This Band Made a $3.44 Music Video. Then They Went Viral

“Smoko” originally blew up when a local surf shop posted it on its Facebook page. By the time the video surpassed a half a million views, the Chats were being profiled on the local news. Soon after, they started touring the world. “It’s just a constant pinching-yourself moment,” Sandwith says. “How do these people know about us? Let alone like us enough to come watch us?”

And all this for a band that is almost calculatingly insular. The band name came from a term drummer Matt Boggis picked up in Sydney. “All of a sudden, he was like, ‘that’s chat, this is chat.’ We were like, ‘What the fuck does that mean?’” Boggis explains, “It’s just something you say when something’s really shit.” So they named themselves the Chats. Then they kept pumping out songs informed by the particular world view of their friend group. Their latest single, “I’ve Been Drunk in Every Pub in Brisbane,” spends a good chunk of its 97-second run time naming said bars. “It was almost an in-joke,” Sandwith says, to use all manner of vernacular “that only certain people from our area would understand. Not even Australian people! Just people from our town.”

When touring abroad, particularly in the US, Sandwith says, “there’s a bit of weird tokenism. People are very much like, ‘Oh, can you say ‘G’day’? I guess Australia is almost a mythical place they imagined.” What differentiates the Chats in particular is that they’re a rare media representation for the Sunshine Coast, or Sunny Coast, in the northern state of Queensland. “Queensland in general is seen as more of a redneck kind of place, especially to people from the southern states,” Sandwith explains. “But to me, it’s just like, a place.” And it’s their eternal muse. The more insular they go, the more the world loves it. “It’s just our world. It’s what we see and what we do. I mean, it wouldn’t make heaps of sense for us to write a song about fucking Paris or something.”

When “Smoko” first started doing numbers, Sandwith didn’t get carried away. “I remember thinking, I know how the internet works! Something’s cool for a bit and then it’s like pffffft. Everyone could just go back to not giving a fuck about us next week.” But here they are, five years later. “I didn’t think it would stand the test of time, where people would still care about us,” he says. “But they still do!”

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