ask you to start beef with another band. I just heard some other band doing it now.
Who did you start with?
Toby: I just looked down the camera and said (flips the bird) ‘Fuck you, Hockey Dad!’ (Laughs)
Ben: They are our mates though.
Toby: Not for long… So what’s the interview today for?
It’s for Howl and Echoes, we’re like you guys, relatively new on the scene but we’re getting there. You met one of our editors last night actually.
Toby: Oh yeah, yeah! I remember her, she gave me a sticker! Have you got any stickers?
(Sheepishly checking my wallet, usually full of them) I do not unfortunately, done goofed on that one. How are you boys right now anyway? Recovering from a big one last night?
Toby: It’s been a big couple of days.
Jon: Yeah it was real good last night.
Ben: We’ve got our gig tonight so…
I’m looking forward to it. What are your plans for preparing this afternoon?
Toby: Yeah I think we’re going to have to hook off the piss tank after this beer and then have a bit of a sleep, but I’ve been saying that every day and it hasn’t been happening.
Jon: Nah. Chinese food and a couple of beers.
Together at last. Who’d you check out last night at BIGSOUND?
Jon: High Tension were so sick
Ben: Cosmic Psychos too
Ah man, I missed out on Cosmic Psychos and was gutted. I’m sure you’ve spent some time with them before what with them and the Dune Rats boys being so close?
Toby: Yeah they’re good dudes. You have to see their documentary.
Jon: Yeah it’s sick.
Ben: Yeah what’s it called? I think it’s Blokes You Can Trust
Ben: Nah it’s pretty good.
They look like they are, I’ll check it out. Been a big year for you guys, you’ve just got done playing Splendour. How was that?
Jon: So sick
Toby: (Sarcastically) Yeah Splendour was so much fun. I had the best time ever. Ran smoothly from start to finish.
No hiccups whatsoever?
Jon: Not with the plan anyway.
Toby: Yeah it was probably the craziest gig we’ve ever done before.
In front of a couple of thousand people right, got to be one of the biggest you’ve ever played at the very least?
Toby: Yeah there were probably around 80 to 100 thousand people there I’d say. Just there for us.
Any good backstage stories? You sure there weren’t any hiccups at all?
Toby: Can we talk about that?
Ben: Yeah Toby didn’t really do much, he just had a quiet one on the waters… (Jon laughs)
Toby: (To their manager, Aaron) Can we talk about me getting arrested?
(Interjecting) I think we can
Toby: I got arrested.
Can I ask?
Toby: (Laughs) Um… nah.
Aaron: Yeah but when you don’t tell them what it’s for they’ll just assume it was way worse like you were doing crack in the back room or something.
Toby: I was just pissing on a fence and then I got cuffed. Here, look: (shows me his wrist, covered in bruises)
Oh man, that sucks. You didn’t think to pull the whole ‘Do you have any idea who I am?’
Toby: (laughs) They knew I was playing the festival, they just didn’t give a shit because I was pissing on the fence. I was just super mellow pissing on this fence and then I got jumped on.
It’s a good story nonetheless. So before all that kerfuffle you would have been hanging out with the Dunies boys?
Toby: Yeah they were supposed to be looking after us. We kind of shared a demountable dressing room. Ours were next to each other and we were just partying non-stop. It was slick.
Just touching on your friendship there, I saw a review you guys responded to on Facebook where they basically insinuated that you guys must smoke a lot of weed and you actually clarified that this is not the case. Do you find yourselves getting a bit of an unfair stigma just based off of your friendship with Dune Rats and their well-documented love of bongs?
Ben: Yeah, even just already being from Byron Bay.
Toby: Yeah just being a bunch of dudes from Byron Bay you do but like, fuck, I don’t really give a shit.
Jon: We don’t have anything against it.
Toby: Nah, we just don’t smoke any weed. Not like Dune Rats do. People just think we’re gnarly fucking bongheads though but we’re actually just pissheads.
Jon: (Takes a swig) We just like drinking beer.
Ben: We’re all about the beers.
Toby: Yeah, stick to the basics.
So how was the States and Canada? Saw you just got back from there not too long ago.
Ben: Crazy, it was my first time over there, never been before.
Toby: Was that your first time overseas?
Ben: Nah I went to Indo once. We were just stoked because we pretty much just went over there for a free holiday you know, but then you have people coming to our shows and singing all the lyrics to our songs. I think we even sold out a couple of our shows there.
Jon: Cheers to that (everybody toasts)
Cheers to you boys. So how’d the touring go?
Ben: Yeah great. We did about a week’s worth of shows in California.
Toby: We played from San Diego and then most places up to Santa Barbara. We played this college party in Santa Barbara and it was pretty funny. There’s a little snippet in the Fun film clip you can see. It was just a full-on American Pie-style keg party and it was so fun.
Anyone do a keg stand?
Toby: Nah it was just a really trippy scene.
Jon: So many red cups.
Toby: Yeah heaps of beer pong and jocks.
So how did those kind of people receive you guys?
Toby: The jocks? We didn’t really see any at our shows, I think it’s pretty easy for them to avoid us.
Toby: Yeah we didn’t have a heap of jocks flying up to our shows, maybe they will be soon ‘bro’.
It happened to Blink
Toby: Yeah it did happen to Blink! That’s fucked.
Even with the surf punk kind of style you have there still is quite an Australian-ness behind your music and the way you perform. Did they receive it the way you thought they would? I mean, you’re selling out shows so obviously I guess.
Toby: Yeah, the kids gave a fuck, for sure. I mean, considering we’re an Australian band who’s never toured there before.
Jon: It was the right place for it because everyone there loves to surf and we’re a real surfy band.
