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April 2020
Cover feature

Dune Rats: Aussie rules

It might be on the other side of the planet, but Australia punches big when it comes to its influence on our scene.
Published: 11:25 pm, February 20, 2020Words: Alex Bradley. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
Dune Rats: Aussie rules

"The general attitude was if you don't like it then fuck off," beams BC Michaels, discussing how the band felt as their chart-topping album, 'The Kids Will Know It's Bullshit' was released back in 2017. The sentiment remains the same for its follow-up, 'Hurry Up And Wait'. Dune Rats don't care what you think about it.

The Aussie trio have mastered that art of not giving a fuck and, despite scoring a domestic No. 1 in the album charts last time out, they didn't feel any pressure in making the follow-up.

Instead, they took a typically laid back, mellowed out, approach to the making of 'Hurry Up And Wait' and in turn crafted an album that both builds on its predecessor and takes strides into new territory too.

After working with FIDLAR's Zac Carper in the US on their second album, for their third, Dune Rats decided to switch it up and head back home to the sunshine-drenched Central Coast to the family farm of their good friend and Violent Soho guitarist James Tidswell. The band lived in the studio for a month, had BBQs, drank beers and occasionally hit golf balls at the ocean while carefully polishing this album to the point where it has become their masterpiece.

"We wanted to do it like that," explains bassist Brett Jansch. "At our own pace, in our own time and not be worried about being on the clock or driving to a studio. It was sick for us to do it that way, and it was comfy for us taking the time to do it. I can't imagine doing it in LA or somewhere where you have to commute every day and then can only be there for a certain amount of time."

Free from any restraints and with the opportunity to explore all the possibilities, Dunies turned 'Hurry Up And Wait' into more than just another punk record. From the summery sing-a-long of 'No Plans', the grungy anarchy of 'Crazy', the inclusion of US rapper K.Flay on 'Stupid Is As Stupid Does', the blissed-out 'The Skids' and the rampant and hilarious 'If My Bong Could Talk', they've stretched themselves in every direction.

While the album's eleven tracks boast a range of approaches and techniques, they all sound incredibly well-finessed, as Brett raves. "It's cool to strive for a record that sounds loud and clean. It's tasty to listen to and not too lo-fi, like a garage band. It's rad to hear Dunies in this quality. It's like getting a CD player when all you had was a record player in the 80s; it's a lot better."

Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
"Anywhere in the world, there are people like us"

And it's not only the sound that's evolved on this album, with singer Danny Beus keen to state how important it is for the band to not write the same song a million times. BC adds: "It was conscious on this album not to just rest on gimmicks and drug references and make the songs speak for themselves and be good and not just have quick fucking shock value gimmicky shit when you've heard the joke before.

"We wanted to stretch ourselves in terms of songwriting and trying to make an album we could set our watches to and would like regardless of how it goes. If we are proud of the album, that's the main thing. There would be nothing worse than trying to do an album you don't like to try and appeal to people and it not working."

It's a subtle shift in the mindset of the band where they've gone from living day to day to now starting to consider the bigger picture and the longevity of Dune Rats.

"Being conscious of in 10 years, we will still be a band and how much do you want to constantly talk about smoking bongs. You can have a funny laugh about it, but there is other stuff to talk about as well. It was about trying to explore more ideas," he concludes.

And it's true, although Danny modestly states that they've never considered themselves seriously as "songwriters", 'Hurry Up And Wait' covers different topics while digging a little deeper than ever before. The single 'Crazy' acts like the inverted version of older tracks like 'Bullshit' or 'Scott Green' as it highlights the dangers of excessive living thanks to genius lines like "Took a bunch of x's now you can't get zzz's".

"At the time, we had a lot of mates going through stuff and being in America at the time as well [where] everything you can get there is legal and pretty intense stuff, so it was writing about that," the singer explains.

'The Skids' and 'Rock Bottom' also work to balance the idea that life isn't all sunshine and bongs for Dunies as Danny remembers their many jobs as bag boys, debt collecting and working in ladies shoes before they got into the position they are now.

