There was a point when Skegss singer and guitarist Ben Reed feared losing his job at a brewery because he was taking off too many days for rehearsal. Sharing his plight with a local farmer, who would stop in to buy wheat malt for his cows, Reed was directed “Do it. This is no rehearsal.” That constant rehearsal, and improvement, has been the musical mantra of the Australia punk trio since first forming in 2014, releasing their first single “L.S.D.,” and EP Everything Is Good At Something two years later. Further into their journey, the Byron Bay-bred rockers are a firmer unit, still committed to constant learning and the daily practice of music (and figuring out life), all told through Skegss’ stories on second album Rehearsal (Loma Vista Recordings).
Following up the band’s first full length album, My Own Mess—which earned an ARIA nomination for Best Rock Album in 2018—Rehearsal moves through waves of youthful daydreams, disconcerted emotions of love, loss, and all the awkwardness of growth. The first ring of “Down To Ride,” sets the motion of Rehearsal‘s 13 tracks, fused in garage-fuzzed arrangements and Reed’s slacked vocals wrapped around the empowered Let’s pretend that we’ve done this all before… Your imagination lives the best recreation / Remove the mask you wear and overcome your fear… Show the world what you’re really like.
Swifter punk jabs of “Valhalla,” a track Reed wrote about enjoying all of life’s moments, cross into an electrifying “Fantisising” and the unhurried “Running From Nothing” with Reed’s affecting Running from nothing so nothing can haunt me / Been sleeping on the couch because there’s no ghosts in the living room, Rehearsal unravels emotional ups and downs, taking a bluesier turn on “Under The Thunder” or the nostalgic nook of the country-tinged “Picturesque Moment” and more contemplative “Sip of Wine” and “Wake Up.”
“When we were recording in the studio, we sort of started structuring the track list because the way the songs were coming out was telling a story,” says bassist Toby Cregan. “It wasn’t a conscious thing that we wanted to do, but it just ended up happening that way. A lot of Benny’s songs, have more of the dark undertones and themes that recur throughout the album. By the time, we got to the studio, we knew that all the songs that we put together were meant to be on the album.”
Working with producer Catherine Marks (PJ Harvey, The Killers, Manchester Orchestra), Skegss—Reed, Cregan, and drummer Jonny Lani—pieced together their lyrics and early demos, all tracked using vintage gear from the 1960s and ’70s, while recording at The Grove Studios in Somersby the week before lockdown in 2020.
Rehearsal reveals Skegss’ strongest peak, and a collective need to bare some of their most honest storytelling.
Writing the spirited beats of “Bush TV,” a pulsing track exploring how distance makes relationships better and facing anxiety with an ode to the unconditional love of his dog on “Fade Away” with its earnest growl of What’s yours is mine, let’s fade away, Cregan says that the chemistry of the Skegss and how they craft their music has remained the same, but there’s a deeper focus now.
“We’re just trying harder to get better,” says Cregan. “I think the main evolution from previous stuff that we’ve done is the maturity, and we’ve switched into a different gear of songwriting. We put a lot more work and a lot more time into it.”
Working with artist Jack Irvine, who has worked with Billie Eilish and Troy Sivan, who illustrated Rehearsal‘s trippy psyche cover art, Cregan says the band’s regular cast of characters has been a mainstay and something that’s helped them form a tighter bond, and grown, over the years.
“I don’t really feel satisfied, unless it’s a collaboration in some way,” says Cregan. “I need someone to bounce off like that. In the studio, Catherine was that for me. We’ve always had the same crew around, like “Bunny Man” (David Herington). He’s just everything man. He takes our photos, tour manages, drives the van, books the band… To me, it’s about getting to work and hang out with other creative people, and that’s the coolest thing about being in the band.”
Cregan adds, “You always want to evolve, and it’s cool that we got to evolve with the people around us. We learn together and evolve like that, instead of the band completely changing up and trying to find different angles from different people. We’ve all just grown together.”