Having a quiet chat with The Chats isn't as easy as you'd expect. Not when one hell of a rainstorm is kicking off overhead. It might have once seemed that those horrific bushfires that engulfed much of Australia would never end, but the reality is a little different tonight. "It's proper pissing it down mate," murmurs Josh Price, nearly totally deafened by the rain in the background as we chat on the phone, the guitarist and (often) spokesman for the Aussie punks kicking back as we catch up about 'High Risk Behaviour'. This, the full-length debut for the band who have been on a stratospheric rise ever since they burst into notoriety in 2017 on the back of the ridiculously catchy 'Smoko', is about to burst overhead. And it's gonna result in a deafening storm of its own.
When 'Smoko', and the accompanying video went around the world in a flash, it eventually landed on the desktop of one Dave Grohl who in turn recommended the band to Josh Homme. "One night we were sitting there [at home], the next day it had a million views!" Josh explains. Since then, tours with Queens Of The Stone Age and Iggy Pop have followed as well as a string of sold-out shows off their own backs. It's been a whirlwind journey already then, but Josh isn't exactly a motormouth when it comes to describing how the last few years have felt. Just like their music, it seems like The Chats keep it short and sweet. "Been good, mate. Played some big shows. Having fun." There's a refreshing lack of bs surrounding both the band and guitarist. Certainly, there's no lengthy and overused anecdotes or tirades about the state of modern society tonight, a tendency to cut straight to the point that goes hand-in-hand with a record where the vast majority of tracks are done and dusted in under two minutes.
And what a record it is. 'High Risk Behaviour', supposedly named after the time that drummer Matt Boggis was booked by an over-zealous police officer for skateboarding in the wrong place, is full of just that kind of behaviour. Josh though, downplays the event. "It's just about doing fun stuff I guess, but I dunno, it could mean anything really." One thing is for sure, however, and that is the sweat you can almost feel on your face on every listen, a distinct live vibe present on a record that is fitting for a band that prefer to simply perform three takes in the studio and pick the best version each time. Recorded over 18 months, ("It only took that long cos we were so lazy, we would only record for a day at a time"), you can hear the progression as the record continues. "Oh yeah, we sorta changed our sound as we went on," agrees Josh. "We've had these songs for ages, we had written most of them when 'Smoko' came out. It was just a matter of actually recording them."
Detailing life on the edges, 'High Risk Behaviour' is a blast from start to finish that Josh estimates is a '60/40' split between personal experience and stuff they've seen. Tracks like 'Dine And Dash' ("Nah, we've never done that one" he laughs) flash by, whereas 'Keep The Grubs Out' details an experience that Eamon Sandwith, songwriter and bassist, had when he was denied access to a pub for a surprising reason. "Yeah, it was a bar in Brisbane. They wouldn't let him in cos he had a mullet!" he laughs in disbelief. "I guess you could say we had a crack at some of the things that piss us off." Definitely unafraid to ruffle the right feathers, whether it is verbally taking down their PM Scott Morrison for his useless response (or lack of one) to the fires, or in one of the most cringe-worthy television interviews in modern times when they appeared on Australia's The Today Show. "It's been pretty full-on, yeah. We weren't really expecting that response [the band posted a video with a song called 'I Hope Scott's House Burns Down' on it] to blow up, but it did. It's been a good couple of months," Josh chuckles again.
With Coachella on the horizon, plus a global tour to follow, Josh seems to take all of the craziness in his stride. "You just learn to deal with it, I guess. It feels right, y'know?" It's all a long way from their home scene in Queensland. "It's only been four years, which seems like a long time but it isn't at all. It's all gone really fast, it's been fun." Honest about how it has happened so quickly, he is a big believer in the power of social media. "I think there's always been good stuff coming out of Australia, it's just easier to access. It's a great thing for us, we got discovered on Facebook, y'know? Without that, we wouldn't be here." Still powered by the same DIY spirit as in their early days, it is as much the classic spirit of punk, as well as the sound, that runs through the band as if it was 1976. Mixed in with elements of Ramones, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Josh names some more influences from closer to home. "Oh yeah, Midnight Oil, all those Aussie pub rock bands. And AC/DC obviously. That whole Aussie sound, it's really distinctive, I guess."
Our time is up. The rain is still falling, and probably will for several weeks by the sound of things. But come hellfire or high water, The Chats seem to be unstoppable. They might not like talking about it, but it looks like everybody is going to be talking about this band for some time to come.
Taken from the April issue of Upset. The Chats' debut album 'High Risk Behaviour' is out 27th March.
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