To celebrate Movember, The Dune Rats frontman Danny Beus talks about the ‘struggle and saviour’ of writing new music, connecting with fans on tour and breaking through the larrikin facade to give your mate a hug.
There’s a strange patriotic pride in reading reviews of Dune Rats’ international shows. The Brisbane trio have just wrapped up a massive tour of Europe with the Beddy Rays, and North America, following the 2022 release of their fourth studio album Real Rare Whale. It isn’t the band’s first time on international soil and they’ve built a global fan base with rave reviews from New York calling them ‘eccentric and unforgettable’ and attempting to explain the phenomenon of the shoey.
“It’s changed a lot since we first started going overseas and a lot of the people that came to see us were expats or knew us from Triple J. They’d see our name come up and come to see us because they were homesick and it’s nice to see an Aussie band and get that connection to back home,” says frontman Danny Beus.
“But on this tour, we found about 80% of the fans were from the country we were visiting. We love seeing Aussies on tour but you’re doing it to try and build that fanbase so it was really awesome to see. We’ve always gone to the Czech Republic and when we played there this year there were honestly maybe three people from Australia in the crowd.”
Plus, says Danny, now they’re a bit ‘long in the tooth’ they’ve got plenty of material to pull together a sick set.
“When you’re first starting out as a band you’re barely scraping a set together, so there are always a couple of not-too-crash hot songs in there,” Danny laughs. “But these have been really fun shows and to be able to travel with great mates like the Beddy Rays, it’s been awesome.”
The Dune Rats released their first self-titled album in 2014, a whopping nine years ago, followed by The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit which dropped in 2017 and shot straight to number one on the ARIA Albums Chart. With that much history behind them, they’ve really found their rhythm for staying sane on the road says Danny, although he admits not a lot has changed when they’re actually touring. When I ask if the band has mellowed in their touring style in the last decade he laughs.
“I’d like to say we’ve taken a step back, but that’s probably a lie. I think what we’ve gotten better at is what we do when we’re off tour. When we were younger, we used to live pretty hard all year round, because when we were home we’d stay at mates’ places and keep partying.
“As we’ve gotten older we’ve realised you’ll go away for three months on tour and be pretty mentally drained by the end. If you’ve ever had a hangover it’s like having 60 hangovers in a row. Plus an hour/hour and a half set is pretty draining physically. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be someone who comes home just to be a shell of a human, you want to be a contributing member of society.”
While the band still have plenty of fun when they’re on tour, they make sure it’s balanced when they’re at home. They’ve become a lot more aware of how ongoing partying impacts them, their friends and their families, and now they focus on looking after themselves mentally and physically when they come home.
COVID helped a lot, says Danny, giving the band a chance to look at who they were outside of the touring that had made up a large part of their last seven or eight years. His wife likes to say ‘The creature that leaves for the road is not the creature that comes home’ he laughs, a beautiful adage clearly honed from years of the band’s full-on touring schedule.
It can take a week or two to get back to a place where he’s able to surf, go for runs and read, says Danny, but he knows when he’s settled back into that routine again he’s good. As for what COVID taught them about life outside of touring, he says it turns out they’re mainly just ‘band dudes’.
“We just figured out how many days in a row we can wear sweatpants.”
After over a decade together, the band have become a family unit, operating more like brothers than everything else. Danny, drummer BC Michaels and bassist Brett Jansch know each other well enough now to be able to spot the signs of any of them going through a hard time, although like many families, there has been a learning curve to finding that balance.
“Sometimes we do call them out, it’s not always the best thing to do, but we’re pretty good at knowing how to bring someone out of [a low]. The tricky thing is finding the balance, it isn’t always the same solution. Sometimes they just need a laugh and sometimes they do want to be left alone,” says Danny.
“Aussie dudes, we do have that larrikin thing where we can be laughing to cover something, and the hardest thing to differentiate is whether it’s genuine or if they really do just need a hug.”
Anyone who’s listened to the Dune Rats’ music, or watched a couple of their music videos, will know humour is something that’s integral to the band’s entire makeup. Being able to roll with the punches and laugh through the hard times is really important to them and part of the reason they wanted to get involved with Movember.
“We have very hideous moustaches as a band and when you force dudes that can’t grow a moustache to grow one, it’s pretty hilarious. Who doesn’t love a seedy mo? When we recorded albums earlier in the band we used to grow moustaches just as something to do to make ourselves laugh, but now when I look back at all the pictures of us recording those albums we look disgusting, so there wasn’t much foresight in that,” says Danny.
“But that’s why Movember is so important to us. Being able to bring awareness to something on a mass scale and keep that fun side of it, it’s an important thing. A lot of men are being raised by dads and grandfathers from different generations, so they might not be getting taught how to communicate when they are struggling. I think that’s sort of shifting, and we’re losing that stigma. Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you can’t handle life, you’re just having a tough run of it. It can be hard for men to speak up when they are having a tough run of it, because they don’t want to worry the people around them, but that’s why [Movember’s visibility] is important.”
Community and feeling supported by those around you is something the band is particularly aware of when they’re recording new music. It’s a form of therapy, says Danny, but it can also be the thing that causes you anxiety.
“I’m not one of those people that thinks I’m an amazing songwriter or an amazing musician who can do this forever. I always think whenever I’ve written a song that it’s my last one, that I don’t have any more ideas. That’s why it helps to have the boys in the band because we get together, and we all write songs.
“When you do write a new song, it’s the best feeling in the world, you think it’s so sick. Then about two days later you go ‘shit, I don’t have any other songs’. It’s a constant up-and-down rollercoaster. It’s our saviour and our struggle.”
Like many musicians, finding therapy in music isn’t something that is unique to the band. Their fans around the world also connect to it on an emotional level. Being able to tour so extensively this year gave the band a chance to connect with those people and hear about some of their experiences.
“On this last tour, there were actually a couple of people that wrote letters and gave us presents. There was this dude in Canada who made us a customised hockey jersey and it came with a letter. I found that letter was super emotional because he took the time, you know, to sit down and write it. He came up to us at the show and gave it to us and you could tell it was something he had really been thinking about. As a band, we don’t always write music thinking if it’s going to help people, but that was really cool.”