Some people might assume your band is a joke. You’re called Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys. Listening to the record, that’s obviously not true. Do you feel the name has negatively impacted the band?
Ben: Yes. You don’t even need to add anything to that. Just yes.
Joe: In other ways it also benefits us, though. Everyone has an automatic filter on music now, or they always have, maybe. There’s got to be signifiers: you have to have the right look or the right name. I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago: Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys will get to people who are completely open minded about music. There are only a small amount of people who have no preconceptions coming into a band. And those are the people who probably listen to Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys.
Doug: There are a lot of people who actually love the bandname more than hate it.
Nic: People have told me they think it’s a good name once they’ve known the band. It kinda provides context for the “no ambition, no real level of pretentiousness” part about us. It shows that we don’t have this really strict pre-conceived idea about what we are. It’s that thing I love about rock ‘n roll: in one sense it’s so unimportant, y’know, the attitude where you say “we’re just playing some rock ‘n roll and getting together”. But then on the otherhand it’s deadly serious.
Doug: I don’t think the band name really relates to the music we make any more.
Joe: It never did!
Doug: I think it did at the start. I remember when I first used to see you guys before I joined the band, you were these drunk dumb kids and it kinda made sense. You were playing these covers and it was sloppy.
Nic: We used to play through two distortion pedals on guitar and bass.
The first Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys show I saw was really loose, and you guys spent most of the set bantering. Over the years you’ve tightened up though. It’s a lot more technically proficient and it’s not as funny anymore.
Ben: How long could we do that though, before people would be like “oh what’s their deal, are they a bit simple?”
Has the band evolved into something more important than it initially was?
Joe: No, because initially we thought we were the band that we are now, except we were too drunk to realise we couldn’t play anything. We’ve practiced really friggin’ hard since. ‘Waste of Time’ was written before the band, and it was a really ambitious thing, I thought. When we started we actually said we wanted to be DIY arena rock. We wanted to sound like Kiss and just destroy, to be the best rock band. Except we weren’t. [laughs]
Nic: I know I definitely wanted to be in that tradition of antagonistic LA punk – not any band in particular, but I was really enjoying Red Kross and early GG Allin records and stuff, and kinda wanted to be like “fuck you we’re playing rock ‘n roll and we don’t care what you think.”
Joe: It just ended up that we were too drunk, and that ended up being louder than the music.
Ben: I think we were the victim of circumstances. We should have had a drummer from the start, because none of us can really play. We got whoever didn’t write the song to play drums. If we had a drummer from the get-go, which we were too embarrassed to do with someone who didn’t know us as well as we know one another, then it might have been okay.
Joe: Basically, the band was completely serious when we started, even though that went over everyone’s head.
Nic: But to me it felt like there was a reaction [in our music] to how serious Sydney was at that point of time. There were all these junkie cowboy get-ups then. Either that, or you were this uber-brooding shoegaze band. Everything was about big pedalboards. Everything was angular or post-rocky or like the Birthday Party, or really serious songwriterly intellectual stuff by a guy who had just heard the Dirty Three. I wanted to be in a fun band. Now, I feel like there is nothing worse than a band forming for a bit of fun. I feel like when we formed for a bit of fun it was a sort of “fuck you” fun. For me, it was a kind of reactionary thing in a sense, the irritation with a lot of the things that were going on. Also I didn’t know how to write a song then.
Joe: The reason why it’s more serious now is because we make it the whole way through songs now and we don’t fuck up, and we sound like we’re playing music. It still has the same humour to it though, it still has the same attitude.
Nic: I know I’m more willing to be vulnerable now. I don’t care about being embarrassed any more. Life’s too short to care about what someone’s going to think. I don’t need to hide behind two distortion pedals, or in-jokes or anything. I’m more introspective now than I was then. I do need this as an outlet in a way, as a way to figure myself out by writing songs.
Joe: That’s still the same intention we had when we started. Basically the intention hasn’t changed, we’ve just gotten better. If you don’t get better after playing for five years then, well…
Ben: I think now life is too long to be a garage rock Gold Coast party band.
Nic: I was talking to this girl the other night, who was really nice, but she puts on these party events and lots of those party bands play. All they are are young people who want to be a somebody and want to have their picture taken, and they want to be cool, which I can understand. I said to her (because she likes a lot of records on RIP Society) that I don’t really have any use for a lot of these party fun garage bands. It feels too shallow in emotion for me, and too much “just a bit of fun” to have any use. Because even in bubblegum pop there’s desperation. I’m not talking about some overly dramatic Moss Icon DC super-earnest emotion, because that’s as annoying as anything. But whether it’s anger or confusion or sadness or something, there’s got to be some level of depth about it, and some element of putting yourself on the line. You can’t just pretend to be bored all the time. What kind of song is that? “Ehh, I’ve got nothing to do, I’m so bored”. I’ve never been bored.
