Words by Paul Maland
It’s been a massive year for Brisbane ratbags Dune Rats. The trio have played sold-out headline shows across the globe, including a co-headline tour with Fidlar, slots at Laneway Festival in both 2016 and 2017, and helped kick-start the success of their label-mates Skeggs on Ratbag Records. Dunies’ latest offering and full length album since 2014, The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit, will be available to the public tomorrow.
We sat down and had a chinwag with front-man Danny to talk about writing the new album and where its name comes from, as well as working with Zac Carper, home-job tattoos, and getting offered drugs anywhere you go.
Dune Rats are a band synonymous with fun-loving, debaucherous antics on-stage and off. Their song lyrics and live shows are littered with allusions to smoking bongs, getting messed up on whatever drugs are available, and riding the climactic wave of a big night into countless sunrise kick-ons.
Following their massive co-headline tour in the U.S. this year with Fidlar, whose name stands for “Fuck It, Dog, Life’s A Risk”, the boys reeled in Fidlar’s own Zac Carper to help produce their new album. The influence of Zac on the polish of the album’s mixing and song structure is audibly apparent — tracks sound very similar to something coming from Fidlar themselves, or even fellow Brisbane heavyweights Violent Soho.
Zac is no stranger to the touring, party-band lifestyle either; the Fidlar front-man has experienced his fair share of tumultuous partying, sharing the stage with a balancing act of a heroin and methamphetamine addiction throughout Fidlar’s first few years of touring. The addiction cost Zac his girlfriend and unborn child’s life after a suspected overdose, and almost resulted in him leaving the band. After sobering up, Zac’s work ethic has been unquestionable, helping produce Fidlar’s critically acclaimed second album, Too, and then receiving the call to help out with Dunies.
For a band so renowned for endless nights and endless drugs, sharing the recording studio with Zac might start to raise eyebrows about whether or not it’s a wise idea, or if it’s all just an excuse to hang with your mate from America while someone else picks up the cheque.
“Originally people weren’t really on board with it, and then we would have to push for it, that he can really get the best out of it.
“A lot of people thought maybe it was just us trying to piss some money up the wall with our mate.
“We kind of knew though, especially with the direction that Fidlar went with their second album, we just knew that that’s how we wanted to do it,” says Danny, Dune Rats’ guitarist and vocalist.
“There were people nervous about what Zac was getting in to. We kind of, like, love the dude like a brother, so we’re not fuckwits about it, and we’d be toned back on what we did with him.
“Mainly we just realised as well that we were there to do a fuckin’ album that was really good, so we all sort of, like, chilled out.
“Didn’t mean we didn’t have beers every night, y’know, he’s not that sort of person. He’s a big boy and he can watch people have a good time in front of him, because he’s got bigger shit to do now. So, we’re stoked,” he says.
On top of the usual Dunies stoner-pop ballads that fans across Australia and the world have come to know and love, there’s a few tracks that have a bit of a coming-of-age feel to them — on one end there’s tracks about being underage and having your older brother score a six pack from the bottle-o, but there’s also tracks like 'Never Gonna Get High', about getting a bit burned out from partying. Whether or not this is the start of the band maturing beyond the drug-heavy chorus anthems is hard to say, as the lyrics are shared communally between the band’s members.
“I like them not being about something in particular. You know, like, they are, but there’s lots of different meanings for it.
“We kind’a did that deliberately that so people can take away what they wanted to.
“Cause sometimes I feel like a fuck-wit for, like, saying, ‘this is how it’s meant to be’, ‘cause maybe I wrote it for a certain reason, or the boys did, or y’know,” Danny says.
“I sort’a just go in bang out the original draft and then we all sorta look at them, and then the ones the guys are like, ‘oh that one… you can do a bit better than that.
“It’s always like a group sort of thing; we all go in and go, ‘what do you reckon about that?’” he says.
With regards to 'Never Gonna Get High', it’s no secret what’s going on there.