Toby: Jonny doesn’t surf. I guess yeah, we’re an Australian band and we don’t pretend to not be Australian but I guess we’re not really pushing this whole Australiana kind of thing. Maybe whatever. That can be your headline: ‘Maybe Whatever’
I saw your artwork for the tour and there’s a dude in the crowd going ‘Is this band a joke?’ Is there a story behind that?
Toby: Yeah what was that inspired by? I think that was the gig we played before Splendour where we just got too rotten to play pretty much. Benny couldn’t tune his guitar and we sounded like the shittiest band in the world. So now we have to put a disclaimer on our banner and it says ‘The Worst Band Ever’ so now nobody can give us any shit about being technically sound.
They’ve been warned. Congrats on the record deal as well, you just signed with Ratbag Records.
Toby: Yeah thanks bro (pauses) I just bought a ‘Rarri.
(Everybody laughs, a lot)
That was the first thing you did, signed the dotted line and then straight to the dealership?
Toby: Yeah man, got the ‘Rarri with the suicide doors. I don’t really know what these guys did. I don’t really talk to them anymore, I get my management to talk to their management. Nah seriously, it’s been sick signing to Ratbags, we’re stoked.
Is there much pressure on you guys being the first band on that label?
Ben: Nah no pressure
Toby: None at all.
You mean the Dunies boys aren’t the slavedrivers they seem to be???
Toby: (Laughs) Nah they haven’t told us to do shit. And if we didn’t want to do something we just wouldn’t do it. I don’t feel pressure from anyone, especially not old mates Dune Rats.
Yeah I can’t really see Danny or BC going full Suge Knight on you guys any time soon.
Toby: (Laughs) Nah never. But I would like to say something about those guys though. Because I heard people saying some condescending shit like ‘Oh fuckin’ Dune Rats have started a record label, oh my gawd how are they doing this?’ but those guys have been fucking doing shit independently and been so proactive as a band like, you don’t get that big from sitting on your arse, you know. So those guys know what the fuck they’re doing and it kind of pisses me off when people say shit. Some people on the radio were like (sarcastic voice) ‘Oh Dune Rats with their little record label, this’ll be good’. Nah, they’re fucking sick. They’re a sick band, they have good songs and they fucking do shit.
You make one little music video where you smoke a bong every five seconds…
Jon: Yeah. They work real hard though.
Toby: Yeah they definitely do. We’re absolutely psyched to be affiliated with those guys.
Ben: We’ve got some sick shit coming up over the next year.
No doubt, really looking forward to the EP. When exactly does that drop?
Toby: End of October. And there’s going to be a single with that too. It’ll drop all at the same time. And the tour, Benny when are we touring?
Ben: On the 26th of this month we start our Fun tour. Think it starts up in Brissy.
Toby: Only a little tour, only four shows then but then we’re doing a massive tour with Hockey Dad after that.
Squashing The Beef: The Tour?
Toby: Yeah in November and December we’re gonna play a shit-ton of shows doing that for the EP. We might even have a couple of beers (laughs).
If there’s any time.
Toby: Yeah we’ll sneak in a few if we’ve got time maybe. I don’t know though.
Any other hints you can give us?
Jon: We’re gonna write a double album.
Toby: Nah we’re not doing that.
Jon: We will but.
Toby: Yeah nah, we’re just gonna be doing the same shit that we’ve been doing, so don’t expect anything more.
So you’re excited for tonight obviously? How do you think your first BIGSOUND show is going to go?
Toby: Yeah super psyched (pulls a face and laughs)
Ben: Nah we love playing, it’s sick.
Toby: I seriously can’t wait to fucking play though. I found out we’re playing in the little front room there at Ric’s like in this little area, it’s just going to be real small and jammed in and I’m keen for that.
Ric’s is my number one haunt here so when I saw you guys were playing there I knew there wasn’t any way I was missing it. Skegss and Coopers Reds in the front bar might be the best time ever, what else can we expect?
Toby: Yeah we play kind of late too which is always a bit fun because you’re a little woozy by then. That’ll really impress all the music bigwigs.
Lucky you’ve got the disclaimer on your banner.
Jon: We’re already signed though.
Toby: Oh yeah, what else good could someone offer us?
Ben: Maybe like a good gig or a festival slot or something.
Jon: Maybe like a beer sponsorship or some free t-shirts.
That would be the dream right, free beer and t-shirts?
Toby: (laughs) Yeah that would be the dream alright! Some guy once offered to tee us up $7000 worth of socks or something and we’ve still got so many.
How many socks do you get for $7000???
Toby: A whole lot of fucking socks. With like flames on them and stuff. That’s a lot of flame socks to move.
Jon: You’d never have to wash any, you just wear them and then give them to a mate.
That’s how you know you’ve made it, when you don’t have to wash your own socks.
Jon: We’d give them to someone who needs them of course.
Of course. Boys it’s been a pleasure chatting to you but we’d better wrap it up and let you get to your beer and Chinese food. Cheers for the beer and the good old chats, best of luck playing BIGSOUND tonight.
All: Cheers man!
That actually wasn’t the end of my time with the Skegss boys. They stuck around for a good while afterwards to get to know me, to talk the finer points of shuffleboard and to just continue our good old chat. I found out that the beer they gave me wasn’t for free at all and that they actually paid for it, which really took me aback as far as generosity goes, I’d met these guys for less than a minute and they were buying me a beer, a testament to their character.
After their fantastic set at Ric’s later that night, played with a professionalism that belies their laid back nature, they called me over to their table for more beers and chats into the night (I bought a jug to even the score). These three were perhaps the nicest people I met all BIGSOUND, and I met so many people my head was spinning. They’re just three fun-loving dudes from Byron Bay who enjoy a cold beer and who happen to play some killer surf punk rock and roll. It’s safe to say that Skegss absolutely made my first ever BIGSOUND.