Doug: Hahaha, our album’s called ‘Ready For Boredom’.
Nic: Yeah, that’s what I mean! I’m ready for boredom. I don’t want to have this traditional youthful idea of fun. The idea of what’s fun as a person in your mid ‘20s is annoying. I don’t want to go to some restaurant in a nice shirt that every one’s been talking about. It just seems dumb and insignificant. And this youthful idea of partying doesn’t feel like much of a party to me.
Joe: Getting back, the early shows might have been hilarious and fun or whatever, but I felt like shit. I felt like shit the next day, and regretted every single part of it. It felt like the band was being compromised, because we were doing some pretty personal shit – you felt involved, it was you – but it was just a joke. Now it feels better because it’s stronger, we can play in time, we can hit notes. We still sound like shit to someone with a really schmick idea of music, but we’ve got more power now, and we’ve got more strength.
Nic: We still had a greater intention for our music, we still had an ambition beyond being on a jeans ad. We all love the tradition of a rock ‘n roll band and the idea that anyone can play in a rock ‘n roll band, and that even the most ordinary person can have some useful perspective, some insight on life, even if you’ve never had any intense trauma or anything like that. There’s insight that the average person can give in rock ‘n roll.
Joe: But at the same time you gotta make fun of it, because it can’t all be serious.
Nic: Well that’s the thing. It’s reflecting this kind of… I don’t want to use the term… but no, actually I will: “everyman rock”. It sounds lame, but by that I mean that the least extraordinary person in the world… you don’t have to be a flamboyant and otherworldly character like David Bowie to have something important to say. And that’s what I like about rock music.
When I first saw the title Ready For Boredom, I thought it was probably an in-joke. But when I listened to the record, I noticed that a lot of the songs are about becoming more adult, or more mature, or more responsible. In rock music, adulthood is often seen as the province of the boring, or the realm of the straight and narrow. Is that what the record is about, that transition?
Nic: I guess so. Yeah, definitely. It was between that and another song on the record that we were going to name the album after, but Ready For Boredom seemed to be appropriate to me because it seemed to indicate this exit from us being a party band. A lot of the songs I write are a bit about wanting a bit of stability in my life, of feeling sometimes that the world’s going to fall in on me. I run a record label and work at a record store and have pretty much neglected the idea of a career [in order to]… not have a career in music, that never crosses my mind… but I’ve put all my energy into this culture, to the detriment of other parts of my life. Like relationships, a career, financial stability. Appearance, maybe [laughs]. Life is becoming more apparent, I guess. I worry about shit more.
A struggle I have with a lot of new classic-oriented rock music, is that whenever a modern rock band is very referential sonically, they sound almost intrinsically ironic, like they’re merely channeling an old energy. I don’t identify that in your music though. Does being identified like that worry you?
Doug: I don’t think we draw from one time period specifically enough to be put into a category as a throwback band.
Nic: Every band that I’ve liked has been pretty much a throwback band from someone’s perception. The Ramones were a throwback to the ‘50s.
Doug: Obviously you’re going to be influenced by something, but what we’re drawing on spans decades.
Nic: We’re just building on the idea of rock ‘n roll, on the language of rock ‘n roll. Not really building, [but rather] just another take on it, but with a broader amount of ideas we can draw upon. The Replacements went back to rock ‘n roll. Guided By Voices did the exact same thing, and no body thinks of those bands as overly referential or ironic.
But don’t you think that irony is somewhat entrenched in our outlook, in the 21st century? It’s a reflexive interpretation, I think.
Nic: I do know what you mean, because people always want to go to the past in this really obvious way when they talk about new rock ‘n roll bands, where it’s A meets B. But try to tell me what Eddy Current or the UV Race are A meets B about, and it’s nothing, because they’ve done that act of being creative where a group of four or more people have come together and had these different experiences of music or life in general and made a band that is informed by that, rather than this overly thought-out “oh let’s do the guitars of this [group], mixed with this [group]”. If anything, the last few years of music in Australia has proved that there is a lot of life in rock music, despite people who might think it’s referential to rock ‘n roll of yesteryear. It’ll probably fare better than artists that are trying to hop on a minimal synth trend, or who are doing a no-wave revival band, or something that’s way more “this is the new thing!” even though it’s an old thing. I think there’s something humbling about being in a rock band.
The record was originally called Success Rock. What happened? What kind of attitude shift occurred?
Doug: I don’t think it was ever definitely going to be that. It was never discussed as a full band and it was a bit tongue in cheek.
Ben: I think it was just one of those things where we wanted to personify this successful rock band and have a “be yourself, go for it” kinda attitude. It was a bit of an in-joke in a way.
