.Thunder from Down Under

Rowdy Australian upstarts The Chats are viral hit makers and the possible future of punk rock

By Stuart Thornton

In 2017, “Smoko,” an ode to smoke breaks paired with a cheaply made but effectively humorous video, rocketed the raucous Australian punk trio The Chats to international fame and made fans of music legends including Iggy Pop, Josh Homme, and Dave Grohl. With close to 20 million views on YouTube, the video has helped the band secure opening slots for some of the world’s best known rock acts including Guns N’ Roses, The Strokes, and Queens of the Stone Age.

The band’s current guitarist Josh Hardy joined The Chats after the band’s wildly successful single and 2020 debut, High Risk Behaviour, came out and the group’s first guitarist, Josh Price, exited. Becoming a member of The Chats in late 2020 caused Hardy, who speaks to Good Times via Zoom from Brisbane, Australia, to leave his job as a manual laborer. He clearly enjoys touring the world with his friends and meeting legendary rockers like Julian Casablancas of The Strokes more than installing shingles. “It’s unreal,” he says. “I fucking love it. It beats roofing.”

With Hardy in the fold, The Chats released their provocatively titled second album, Get Fucked, last year. When the group’s bassist and vocalist Eamon Sandwith suggested the album title, Hardy thought “it was like hilariously genius.” “It’s a fun record,” Hardy adds. “There’s some more serious songs on there, but it’s all a good laugh, a good time.”

The fun begins with “6L GTR,” an opener that careens like a turbo-charged car with a reckless punk-assed driver complete with a guitar solo that squeals like skids on the pavement. The initial version of the song featured some lines from Van Halen’s “Panama” until their management suggested getting David Lee Roth to sign off on the usage. “We hit him [up] and showed him,” Hardy says. “It was just a stern ‘no.’”

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Another album highlight is “Struck by Lightning.” Just over a minute and a half, the song recalls the relentless efficiency of early hardcore with lightning fast riffs and backing vocals following the chorus like thunder after a strike. 

While the lyrics of “Struck by Lightning” are cartoonish—“Got lightning bolts running through my veins/ Electric shocks deep-fried my brain”—“Boggo Breakout” tells the story of one of Australia’s most notorious jailbreaks. In 1989, the largest mass escape in Queensland history occurred when eight prisoners managed to escape from Boggo Road Gaol, the Australian state’s main prison.

“Basically, they managed to fucking hijack the laundry truck and take it for a burn around Brisbane for a couple of days or something before they got caught,” Hardy says. 

Three of Get Fucked’s songs were written while The Chats holed up in a friend’s dive bar an hour from Brisbane.

“We just isolated ourselves for a few days and just went full monk style and fucking got into it,” Hardy says.

One of those songs is “Emperor of the Beach,” which to use an Australian term takes the piss out of territorial locals.

“Every coastal town all around the world has those dickheads that make people feel really unwelcome,” Hardy says. “It’s a bit of a fuck you to that.”

Co-headlining with The Chats on their 2023 U.S. tour is longtime Australian band the Cosmic Psychos, a raucous punk act that dates back to the mid 1980s.

The Cosmic Psychos have a thick, heavier garage punk sound that celebrates their connection to 1990s grunge acts including Mudhoney and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. “Back to School” sounds like Motorhead playing in the 1990s Seattle scene, while “Nice Day to Go to the Pub” shows their shared sensibility with The Chats who have their own pub song titled “Pub Feed.”

Being able to tour with one of their formative influences is a treat for the members of The Chats, who were born nearly two decades after the Cosmic Psychos started playing music. “I’ve still got to pinch myself sometimes that I am able to play shows with them and see them every night,” Hardy says.

It is difficult to say which band will have the last headlining slot at The Catalyst show since both groups like playing the earlier slot. “There’s nothing I love more than finishing playing a set and having a few beers and smoking a joint,” Hardy says. “Then watching them play after we play.”

The Chats, Cosmic Psychos, The Schizophrenics, and Gymshorts perform Saturday, September 30, 7pm. $25/advance, $29/at the door. The Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. https://catalystclub.com

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