Sydney Morning Herald

Body Slam

Author: Sacha Molitorisz

Melbourne punks Bodyjar are intense yet accessible, writes SACHA MOLITORISZ.

Bodyjar have been selling ice to the Eskimos again. The Melbourne-bred four piece spent June and July exporting pop punk to the US, the land of Green Day and the Offspring.

“We had a show just about every day,” says Bodyjar singer and guitarist Cameron Baines. “We supported Blink 182 on their tour, but first we were on the bill of the Warped festival, which was a hard slog. We were playing half- hour sets; it felt like we were just getting warmed up when we had to get off.

“For Warped we had to share a bus with two other bands. One was this all-girl band who had just been signed, who then broke up during the tour when the singer left. And because all the other bands got in first, I was sleeping on the bus’s couch, so I had to wait for everyone to crash out before I could go to sleep. And then our mixer broke his hand. We had to help him tie his shoelaces.

“Still, it was fun. I’d have breakfast with the guy from Rancid, then the guy from the Misfits would give me cheese for my burger. It was like summer camp for punks.”

Though they weren’t headlining. Bodyjar were working hard to win fans. With Blink-182 they were playing 15,000-seaters. For Warped each performance usually started with a crowd of about 30 but finished to the cheers of several hundred.

Those punters must have been impressed by the songs. Bodyjar’s new album, How it Works, combines infectious riffs, singalong harmonies and urgency. For starters, Not the Same, Fall to the Ground and Five Minutes Away (When Punx Attack Magicians) are a winning blend of intensity and accessibility. That said, the same goes for almost every track on an album that contains no lazy, throwaway tracks. “It’s a stronger set of songs,” agrees Baines.

In part, Bodyjar are good because they’ve been around. How It Works is the fifth album from a band that emerged in 1994 with a debut album called Take a Look Inside. Almost immediately they won some high profile international fans – including Blink-182 and found themselves touring Japan, Europe and Canada.

The second album, Rimshot!, took Bodyjar on their first quick trip through the US. But after two more albums the Victorian rockers were shaken by guitarist Ben Peterson’s departure. After contemplating suicide, Bodyjar chose life. In 1999, they resurfaced with a new deal and a new guitarist, Tom Read.

“That was a rough period,” says Baines. “We still had albums owing to Shock Records. I hated it, it was all lawyers and sh.., and it took about a year to sort out. It was just about money and percentage points. But we were lucky at the time that we were so focused on just trying to write songs that we just let our manager take care of it all.

“And Ben left the band at about same time. So me and Ross [Hetherington, drummer) and Grant [Relf, bassist went to the pub and talked about it. We had about eight songs we thought were pretty good so we just thought, “Let’s keep going.

Thirty three demo versions later, Bodyjar Mk 2 entered the studio. Ultimately, How it Works features the 12 best tracks, a collection muscular enough to earn the band a US deal with Nitro, the label owned by Dexter of the Offspring. Isn’t there a danger, though? Baines is 27. After nigh on a decade of chunky chords and cultivated aggression, aren’t he and his band becoming too mellow to play punk? What’s more, aren’t they getting too good?

“I hate that misconception that punk bands can’t play their instruments,” Baines says. “Take the Living End; they have this great punk energy and they’re a band that can really play. Chris Cheney frightens me. He’s probably the best guitarist in Australia. Whenever I try and write songs with him it’s too much like a guitar lesson – I have to learn nine new chords for each song.

“Actually, the Living End came on the Warped tour, too, and they played the main stage and did just as well as Rancid in terms of crowd numbers.” Those Eskimos just will keep buying that Australian ice…