Ben Ben Bograil, Toby Cregan and Jonny Layback of Skegss are sinking beers on a warm August afternoon at the Courthouse Hotel in Newtown, ahead of one of their few rehearsals for a national tour starting in Adelaide the next day.
The boys deserve a breather, following on from some hectic tours in locales as disparate as Brazil and New Caledonia.
“The two most random places in the world!” agrees bassist Cregan. “That was bizarre. As random and weird as it sounds, some dude just emailed us for the New Caledonia thing. We went over there and he put us in this flashy hotel. We were just tripping out. The whole time we were going, ‘When is this guy going to shank us in the neck?’
“But we were playing these fucking random little gigs in restaurants,” he continues.“They’re hell dorky, so the music they like is too. They just didn’t get what we were doing and they wanted us to play for like three hours or something.” He cackles. “Yeah, full proper sets, like a jazz band or something.”
“We can’t even play more than 40 minutes,” says drummer Layback bluntly.
Their time in Brazil was equally odd. “Yeah, we played two parties and they were both skitz,” Cregan enthuses.
“One was in a warehouse underground in São Paulo,” says guitarist and vocalist Bograil.
“They do live sex shows there – but ones that are like performance art,” Cregan explains. “You go there and it’s in this like concrete room – it smelt gross when we went down there to check out the venue. The guy was saying, ‘Oh yes, they come down here and this is where they have sex!’ They put the stage where the people literally lay on the concrete and fuck in front of all these people.” Cregan still seems a little taken aback.
As for future overseas tours, Layback seamlessly suggests Fiji, although the reality is that less tropic and much more conventional European shows are on the cards for the next year. On the local front, the trio are now deep into their first national tour, one that will have the group wrapping up in their hometown of Byron in September. Wollongong’s Yours & Owls Festival follows in early October, with the band returning to the lineup after playing last year.
Not much will be different this time in the ‘Gong, though they admit they have altered their opinions on what playing to a young audience entails. “Jimmy from the Dumb Punts actually filled in for me last year, because I couldn’t go,” says Cregan. “We’re fucking the same, except Jimmy’s not going to be there. I’ll be playing the bass not as good.
“It’s so good playing to the kiddies,” he laughs. “I used to not want to play to the kiddies at all. Like the first time we were playing an all-ages show, I pictured all the kids this big.” He motions to about half a metre off the ground. “I just thought they were all little fucking idiots, and then I got there and the kids were so into it. Grown-ups suck compared to teenage people.”
Cregan continues, on a roll now. “Heaps of kids from Sydney are asking us to play an all-ages, so I think we’re going to do one in summer. We would’ve done ’em in every state [this tour], except it’s hard to get all-ages venues and stuff. It’s unfair for the kiddies.”
On the subject of their next Sydney gig, Layback is blunt when asked why revellers should get there early to catch Verge Collection and Dumb Punts. “’Cause they’re better than us.” There’s laughter all round.
“’Cause they’re better than us!” Cregan repeats with his infectious cackle.
More serious, Bograil praises the pair of acts. “Vergies are such a tight band and their songs, even if you’ve never heard them before, they’re real easy to listen to. They’ve got heaps nice songs. Dumb Punts are all real close friends, but the coolest people you could ever be friends with, ’cause they’re just so stoked and just have funny banter between ’em. [They] bounce off each other the whole time.”
As the boys’ schooners are emptied and taken away, we approach the subject of a typical gig and what to expect. “Um, like, you just start,” Bograil says free of irony. “Hopefully everything works … we sometimes have tuning problems.”
“Technical difficulties,” Layback adds, before Cregan sums it up.
“A typical Skegss gig is like: get too drunk beforehand to play then play terribly, fucking me and Benny will go out of tune for a little bit, maybe have a fight, kick my pedal over, hit someone in the head with my guitar, tell everyone we have small dicks and then leave.” They all laugh.
“We don’t have to be drunk to tell everyone we have little dicks,” Cregan continues. “But I think that’s like from my point of view. If you come to one of our shows, it could potentially be fun. Even though we’re not going to be the most technically sound band you’ve ever seen.”
“We have the most hectic fights,” Bograil finishes, smiling the smile of a proud man.
Skegss, Dumb Punts, Verge Collection and White Blanks, play Newtown Social Club Thursday September 1; and Skegss also appear at Yours & Owls 2016, Stuart Park, Wollongong on Saturday October 1 – Sunday October 2.