"You know how Alanis Morisette is in 'Ironic'?" Danny starts, explaining the idea behind 'Rock Bottom'. "We thought it'd be funny to write a song about a day that is just going fucking really shit. But at the end of the day, we handle those days by still just having a laugh and mucking around; water off a duck's back, so to speak."

Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
Dune Rats: Aussie rules
"We'll be doing it until we're silly old cunts and no one wants to hear it"

Despite the bad days, it's injected with a breezy, surfer punk, sound to turn the situation sunny side up again. It furthers the case that's there a lot more to Dune Rats than first meets the eye as they very subtly expand their horizons beyond just speaking to people already completely changed.

And, that's not to say Dune Rats aren't still down to party. Opening track 'Bobby D' is a testament to that (and a cautionary tale of what happens when you leave drunk voicemails) and a tribute to all the "crazy motherfuckers" they've met in the last few years.

"Bobby D is a mate of ours," Danny explains. "We were writing for the last album, and we needed to get some weed. And we go round to his house, and he wasn't answering the door. I looked over his fence, and he was just in his back yard, burning a load of random shit in a barrel.

"I went into his house, and we hit it off, and we saw him at a festival a couple of months later. We were partying, and he left that voicemail on my phone. We thought it was a big year and a half of that album. We met heaps of sick people and got loads of love off the last album, and we kinda just wanted to write a song that encapsulates people like Bobby and our appreciation for people like that in our lives and shit."

It is that love for touring and meeting new people that fuels Dune Rats as Brett admits their first album was just a means to keep them on the road, to which Danny adds: "We write songs just so we can go out and play tours and get drunk!"

In the last few years, they have taken their songs about smoking weed and drinking beers to almost every part of the world and found people just as willing to party.

"When we went and played in Hong Kong, that was really weird. You go through like a fucking mechanics garage, up an elevator, through a commercial laundry and then a door and that's where the show was. They kept it all on the down-low. But there were heaps of kids like us, and it was pretty sick to know anywhere in the world there are people like us."

Even in remote reaches of Penang, Malaysia, or on both their tours of South Africa, the trio have found folk with the same world view as them. And once they found that, all three of them quickly decided they'll never give up on a life on the road.

Whether people are listening are not, life in the van playing cards or dice, talking shit to one another and drinking a few beers is the goal for Danny, BC and Brett.

"In the earlier years, no one had a house, and we'd all live on the road and try and go on tour as much [as possible]. It's that happy place that would feel like a fishing trip. Drink beers in the car, have a laugh and play shows, so it's still fucking super enjoyable," says Brett.

"It's gonna last whether people tune in is another thing," Danny continues. "We love bands like Cosmic Psychos where they're like 55-year-old farmers and still playing shows and festivals. Whether as many people give a shit [remains to be seen], but they call it their fishing trip, and we see it like that. Old dudes probably go on fishing trips and jerk each other off in tents, but we just do it hotel rooms together!" he jokes.

"We'll be doing it until we're silly old cunts and no one wants to hear it, but we'll still be doing it."

For now, though, the crowds are only getting bigger. In the last year, Dunies have blown minds touring the UK, the US and Canada as well as standout festival performances at 2000trees and Spilt Milk Festival with plans for their biggest ever Australian dates in the next month.

The work that 'Hurry Up And Wait' is doing to open up the band to a wider audience seems to be paying off as the singer explains.

"Back in the day, when you just had EPs, you'd play the token single off the EP, and they'd go off, and no one would give two fucks about the ones they hadn't heard. This time, we'd expect them to go really hard for '6 Pack', 'Bullshit' or 'Scott Green', but then you play 'Crazy', and they're fucking going nuts. That's a good indication that they've come to the show because that's the song they know, or the first Dune Rats song they've heard, which is pretty cool."

In 'Hurry Up And Wait', Dune Rats have set themselves up for a bright future with their best work yet: a timely reminder to have some fun and enjoy the simple things in life. And, if you don't like it, they don't care - and you know where you can go.

Taken from the February issue of Upset. Dune Rats' album 'Hurry Up And Wait' is out now.

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