“The title sort’a gives that one away a bit. It’s more for BC to talk about; BC went through some stuff where he has to stop smoking weed and shit, and that’s sick that he’s done that. […] There’s always lots of other shit,” Danny says.
The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit is the first full length studio album from Dune Rats since their self-titled debut in 2014, which came following three years of EPs fostering crowd favourite tracks such as 'Red Light Green Light', 'Fuck It', and 'WOOO!', which all still get a lot of stage time.
The name of the album is another eyebrow raiser. Although it’s not featuring a threesome on the album cover like the Smile EP, it’s not the clearest of titles.
“We were in Portland ‘cause we played with The Dandy Warhols out in Austra’ya, and Tay-Tay [Courtney Taylor-Taylor] who lives out in Portland was like, ‘Oh do you wanna come check out our rehearsal room?’ and stuff.
“We were there chilling with him and telling him about how we were writing the album, and he was just like, ‘Listen, man, if you don’t write what you wanna write, the kids will know it’s bullshit’.
“We just thought it was funny, and at the time Zac, who we were playing with and stuff over there on tour with Fidlar, he was sort’a seeing ‘bullshit’ as a negative thing, but we always sorta see the positives; we use it in a positive way.
“It’s kinda just like a funny name that can go both ways,” Danny says.
Dune Rats are a band that sometimes find themselves susceptible to having their image outgrow and overlap their actual personality through drug addled caricature, with fans eager to have Danny, Brett and BC snort seemingly endless offers of free drugs... For the time being at least, it seems to be not too far removed from reality.
“People think ‘they’re all on drugs, they’re all pissheads.’ Probably accurate call.
“Fuck man, the amount of stuff that people try and make you snort that probably isn’t fucking drugs is pretty hilarious."
Another thing that’s started to take on a life of its own is the fanbase’s affection for getting home-job tattoos of either the words 'Dunies', or more recently 'Scott Green?' or other quirky song lyrics from the Brisbane boys on their body.
Even as I sit writing this article, someone who hasn’t even smoked weed for over six years, I look down at my ankle and see the word “Dvnies” in thick, un-even and scarred tattoo ink from a group home-job session in my old flat two years ago.
“Fuck dude, fuck you’re a legend for doing that. Did it get heaps infected? Mine always gets heaps infected,” Danny says.
Even with how frequent the tattoos have become, it never ceases to amaze the boys.
“Always, every fucking time. I think that’s why we always post it up — it’s not to encourage other cunts to do it, we just get blown away with why the fuck someone would do that.
“But then I guess we’re dumb enough to do that, so there’d be other people that are as dumb as us, which is sick.
“It’s very comforting that people that like our band are like us,” he laughs.
It’s clear from Dunies-Mania running wild on tattooed skin and in club toilets across the country that the boys have nurtured something that’s grown into clear adoration for their work.
“We’re kinda just this really annoying thing that won’t go away...
“It’s always been the baby; it’s not us, it’s not about us anymore — that’s the approach we have with it.
“It beats a lot of other shit we were doing before. It’s just music, so we’re pretty lucky in that regard.”
At the end of the day, Dune Rats are bunch of dudes out of Brisbane enjoying the ride and seeing where the band takes ‘em. The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit tour, which starts a month after the boys wrap up their Laneway festival dates, has sold-out almost every leg of the tour, adding a number of second and third dates in cities across Australia.
“The live show’s gonna be sick. Just seeing everyone — I dunno, I haven’t really been thinking about it too much. It’s kind of like when you have something really exciting coming up, you don’t think about it too much until the night before.
“We’re going into the studio for a month and we’re gonna work on the live show. Just every part of the live show, not just the sound, but make it a theatrically, funny, good show.”
For a band that runs the risk of burning out from such extensive touring and partying, you do have to wonder where the band expects to be in five years…
“Hopefully not living out of mum’s houses…
“Maybe that. Yeah, still living with our mums.”
Dune Rats second studio album The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit comes out Friday the 3rd of February. The tour to support the album has dates kicking off across the country in March, including two shows at The Gov in Adelaide.