Sydney Punks C.O.F.F.I.N on their new forthcoming LP: “The anguish of having things beyond your control controlling your life… music can be a really powerful therapy”

Original photo by Rhys Bennett. Handmade art by B.

From the Northern Beaches of Sydney come C.O.F.F.I.N with their loud rock n roll punk and wild shows putting the fun, danger and excitement back into punk rock. They’ve been in the studio recording their new record which is getting ready to see the light of day. Gimmie caught up with them for a chat.

How did you first get into music?

BEN (vocals-drums): Hard to tell, it’s been a key component of my life as far back as I can remember. My mum had really good mixtapes an old boyfriend of hers from NY had made. They were always playing in the car. Maybe that. Apparently I got loose from her when I was two at a benefit gig Midnight Oil were playing on Freshwater Beach. She found me side of stage captive and clapping along. So probably a combination of that and watching Video Hits with my old man at his place on the weekend.

ARTY (guitar-vocals): Whole family loves music. But when I was little my parents were still having parties and house shows and my dad was still always playing gigs in his bands (Crazy Legs Vermin, Knucklehead and others). CLV were out there punk with psychedelic and scientific themes and influences. My imagination went nuts every time the ol’ man had a gig. Probably didn’t even understand what gigs were but there was always a wanting of inclusion.

AARON (guitar-vocals): I listened to Big Willie Style by Will Smith.

I know you guys spin records at events/gigs from your personal collections sometimes; what is: the last record you bought? The most treasured record in your collection? A record we’d be surprised you own? A record that never fails to get the party started?

AARON:  Last I bought: All That Glue – Sleaford Mods. Most treasured: My dad’s original Beatles – Revolver. A surprise one: Wrestling Rocks – Real Rock ‘n’ Roll Sung by the World’s Greatest Professional. Party starter: Abijah’s copy of Eddie Murphy’s Party All The Time.

BEN: Last I bought: Greta Now – S/T. Most treasured: OG copy of Motörhead – On Parole. A surprise one: Enoch Light – Big Band Bossa Nova. Party starter: Three 6 Mafia – Mystic Stylez.

C.O.F.F.I.N all grew up together, bonding over a love of music and skateboarding; what initially sparked the idea to start the band?

BEN: We’d always be telling our folks we were staying at each other’s places and then just sneak out and skate, cause a ruckus, and go Shanti Hunting. Shanti Hunting was scoping out well enough covered areas like bin rooms or unit block fire escapes to sleep in for that night.

On the weekends when we did end up staying in we’d just jam anything for hours and talk about rock ‘n’ roll, and usually prank dominoes to con them into delivering free pizza.

We didn’t have any songs or a proper band name really, we’d always just improvise and start again the next time. This is where one of the really uncanny moments in our story takes place. We got our first gig in year 7 and were compelled to make an actual band because Loz who was in year 12 at the time was putting on a show with the Hard-Ons at our local youth centre (aka KANGA). Arty hearing this and being a major fan of the Hard-Ons lied to Loz and told him we had a punk band and really wanted to play. Loz let us open, and we had to get a set together in a month. Who would have known that a decade later Loz would end up joining the band he sorta spring-boarded into creation. 

Photo: Oisin Demony.

On a sidenote; who’s your favourite skateboarder? Why do they rule?

BEN: Well our favourite “blader” is Robert Grogan. And our favourite skateboarded is Rhys Grogan. They are both excellent shlonkers.

The band name stands for Children of Finland Fighting in Norway; were there any other names that you consider for the band? What made C.O.F.F.I.N the one that stuck?

BEN: Yeah it’s a fucked name. Well, the full version is at least weird, but C.O.F.F.I.N is a bit ordinary. I guess that happens when you’re 11 years old and naming your band.

Me and Arty had sorta played around with a couple other names (Leatherface, Val Halla) but they were kinda other projects going before the three of us (me, Arty, & Abijah) we’re fully jamming together.

We’d often go to these gigs that would happen at a heavier local rehearsal space in Brookvale called ‘Scene Around Sound’ or maybe ‘Rockafella’s’ because it was one of the only places we could see live music while being underage. The way I remember it was that Arty pleaded with one of the dudes running night to let us get up and play! WE HAD NO SONGS! The bloke said ‘sorry but there was no room’, yet he was intrigued by Arty’s forwardness, and that such young kids had a band. He told Arty that we could possibly do so next time and asked what the name of this young boy’s band was.

Arty being put on the spot for name answered ‘Children Of Finland!’ My only guess being because we were listening to lots of Scandinavian metal at the time. He came back to the couch we were squished in and recounted to Abijah & myself what had happened. We all agreed that was a shithouse name but stupidly felt it had to be kept because we announced to this guy that’s what it was. We decided to try and redeem it somewhat by turning it into an acronym and say that Arty hadn’t told him the full band name. C.O.F…COFFIN…’Fighting In Norway’ was the first thing that came out.

And here we are 15 years later still confusing folks and having Jerry Only implore us to trademark.

What was the inspiration behind having three guitarists?

BEN: Arty being stuck in an anarchist squat in Athens with no passport or idea of when he’d be able to return to Australia hahaha. Aaron filled in for the few gigs Arty missed and he ripped. He was already our best mate and at most of the shows. It seemed stupid to stop the fun he added and stifle his input so we told him he should stay. He’s got great taste and it just makes the sound and already odd setup more offensive and unique. In the new stuff it creates a wall of sound, but they’re different interlocking bricks. I really love Cuban music and how skits the layering is.

We’ve tried to make each guitarists’ part different but not so that it’s sounds obnoxious.

