28.8 C
New York
Friday, June 21, 2024

This Band Made a $3.44 Music Video. Then They Went Viral

In 2016, when  16-year-old Eamon Sandwith started the Chats with his buddies in the small Australian surf town of Coolum Beach, the goal was simple. “To get free piss and play parties,” he says. (To clarify, in this context “piss” means beer.) But the high school parties were usually soundtracked by “oontz oontz” DJ music, so “nobody fucking liked us,” Sandwith says, smiling. “We always got booed.”

Then he wrote a song called “Smoko.” Bountifully, joyfully dumb, it’s all about the glory and the agony of a smoke break. Buoyed by a scrappy DIY video, “Smoko” became a weirdo internet smash. The video technically cost $5 AUD (about $3.44 USD) to make, with the whole budget going to purchase a sausage roll eaten on screen. Now it has nearly 17 million views on YouTube. And nearly five years on, it’s helped the Chats take their hyperlocal punk rock all over the world. There’s just something about the peculiar world they live in that’s beguiled regular folks and legends alike. As Sandwith told The Guardian, “When we met Iggy Pop he was like, ‘What’s a smoko?’”

On August 19, the Chats released their new album, Get Fucked. (To clarify, in this context “get fucked” means to get fucked.) Ahead of the release, Sandwith called from his well-lit home in Brisbane, a city a couple of hours south of Coolum. He was flanked by a classy black-and-white photo of a flailing Jello Biafra. His mullet cascaded behind him. Even on a video call, the thing was so hearty it was intimidating.

“I was walking around and I thought of the chorus bit in my head,” Sandwith says now of the origin of “Smoko.” “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good, I should try and remember that. And I was trying really hard not to have different thoughts.” Once he made it home, he grabbed his guitar and wrote “Smoko” in less than 15 minutes. After they shot the video, the band was excited to show it to their friends. Their immediate social circle was about as far as they thought it would go. “I didn’t think it was, like, amazing,” Sandwith remembers. And then “it got out of hand.”

Most PopularBusinessThe End of Airbnb in New York

Amanda Hoover

BusinessThis Is the True Scale of New York’s Airbnb Apocalypse

Amanda Hoover

CultureStarfield Will Be the Meme Game for Decades to Come

Will Bedingfield

GearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

“Smoko” originally blew up when a local surf shop posted it on its Facebook page. By the time the video surpassed a half a million views, the Chats were being profiled on the local news. Soon after, they started touring the world. “It’s just a constant pinching-yourself moment,” Sandwith says. “How do these people know about us? Let alone like us enough to come watch us?”

And all this for a band that is almost calculatingly insular. The band name came from a term drummer Matt Boggis picked up in Sydney. “All of a sudden, he was like, ‘that’s chat, this is chat.’ We were like, ‘What the fuck does that mean?’” Boggis explains, “It’s just something you say when something’s really shit.” So they named themselves the Chats. Then they kept pumping out songs informed by the particular world view of their friend group. Their latest single, “I’ve Been Drunk in Every Pub in Brisbane,” spends a good chunk of its 97-second run time naming said bars. “It was almost an in-joke,” Sandwith says, to use all manner of vernacular “that only certain people from our area would understand. Not even Australian people! Just people from our town.”

When touring abroad, particularly in the US, Sandwith says, “there’s a bit of weird tokenism. People are very much like, ‘Oh, can you say ‘G’day’? I guess Australia is almost a mythical place they imagined.” What differentiates the Chats in particular is that they’re a rare media representation for the Sunshine Coast, or Sunny Coast, in the northern state of Queensland. “Queensland in general is seen as more of a redneck kind of place, especially to people from the southern states,” Sandwith explains. “But to me, it’s just like, a place.” And it’s their eternal muse. The more insular they go, the more the world loves it. “It’s just our world. It’s what we see and what we do. I mean, it wouldn’t make heaps of sense for us to write a song about fucking Paris or something.”

When “Smoko” first started doing numbers, Sandwith didn’t get carried away. “I remember thinking, I know how the internet works! Something’s cool for a bit and then it’s like pffffft. Everyone could just go back to not giving a fuck about us next week.” But here they are, five years later. “I didn’t think it would stand the test of time, where people would still care about us,” he says. “But they still do!”

Related Articles

Latest Articles