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Interview: Craig Selak from ‘The Bennies’


Two weeks out from releasing one of the most anticipated party-rock albums of the year, The Bennies are gearing up for a national tour off the back of their third album ‘The Wisdom Machine’. We had a chat to bassist and vocalist Craig Selak about all things ‘Wisdom Machine’ and touring.

Craig! Thanks for taking the time out to have a chat, I’ll jump straight into it! The new album, Wisdom Machine, drops in a little over two weeks, first of all congratulations! It sounds absolutely massive, tell us a bit about it!

Well! We could chat all day about this album just talking about the bass lines really (laughs), but look man, really really proud of this one as a collective. We’ve never tried so hard, never put so much into anything and we’re really proud about how it came out and really just can’t wait till people hear this f**king thing.

And you’ve only recently dropped a new music video for Detroit Rock Ciggie, which featured a few familiar faces (The Smith Street band being one), what was it like filming with such good friends?

Oh man it’s the best! I think it’s the first time we’ve done a proper clip so we were kind of nervous, so what better way to overcome nerves than to get a bunch of mates around and get it happening! Even the director was a good friend of ours, Neal Walters (Young Lions, Tonight Alive, The Amity Affliction),  he’s super talented and it was great to hang out with him as well.

The artwork for the album is pretty trippy sh*t man (laughs), what went into the creation of that?

(laughs) Yeah so Anty’s Dad is an artist and he paints this Russian Orthodox artwork that’s meant to look religious but has no religious connotations to it. So basically (to explain the style), it came out of a time where there was communism and you weren’t allowed to show any religious artwork that still had that style. So we thought it would be kind of cool to get a bit mystical on the new album cause we’re calling it ‘Wisdom Machine’. Anty’s Dad drew this painting in the middle and then we threw that to our mate Chris from Smith Street who put together all the psychedelic artwork that goes all around it. So it was a sweet collab’ between those guys and we’re so happy with it, we think it really matches the vibe of the album well.

Well while we’re still on the topic man, what exactly is the “Wisdom Machine”?

“The Wisdom Machine” is everyone’s personal journey towards finding out who they are. So the machine is whatever vehicle you can get yourself into, whether that’s physical or mental, just to get on the journey to self discovery pretty much. And that’s how we kind of felt we were going with this album, we started to figure out who we really were and what we wanted to do.

Going a bit deeper into the songs on the album, whilst there are still a few party anthems, some of the new songs delve into more political issues, particularly Corruption and Legalise (But Don’t Tax), what sparked you to write such charged tracks like those?

Umm, I think musically we still wanted to keep the party, with the exception of Corruption, but we just wanted to think a little bit more (about the songs). Normally when we’ve written songs, we’ve written on the road or in-between tours and we went with the first vibe we all really liked. But this time we actually took a month or so off to write just for the album, we didn’t do any other touring, so we were able to spend a bit more time on the lyrics and think a bit more about what we wanted to get out of the songs and give the album a bit more depth. But also, we still wanted the music to be party enough that if you want to chuck it on and bang your head, you can do that! But if you want to dig a little deeper there’s stuff there to find if that’s what you want as well.

O’Brother, Where Art Thou is a pretty intense, emotional journey, can you tell us a bit about what went behind writing such an epic track?

Yeah! Well that song owes a lot to our love of ‘The Decline’ by NOFX which opened our eyes a little bit in pushing the boundaries in terms of punk and ska. Our songs in particular are all mostly under three minutes, so it felt right if we were mixing sh*t up this album to do a long boy. We didn’t really set out to do it, it just kind of started as a reggae jam and as we got bored with it, rather than finish the song we added more bits to it and it became this sweet thing. I’m really proud of that one, I think it’s my favourite Bennies tune!

Lyrically, Anty just wanted to explore a little extra to do with family relationships and that song touches on his own relationship with his brother. It’s not always the best and I think a lot of people can relate to that sort of mentality but as I said, if you don’t want to dig too deep, if you just like the Bennies to just f**king chill out to at a party then it’s still got groovy moments and a party ending so you’re not going to miss out by us trying something new as well. It was all about keeping everyone involved.

You guys are off on an Australian tour straight after the album drops, how much of the new material will punters get to experience live?

Well we’re hoping people will be able to stream it a little bit just before the tour starts so they can get a few listens because we’re planning on playing some new stuff! We really want to get these tunes out there and we’re really excited and to see how people respond to them. Also, we’ll be digging into the back catalogue a little bit more for this tour as well so it’ll be a really good mix of about 4 or 5 new tracks and then we’ll play a few tunes that we have never played live before. So ultimately, it’s just going to be a f**king party dude, whatever the tunes are it’s going to be a riot man! (laughs) I’m worried! I’m going to start hydrating now (laughs).

And the tour sees the band hit up Tassie and Perth, a lot of bands tend to skip over the two, mostly due to cost of travel etc. Was it a conscious decision to give back a bit of love to the places that not a lot of bands venture to?

Oh yeah absolutely! We love Tassie man, we love Perth and you know it is hard for bands to tour there obviously, it’s a bit further, it costs a bit more and all this kind of sh*t. But we just feel like f*ck man, if we can’t make it around our own country, who are we you know? Those people like our tunes and you know, a lot of the times you can go over there and it’s not a great show and you can easily say “oh I can see why people don’t come” but other times it’s f*cking awesome and I think everyone’s got their sh*t, we’ll just keep going back and keep trying to get these shows bigger and better! We’re definitely not going to give up on them and hopefully people don’t give up on us going over there.

And just wrapping up man, what should gig goers expect from this tour and the new Bennies live show?

Alright well! This is going to be the biggest set we’ve ever played, we’re used to keeping it kind of short and sharp, but now we’re starting to play bigger venues so we’re going to throw more tunes in, so people need to get ready to keep up with us, cause it’s going to be a f*cking blast man! High Time, such a good Adelaide band, I’m sure a lot of people who know us already know about them! But if people are coming to see us for the first time, they are going to be really impressed with High Time! And of course Off With Their Heads, who are a really popular band from the States, it’s an absolute dream to be touring with them as well! I don’t think we’ve ever had such a big tour on our hands and we just can’t f*cking wait to get our their man!

The Bennies ‘Wisdom Machine’ Tour

Club 54, Launceston
Brisbane Hotel, Hobart
Adelaide Uni Bar, Adelaide
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Amplifier, Perth
Prince of Wales, Bunbury
Transit Bar, Canberra
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
Sol Bar, Maroochydore

Get Tickets HERE

Written by Sam Muggleton