Across the pages of Mixdown, you'll find countless bands and artists that can tell you the inner workings of every single pedal, amp and piece of guitar gear they own – right down to the serial number. Full disclosure: Skeggs is not that band. The Byron Bay natives hold a straightforward and simple approach to music, and to what they use to make music by proxy. Just plug in, play and remember: it's for fun. “We're not super technical music dudes,” confesses guitarist/vocalist Ben Reed. “Can you believe it?” quips Toby Cregan, the band's bassist.
“I'm sure there are plenty of bands that know their way around all that sort of stuff, but that's just not us,” continues Reed. “I just use the same stuff I do when I'm playing live for recording. I play my Mustang and I play my Tele and that's really about it.”
Cregan notes that Reed has an impressive pedal collection – at least, it looks impressive. “They're all just clean, booster kind of things,” he says. “It's basically just going off the sound of the amp.”
“Yep, that's the Skegss guitar tone in one word – clean,” Reed laughs.
The band – completed by drummer Jonny Lani – is currently doing the promotional rounds for their debut album, My Own Mess. Think of the title like the way a teenager keeps their bedroom together – it may appear to be in tatters and scattered all over the place, but in their mind they know exactly where everything is. Skegss, to the untrained eye, come across as your standard loose-unit garage rockers with thrashing manes and major chords to spare. Delve a little deeper, however, and you'll find a band with a strong grasp on pop sensibilities and a keen observational eye that makes their songs so resonant with a rapidly-growing audience. It's something that has developed substantially since the band's 2013 inception and its string of EP releases in the years leading up to My Own Mess.
Not that there's any greater plan at work, of course. “We just write songs all the time,” says Reed. “Pretty much four months after [2016 EP] Everyone is Good at Something came out, we were ready to make something new. We put out Holiday Food last year, and everyone was really stoked on that, so we ended up touring it for ages – pretty much a year straight, I reckon. By the time we were done with that, there was just a really good vibe when it came to going in the studio and finally making an album. I think that comes across when you listen to it.”
Described by Cregan and Reed as “everything that happened in the last year all at once,” My Own Mess was recorded over the course of a few weeks on the central coast of New South Wales in the famous Grove Studios. With producer Dylan Adams behind the boards, the normally-chill band had their regular settings flipped on them in a big way during the album's recording. “We pretty much just locked ourselves in there for two weeks,” says Cregan.
“We got up late and we stayed up late, and the whole time we'd be recording songs. We didn't really allow ourselves to leave – we were out in the bush, too. We'd already spent a week out there, making sure the songs were ready to go for recording. It got pretty fucking weird towards the end. It doesn't seem like long, but we'd never spent that much time doing recording before.”
“We used to hate doing it,” Reed agrees. “We got frustrated really easily, just because we didn't know what we were doing. We've done a lot more since then, and we've learned that it's best when you're surrounded by cool people that encourage you to do it. If it was just us in there, we'd all just be screaming at each other the whole time.”
So, no DIY recording projects from Skegss any time soon? “Man, we can barely figure out how a pedal works,” laughs Cregan. “How do you reckon we'd go with trying to record?”
My Own Mess is out now via Ratbag Records/Warner Music. Catch Skegss on tour around Australia throughout October/November.