Bench Press: ‘Devo is having a real zeitgeist moment right now’

EN: Bench Press is one of Melbourne’s jewels. The band plays some garage punk with a big punch, a music to fight while having fun. In this interview, we talk about the current scene, its British spirit (an angry Manchester side), slackers and cheese. Quite a program. Bench Press will be cult one day, and it’ll be important to remember its intentions (such as captured here). Cheers, guys.

FR: Bench Press, c’est l’un des fleurons de la magnifique scène de Melbourne. Son truc à lui, c’est le garage punk coup-de-poing, une musique pour se bastonner dans la bonne humeur. Dans cet interview, on parle de la scène actuelle, de ses esprits British (côté Manchester énervé), de slackers et de fromage. Tout un programme. Bench Press sera culte un jour où l’autre, et l’on se souviendra alors de ses intentions (telles qu’elles sont capturées ici). Cheers, guys.

Let us start with a playlist curated by
Bench Press for Still in Rock
How are you? What’s up with you these days?
I think we are all doing as well as anyone can in the COVID era! Melbourne is still in a pretty hard lockdown at the moment but the end is in sight and hopefully we can get out and about soon! 
Are you going to the gym (to the bench press…), or, on the contrary, are you making fun of that obsession? 
I’m not actually 100% sure why we chose the name Bench Press – I think we thought it would be a funny name for a band of guys who don’t look like they have ever been to the Gym. In lockdown, though, a few of us have been killing time with different forms of exercise. Morgan has been running a bunch, Jacks been doing Kung Fu (over Zoom), and Lewis mentioned doing something rather as well. 

I have a theory: we have seen the creation of a new genre at the end of the 2010s, and it’s about to take over the 2020s. Its name? “Post-skate” music. What is it? Speedy garage punk with nervous yet friendly voice (nothing like angry punks), a simplistic and very tight rhythm, a cathartic sound, almost chopped, anti-corporation lyrics, a mid-fi production (not too lo-fi) and bouncy melodies with a vehement tendency (listen + read). Some of your songs, like “Baby Steps”, fit the description well. What do you think of it? Is there such a scene? Are you willing to take the lead with a few others? 

An interesting theory at the very least. I think it’s interesting that you site bands from such a range of countries and cities as being part of the ‘post skate’ movement, so rather than emerging from a localised scene of bands all directly influencing one another, it’s popping up independently. Perhaps these bands just have a similar pool of musical influences, I feel like Devo is having a real zeitgeist moment right now, I hear them in a lot of what’s coming out and they’re definitely a key band for Bench Press too. 
Post Skate: is it a thing? Sure! if it can catch on and give a shorthand to describe a musical niche that’s easier than a long winded description when you’re trying to tell someone what a new band sounds like, why not! It’d make our lives easier at least. 

Now, I’ve seen you described your music as post-punk, but I have to admit: I’m not quite sure this is the one I would have used. Of course, these labels do not really matter, but I think it’s interesting to hear why you describe yourself as post-punk?

None of us really give all that much thought to genre (until you started asking such deep questions about it lol). I think we just put post-punk down because it was easy and it worked well enough. We described the last album as ‘really, really loud pop music’ which I rather like though. 

Indeed, I like that one! Your music has a British touch. Any particular reason for that?

We have had that said to us before. I don’t think there is any particular reason. Morgan’s Welsh-ish. Maybe that’s it. Though to be honest, I’ve never been sure exactly what elements of the band people are referring to when they say that.. there’s a question for you! We in the band all have a few favourites from the early 80s Post Punk era for sure though. 

Most of your lyrics are about deep introspection, yet, the voice is often harsh and angry. In the end, your rock’n’roll is more on the punk side than college rock. Do you see your music has something more than just an art form, but a way to change the outside world? 

To a certain extent, yeah! For me personally, though, the focus is on individual change; for both myself and others. In terms of myself, I’ve grown heaps since the start of this band. My lyrics are an example of that, they are sort of a diary of personal growth. In trying to address issues within myself I have always hoped to maybe shed light on that for someone else. There have been a (very) small handful of people who have come up to me at shows and mentioned my lyrics have helped them – that’s probably the thing I am most proud of. 

Yes, and you should be! Can you talk about the video you made for “Group Anxiety”? I absolutely love it!

We had a friend make that video – I love it as well. I think he thought that the song was some sort of a commentary on capitalist society (which was never what I had in mind) and the video is a reflection of that, though I never knew how. We had no real money behind us at that point so through him what we could and he went into the city across two days and filmed whatever caught his eyes! 

Ha, excellent! When is your next LP coming out? Do you have a nice for it? An album cover? 

Sadly we don’t have a firm plan in place for the next album. We were hoping to have something released next year but COVID has meant we haven’t been able to practice, write, record or even play live shows! Hopefully, we can start getting the ball rolling soon! 
The scene

I’ve recently conducted a short empirical study on garage rock (link). I found out that there are more and more albums labeled as such, but the number of Google queries tends to decrease. What’s your impression from the inside? Do you find it more and more difficult to get support from playing shows and releasing music? 

I don’t think we have been around long enough or released enough to know sorry. If our aim was to make money than we’d probably say it’s difficult. 

But it isn’t! Also, we have seen many slacker bands from Australia, such as Dune Rats, The Chats, Skegss and co. What’s your take on that scene? 

I think those sort of bands exist in a totally different realm to us – it’s not the sort of stuff we generally listen to. It’s funny you label them as slacker though. In Melbourne slacker generally applies to bands like Dick Diver, The Ocean Party, Twerps and Boomgates – all of whom are some of my personal favourites. 

Oh, really? Well, talking about the Melbourne scene, it has really exploded in recent years (see here). What is the reason for that?

Melbourne has always had an incredibly excellent scene – I love the music our city produces. I think we are pretty lucky to have a massive amount of supportive venues; I think per capita we have one of the most amount of venues in the world? Further to that music is just part of the city’s culture. Everyone grows up and goes to shows and supports their friends’ bands. It’s just what ya do! 
What is your favorite album of the last few months?
Jack: Internationally I LOVE Kate NV’s new record “Room for the Moon“. Locally, I’m still playing Shepparton Airplane’s “Sharks” a bunch.
Morgan: I keep going back to Billy Woods’ “Hiding Places” its fucking awesome.
Lewis: Agreed with Jack, Shepparton Airplane has had a lot of plays. The new Landowner album which just came out last week (here) has got me excited too. 
To conclude
Best tour memory?
Our tour of France is hands down one of the best experiences of my life. We have never played to crowds as big as the ones we did at Binic Folk and Blues festival. It was an absolutely surreal experience. I still get nervous thinking about getting on the stage for our second set at the festival. It was HUGE! We also got to eat lots of cheese and drink lots of wine. Pretty hard to top. 
Haha, that’s a great festival indeed! So… what are the next steps for you as a band? 
WRITE, WRITE, WRITE! It would also be nice to finally be able to play a live show again. Hopefully that can happen in early 2021. 
How do you imagine your discography in 20 years from now? 
Hopefully we have a few more albums under our belt and can look back with pride at everything we have put out, the messages we tried to get across and the career we have had. 
I always laugh when some celebrity rockstar comes out and makes this claim. What a joke! Rock bands, in all their forms, have and will exist for a long time to come. If you don’t find it on the top of the charts dig a little deeper and go to a live show – right?!
Let us hope!

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