'I Don’t Want To Practise Every Night, Fuck That': The Chats Aren't Messing With Their Sound

26 March 2020 | 5:50 pm | Carley Hall

It’s easy to write off a band like The Chats as one-hit wonders. But singer Eamon Sandwith tells Carley Hall those hits somehow keep on coming, so audiences best strap themselves in.

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“I’m trying to think of every gig we’ve said no to – which is a lot. We get a lot of invites from random people, like, ‘Do you want to come play my 48th in Gympie this weekend?’ We should be saying, ‘Yeah, how much?’” 

What you see is exactly what you get with The Chats. There’s no swift costume change from the plaid shirts and stonewash jeans into skinnys and a T for the Sunshine Coast ‘shed rock’ trio. If you’ve ever seen their no-budget clips for Smoko or The Clap, you may as well have spent a pretty typical afternoon with them. Quintessentially Australian, and ubiquitous with Queensland’s cavalier sense of humour, The Chats’ instant hits that could easily be shrugged off as naff lo-fi jokes have found a place in the hearts of fans and critics, not to mention rock royalty like Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and Alex Turner - even cravat-loving culinary curio Matt Preston is a fan and backed the food-industry-frowned-upon "medium well" steak serving in Pub Feed.

It’s clearly been a very surreal couple of years for singer and bassist Eamon Sandwith, alongside his band – and school mates – drummer Matt Boggis and guitarist Josh Price. Not least of which was their stint on Nine’s flagship morning staple Today, during which presenter Karl Stefanovic awkwardly flicked the horns and asked about Sandwith’s bowl cut mullet. 

“They actually came to us and said, ‘Do you want to do this?’, and at first I was like ‘no fucking way’. But then I thought, you know what? It might be pretty funny and it could be good. I think Karl’s a fan. I don't think he was really trying to put it on or anything but yeah, we spoke to him a little bit before and after. And we got a picture with him, which I’ll probably give to mum. She’ll love it.”

With tracks that usually hover around the two-minute mark, music videos where riding an Esky mower is an unquestionable mode of transport, and half mumbled interviews that embrace and embody every bogan cliché thrown at them, by their own admission it’s damn surprising that The Chats defeated their half-dash work ethic to produce their coming debut album, High Risk Behaviour. But it’s hard to ignore and write off the clear success at their thonged feet – like inking a global deal with Universal and starting their own label Bargain Bin Records, claiming the #21 spot in triple j’s 2019 Hottest 100, and slots at this year’s Splendour In The Grass, Coachella and Epicentre festivals (before they were cancelled, of course).

So how did this world of sold-out arena shows open up to the slacker punks from Coolum after only a couple of years of not very hard work, hazy gigs and the odd release?

“We kind of stumbled into it,” Sandwith shrugs. “I’m always surprised and I have no idea why people are so nice to us. We’re doing what we love and we’re not doing it for anyone else, so I guess people can kind of relate to that.

“Like, pretty much every day we play and look at the crowd and it's like, ‘Why are you here?’ We didn’t have plans to do anything like this, so we're always pinching ourselves.”

"We don’t want to overcomplicate things. I don’t want to have to practise like every night, fuck that.”

Sandwith needn’t look too far from his hometown north of Brisbane to pinpoint perhaps one reason why The Chats have enjoyed relatively instant success. Wedged between other equally laidback but picturesque beach towns is Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast; the band even pay tribute to it on their latest with 4573. Venues to see and play live music currently number at about one, according to Sandwith, so in terms of finding the gap in an unsaturated market, the trio have nailed it.

“People get pretty stoked. They’ll ask, ‘What was America like?’, or if they’ve never been out of Queensland, ‘What was Wollongong like?’ Like we’ll go down to the pub and all the old dudes are showing us off like you’re their kids.

“It’s kind of a blessing and a curse coming from where we’re from – there’s absolutely no scene, there’s probably three or four other bands and then there's like, one venue to play at, which is sick but you can't play there like more than twice a year. 

“It was pretty frustrating growing up with no readily available music around, you know, there was like one band that we could go and see that would actually do their own show. So we'd kind of make our own backyard music and then do that. And I think it kind of has worked a bit to our advantage being from a smaller regional place; it's not rural but it's not a city.”

The other reason why The Chats have found such firm footing so swiftly is no doubt down to the fact that their music and lyrics are short, fun and crass. It’s hard not to smirk when lines like “My Centrelink hasn't come through/So I pick up the phone because I've got some abusing to do” are spat at you by a lean, ginger-topped Sandwith in speed-dealer sunnies, and frankly, not to is just unpatriotic. Nothing is off-limits on High Risk Behaviour – not even common Aussie ailments like Ross River fever, heatstroke and gonorrhoea – but Sandwith is quick to dispel any deeper motive to poetically illustrate the Australian way of life; these are just the everyday things he and his mates have a laugh about. Delivered in short, catchy sharp, garage – or shed – punk at 14 tracks across 28 minutes, it’s easy to like.

“We've got a sound that people like and, you know, you don't want to fuck with it too much and change it. But in saying that we did experiment a bit on the last track of the album – we’ve actually got a minor chord in there. It's very progressive. When I was a kid, I was really into The Ramones and Sex Pistols and then I got into Black Flag, Misfits and all that. But the sense of humour that Frenzel Rhomb had made a big impact on me. I reckon that’s definitely an influence on our writing. But you know, even they’re a bit too fast to inspire us too much musically – we don’t want to overcomplicate things. I don’t want to have to practise like every night, fuck that.” 

Never fear – Sandwith laughs at the idea ‘evolving’ The Chats sound in the name of flexing their creative muscles. But he’s all seriousness when he says there’s more to come from the threesome.

“I always think if I wasn’t in The Chats, would I like The Chats? I don’t know. When the Smoko video came out, I thought if I wasn’t in this band would I like it or not?

“We got a bit of attention and I think everyone was like ‘this is one-hit-wonder rubbish’, and we had to work a bit harder so people knew that, no, we actually want to do this, we’ve got some more songs up our sleeve.”