Nic: It was a bit sarcastic, but also in a deadly serious way. Because this is the fruits of our labour. We’ve tried really hard and put a lot of ourselves into it. I thought of this idea of an album cover, where it’s us in front of Joe’s girlfriend’s car, a little Toyota, and us with our stacks of broken bass speakers, and a bunch of our shit that we find of great worth, like our instruments or some record. For us this is success, and [in contrast] your value system is stupid and we are successful.
Ben: It’s also a reactionary thing to bands that are content with going nowhere and content with just mulling around and slacking off. If I remember rightly, that’s where it came from.
Joe: There were a bunch of names: success rock, friendship rock, triumph rock..
Nic: Friendship rock, I’m glad that didn’t happen. I feel like we’re an empowering band. To be a fan of us would be empowering, I think. Being a fan of the Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys is an empowering and inspiring and confidence building experience [laughs]. That comes out of most of the bands that I like. They’re not like “I’m an artist and you’re shit! Listen to me, I’m Nick Cave, I’m a god!” We’re the opposite of that. I feel that’s the same with a bunch of classic rock bands, like Kiss for example: they gave hope to a bunch of suburban losers, a bunch of nerds, a bunch of people who are just dumb. It’s like: you can be a piece of shit but still do something awesome.
Ben: I feel like success rock for me is this: I’ve got a job, I’ve got a girlfriend and I’m pretty stable. That’s success rock. I can be in a band and that doesn’t take anything away from my every day life.
Doug: What about being a baseball champion?
Ben: And I’m a baseball champion.
Doug: You were a baseball champion and you played in a rock band on the same day.
Everyone at once: That was sick!
Nic, you were saying before that running a label and being in a band, and working in a record store, and that basically entrenching yourself in this culture has made your future prospects a bit uncertain. Do you think that is going to happen to everyone? What’s going to become of everyone else in our generation that dedicates themselves to this?
Nic: I feel better about this than I did a few months ago. Things always inspire me. Sometimes the way people embrace a new band, like say, I put a new record out and people get excited about it when I thought it’d be a bit of a stretch. That’s exciting, that makes me feel very glad I’m doing this. It’s the same at the record store, watching people’s enthusiasm. It’s life affirming, like I haven’t been wasting all this time and energy for nothing. I feel like I’ve been too drunk and blabbered on about this with Matt and Lucy from Naked on The Vague a bit recently, and they said I’d be able to find a balance, and that it can work out. Sometimes those moments though, when I think it might not, and that I might have to give it all up and go back to uni and become a teacher or something… that’s hard. Then they give me examples of people who have made it work, like Graham Lambkin from the Shadow Ring [and operator of the Kye label]. But I never think of this band, or any other band I’ve been in, as some kind of career path.
Do you guys think people will like the record? Is there any anxiety?
Doug: I’m not too worried because I feel like my role in the band… I didn’t write any of the songs, so I feel like I can appreciate them pretty objectively, and I really like the record. There are a couple of people whose opinions matter to me, but as far as the general public, I’m not really too worried, I think we’ve achieved something pretty important, to us at least. It represents us pretty well.
Ben: I reckon mum and dad will like it.
Joe: We’ve pretty much set ourselves up to be instantaneously dismissed by everybody, so no one is going to give us a chance anyway, so why bother about what other people will think?
Ben: But then we’ll have all these CDs and records, and that’ll cover us for birthdays andchristmas presents for the next ten years.
Nic: The people whose opinion I really care about, some of them have already expressed to me – when they didn’t have to – that they think the record is really good, and explained to me why they think it’s really good. In most cases it’s what I’d hoped someone would get out of the record. That’s good enough to me. But I do hope it has some kind of impact because I think we’re a good band, and I think it’s important for bands like us to be visible in the public eye, because I get worried about what this mainstream indie thing is promoting to people, and the values that it has, and I think it’s actually – as you’ve read – bad for society and bad for every one.
Joe: [to Nic] But whatever, it’ll always exist. You’re just being super idealistic that you want everyone to think right.
Nic: But I just want the things that are actually good and worthwhile to be a little more obvious in society, because I think it affects people’s life for the better.
Joe: [to Nic] But the people who find it will find it and that’s all that matters.
Ben: The people who listen to it once and brush it off wouldn’t want to hear it anyway.
Nic: I’m not trying to reach those people. I just want to convert people to the idea that music isn’t a fucking accessory.
Joe: I want people to know that there’s more to us than just drunk dudes. We are a good band and it should happen that we’re able to display ourselves as that. It was more for ourselves that I thought we should make a good job of it, and it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. We’ve proved to ourselves that we can do it. We can.
Bed Wettin Bad Boys’ Ready For Boredom is out now through RIP Society.
5 thoughts on “Success Rock: Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys Interviewed”
some very intelligent and self-aware everymen of rock. great interview.
you guys have to come to europe!
Mum and Dad do love what we have heard so far. I’m looking forward to the Sydney gig.
was this the entire interview? its left me wanting more.