Original photos by Jhonny Russell. Handmade collage by B.
Yugambeh Country/Gold Coast punks Sex Drive have released one of THE best Australian punk albums of the year, Shopping Blitz. The songs are bursts of intensity filled with anger, empathy, humour and power. In our latest print issue you’ll find an in-depth chat with vocalist Beau Kearsley (get it here), and below we spoke to guitarist Benaiah Fiu about the album.
Sex Drive’s Shopping Blitz album is finally out! It’s been a long time coming; how do you feel now that it’s out in the world?
BENAIAH: It’s surreal actually, because I’d just forgotten about it. We recorded it five years ago. All the hard work was done so long ago. It being out feels so amazing. I was a bit heartbroken when it didn’t come out back then. I guess I could have done something about it, but my head wasn’t in the right place.
When we spoke to Beau, he said that when the initial album release plans fell through he was really depressed too.
B: Yeah, it was a hard time.
What do you remember about Sex Drive’s beginnings?
B: Pure, raw energy. The demo was written without Jake on drums. The structure was all there but not working with our old drummer. I met Jake the first time we all had a jam and that jam we knew straight away, this is the guy. He’s amazing and he’s an amazing human. He was a perfect fit. It felt really exciting. At that point in our lives we had a lot of angst, we were young and it felt so good to let it out through the music.
Have you always lived on the Gold Coast?
B: Yeah, pretty much. Since I was fourteen. I used to live on Fiji’s most remote island – it’s where my dad is from. I lived there for three years.
What was it like living out there?
B: The first year was a complete culture shock. I was twelve. Some of the guys in my village happened to be amazing musicians and I thought they were the coolest dudes. They taught me to play guitar, and smoke and drink [laughs]. They played reggae and a bit of blues.
Is that the first music that you started to really get into?
B: No. While I was living there it was definitely all reggae for sure. When I was younger I was obsessed with The Offspring as well as System Of A Down and Eminem. My older sister still lived here in Australia and she’d send me CDs while I was there. There wasn’t anything like a local music shop to get anything, it was just all the boys playing guitar.
Photo by Jhonny Russell.
Beau told us that when he first started hanging out with you and heard you playing Slayer songs on the guitar he was like, ‘Whoa! He likes stuff I do. We’re going to get along.’
B: [Laughs]. I got into Slayer as soon as I got back to Australia. My sister had a cool older boyfriend, he got me into bodyboarding and gave me all these VHS tapes. All the music on them were amazing, it was all 90s punk.
Was Sex Drive your first band?
B: No. I had a band called Jim’s Radio with a couple of friends. We’d jam in one of their bedrooms and there was this 90-year-old neighbour guy called, Jim, that would put his radio up at the window and blast it back at us for revenge [laughs]. We made songs about KFC and stuff. It was a little fun project. I never imagined that I’d end up being in band playing shows at that point early on.
The drummer for that project got invited to be in a psychedelic rock band and I was like, ‘Damn it! I thought we were going to make it to the top!’ [laughs]. They kicked out their guitarist and asked me to join. I was like, ‘No way! Whoa. These guys are so cool.’ We played some shows around the Goldie.
You met Beau out in the water? You both bodyboard.
B: Yeah. It was so long ago. He had no idea who I was and I really looked up to him, he was an amazing waterman. I was getting into it a bit late. He was the coolest kid. He came to a party at mine and he was being so drunk and funny. He shaved his head and eyebrows in my backyard [laughs]. We were still in high school. I played him some Doors songs I had been listening to like ‘Five To One’. He loved it. We started talking on MySpace and we organised to go surfing together. It was pure fun.
Beau said early Sex Drive rehearsals was at Jake’s mum’s place.
B: Yeah, we played songs that would become the Demo. When we played with Jake everything made sense. It was like, YES! We’re on! We had a sense that it might actually turn into something.
Photo by Jhonny Russell.
Beau also said that a lot of Sex Drive is because of you, that you help him with so much, including how to sing things.
B: I’ll come in with a guitar riff or I’ll have a whole structure for a song or we do it together. It’s cool we’re a collaborative band. Beau’s approach to singing, I love how it works with my guitar playing and Jake’s drumming.
We jammed heaps in a factory that we lived in. Our friend Floyd would play drums, it was his “house”. Beau and I moved in.
Beau showed me the Cosmic Psychos documentary and it was incredibly inspiring. It was like, we live in a shed too [laughs]. It was really fun.
The band also used to work together in a fedora factory?