It’s sorta like when the Power Rangers make that one big Megazord or whatever it is.

Photo: Oisin Demony.

When C.O.F.F.I.N started out you were all underage and found it hard to get shows because of that fact; can you tell us a little bit about this time? How did you work around the situation?

BEN: We continued on playing countless shows at KANGA (Manly Youth Centre) and got heavily involved in the Manly Youth Council because of that. It kinda allowed you to put on or influence the shows that happened there, and the community projects proved to be pretty great too.

We did lots of creative collaborations with kids that had intellectual disabilities, and environmental awareness festivals. I was even a penguin warden for a while hahah. Basically I had to stop dogs from chomping fairy penguins at the wharf.

We played for free anywhere that would let us. Other youth centres (YOYOs), band comps, parties, rehearsal studio shows. We’d lie and say we had the same focus or theme as some public event just so we could play at that, and at around age 17 we all stared looking old enough to just tell a venue we were 18+ and hope no questions were asked.

As for going to shows we were pretty skilled at sneaking into places and staking out the shadowed corners or sitting under tables.

You have a new album in the works; what’s it called? When will we see it released? How did you challenge yourself while writing and recording it?

BEN: Not sure about a name yet, maybe S/T. Probably end up releasing it when we are able to tour it properly, hahaha sigh.

I think a major difference and intentional challenge for this one was to sorta just have the skeletons of the songs sorted and work the rest out while doing it – keep a bit of the looseness and spontaneity.

I remember once hearing someone say “an album is never finished, it just has a deadline.” We set a deadline.

You recorded vocals through a vintage mic; what difference did it make to the vocals? Did you experiment with any other interesting equipment?

BEN: The old home phone thing right? We actually recorded harmonica through that, it sounds sick! Antique, like an old Maurice Chevalier recording. Usually we do very little to the vocals but do really like messing around with a few uncommon things.

Some of the odd stuff we used that I can think of is: A lap steel guitar I got second hand in Austin that’s from 1947, heaps of hand percussion and random shit I tink ered together, a bullroarer, and as I mentioned before harmonica.

We met and became friendly with Briggs while recording because he was working on demos at a studio in the same building as The Pet Food Factory. We were going to record him thwacking the roller doors out front with this baseball bat we had for this new song called Dead Land. Unfortunately we didn’t end up at there at the same time again. But that would have been boss.

Photo: Grit Van.

During the creation of the new record, when was the point that you started to get really fired up about it?

BEN: About a month before we were booked in at the Pet Food Factory do it. But we are constantly scribbling notes and jamming riffs. It’s more just that the refined editing that becomes whipped into orbit as we get closer to that deadline.

What kinds of things are informing the new record lyrically?

BEN: Frustrations, depression. The stuff that probably keeps me grinding teeth at night. Holding people accountable for shitty behaviour. There are songs about the consequences of mistreating the land, how appalling domestic abuse against women in Australia is, dead shit abusers disguising themselves as artists…..and the pit gets deeper. The anguish of having things beyond your control controlling your life. But music can be a really powerful therapy for such grief and anger. If a song is done well it sorta becomes a timeless ‘fuck you’ or mirror to whatever it is you’re quarrelling with.

Last year C.O.F.F.I.N toured the country with T.S.O.L.; what did you take away from that experience?

ABIJAH (guitar-vocals): touring with a sober band is great because you get their rider.

ARTY: Been a fan since 13-ish, so stoked that they were all proper legends. Really nice, honest, funny blokes who were great to hang out with. They shared a lot of fucked up & insightful stories with us that’ll probably save our lives a few times in the future.

LOZ (bass-vocals): It’s really good hanging out with a band who have been playing together for so long and still loving it, even with a collection of so many fucked up stories as large as they have.

You guys have toured quite a lot; what’s be one of the most memorable places you’ve been? What made it so?

Ben: Hell, there are so many, a lot that probably can’t even be told yet…

LOZ: Let’s go with China, we were at the tail end of a tour that had gone through Japan and South Korea. Ben had a broken foot, Arty had 2 broken hands, and I shat myself on stage after drinking a bad shoe beer.

Language obstacles, sickness, travelling by public transport city to city, it was more charged than anywhere else we have toured. We witnessed some of most astoundingly beautiful scenery and conversely there some really stained sections too. Some gigs were the loosest and psycho shows we’d ever played and at others the police barged in, took over, and locked everyone in until each person had been drug tested. Just really felt like we never had a clue what was going on and that was awesome.

What do you all do outside of music?

ABIJAH: Snorkelling or diving whenever I get the chance and boring work shit in between

LOZ: I dedicate a lot of my time to music but I’ve also been a sign writer for the last 10 years

AARON: Uni and Radio Shack.

BEN: I also play in Research Reactor Corp and White Dog. I make jewellery, do video stuff, work construction, and sometimes assist my mum with her glass artwork. Essentially make money anyway I can so I can make more music and tour.

Photo: James Brickwood.

What’s something really important that C.O.F.F.I.N care about that you’d like everyone to be informed/aware of?

BEN: Inclusivity and equality, to respect those around you who deserve it, don’t waste it on those who don’t.

What’s one of THE best things you’ve experienced lately?

BEN: Recording with Jason Whalley at The Pet Food Factory, bush walks and the beach.

ABIJAH: You can get Ichi Ran Ramen in Australia!

AARON: I’d have to think about it, not much. Getting our US tour with Amyl & The Sniffers cancelled and staying inside for two months fucking sucked.

LOZ: Great K-hole last weekend.

ARTY: First and foremost is seeing my best mates since this big dumb brain freeze.

Please check out: C.O.F.F.I.N. on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram.

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