Coasting Along

14 November 2012 | 7:00 am | Michael Smith

“Not that we’ve been trying to write differently, but we’re opening up a lot more doors with the new songs, with a few different sounds, but it’ll always just have that coastal feel anyway.”

Notching up a good 200 gigs a year right from their beginnings back in 2006, Benjalu are taking their longest yet launch-based national tour in their stride. They're showcasing their new single, Way To The Coast, though the pace has taken its toll of the now five-piece, as singer and guitarist Ben Gumbleton admits.

“We were burning out a lot of drummers, and one of our very good friends at the time, a year ago, was available just to come and fill in for a couple of shows. His name was Nick Saxon and he then decided he was just going to join up with Benjalu, so he was our drummer for about a year and then he decided that it was pretty cool that we were swapping instruments and one of our other friends who, at the time, couldn't join the band because he was in another one, came up as well about eight months ago, so we thought, 'Bugger it, we'll turn into a five-piece'. For us, we've got five good mates and we're just having a ball together.”

That fifth member is drummer Nick Cook, whose addition freed Saxon up to concentrate on guitar, though he's still happy to get back on the kit or add percussion where necessary, with guitarist and harmonica player Luke Elsley and bass and woodwinds maestro Anthony Morris completing the line-up. The band are currently recording with producer Tim Powles, best known as the drummer/electronics wizard with The Church, with the resulting EP due for release early next year.

“We like a lot of the work he's done with Regular John,” Gumbleton explains, regarding their choice of producer, “and also he's quite an amazing drummer himself in quite an amazing band, and he definitely had a feel that we'd heard on albums that we wanted in our new EP, and when we spoke to him he was very much speaking the words that we wanted to hear [regarding] the kind of record we wanted to make. Creatively it's amazing working with someone who'll come up with an idea that you would never have thought about – we've loved it.”

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With a sound based in a rootsy kind of pop reggae, Benjalu are very much a party/sing-along kind of band, and that open upbeat vibe stretches to their approach to songwriting.

“There are equal parts writing in Benjalu; there's not really one songwriter. Saxon is also a solo artist himself and an amazing songwriter, and the other boys, they write as well, so everyone in Benjalu comes in with their ideas and everyone puts in their two bob. Way To The Coast is as simple as what the lyrics are, just going for a trip to the coast,” he chuckles. “Not that we've been trying to write differently, but we're opening up a lot more doors with the new songs, with a few different sounds, but it'll always just have that coastal feel anyway.”

Their previous national tour saw Benjalu share the bill with solo singer-songwriter and guitarist Kim Churchill, who invited Gumbleton to join him on his Canadian tour.

“His support on that tour had pulled out and he just looked across at me at the table, knowing Benjalu was just about to have a five-week break – our biggest in about three years,” Gumbleton laughs. “We left two weeks later. Canada's definitely been on our priority list for a few years, but getting everybody over is quite a big cost. So this was a great opportunity for Benjalu's music to get in front of crowds and meet people at festivals for us for next year.”

Benjalu will be playing the following dates:

Wednesday 21 November - 34 Degrees South, Bondi Beach, Sydney NSW
Thursday 22 November - The Vanguard, Sydney NSW
Friday 23 November - The Heritage, Bulli NSW
Saturday 24 November - The Cambridge, Newcastle NSW
Saturday 1 December - The Grace Family, Adelaide SA
Sunday 2 December - Glenelg Surf Club, Adelaide SA
Thursday 6 December - Indi Bar, Scarborough WA
Friday 7 December - Clancy's Fish Pub, Fremantle WA
Saturday 8 December - The Bird, Northbridge WA
Sunday 9 December - Clancy's Fish Pub, Dunsborough WA
Thursday 13 December - The Loft, Gold Coast QLD
Friday 14 December - Ric's Bar, Fortitude Valley QLD
Saturday 15 December - Solbar, Sunshine Coast QLD
Sunday 16 December - The Rails, Byron Bay NSW
Thursday 20 December - The Aztec, Forster NSW
Friday 21 December - Finnians, Port Macquarie NSW
Saturday 22 & Sunday 23 December - Crescent Head Country Club, Crescent Head NSW