Band: Dune Rats
Album: Hurry Up And Wait
Label/Vertrieb: Ratbag Records / BMG
For Dune Rats, the key to making their third album, Hurry Up And Wait, was coming back to where they began. After the success of their 2017 breakthrough The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit, Brisbane trio Danny Beus, Brett Jansch and BC Michaels could have gone anywhere in the world and worked with anyone they wanted for their new LP.
And, at first, that’s what they did. After starting the writing process in Australia—at the rural Victoria farm belonging to their mate Ross Knight from legendary punk act Cosmic Psychos, and at a rat-infested farmhouse in Boonah, Queensland—the band flew to the very different surrounds of LA to work with legendary music producer John Feldmann. There, they found themselves in a surreal whirlwind of personal trainers, Soho House sessions, movie star sightings and gated communities. But after spending ten days in Calabasas working on music, they realised the lyrics they were singing didn’t feel like genuine Dunies. As lead singer Danny Beus put it: “People were trying to make us write songs about being in the club. Well, where I’m from, the club’s the Bowlo.”
America made Dune Rats realise what they did—and didn’t—want their music to be. They returned home and changed approach, swapping superproducers for old friends. Their right hand man became James Tidswell of Violent Soho; a longtime mate who, rather than trying to shape their output, acted as an incubator for what was already there. Later, they recruited engineer Mitch Kenny, producer and songwriter Miro Mackie, got Mike Green on board to mix the album and recorded it all at The Grove studios in the Central Coast with Tidswell and Kenny.
All three names were vital to the process of making the album, in part because they knew when to hang back and let Dune Rats be Dune Rats. With trusted hands holding it down, the boys were given the headspace to make music at their own pace. As bassist Brett Jansch says: “We were doing exactly what we wanted to do.”
The irony of flying halfway around the world to work on the album only to realise they needed to be back at home to make it isn’t lost on the guys. “We had the chance to go around and test the waters in a lot of different pools of writing and recording. And then we ended up coming back to the Central Coast and recording it with a mate,” Danny admits.
Eventually they came away with Hurry Up And Wait, a record that marks a new chapter in the Dunies story. The title is a nod to the constant stop-start of life on the road; rushing to soundchecks or airports only to sit around for hours twiddling your thumbs. But while they might be playing to bigger crowds these days, the stuff the trio write about is still as down-to-earth as ever. Just like they always have, Dune Rats find material in the funny minutiae of life: shit like your car breaking down on the side of the highway on Christmas Day, or observing the annoying little habits other people have, or the times it feels like you’re living in your own personal Groundhog Day.
On ‘No Plans’, the album’s anthemic lead single, Dune Rats sing about both the bonkers and boring bits of playing in a band with your friends. On ‘Rubber Arm’, it’s about letting yourself get talked into going out (as they put it, the nights when you “go to the pub for one drink and end up in Vegas with your undies on your head and a fresh Nickelback tattoo”.) Elsewhere, they sing about making the best of bad situations (‘Rock Bottom’), the ridiculous scenarios you can’t believe happen to you (‘The Skids’) and the mates who keep getting each other in trouble (‘Stupid’ featuring US singer K Flay).
Many songs started out as funny moments of observational humour or, as they describe it, “just us talking shit to each other”. Sometimes that manifests as a simple ode to homegrown music, like album closer ‘Mountains Come And Go Aussie Pub Rock Lives Forever’, which was first conceived on a tour bus with Gooch Palms somewhere in Switzerland. Or on opener ‘Bobby D’, it’s preserving an actual, very funny 4am voicemail from a wasted mate.
But while Dune Rats are still having fun, they aren’t treading the same old ground. “We never want to write a song we’ve written before,” Danny explains. “We don’t want to be the ‘Scott Green’ band forever.” And for the band, keeping it real always trumps all else. “We didn’t set out to make a big album, or a polished album, or an album about partying because the last one did alright, or an album not about partying because we want to get away from that. It’s just writing about different stuff in our lives. It was always just going to be Dunies.”
Sonically, Hurry Up And Wait has seen the boys graduate from the two-chord tracks of their early days into their cleanest and most professional sound ever. The approach they took to instrumentation was “less, but better”, taking things more seriously than ever and setting out with the mission to ”really try to make a record that we’re proud of.” Central to levelling up the sound was James Tidswell, who they say was an “avid believer we shouldn’t go in with a super punk rock sound” and encouraged them to keep the acoustics beachier, brighter and more relaxed.
And while it’s been a wild ride since The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit made Dunies stars, the friendship between the three guys at the centre of the action is the same as ever. “Our lives haven’t changed much, honestly. We’ve always just done it together. We always write together—vocals, melodies, lyrics—it’s a fuckin good way to do it,” Danny says. “At the end of the day, it’s always just us three.”
Words: Katie Cunningham