“I just love fucking screaming at people and sweating on them and spitting on them.”
It’s a sunny Friday arvo in Sydney and I’m sitting in the park, chatting with Sniff and John from Pist Idiots. I’ve brought a couple of beers and a bottle of Passion Pop that I found on my floor, guessing that they’re not the sort of blokes to turn their noses up. Sniff, the frontman, and John, the drummer, are both thankful for the booze, cracking beers and warning me that they’re not too good at the PR side of being in a band. Their tactic so far has been to agree to play every gig that’s on offer and directly engage with their fans wherever possible.
“We never knew how to put shit out or do anything, none of us had any idea,” says John. But the Pist Idiots’ live shows were a different story, and they soon built up enough momentum to gain a few fans and attract some attention. Sniff says, “There was probably a bit of shyness at first but now I just love fucking screaming at people and sweating on them and spitting on them. Yeah, you feed off it.”
Pist Idiots were playing pub gigs for a good year-and-a-half before they’d even recorded any of their songs, which is a pretty remarkable feat these days. “We didn’t have shit out for fucken ages,” Sniff explains, “but 2016 was when we hit the gas.” This meant driving down to Wollongong after work for a Wednesday night show, then Cronulla on a Thursday and then trying to play gigs in Sydney over the weekend. All the while, they were all working full time and Sniff was studying full-time too.
“I’m not saying that we didn’t work hard,” says Sniff, “we worked fucking hard, but for a short time in comparison to some of those [bands] who’ve been grinding it for fucking ages.” So far they’ve only released six songs on a self-titled EP through Bandcamp, but it would be fair to say that they’ve come onto the scene pretty hot. They’ve toured with Skeggs, Wash, and Dumb Punts and managed to convince Alex Cameron and Ali Wells from Bad//Dreems to produce their next EP. Plus there’s an East Coast tour lined up to cap off 2017.
Sniff’s lyrics are a big part of Pist Idiots’ appeal. Somehow he manages to be funny, vulnerable and tough all at the same time. In a single song he’s joking about “bein’ high and gettin’ head”, then complaining about being “overworked and underpaid”, then revealing his tendency to drink and overeat. “You hear about beggars and choosers, well don’t look at me ‘cause I’m a fucking loser,” he howls during ’99 Bottles’. It’s quite a sight: a big bloke with a guitar and a solid voice, revealing these deeply personal and honest details about his life. He meshes vulnerable and masculine in a unique way.
When I express this to Sniff, he just says, “Fuck, that’s heavy,” and cracks up laughing. He goes on to explain his lyrics as, “whatever I was feeling at the time” and then, after some more consideration: “if people relate to it that’s even better.”
Of course, the band’s pub-rock riffs are tight and well structured, which has seen them playing alongside some of the Australian music industry’s best new bands – especially the new-school surf-punk ilk. “We’ve been told, ‘You sound like surf-punk-grunge,’ and I’m like, ‘What the fuck? None of us even surf,’” says John. “We body-boarded when we were 15 and 16,” Sniff adds, “and we were all shithouse.”
And while they adore bands like Dumb Punts, Skeggs and Wash (and have become pretty good mates with them), Pist Idiots are of a completely different pedigree. The boys are actually from Revesby, which is a relatively unknown suburb in Western Sydney. When I ask about the area, Sniff explains, “There are some people who are ashamed of it but it’s Bankstown—bottom line—there’s no need to pussyfoot around it.” The connotations are that it’s a lower income, multicultural part of Sydney that’s a long, long way from the beach. They’re not coy about it or disparaging toward the area—it’s simply a part of their history.
“We want to try to tee up a show at a bowlo around where we’re from,” John says. “It would just be sick to get our parents out to a show.”
The boys all still live in Revesby, though Sniff and Tommy (the bass player) spent two years living in an ex-brothel in St Peters, which became a bit of a band house. “It was the most dingy fucking place, it was fucked,” Sniff laughs. The bedrooms were numbered and there was no lounge-room, so visitors had to crash on the hallway floor.
Sniff explains, “The only positive was that there were no windows in that section so it was hell dark.” John adds, “We had so many bands come in and out of there: Dumb Punts, Pinheads, [Amyl and the] Sniffers. It was the best. It was like a halfway house for people to crash.”
Living in the city also saw Sniff, John and his girlfriend get arrested for, what they say, was yet another example of heavy-handed security at a Sydney pub. They were having drinks at the Beresford in Surry Hills, only to be kicked out, one by one, for dancing. John’s girlfriend was the last one to be removed from the venue and she tipped her drink out on the floor as she left. “It was stupid,” John admits, but when some of the drink landed on the secco’s leg, shit escalated. John’s girlfriend was pinned against the wall by “a massive, roided-up dude in a tight shirt” who turned out to be an undercover cop. Then the uniformed police rolled in, arrested all three of them and left them in the cell for five hours.
“The [police] were laughing while we were in the cell, they loved it,” John says. “Then we got a two-year good behaviour bond, which we’re still on.” Legal aid told them not to bother pursuing the case, advising that they didn’t have much of a chance against the police. Sniff says, “[The good behaviour bond] finishes up in May next year, so we’ve been on our very best behaviour.”