“This could be the interview of yours and my lifetime,” says Anty Horgan.
“Just don’t die,” I say. “It might be the last one you ever do.”
Horgan, the lead singer of The Bennies, has forgotten our session. This is refreshing. Everyone is always on time! I’d scrambled for my last interview with Bec Sandridge, just a bit late. Now Horgan and his friend, who we’ll call ‘Brad,’ are also otherwise occupied, on their way back from picking up a fresh stash of buds.
“The car fuckin’ reeks but I’m not stoned, I’m a responsible driver. No scuba-driving right now.”
Scuba-driving is a term the fellas invented, which refers to ‘driving while high.’ I had expected Horgan to be a few smokes down, so I’d prepared myself similarly (I reckon any professional journalist should to really be on the subject’s level). But the tables had flipped. No scuba-driving right now. Still, Horgan’s car found chaos.
“I nearly ran someone over and I’m getting beeped by some dude for some reason. That was fucked. I was getting stared down. Was that a middle finger?”
I was introduced to The Bennies at first by an email. The subject read: “Fwd: IT’S TIME FOR THE BENNIES BI-ANNUAL 420 BLAZE UP BONGANZA”. I was intrigued. The ‘BONGANZA’ refers to their upcoming gig on 20 April, i.e. 4/20, the international day of cannabis celebration.
“Whenever we’re in Melbourne for 420,” says Horgan, “we like to throw a 4/20 party/gig. One of our first releases was a 7” we put out on 420. We booked this place that was more a restaurant; it wasn’t used to hosting gigs yet, they weren’t quite prepared, just one poor security guard with no clue. It’s 4/20, so the place just got fuckin’ boxed out, everyone passing joints and crowd-surfing, all while people are still ordering meals and getting served dinner.”
I’m thinking like a traditional Chinese dumpling house trying out live music for the first time, wispy-haired elders looking on in confusion. “Nah,” Horgan says, “It was The B.East on Lygon St, just as they started doing gigs. Fuckin’ awesome restaurant. Really nice burgers.”
The Bennies are infamous for the wild energy of their gigs. “One of the strengths of our music, particularly our live show, is that it does sort of transcend language barriers. The energy speaks volumes for us,” he muses. “Even in a place like China or Japan where there’s basically no English at all, you get through it with smiles and jumping around. Every place has a different vibe but at the end of the day most people are just looking for a good time. We wanna spread a good vibe. Spread some silliness and cheekiness.”
This is evident in their latest anti-authority single and star-studded music video, Corruption. Stoner cops run amok in the streets of Melbourne. Horgan vomits on a baby. The cop car even wears the word ‘CORRUPTION’ as well as the weed leaf insignia that features so prominently in their imagery.
“It’s honesty,” he says. “People like bands who sing about what they know, who are honest, and we know smoking weed pretty well.”
“What does cannabis mean to you?” I asked.
“That’s a big one. It means so much. It’s chilling out. It’s meditation. It’s social. It’s introspective. It’s outrospective. It’s a beautiful gift that we’ve been given and we should celebrate. I’m not naïve, I know weed’s not for everyone, and there’s certain people that shouldn’t do it, certain age groups, but ignoring it and saying it’s bad is not the way forward. People still find a way to do it. Understanding, talking, acceptance… just fuckin’ legalise it.
“We’ve been to some rallies and support other artists who celebrate it in their art – sorry there’s some hectic driving going on here, there was a detour and a road block – but our part is to make it funny and open to talk about. We don’t have an intensely political agenda – I mean we made a song called Legalise but it’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek.”
Horgan’s parents aren’t fully supportive, at least of the weed angle. “Dad did the artwork for our last album Wisdom Machine,” he says, “but my folks have never seen us play.” Other than family disapproval, they haven’t encountered too many obstacles because of their image, though the band does face other challenges.
“You can put too much pressure on yourself. We’re a DIY band. We only have one guy who helps us heaps with bookings, Chris Bosma, he books The Smith Street Band as well. He’s super down to earth, one of the best dudes in the industry. Otherwise we do it all ourselves. We make a lot of bad decisions. Constantly an evolving learning process.”
For example, they’ve learnt to hit up Snapchat for weed callouts when in remote areas for gigs. “When you structure your whole band around smoking weed, it’s generally pretty easy to find! Adds to the social aspect of it all, definitely. People are great about it.” This might come in handy in June for their huge European tour with The Smith Street Band.
But their hearts are not only reserved for the green leaf. It all comes back to love – for the music. “I just fall in love with music,” says Horgan. “I’ve never dated another musician. I’ve been told by everyone it’s something you shouldn’t do. Musicians and tattoo artists.”
Horgan and ‘Brad’ arrive home. No injuries or insurance claims, all safe. We farewell. Horgan rolled a joint and played Zelda. I guess ‘Brad’ did the same.
The Bennies Bi-Annual 420 Blaze Up Bonganza!
Thursday 20 April, The Evelyn Rooftop. Doors 5.30pm
Tickets on sale now from www.thebennies.com.au