Eamon Sandwith, the 21-year-old lead singer and bassist of the Australian “shed-rock” trio, The Chats, coifs an ever-trimmed scarlet mullet that flails whenever onstage, his eyes wan and intense if not concealed by his assholic aerodynamic glasses that bestow him “ultimate speed, and ultimate strength, and pretty much any other superpower.”
He formed the self-proclaimed “shed-rock” band with his other two mates, Matt Boggis (drums) and Josh “Pricey” Price (guitar), one fateful day in their high school music class for an assignment to come up with an original song. That original song ended up being “VB Anthem” off their self-titled first EP. Since then, Pricey has been replaced by guitarist Josh Hardy of The Unknowns – the band Sandwith remembers inspiring The Chats before it was even an inkling of a thought.
In 2017, the band, fresh out of high school, had their big break with the song “Smoko” (Aussie slang for smoke break) for which they released a music video on YouTube. The concise, tongue-in-cheek song/music video – featuring a “bloke” on a “milk crate throne” and a fed-up Centrelink operator both refusing to work on their smoke break – sent the trio to the fore by its overnight virality (it currently has over 13 million views). Their name comes from their local suburb, Chatswood and they play punchy, bratty songs that have a semblance of the spate of bands from punk’s golden days.
Like the days of garage-rock, their sound is wholly homebrewed, but they didn’t have a garage to belt and abrade in. They had a shed. So, what is shed-rock? “A bunch of mates rocking out in a shed.” Eamon says that they wanted to invent a new category unbound by any preconceptions of what they should sound like: “We noticed pretty early on the whole connotations around punk rock. There were a lot of rules and a lot of elitism and gatekeeping and a bunch of shit that we just didn’t really want to be a part of. So, we thought shed-rock is more of a new thing. There’s no rules or anything yet.”
So what have you been doing cloistered in the pandemic?
Well, obviously, [I] miss touring and playing shows and stuff. It sucks but at the same time we were really busy. In 2019, we were home for like three months of the year. So, it was actually pretty good to be based in one spot, not living out of a suitcase and hotel rooms and stuff. So, it was actually pretty cool to, you know, spend more time with my girlfriend and just hang out and live more of a normal life for a bit. But yeah, you always miss playing shows and stuff. It’s like an addiction.
Few bands sound as raw and old-school. Why do you think that is?
I guess at the start it was out of necessity that we had to sound like that because we didn’t have any good gear or anything. But even I don’t know. Even if we did have, like, heaps of good equipment and stuff, I think that would ruin it, sort of take away a bit of the charm probably. It was like how the stuff that we liked sounded. That’s what we wanted to sound like in turn. It’s just how it comes out sometimes especially when we’re making a song. It’s almost instinct rather than thinking about it, because it’s just what we know and what the sort of music that we listen to is like.
How do you want the music to land with others?
I just want people to have a good time when they listen to it, you know, to just hear it and be like, “Oh, this is cool” and make them want to dance or whatever, or pick up a guitar or see if they can play it because our songs are generally pretty easy to play. You know, it’s kind of like when I was listening to Ramones records as a kid, and I’d be like, “I can do this.”
Does your music ever incite—does anyone ever get outraged over it?
Generally, like around here in Brisbane there’s this old Brisbane punk scene and I don’t think we’re really very well-liked by them because they’ve been all working really hard in their bands for like 10-15 years and then we come along. They think that they deserve it a bit more because they’re, like, more DIY and they’re more crusty or whatever. At the same time, we’re having fun and we’re enjoying ourselves. We’re still only 21, so it’s like we obviously don’t have the same sort of worldview as those older punk rockers do. Yeah and at the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that we’re lucky enough to be making a living off doing this, and they’ve probably been trying to do that for most of their lives, and they haven’t been able to, unfortunately. So, you got to put it into perspective and be like “Oh well, they probably hate us for their own reasons.”
What’s the craziest experience you’ve had on tour?
We were on the tour with Pist Idiots and somewhere along the first few days, we decided to establish a pie-eating competition. So, when we were touring, we were in a bus going down the East Coast of Australia and there’s a lot of service stations and most of them will sell pies, like, in a little hot box. So, we thought, you know, there’s going to be so many, so many potential pie spots to hit, let’s just do up a tally to see who can eat the most. Looking back – really bad idea. But Jon, the drummer of Pist Idiots, got like 27 pies or something in only like 23 days. Yeah, so it’s an incredible feat. Someone went to the doctor. People were just really not feeling well for the most part. It got weirdly competitive like halfway through. People would just be sprinting to be the first one at the server and buy all the pies for themselves so no one else could get a pie in that day. Yeah, they would be sitting there with like four pies going like, “Oh, fuck this.” So that was probably the dumbest thing we’ve done. [Burps.]
How grimy has it gotten with moshing at some of the shows?
I guess the mosh pit was like old ‘70s punk sort of stuff so when we play in the States and in the UK, in Europe and stuff, they’re definitely more about the mosh. Whereas I think in Australia they’re more about jumping around and bouncing into each other. Yeah, we’ve had to stop playing and be like, “Hey, you got to watch out for each other.” Sometimes people don’t really understand it and they just think that it’s all about causing havoc or whatever. But you kind of got to word ‘em up and be like, “Hey, look after each other.” You know, “Pick each other up if you fall down.” Common sense really, but some people just don’t get it.
Has there been a time where it’s gotten to the point of disrupting the show completely?
Yeah, I’ve been hit in the head with a beer can. I fell off the stage once. Then I was, like, sort of concussed and I remember looking out and they were still playing, and I still had to figure out what song we were playing while I was down on the floor. It was a pretty high stage too. Yeah, but there’s this one show that sticks out in terms of moshing and stuff. We did this one in Chicago and there were no barriers or anything and people were just getting up on the stage and they were like forming a really orderly line for them to go and stage dive. So, they’d go and run and do a crazy flip or whatever and there’d be a line of people, like, waiting really patiently behind them. We were like, “they were the most polite punks ever, this is crazy.” Yeah, they were all in a line behind each other like, “Alright, your turn, go!”
What’s one song you wish you wrote?
One song I wish I wrote. I’d say “Task Force” by Razar. It’s kind of a classic old Brisbane punk song. It’s about the police at the time in Brisbane. They were very authoritarian, very right-wing and they would go and bust up these punk shows that these kids would put on. And these bands at the time, they’d all compete to play first because at least if you played first you get a chance of actually playing because the cops would always come in and just beat everyone up and close down the show. So, these kids, I think they were like 16 at the time, they did this song and it’s just classic and snotty-like. “Task Force! Task Force!” It’s just real like, I don’t know, just classic, like, real, snotty, angsty kid sort of song, you know?
These cops would just come to beat up punks for fun?
Well the premier at the time was a very authoritarian dude and he sort of was scared of these kids like uprising against him and so he ordered the cops. He’d be like “go find the punk gigs and just go bash the kids!” So, they wrote [the song] about the task force. But yeah, Jello Biafra said he felt safer in Berlin back then than he did in Brisbane. It was a really really crazy time. The drummer got arrested, Pellegrino, who was driving at the time, the black guy. They thought he was an aboriginal dude and they arrested him outside of his own show. That show was like the early ‘80s but it was happening like the mid-’70s.