With woodfired pizzas and salt and pepper calamari in the bistro, XXXX on tap and acoustic covers in the front bar, The Peregian Beach Hotel is typical of many pubs on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Located just outside Noosa, in the centre of a cosy village known for its beach market, the pub is the spot on a Friday afternoon when the beer garden fills with tourists, local surfers and a heavy hi-vis crew.
There’s a good chance it’s where you’ll find Eamon Sandwith, bassist and vocalist of local band The Chats who’ve made a name at the pub, the Sunshine Coast and beyond thanks to Smoko, their three-minute ode to the informal worksite break that has become a viral sensation.
Dec 3, 2017: Ken Oath- Modern Vintage Australian, a Facebook page for an online surfwear store posts the video for Smoko. “Haha, check these Sunny Coast bois. The Chats channelling a fair whack of Cosmic Psychos #shedrock #thechats,” reads the description of the video that has since racked up over 1.5 million YouTube views, 30,000 SoundCloud plays, and 460,000 Spotify streams.
It actually took around 20 hours before Smoko went gangbusters in everyone’s feed. The sudden spike surprised nobody more than Sandwith. “It just started going off overnight. It was pretty weird thinking that heaps of people were watching us.”
The Chats started with Sandwith, guitarist Josh Price and drummer Matt Boggis at a high school jam session at Noosa’s St. Theresa’s. The Sunshine Coast plays a big part in the band’s songs. “Pub-punk band. Sunny Coast 4573” is the description on their Bandcamp page and the song’s opening lines, “So let me set the scene, It's two in the afternoon and 34 degrees, The Queensland harsh summer heat, Had me sweating buckets up and down my street”, continues their Sunshine Coast pride. “Peregian Beach is a bit of a surfing town”, explains Sandwith. “It’s about ten minutes from Noosa but more chilled out. There’s not as many tourists. I reckon it’s the best place in the world.”
Early December, 2016: Smoko is born on the way to purchase a pie
Eamon Sandwith: “I was walking to the bakery from my dad’s house. The words of the chorus just got stuck in my head while I was walking, and when I got home I wrote the song. Josh and Matt helped me make it sound better," recalls Sandwith.
The song itself is as straightforward as a large sausage roll. Over a simple bass riff and the whiny shout of “I’m on Smoko”, it calls some of the yob factor of the Cosmic Psychos, the larrikin spirit of Dune Rats and, if you squint hard enough, some Eddy Current Suppression Ring-inspired riffs. “All of us have always loved those bands, so obviously our music is influenced by theirs," says Sandwith. “We’re also super influenced by bands such as Drunk Mums, Jurassic Nark and Mini Skirt.”
February 2017: Eamon scores the surf lifesaver shirt
Eamon Sandwith: “Matisse, who made the video, had us around one night and we were drinking heaps of beers and her dad gave me his surf lifesaver uniform. I’ve had it since then. I hope he doesn’t want it back.”
We’re not sure if ginger and yellow are complementary colours but we do know that a red headed guy in a surf lifesaver shirt and a cheap pair of servo speed-dealers shouting about not bothering him during a smoke break is a striking image.
October 1, 2017: Smoko is filmed
On the same day that the Melbourne Storm defeat the North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL Rugby League Grand Final, The Chats shoot Smoko.
Eamon Sandwith: “We filmed the entire thing in Peregian Beach. The construction site at the start is near Peregian Oval, the bedroom and Centrelink office is in my house, and the beach is near Pitta St.”
Some of the less positive YouTube comments have called the video itself chat (the Aussie pejorative slang), but this ‘chatness’ only adds to the sense of daggy Australiana. The way that Centrelink is referred to as ‘Cenno’, a tradie scoffs a sausage roll, even the anti-authoritarian aspect of not being bothered on an unofficial smoko break, just adds to the video's charm.
December 7, 2017: The 6PM news comes calling.
The local Seven News network send a team out to to film the band jamming in a shed in Verrierdale. As well as losing his mind at the video’s social media numbers, the reporter is able to drop some new ‘youth slang’ when he finds out that the band got their name from the term ‘chat.’
“That was alright. They were nice dudes,” Sandwith says of the interview though he is also aware of keeping things grounded. “We’re going to keep doing our thing and not give into the hype,” he says of the band’s future. That’s a good thing as you get the feeling that the regulars at the Peregian Beach Hotel don’t take too warmly to locals who think they may be too big for the beer garden.
The Chats' EP Get This In Ya is out now. They're currently on tour, including dates supporting Cosmic Psychos. Details here.