Interview by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer.
RHINO are kind of new kids on the block. Only kind of though, all the guys have been around the traps for some time in the local music scene. Tried and true musicians and all passionate about the music they make. Oh and I when I say ‘new kids on the block’ I don’t mean they are the boy band from the 90’s that sung such classic hits as Step By Step either. No way; these guys rock waaay harder than that and as far as I know, don’t include dance sequences in their live performances! With the recent addition of their ‘forever frontman’ Simon Benson (whom you may recognise from Baltimore Gun Club), Damien Brown (bass), James Wassenaar + Geoff Newnam (guitars) and Heath Kelly (drums) are now raring to go and they are not starting things halfheartedly or quietly. Not at all. The guys are kicking things off with a bang and bringing the RHINO riffs! …but I’ll let Damien tell you about that; I got to chat with the man on the bass recently and he had lots to talk about!
Being that RHINO are one of Brisbane’s newest heavy rock bands, lets start at the beginning; How did RHINO come about?
“Our two guitarists, James and Geoff are long time friends and have been in bands previously. They had been looking for about two years to put band together with these ideas. They found Heath on the drums and then me on the bass, so we were almost there. Then getting a vocalist was the final piece of the puzzle and it was tricky, but we feel like we have got the right man for the job now. So, all systems go, basically!”
And that man is the growling rock God, Simon from Balitmore Gun Club! How did you end up with Simon fronting the band?
“Well basically, what we were doing at the start was trying to find a vocalist who wasn’t already in a band. It turns out that it was probably the hardest member to find. After we had lost our first singer, Tomi Gray was stepping in to help us out with some gigs, he is a very busy man. So we sort of said nope, we need someone permanent. So I sort of thought, why don’t we look for someone who is already in a band but wants to have this as a second or however many, third option. I had just shown the guys a clip of Baltimore. The first new one from their upcoming album, just out of interest, not because we were looking for a singer and they said “Get him! We love him!” and I though well, I will ask him. So he had a listen to our stuff and he was honoured to be asked actually. It didn’t take long for him to join.”
You guys are fresh from recording your debut EP. Now, you didn’t just record it at any old recording studio, you recorded it at Studios101 in Byron Bay with none other than Lucius Borich from Cog! So that must have been a mind-blowing experience!?
“Definitely yeah. We haven’t finished it yet, we have to go back and do a few more things. Loosh was our producer as well. So, we had the option of just going in and him pressing record or we could have him work on the songs from the very start, so he basically became like another member. He was involved with the structure of the songs and he plays on some bits on some of them. So, it has taken longer than it would have but the result will be better, it has been worth it.”
I remember when I interviewed Ashton (Tremain) from The Desert Sea, we talked about them recording with Lucius and he was saying it was an amazing experience and that Loosh and his family really welcomed them into their studio and home for a few days while they were recording…
“Yeah that was how I met Loosh, through The Desert Sea. We stayed at the studio for 3 nights and you can even do yoga lessons there with Loosh’s wife. I learnt a lot about how, to be able to live that life, how hard he pushes himself and how dedicated he is, he does a lot of stuff. He plays drums in a few bands; he plays bass and guitar in other bands as well. He is not just a drummer. So just to see how he functions and how he goes about it, his passion is infectious. It was an inspiring time there. He really cares about your project, he want’s it to be exceptional.”
Now this isn’t your first rodeo, for you or some of the other guys in the band, how are you finding the early days of RHINO in comparison to musical ventures that you’ve had in the past?
“I think it is already on a better path, due to that experience. Even with me being a booking agent helps with my knowledge of the industry, the knowledge of previously released stuff and knowing what the whole process is. Simon knows what he is doing, he has done it before. It is good to have his experience on board. I can already see there is some buzz created just from going about it the right way from the start I think… you’ve got to realise that the music part of the whole band thing is quite a small actual part of it. Probably about a quarter of what you should be pushing of what you do as a band, so that includes having a plan with all your social media and having a plan with everything really. Recording, touring, and whatever else you are going to do. If it is just ‘OK, let’s go out and play gigs and hope for the best’ then that is probably going to be the result. You are not going to go anywhere.”
Do you have a rough idea of when your EP will be released? Will we see it at some stage this year?
“Definitely something this year. We are going back fairly soon to try and finish it off. But it is one of those things where we are letting Loosh guide the process and not rushing it and making sure the products is the best it can be. I have learnt in the past that if you try and rush things and not do it properly, exactly the same thing will happen. You have got to take you time and do it properly and put the time and effort in. But we are hoping for at least a single by the end of the year. We will look at doing a tour as well.”
This Sunday you play your first live show! You are supporting Patient Lounge for their ‘All You Want’ single launch at The Woolly Mammoth along with The Desert Sea and Big Whoops…
“Yes, we had a couple of false starts (with gigs). But it has kind of worked in our favour with creating a bit of a buzz and I am stoked to be on that line up, being a booking agent for three of the bands on the line up. It is good timing, the guys (Patient Lounge) have just released their new single. The Desert Sea, you know those boys, everyone loves them. Big Whoops are the only one I don’t book for on the line up but I know those guys pretty well and they put on a great show.”
So after this weekend’s gig, does RHINO have any other gigs lined up that we should know about?
“I do have a sneaky show lined up that I am going to be probably announcing quite soon actually. It is another pretty big one. So I won’t say anything about that just yet. We are all Dads, we are actually a Dad band, all five of us, we have got the family life, we all work, so we are selective about what gigs we are going to do.”
Being a ‘Dad band’ puts RHINO up there with Foo Fighters. I recall an interview with the Fooies once where the interviewer mentioned them being a ‘Dad band’ and Dave Grohl initially being all like ‘Huh, a Dad band!?”’ Then embracing it and being proud of it. So, let’s pop RHINO up there in the same category as the Foos! Dad bands for the win! … GC Live can’t wait to catch RHINO play live and can not wait for their first release.
You can follow RHINO on Facebook HERE to keep up with all the latest news and gigs.
The event page link for this Sunday night’s show is HERE.
+ You can follow Studio101 Byron Bay on Facebook HERE.