When the annals of Australian rock music are amended to cast memory over the last decade, Adelaide’s Bad Dreems will rightly be dubbed as one of this country’s most unique and important bands. With a soundscape evocative of the acts that helped sculpt our mainstream culture, Baddies (as they’re affectionately known to fans) have attained cult status – all the while still maintaining their day jobs (for example, their lead guitarist is a plastic surgeon, while their frontman is carpenter).
You’d be an idiot to get into this game for the cash. Being in a band is like running the biggest failing restaurant you could ever imagine!
Far from simply reminding punters of former glories, the band has developed a distinguishing sonic signature that sets them apart from, well, practically everyone else. Their lyrics delve into the darker side of the masculine psyche and they’re not afraid to approach or raise contentious topics. Indeed, few other bands can claim the level of societal and cultural self-reflection as this band has over the last 10 years. Fewer still could claim to have done so without the ridiculous zealous preaching and finger pointing so common with so many contemporaries.
Put simply, their lyrical themes are identifiable and relevant – all the while being artfully and compellingly delivered. Combine that with massive choruses, thundering rhythms and jangle-twang guitars and you’ve got a vital rock n roll unit ready to encapsulate an era.
On the verge of releasing their third album, the gloomily entitled ‘Doomsday Ballet’, Ben Pattison caught up with guitarist Alistair Wells to discuss the record and the designs for the future…
Congratulations on the record! It’s a got a magnificent widescreen feel with bullet holes of manic Aussie pub punk rock. The Album’s called ‘Doomsday Ballet’ – is this an ode to the end of the current world with a new beginning in sight or is it more of a goodbye and good riddance reference? The video for ‘Morning Rain’ was fairly apocalyptic…
We’d never want people to read too much into the album title but it is a representation of how we feel at the moment with the idea of not being able to control anything that’s happening in the world. That’s the ‘Doomsday’ aspect of it and dancing in an apocalypse is the image we wanted to convey it. If our reaction is laugh, cry or dance, it’s all we can do to make the most out of what is left of our lives.
Does Benny Marmalade have Trump Derangement Syndrome – as I notice a lot of lyrical content is focused on Trump and America like the last album? That frustration seems to be juxtaposed with his frustration of the Hard Left with their pursuit of identity politics – another lyrical theme that pops up. Could you paint the picture of where his head’s at?
Haha! Well I think knowing Ben and Alex, who both write the lyrics, there’s just a sense of frustration with the world at large. Rather than directly protest things as a band we like to elevate and talk about the issues rather than having a specific stunt. We’d rather talk about the issues than making a solemn point – I think that’s more constructive for people. Maybe they can start a conversation with somebody from it. But Ben’s a very happy and very nice man and he’s super-emotional about these topics and so is Alex. It’s a big part of our band! We don’t like to preach to people – but these topics really affect us and the world at the moment is a very interesting place and we have to dance between all the horrors.
How was it playing the SAFL Grand Final? Do you see yourself one day playing the AFL Grand Final – what would it take to get to that level?
The SAFL Grand Final was awesome! I’m a life member of the West Adelaide Football Club and my father is a devout support and he missed the show as he was in the UK and he was devastated. It was so amazing to play a show in a stadium like that (Adelaide Oval – Capacity 54,000) and I was kinda glad we played off to the side and not in the middle! In terms of the AFL Grand Final, bring it on! That’s almost the end-game for this band! That would be our final achievement as we’re all such massive Football supporters.
How was touring with Midnight Oil in England? How did the Poms take to the tunes?
It was great! Such a life-goal achieved for all of us as we’re such big fans (like most Australians). Amazing to play the venues we were at – surreal to play in hundreds of years old theatres to thousands of people. It’s brilliant to play over in the UK and we’re heading back over in December. It’s a real focus for us as a band and a real goal for us to create a following over there in the months and years to come.
For people with a strong grasp of Australian rock music history, Bad Dreems are torch Bearers for a distinctly Australian sound. You’ll go down in history as one of this decade’s most important Aussie bands. Does it annoy you that a band like The Chats can come along on a piss-take mandate and instantly get’s a legion of young fans while it sometimes seems you blokes are swimming against an ever-strengthening tide.
Hahaha! God it does feel like that sometimes. I’ve never gone with the old cliché that rock’s not a competition but I think it’s really good when you see young bands doing loud and heavy music. I always look at it as a positive and potentially we can translate their fans into our fans a little later on. I think fans of Bad Dreems understand there’s a level of sophistication that we like to go to ahead of those bands. That doesn’t mean we’re better, but if you’re looking for that energy, anger and rawness while still getting a nice dose of intelligence and something more than face-value – that’s what you get with us. It’s great that those bands are going well though, maybe one day we’ll blow up out the blue and all the 17 year-olds will flock to us!
With the drought effecting most of the farmlands in the eastern half of the country, are songs like Morning Rain tapping into the immense feeling of helplessness that a lot of our country folk are feeling? As purveyors of Outsider Rock are these people being looked after enough?
It’s a really important issue for us, as South Australia is so drought-ridden and I come from rural South Australia as well. When you speak to people down there where we shot the clip (for ‘Morning Rain’) about 3 and half hours north from Adelaide, the change of no rain is devastating. You see the photos of what it used to be like and these people are still battling out there. That’s saddest and best part about it, as they keep pushing on against immense pressure. But y’know, it sucks. And there’s not really much we can do about it – just gotta keep pushing through it I guess.
All the band members have day jobs – does this help with the band dynamic and creativity? Does it give you an edge over other musos who don’t have that one foot in the ‘real world’ or ‘normie world’.
Yeah I think it’s a bit of ‘Column A’, ‘Column B’. It can be detrimental to our ability to play live and our ability to tour as much as other bands can. But it very much keeps us grounded. Like every single band we’ve played with over the last 4 years, it’s their full occupation and they can’t believe it when they hear that we all have full time jobs. Even I cant believe it! But I think it’s amazing and it does make you relish the live shows and makes us be so happy. For me in particular I’m so happy when I’m doing stuff with the band, be it touring or recording and it really drives us. We’ve never been in it for the money and you’d have to be an idiot to get into this game for the cash. It’s like the biggest failing restaurant you could ever imagine! You gotta be realistic and for us being realistic is to keep working normal jobs. I enjoy my job and I enjoy the band and as long as we can keep that working harmoniously I don’t see a reason to stop.
What’s your favourite song on the record?
Hard to say… I love Piss Christ – such a high energy song that came about in such a weird way. But I’d say Sonny would be my favourite track on the record. That was a song that I always loved in its infancy. When it was originally written by Ben it was very bluesy and melancholy and then the Producer said “that just doesn’t sound like you guys – it’s gotta be a rock song”. Then we ramped up the tempo on it and then before you know it it’s one of the biggest songs on the record. I love it.
What are you most looking forward to playing on the tour and what can fans expect from the current live show?
I had a bit of freakout translating some of the parts of the new record for the live show but we’ve always said the live aspect should be different to the record – it’s gonna be a different representation of it. Some of the harder songs we’ve just stripped back completely but we’re also bringing in some of the older stuff. I always pushed for the earlier, heavier stuff like Too Old from our first EP and that’ll be in the live show over the next month or so. Sacred Ground has been pushed for too.
BAD DREEMS release ‘Doomsday Ballet’ on Friday October 18. They play Fremantle’s Rock Rover on Friday, November 8. Get your tickets here.