Photos by Sam Brumby
You know the conversation is going to be good when the person you’re interviewing answers the phone by yelling your name down the line as if you’ve been friends for decades.
And that’s exactly what Bad//Dreems vocalist Ben Marwe did when our call was connected, the sheer volume of which caught me by surprise.
“I’m in my old house that I’ve just moved out of, and there’s no furniture”, Ben explains. Pushing for an impromptu A Capella performance, I cite the spectacular acoustics, but end up settling for a lively discussion about current affairs instead. For instance, Trump’s election win implying that literally anyone can become president. With that in mind, we muse over whom we’d like to see next in the top seat in Australia. “Stan Grant. I just love the guy. First of all, he’s just an intelligent man who says the right things, he comes from a good place intellectually, I think it’d be good to have an Indigenous leader, and I like the documentaries he’s done.” And what if he decided to run himself? What would his campaign promise be? “I’d probably make it a 4-day working week. Friday off, and then late start Monday morning.”
This year’s been a big one for the Adelaide four-piece, who released their second full-length album, Gutful, in April. It’s a 38-minute slab of good, classic Australian rock. At face value, it projects the kind of sound synonymous with getting rowdy over a couple of cold ones with the boys. But take a closer listen, and you’ll discover the message is a whole lot deeper than that. “People talk about the stereotypical pub kind of guy, and I think you’d be surprised at how intelligent those people can be and the things they can say. But, I guess there’s a bit of an oxymoron kind of thing going on when you have our sound and then hear the lyrics”, Ben says.
And what fantastic lyrics they are. Take, for example, the opening verse from the album’s title track, ‘Gutful’:
“Had a gutful of your speed and coke / Had a gutful of your racist jokes / Had a gutful of Australia Day / Had a gutful of the USA / Had a gutful of Donald Trump / Had a gutful of your baby bump.”
Sooo, yeah, pretty clear what Ben had had a gutful of late last year when the track was recorded. But what about now, what’s he had a gutful of in the last few weeks? “Well, I know what Miles, our drummer, has had a gutful of recently. He’s had a gutful of the seals on Gatorade bottles. And I’ve had a gutful of moving house. That’s a first world problem though, having a gutful of moving house.” What kind of a problem is having a gutful of Gatorade bottle seals, though? “I dunno! It just annoys him trying to pick it off when he just wants to get that fucking Gatorade into him, I guess.”
When the question is returned to me, I say I’ve had an absolute gutful of social media. The narcissism, the vapidity, the nakedness. But Ben seems unfazed by it all. “I barely go on it. But I use Instagram—I like Instagram. Facebook’s a piece of shit to me. It’s like, a bunch of ignorant people projecting their thoughts into the world. It just doesn’t make any sense, what they say, and it’s based on irrational thought. It’s so much easier to sometimes keep your thoughts to yourself, and maybe learn a little before you decide that you’re gonna conquer the world, one Facebook post at a time.”
Lyrically, in songs like ‘Gutful’ and ‘Mob Rule’, Ben does a good job of expressing his disappointment with many aspects of Australian culture. But he’s also proud of where he’s from, and a fervent supporter and champion of the Australian music scene. There’s plenty of other stuff he loves about this sunburnt country, too. “Obviously it’s a beautiful place to live; visually, aesthetically. I also think Australian people are very funny. And I think there’s a very healthy lineage of art, film and music that I love about it. Maybe healthy isn’t the right word for it, but you look at old films like Walkabout or Sunday Too Far Away and there’s just something about those films, the way the landscape is portrayed is just something you don’t see elsewhere”, he says. “And obviously, some of the best music that’s ever been written has come out of Australia.”