Celebrating their 25th year as a band, Sydney’s favourite punk rock legends, Frenzal Rhomb, are releasing a special double vinyl – a best-of compilation album. Appropriately titled We Lived Like Kings: We Did Anything We Wanted, lead vocalist Jay (Jason Whalley) wryly explains the reason for making this record.
“That would be our accountant who’s been hassling us for years to pay off our tax debts. He said, ‘the only way you’re gonna do this is by repackaging the same music that you’ve released for the last 25 years and sell it to the same people.’ I think it’s gonna be a raging success.”
Since their very first EP, Dick Sandwich, complete with graphic cover image, Frenzal Rhomb have skirted a unique line between the serious and silly. Throughout, their twisted sense of humour has been at the forefront of their music with songs ranging from mildly political, stupid to downright offensive (all in good fun of course). There has always been an underlying message though, according to Jay. Somewhat.
“Oh look there’s messages in there I suppose. We care about stuff and things. We still sing about racism, environmental issues, homophobia, sexism and nitrous oxide bulbs. These things combined can create quite a heady and confronting intelligent conversation.”
Classic Frenzal titles such as ‘Russell’s Crowe’s Band’, ‘Punch in the Face’ and, most provocatively, ‘World’s Fuckedest C**t’ all made the cut on the 35 track double album. Jay says it was a collective effort.
“It’s a democracy. We send around the punk rock spreadsheet and everyone has an equal vote. They were the songs that were the most popular within the band.”
Formed in 1992, Frenzal Rhomb have definitely been no stranger to controversy over the course of their career. Most infamously, there was the public spat with Kyle and Jackie O on Fox FM after guitarist Lindsay McDougal played AC/DC’s, ‘Thunderstruck’ in protest over Jackie O’s late appearance to her MC duties at Bassinthegrass festival, Darwin in 2004.
As the band’s controversy is brought up, Jay pipes up before a question is asked.
“It’s not hard though. You can get controversy with a Facebook post or a one-sentence tweet. People always talk about that, how we’ve been so controversial throughout our history but we sort of haven’t, really.”
He changes tact as a recent event crosses his mind.
“Having said that, funnily enough, on this tour that we’re about to do, there’s a venue that didn’t want us to play because they’re a family pub and said we did not reflect family values. I was shocked. On one hand, I thought, I don’t reflect Australian values so you are correct. On the other hand I thought, I’m a father, how dare you!”
With typically irreverent wit, Jay finishes the thought by boiling it all down.
“In this day and age, fundamentally what we’re doing is playing music. It’s not like we’re asking people to join ISIS.”
Touring the country with a spate of dates in September, October and December, the band are taking the unique approach of doing a fan, ‘by request,’ tour. Jay says it’s a daunting prospect.
“Yes, it’s terrifying! Although I just had a quick update of the latest polls and it looks like it’s gonna be a good time. I think I know 50% of the songs. Between me and Tom (Crease), our bass player, I think we’ll know up to 80-85% of the songs.”
Amongst many other things, Frenzal Rhomb have a fierce live reputation. Drummer, Gordy Forman is particularly famous for his on-stage antics, breaking his arm following a stage diving incident at a concert in 2015. Jay says the band are contemplating copying another famous band’s strategy to keep their drummer under wraps.
“I’m not sure if you’re familiar with a group called Motley Crue but they actually put their drummer in a cage. A lot of people think that’s for theatrical reasons but it’s actually to contain him. We’re thinking of employing the same sort of thing. It won’t spin, there won’t be any fireworks but it will have a locking door.”
So what’s next for Frenzal Rhomb once the tour’s over? Well, another tour and a brand new, as of yet, untitled album, their first since 2010’s, Smoko at the Pet Factory. There is still life in the old punk rock dogs.
“At the end of our tour we’re going to the States to record our new record. We’re gonna do that with Bill Stevenson (The Descendants, Black Flag), which we did our last record with. We’re going to be there in October recording. We’ve got a bunch of songs that we’re gonna record and then release and tour off the back of that. Gonna go to Japan as well. Looking forward to it, it’s gonna be good.”