‘Party Machine’ features the use of a few new toys in the recording process for The Bennies. The first of which is a vocoder, implemented by drummer Beaumont in a call-and-response backing vocal. “We call it the Beaucoder!” quips Selak. “We’ve only ever gotten him to do vocals on a song twice – and both were using this vocoder! The other one was ‘Sky High’ from our last album [2013’s Rainbows in Space]. It’s got such a cool sound to it, and it suited ‘Party Machine’ so well.”
The single also prominently features a new bit of gear for Selak, a Boss bass-synth pedal, which sends the song into overdrive during its raving final minute. While many musicians will often venture out of their way to seek out new gear – Selak included – this was a special case of serendipity and happenstance.
“Our friend Brock was nice enough to pick us up from the airport in Sydney,” says Selak. “As we were loading all of our stuff into the car, I noticed this pedal in the boot. It turns out it belonged to Brock’s housemate, and she was actually trying to get rid of it. One text later and it was all mine – but I had no idea what to do with it. I even tried playing with it live a couple of times, and it just sounded terrible. Thankfully, I gave it another go when we were recording ‘Party Machine’. Our producer, Sammy [Johnson], helped me to dial in something really filthy for that last bit on the song. It was a nice bit of dumb luck coming across it, that’s for sure.”
Selak’s current live set-up does not include the pedal, but now incorporates an octave pedal in order to replicate the sound and hit a few lower notes in heavier moments. His current touring bass is a Gibson Thunderbird which he has nicknamed Ronda Rousey because, so he says, “She’s beautiful – but she’ll also kick your ass!” The bass does not make an appearance on Wisdom Machine, however, as it was picked up after the record was completed. “On Rainbows, pretty much everything was played on Beyoncé, my Fender Precision Bass,” says Selak, enlisting yet another perfect instrument name. “I ran it all through my Markbass amp, which I use on everything. I couldn’t imagine using another amp – it’s exactly how I want my bass to sound. I still use that amp, of course, but for this album I found that my Fender Jazz Bass ended up sounding better up against Jules’ guitars – so that’s what we went with.” One can safely assume the J-Bass has a killer name, too? “Yep!” says Selak. “Stevie Nicks In The 70s!”
Fans have already heard a few singles from the record – ‘Party Machine’, a sublime pastiche of Sublime in ‘Legalise (But Don’t Tax)’ and the pun-slinging skate-punk of ‘Detroit Rock Ciggies’. There’s plenty more where that came from, too, as Wisdom Machine ensures that these stoners leave no stone unturned in their quest. ‘Corruption’, for instance, is one of the slowest and heaviest tracks that the band has ever committed to wax, stemming from two quite different but notable musical influences. “We’d always had this idea of doing a song like Rage Against the Machine,” explains Selak. “They have the same set up as us – vocals, one guitar, drums, bass. Their songs are angry and punchy, but they’ve got so much groove to them. Though it’s a different groove, you can say the same thing about Black Sabbath, who I’ve always loved. That’s kind of where the idea behind that song came from – doing something really heavy, but then switching it up with kind of a reggae feel.”
If that wasn’t enough, Wisdom Machine also features both the shortest and the longest Bennies songs yet. ‘West Memphis Three Paper’ is all over in 21 seconds, while closer ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ clocks in at the ten-minute mark. “I honestly think it’s the best song we’ve ever recorded,” he says of the latter. “It’s a really personal one – especially for Anty, who wrote all of the lyrics himself about his brother. The one thing we knew we couldn’t do was hold back – when it came together finally, it was such a huge moment for all of us.”