Skegss: Rehearsal, Aussie Surf Punk with Beer and Dogs
Skegss are on the cusp of global domination with their riotous rock that has sparked circle pits and stage dives all over – dingy pubs, skate parks, sold-out shows in the UK, NYC, and LA plus 20K cap festival stages alike. Their first album for Loma Vista Recordings, Rehearsal is a 13-track thrill ride through the band’s laissez-faire lifestyle and sunkissed narratives of love, friendship and youthful musings.
This follows the meteoric DIY success of a few self-released singles/EPs (now certified Platinum in Australia) and their 2018 debut LP My Own Mess, which reached No.2 on Australia’s ARIA album chart, and also features trippy cover artwork by cult Aussie outsider and frequent Skegss collaborator Jack Irvine (who has also worked with Billie Eilish and Troye Sivan).
Skegss are one of those reliable bands that you know you can trust to make a bloody good skate-punk bop. Part of Australia’s famed punk scene, they bring the sunshine and the riffs and the pure, unfettered longing to catch them at a sweaty live show, and that’s no different with their sophomore studio album, Rehearsal. When the punky noise formula is your bread and butter, though, it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling repetitive – but good news for us, Rehearsal is also a masterclass in keeping it fresh.
Of course, there’s plenty of what we love Skegss for – solid and simple, easy to go wild to, FUN. On “Curse My Happiness”, Skegss sing, “I’m not perfect, but I’m still happy” – long a mantra for their gloriously chaotic live shows, it’s a message that could permeate Rehearsal easily. Skegss aren’t trying to make a record that shows off what strikingly excellent technical musicians they are; they’re making a record that people can party to – and that, they do flawlessly. The record comprises a vast array of on-your-feet bangers from groovy opener “Down To Ride” and its infectious melody, through swirling highlights like “Bush TV”, all the way around the world of what punk music can do to make you feel good.
Skegss know their way around a riff, and they prove it by churning out a set of tunes that feel like they could easily blend into one, but they don’t. There’s just the right amount of intricacy thrown into every track to ensure that each one hits a distinct note, whether that’s “Savour The Flavour”’s 80’s-film-feeling sharpness or “Under The Thunder”’s effortlessly cool moments of restraint. Skegss have ensured that there’s a balance on Rehearsal – of keeping the energy up and knowing when to draw back and build the vibes up further, of high-octane vs easygoing, and it just serves to amplify both ends of the spectrum.
Skegss also shine on the album’s proper softies – not just moments of pulling back to let the noise build-up before throwing us into another mosh-pit daydream but properly stripping it back to the emotional level. They gave us a taste of it on “Wake Up”, a bluesy reflection drenched in vulnerability and life advice all at once, and Skegss return to this on the album’s sunset, closer “Lucky”. Whistling and harmonica accompany the credits roll on Rehearsal in a dreamy kind of catharsis, reminding us that the reason we love bands like Skegss so much is that they feel so real, and it doesn’t get more real than this intimate album.
Thanks to its poignant moments, Rehearsal burns brighter at its loudest. Skegss are an absolute riot, and they know it, blitzing through their joyous moments and their shout-along explosions of guitar with all the laissez-faire flair of a band who love what they’re doing. And we love it too.
Rehearsal was recorded at The Grove Studios with producer Catherine Marks (Manchester Orchestra, PJ Harvey, The Killers), who added a veteran’s finesse and expanded upon the rustic charm of demos Skegss tracked at The Music Farm using vintage gear from the ‘60s and ‘70s. From Reed’s self-made lyrical philosophies inspired by his favourite stand-up comedians to bassist Toby Cregan’s reflections on youthful romance, Rehearsal is the most candid and electrifying snapshot we’ve seen of Skegss yet.
“I was pretty scared that I was going to lose my job at a brewery because I was spontaneously taking off for gig opportunities,” singer Ben Reed recalls. “I remember talking to Farmer Greg, who used to come in to get the wheat malt for his cows. He used to work for 60 Minutes, filming on the helicopter and shit. He asked what I got up to and I downloaded my predicament to him and he goes: ‘Do it. This is no rehearsal. You go for that, you can do this later.’ I fully needed to hear that.”
It’s an explanation that summarises the Skegss attitude: Roll the dice, roll with the punches, and you’ll make it out on top.