B: Yeah! [laughs]. It was down the road and around the corner from where we lived. We had a real dipshit rock n roll little lifestyle. We were young.
B: We’re pretty immature for our ages [laughs]. I was 23 and Beau is a year younger.
Tell us about recording your Demo.
B: Dangerz, who was the drummer in that first project I was telling you about, ended up studying sound engineering at Byron SAE. He recorded us for his assignment. He’s naturally talented at it all and did a good job.
Next came the self-titled Sex Drive 7”.
B: That was recorded in a blokes house in Ocean Shores, in his home studio.
What about the new one, your first full-length, Shopping Blitz? Micky Grossman did it?
B: Yeah, he had a cool little set up.
You recorded a couple of times, right? The first time didn’t work out quite how you wanted so you recorded again.
B: We went down there [Gadigal Country/Sydney] a few times. The first time we had a bunch of people in there watching Beau do his vocal takes and partying—we were kind of ruining it. I wish I could go back and record again because I was so drunk and anxious at the time of recording. I’ve grown to love the recording now; it always takes me a while to come around.
What were you nervous about?
B: My personal life was spiralling. My idea of my musical trajectory wasn’t going as planned. I felt like I was getting old and that my dreams were slipping through my fingers.
Has your dream of what you want to do with music changed?
What’s important to you now?
B: It’s just going back to basics and having fun with it and not caring about anything other than trying to write cool songs, not caring about the outcomes. And, playing shows to people that enjoy coming to watch.
We’re so stoked on the album. It’s a classic Australian punk record.
B: Awesome! All of the songs for the album and the EP were written around the same time in a storage shed in Burleigh.
One of our favourite songs on the album is ‘Strange Motel’. Beau said you had a solo project called Strange Motel?
B: I started project Strange Motel before we recorded the album. When we were writing that song, before we started jamming it, Beau would say in the funniest voice, ‘A man walked into a strange motel.’ He’s so funny. That would be the song intro at the time. It didn’t have a name but we decided to call it that for that reason.
For Strange Motel, I just felt like I had to write more songs. I’d figured out how to use GarageBand and do drums and bass, so I stole the name for the project [laughs].
Do you have a favourite song on Shopping Blitz?
B: ‘American Muscle’. I love Beau’s vocals and delivery – in the verse it feels really powerful for me.
He was telling me what that song about…
B: He hasn’t even told me!
He said it was about when he was in America and he got beat up at a show for dancing.
‘Shopping Blitz’ is a funny one. My friend Kale, our first bass player – he was a massive part of the song ‘Hate Home’. I loved playing with him on bass, we’d sit in my bedroom and figure out new riffs for tracks. He really hated ‘Shopping Blitz’ because that riff – I wrote it lifetimes ago in 2013 – we’d always jam it. Jake and Beau would force us to play it and he hated it [laughs]. It’s gone through different phases of how it’s played. It’s amazing that it made it on to the album. It’s my favourite.
‘Shopping Blitz’ is about shopping centre Pacific Fair?
B: Yeah, I guess. The lines. It can be the lines at the shops or the white lines on the road going by on a road trip.
‘Military Boy’ was really exciting. I brought in a riff and asked the boys to help craft it into a song and there was so much energy in the room when we first jammed it. It was getting away from the Australian sound (that we love playing). Now we’re trying to blend hardcore and that Aussie pub rock sound.
What hardcore bands do you love?
B: There’s a band called White Pigs, they’re an endless source of inspiration, with their self-titled EP on YouTube. I really love hardcore and metal crossover bands. I feel like a bit of an outsider in the hardcore scene. I admire and respect hardcore, especially guys like Primitive Blast and Nerve Damage. I love going to their shows and standing at the back and watching because I love the music but I don’t know the moves [laughs].
Anything else to tell us?
B: We have a bunch of exciting ideas for new songs for Sex Drive. I’m just getting back into things. I lost my license, so it’s just me at home in the garage with my guitar. I’m thankful for the time, I can’t go for a drive somewhere and distract myself.
It’s so great that you’re sober and have clarity and time to create again. You might come up with things you’ve never even imagined before because you have a clear head. We’re so excited for you.
B: Yeah. Thank you. I thought drinking was enhancing it. Now I can see that it was definitely just numbing me and I was wasting my time. I’m so excited for everything too. Can’t wait to get out there and play shows with my best friends.
Sex Drive Shopping Blitz is out now get via Scarlet Records or on SD’s bandcamp + via Lulu’s in Naarm and Repressed Records on Gadigal Country. Follow: Sex Drive Facebook and @sexdrive.aus.