Updated: Oct 23
Newcastle’s latest and greatest psych-surf-rock band have captured the hearts of locals, many people nationwide and even globally- which is pretty huge for a band still on its come-up. The four-piece have released 2 EP’s; ‘Crazy Days’ (2017) and ‘Sun & Smoke’ (2018) which further weave them into the fabric of the Aussie psych slash reggae genre, made popular by the likes of Sticky Fingers and Bootleg Rascal.
Rum Jungle are proving themselves to be the refresher on this genre that it so desperately needed- the breath of fresh coastal, salty air to help it grow and flourish under the sunny skies and lush beaches of the Awabakal region.
Rum Jungle rose to local stardom by playing local all ages shows in the aptly named venue called ‘The Dungeon’- a dingily lit room that was only illuminated by the vibrance and energy of the bands that tore up the stage.
Their fresh reggae-fusion sound is guaranteed to bring them a great deal more musical success and critical acclaim- they’ll be one of those bands you ‘discovered’ way before your mates, therefore you have bragging rights of ‘knowing them before they got big’.
So... what are you waiting for?
Read my latest and greatest interview with Benny, the lead singer and guitarist from Rum Jungle, just below.
Rum Jungle: if you could sum yourselves up in a few words unrelated to music or genre, what would they be?
Just four boys who have a lot of fun making music on a balcony in Newcastle.
So just give me a rundown of who everyone is, but also what you think their career path would be- but it can't be related to music or what they're actually doing- something based off their personality.
So we've got Michael. He plays the bass. If he wasn't doing music, I reckon he could be a hectic like voice actor or something. Cause he can do all these crazy, crazy different accents and impressions and stuff. Then Fraser, he plays the drums and if he wasn't doing music and he could do what he wanted, it would be less of a job and more just traveling the coast in his van and finding all the perfect spots to surf. I don't know, maybe he could do some fruit picking on the way to get some money. And Josh plays the guitar along with me and I reckon he would play NBA 2K for living in stream or FIFA ‘21 and ‘22 in the future. That's what he’d do. That's all the boys jobs and I'd just be unemployed.
What brought the band together?
So me and Michael, and Josh went to school together in Newcastle. Michael brought Josh over to my place where I just moved out to and we just messed around and played guitar in my dingy little balcony on Beaumont street.
And then from there as well, we were playing for a while and just like, didn't really have any plans. Really. We were just having fun. And then my dad wanted us to record. So we got a session done for our first EP and then I was, and then we had an offer for a show as part of a songwriting contest or something like that.
And it was at the Cambo and obviously we just didn't have a drummer. And the only drummer that I really knew was a 16 year old kid that I worked with at Grill’d, the burger place, at the Junction. And I was like, “Oh, want to come play some drums for us?”. And yeah, it turns out he's a musical prodigy and genius and he's been with us ever since. And then yeah, first time we all met together was just jamming in Michaels parents' basement
What sets you apart from the rest of the bands in the Newcastle or national local circuit right now?
I don't know. I think our music sounds pretty similar to a lot of other people's, but I think it's just kind of got like this weird flair to it as well. We just have so much fun playing live, it doesn't feel forced or anything.
And we're just having fun, like all together really. And I see, I think the way that we play live compared to how we record is different, but not in a bad way, it kind of just amplifies everything.
In your time playing together, what has been the stand-out “this is it chief” moment for you guys?
I think l getting put on the lineup for THIS/THAT festival was awesome. We're all super stoked about that. That was really cool. It didn't even feel like it was something that was possible to happen, honestly. And then we just got an email.
And that was so sick, that was like one of the best days ever. And then like a couple of months later we did Rolling Sets as well in Coffs Harbour, which was awesome as well. I think also releasing ‘Keep’ which is the first song that we had released in about a year and just cause just how sort of like stoked a lot of people seemed on that has been pretty awesome, I think.
If two bands or musicians had a lovechild to create Rum Jungle, who would the bands be?
I'd say what it used to be would be like early Sticky Fingers, Ocean Alley. And like, I guess you could say Lime Cordiale these days, you know. I think what we were going for was that mixed with Oasis, but I don't think we really got to properly make that sound until recently.
Cause we all had one single pedal between us and that was pretty much all, so we couldn't. We still love all of our old stuff but in my mind it was these stadium rock songs, but then they kind of ended up being a bit more surf rock which kind of suits and I liked it. It ended up sounding like that, but I think we're working towards what we actually meant to do for a long time.
What's the story behind ‘Her and the Sun’? What inspired this track?
I just gotten this audio interface and just got myself Pro Tools and I was just mucking around with that and pretty much just demoed out this whole song. In a lot of that earlier stuff we're very introspective and I don't know, even angry with some of the songs. Even like ‘I See Red’ is a pretty cranky track, but still fun. I kind of wanted to make something that would just be fun to listen to and just makes you feel happy, especially coming into this summer and especially cause it's been a bit of a whack year.
It's kind of nice to have something that's just fun to play and fun to listen to.But the main meaning behind it- there isn't, it's kind of the kind of song where you just kind of want to get your own meaning from it really, it doesn't have anything that I would want to say in particular. It's just a good time.
Can we expect any more new music soon? Another EP perhaps?
Oh, we've got so many songs where I don't actually think we've announced that we're doing yet, but I'll tell you anyway. We've got a few. We're going to try and get another song out before the end of the year. It kinda just depends. We're going to go into the studio. We've got this new song that I reckon is absolutely amazing that Fraser wrote. And that's even, even more of a vibe than ‘Her and the Sun’. So, you know, that's something we look forward to. And then after that, I think next year as well, probably have a lot more stuff and we’re going to try for a different sound. I think we are going for kind of like a trilogy of feel good songs really. That we just kind of want to make everyone feel good, listening to.
What’s the biggest thing you guys want to achieve as a band post COVID?
Five year plan, we're doing stadium tours across the world and we're number one everywhere. And to be a bit more realistic, I think it'd be cool to just do like a massive national tour, honestly, just like cram ourselves into a van or two and just go absolutely everywhere we can in Australia. And hopefully follow that up with an album or something like that would be really, really cool. And then past that some overseas tours would be amazing, but yeah, that's kind of not really at all possible until restrictions lift everywhere.
Last but certainly not least, if Rum Jungle could be conveyed and described by a simple beverage (alcoholic, tea variety… you name it… but not rum) What would it be and why?
Just a straight Tooheys New, I want to say. Sounds pretty classic. Oh yeah.
And lastly, you mentioned working at Grill’d. What's the best burger on the menu- what's your go to?
It's the crispy bacon and cheese on panini, and you take off the herb mayo and you add sweet chilli mayo. And that's just the goat, but they’ve got this thing called the dynamic duo. It's just like a full sized burger and a snack chips. And you know how if you want to get a burger and a chips and a drink from Grill’d, it's like a hundred dollars. You should get the dynamic duo, you've got yourself a 14 buck meal and you're good to go.
Thanks for having a chat Benny!