As a society, we’ve been raised on the belief that rockstars are both unattainable and unrelatable: they command thousands in arenas and stadiums, dominate the main stages of massive festivals, play one note of one song and have it instantly recognised the world over. Eamon Sandwith, the lead vocalist and bassist of The Chats, ticks all of these boxes but certainly doesn’t act like it. Staring down the barrel of his phone on video call from suburban Brisbane, the 23-year-old is softly spoken, humble and quick to deflect a compliment.
This is the guy from the same band that played Coachella this year; just got off tour with The Strokes; had Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and Alex Turner come to their gig and are heading out as the main support for Guns ’N Roses Down Under this November. Even one of those things would give a lesser bloke an ego the size of Queensland, but not Sandwith. “Let’s be honest, Axl [Rose] might have seen the band name in tiny font in an email somewhere – if that,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s weird to go from the pub circuit, doing those classic venues that everyone does when they start out, and then to go overseas and play in countries where they speak another language – and they still know all the words,” he continues. “It’s all truly bizarre to us, but I think we’ve got the best of both worlds. The rockstars can give us a shoutout, and that’s cool, but we still have a really good scene to belong to here at home, where it’s mates supporting mates.”
Among the list of rockstars who’ve given The Chats a shoutout in 2022, you’ll find NME favourites Wet Leg. Although not quite on the G’NR level, the hyped duo recently covered The Chats’ signature song and breakthrough single ‘Smoko’ while on the ‘Like A Version’ covers segment of youth broadcaster Triple J. The cover received a mixed reaction, as most ‘Like A Version’s tend to do, but Sandwith, who was already a Wet Leg fan, has given it his seal of approval.
“I really enjoyed it,” he says. “I was pretty tuned into them before that, and I liked what they were doing. They’ve really got their own style, and they applied that to the cover – which I thought was great. I probably prefer that one more than ours these days, to be honest.”
“The rockstars can give us a shoutout, and that’s cool, but we still have a really good scene to belong to here at home, where it’s mates supporting mates”
Again with the knowing self-deprecation. Sandwith has plenty to be proud of – especially upon the release of their second studio album, ‘Get Fucked’. The follow-up to their acclaimed debut, 2020’s ‘High Risk Behaviour’, comes in the wake of several changes within the band’s camp. Founding guitarist Josh Price is gone, now focused on his solo project Pricey, and in his place a different Josh – that’s Hardy, also of The Unknowns.
Sandwith says of Hardy, who made his debut with the band on the 2021 single ‘AC/DC CD’: “He was at some of our very first shows, so he’s one of the few people that’s seen the band through every iteration. He was the right choice for someone who understood us, and really gets the band. It made a lot of sense. It would have been weird if we’d gone and hired some shredder instead, y’know?”
Two-and-a-half years have passed and the world has literally changed completely since ‘High Risk Behaviour’. But listen to ‘Get Fucked’ and you’ll feel like no time has passed whatsoever. It’s still loud, crude, hilarious and unabashedly idiosyncratic. This is no difficult second album – in fact, The Chats couldn’t have found it any easier.
“It’s funny… we weren’t really going either way that bands tend to go when they’re making a second album,” says Sandwith. “We weren’t preoccupied with recreating the first album, but there also wasn’t any urge to do something completely different and left-field. It’s just an album that’s the DNA of the three of us. The base ingredients are still there – let’s just say we’re throwing in a bit of parsley and adding some more flavour.”
The songwriting on ‘Get Fucked’ is what you might describe as single entendre. Forget any deeper meaning, or any metaphors that might come to mind. ‘Struck By Lightning’ is about being struck by lightning. ‘I’ve Been Drunk In Every Pub In Brisbane’ is about being drunk in every pub in Brisbane. And what about ‘Emperor Of The Beach’? Is it the commentary on territorial, small-town racism that the press materials make it out to be? No, it’s about guys who think they’re the emperor of the beach.
“I moved to the Sunny Coast when I was about 12,” Sandwith explains, referring to the stretch of southern Queensland known as the Sunshine Coast. “I was determined to start surfing, but every kid in town was already a fucking pro because they’ve grown up there their whole life. I quickly found that it just wasn’t my thing – I’m not against surfing, but I’m definitely against the attitudes. We’re taking the piss out of them in the song, but there will probably be people that won’t see the humour and will walk up and down the beach singing it without a shred of irony. It’s bound to happen.”
In a world where it’s no longer unfashionable or despicable for bands to sign on the dotted line, it’s perhaps notable that ‘Get Fucked’, one of the most anticipated Australian rock albums of the year, was not released on a major label. Rather, like ‘High Risk Behaviour’, it came out on The Chats’ own label, Bargain Bin.
“We started the label because when you don’t have one, you get stuck in a lot of email chains with other labels that want to sign you,” says Sandwith. “We don’t really know what any of it means – it’s always been really hard to understand. For us, Bargain Bin was the easiest way for us to do this. Not only do we get to put out our own stuff, but we get to help out our mates as well.”
“I never wanted to be in a huge, successful band. I just knew I wanted to be in a band”
Said mates include label alumni (and recent NME Australia cover stars) King Stingray, who released their first two singles as part of Bargain Bin, as well as Hardy’s other band The Unknowns (who Sandwith occasionally plays guitar for), Perve Endings, Dennis Cometti and upcoming tourmates Aborted Tortoise. “We have plenty of friends who have tried to put out stuff by themselves and it hasn’t gone the way they’d hoped, and we also have friends who have tried going through the big labels and it hasn’t gone the way they’d hoped either,” says Sandwith. “At Bargain Bin, everyone’s already friends. There’s no weird industry stuff like there normally is. None of that. It’s just mates hanging out and making music.”
When travel restrictions lifted, The Chats were one of the first Australian acts to leave the country and get back in the tour bus. They’ll be back in North America after the album tour in Australia, co-headlining with American punks The Bronx, while the UK and Europe will see the band again in early 2023. It’s not something any of The Chats are taking for granted – especially when, with such a young fanbase, they’re often responsible for punters’ gig experiences. “It’s really touching when a kid tells you it’s their first show,” says Sandwith.
“When we went to the UK earlier this year, there were kids there who’d been waiting to see us for three years. You’re just taking it all in, and you’re just like, ‘…Far out’. It’s a weird thing to try and wrap your head around. You just gotta roll with it, though. I’m stoked to be able to play even a small part in people’s lives and their appreciation for music.”
While on the topic of young people, it’s worth noting the surprisingly sweet reason the album bears such an ugly name. In a statement accompanying the release, Sandwith explained that if he were a kid walking into a record store and he saw an album called ‘Get Fucked’, that would be the record he’d want to buy. And everything that’s happened with The Chats over the last few years begs the question: what would Sandwith’s kid self make of what he’s accomplished?
“It’s definitely crossed my mind before,” he replies. “I never wanted to be in a huge, successful band. I just knew I wanted to be in a band. It’s just the way things turn out, I suppose.” He stops for a moment, smiling as the sun reflects off his screen. “Yeah, I definitely think my younger self would be pretty stoked.”
The Chats’ ‘Get Fucked’ is out now