Upstart Australian punks the Chats bring their current tour with their spiritual forefathers and punk vets the Cosmic Psychos to the Bay Area for two dates in Santa Cruz and Berkeley this weekend.
Though they have only been around for seven years, the Chats clearly take cues from the Cosmic Psychos with their tuneful, often hilarious blasts of punk paying tribute to Aussie culture. Founded in 2016 on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland when the band members were still in their teens, the group featuring bassist/singer Eamon Sandwith and drummer Matt Bogs with original guitarist Josh Price and guitarist/bassist Tremayne McCarthy took its name from the Australian slang phrase "that's chat" referring to something gross or disgusting.
The band recorded its first batch of profane songs for the self-titled eponymous EP at a high school studio, focusing on teenage foibles ("Mum Stole My Darts") and getting wasted ("Yeah Nah," "I Feel Good") with primitive, melodic tunes that quickly scored the Chats airplay on Australian national radio station Triple J. Their follow-up EP Get This in Ya!! the following year saw the departure of McCarthy -- though he played bass on the viral video hit and disaffected youth anthem "Smoko" -- and would score the Chats a deal with Hot Wax Records.
By the summer 2019, the band had built enough of a following outside of Australia to embark on its first round of extensive international touring that saw them invited to play the Burger Boogaloo in Oakland as well as the Reading and Leeds Festivals in the UK. The trio's rising popularity in their native country led to a global deal with Universal Music Publishing Australia that gave the Chats the clout to found their own Bargain Bin Records imprint for the release of their first full-length album, High Risk Behavior, the following year, which featured more crass and catchy anthems about gorging on fried food ("Pub Feed"), catching STDs ("The Clap") and getting your identity stolen while buying drugs on the Internet ("Identity Theft"). Late in 2020, the band confirmed the departure Price from the line-up while announcing Josh Hardy of Australian band the Unknowns had replaced him.
A year ago, the trio released Get F**ked, arguably the Chats' most concisely tuneful and quotable effort yet. Whether celebrating getting hammered on "I've Been Drunk in Every Pub in Brisbane" or bemoaning everyday headaches on "The Price of Smoke," "Ticket Inspector" and "Paid Late," the band delivers the perfect blend of music, mischief and mayhem in under 30 minutes. In addition to playing stadium shows with Guns n' Roses and avowed influence the Cosmic Psychos, the Chats headlined their biggest UK and European tour yet in May and June.
The comic punk threesome also hit the road in Australia with kindred spirits the Psychos, who are along for the ride for their first U.S. tour in a decade. Though their roots were in the early '80s Melbourne art-punk band Spring Plains, by 1985 bassist/singer Ross Knight had joined guitarist Peter "Dirty" Jones and drummer Bill Walsh in the rechristened Cosmic Psychos. Churning out proto-punk Stooges riffs at high-octane tempos with wailing, fuzzed-out guitar and goofy humor from the beginning with their debut EP Down on the Farm, the Psychos became a beloved Aussie institution that gradually made international inroads.
The band's second album, 1989's Go the Hack, would see U.S. release via Sub Pop Records, the rising Seattle-based indie label that already was putting out releases of like-minded fuzz merchants including Mudhoney. The Psychos would be embraced and celebrated by other Washington state musicians like Melvins mainstay Buzz Osborne and Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain as an early influence on grunge.
While Jones would depart the band in 1990, the Cosmic Psychos carried on with new guitarist Robbie "Rocket" Watts. Signing with Amphetamine Reptile Records, the trio tracked their next album Blokes You Can Trust with Nirvana producer Butch Vig that was hailed by some as their finest effort to date. The group continued to tour and record steadily through the decade, scoring more fans with their 1995 disc Self Totalled and gaining more fame when L7's song "Fuel My Fire" (which Donita Sparks had borrowed the chorus from the Psychos' hit "Lost Cause" to finish) was in turn covered by massively popular UK dance act the Prodigy.
The band went through some changes with the departure of Walsh in 2005 -- he was replaced by current member Dean Muller, who played drums in Knight's side project Dung -- and the sudden death of Watts while the trio was touring the following year. Longtime guitarist and singer for the Onyas and fellow Aussie pub punk legend John "Mad Macka" McKeering would fill the void, solidifying the line-up that has remained solid in the 16 years since. The band last toured the States in 2012 when it promoted reissues of several of its classic '80s and '90s albums as well as the release of the acclaimed documentary Cosmic Psychos: Blokes You Can Trust. Their most recent recording, Mountain of Piss from 2021, was their highest charting release in Australia of their career.
The two Aussie acts will be supported by renowned San Diego-based garage-punk outfit the Schizophonics. Though founded in Southern California in 2009, the group anchored by guitarist/singer Pat Beers and his drummer wife Lety can trace its roots back to when the pair met in high school in the Arizona city of Casa Grande. She invited him to play bass in her Ramones cover band, marking their first musical collaboration. Fast forward to 2008, the duo reconnected in Tuscon as Beers was preparing to relocate to San Diego and began dating (they would marry three years later). Once settled in their new city, Beers asked Lety to take over drums in his garage-rock trio, which soon thereafter took on their new name: the Schitzophonics.
The couple would play with a number of different bassists, recording a demo in 2013 and developing their unhinged style of psychedelic garage rock heavily indebted to the sound of Detroit icons the MC5 (Beers' voice has an uncanny resemblance to the 5's late lead singer Rob Tyner) and the Stooges as well as lesser known pioneers like the Sonics and the Rationals with a dash of Jimi Hendrix and James Brown added for good measure. Despite the rotating door of players holding down the bass, the band -- which would eventually drop the "t" from their name -- established itself as one of the most explosive live acts in San Diego, earning praise from the local press and teaming with Robert Lopez (aka El Vez) as his opener and backing band for a punk-rock revue tour in 2013.
After releasing singles for various labels, in 2017 the trio would issue its proper debut album Land of the Living on Sympathy for the Record -- in mono, no less. The Schizophonics' explosive stage show has led them to supporting such luminaries as fellow San Diego group Rocket From the Crypt and garage-rock stalwarts the Woggles on tour as well as opening local shows for the likes of Devo, the Damned, the Hives and Cage the Elephant.
The band released its second album, People In The Sky, on Pig Baby Records in 2019, earning them another round of critical accolades. While the pandemic curtailed their usual hectic touring schedule, Schizophonics focused their energies in the studio, recording their follow-up effort for the imprint Hoof It which came out last year to rave reviews. This tour with the Chats and the Cosmic Psychos follows a string of dates in Australia last March as well as a subsequent headlining jaunt in the Western U.S. with European garage-rock duo Courettes. Providence, Rhode Island-based crew Gymshorts opens these two shows at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz and the UC Theatre in Berkeley.
The Chats and the Cosmic Psychos with the Schizophonics and Gymshorts
Saturday, Sept. 30, 6 p.m. $25-$29
Sunday, Oct. 1, 6 p.m. $30
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