The Chats Came to Houston! The Chats Came to Houston!

The Chats
The Chats Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
One morning in January 2020, I made a social media post which read, "The Chats are coming to Houston! The Chats are coming to Houston!" The Australian punk rock trio had just announced dates for a run with Mean Jeans and Thick dubbed the "High Risk Behaviour" tour. Houston's date was set for April 24, 2020 at the Bronze Peacock at House of Blues.

And then, nothing happened. Literally. COVID shut it all down and the band which once lamented its lack of "Bus Money" had plenty to spare since the wheels on buses everywhere stopped going 'round and 'round. But the coordination of The Chats’ rescheduled show last night made it seem as if the pandemic never happened at all. Much of it went as previously, pre-COVID planned. The band rolled through with Mean Jeans and Thick, as originally intended. The name of the tour didn't change, though it may have taken on a different meaning last night with very few masks and no COVID checks in sight. The bands played the same space House of Blues reserved for them in 2020. Even the date of the show was nearly identical, set apart by just two days and two very long years.

The main thing that remained the same was Houston's excitement for the band, which is one of the leading Aussie acts breathing refreshing gusts of life into modern punk rock. There are others, like Melbourne's Amyl and the Sniffers, but The Chats have a style all its own. With wonky hairstyles and cheeky songs about smoke breaks and the noms at your favorite pub, the Sunshine Coast act is fun on record. Live they were much louder and much faster, the perfect blend of “punk” and “rock.”

click to enlarge Twenty-six songs: 51 minutes - that's punk! Wailing guitar solos - that's rock! - PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Twenty-six songs: 51 minutes - that's punk! Wailing guitar solos - that's rock!
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
The trio — guitarist Josh Hardy, drummer Matt Boggis and bassist/lead vocalist Eamon Sandwith — sauntered onto stage precisely at 9:30 p.m. to a crowd chanting “CHATS! CHATS! CHATS!” with energy that had been building for over two years. Songs from 2017’s Get This in Ya!! introduced the world to the Queensland group, particularly by way of “Smoko,” a ditty about taking a smoke break, and when it arrived three-quarters of the way through the set, Sandwith acknowledged it was probably their biggest hit. The crowd confirmed by singing along loudly.

Maybe it’s because they’re so young, or because they played a song by The Wiggles — “We cannot understate the massive influence they’ve had on our lives,” Sandwith said jokingly (?) — but being at a Chats show reminds me of the schoolyard seesaw. It’s fairly repetitive but lots of dangerous fun. On one side, you’ve got the band’s punk tendencies, snarky songs about bad behavior presented with loads of attitude. And, they play them at breakneck speed. The Chats performed 26 songs in 51 minutes last night. Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee are somewhere smiling over that.

Playing live, the group skews more towards the “rock” side of the seesaw. Hardy, who joined the band in 2020 when former guitarist Josh “Pricey” Price left for a solo career, was inspired, cool energy, scattering blistering guitar solos across the set with seeming ease. Sandwith opened a new song, “Jetliner,” with those "gimme fuel, gimme fire" lines from Metallica’s “Fuel.” The band played a KISS cover and has a whole song that’s an homage to AC/DC, the “second greatest band in history.” You could guess who’s first.

Houston’s crowd last night might not argue that notion. But, if we’re going to crown The Chats as the greatest, we might like to know more about them and you had to look for clues about who they really are in the live set. For a band called The Chats, there wasn’t much banter between the stage and audience. The threesome walked on to “The Boys Light Up,” by Australian Crawl, a 1980s Australian rock act. Between that, the AC/DC tribute and including the Wiggles in their set, we can deduce they have a healthy respect for the Australian musicians who preceded them.

click to enlarge Mean Jeans - PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Mean Jeans
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
“Thanks for coming. We love Houston, We went for a bit of a walk, we had some dinner at Pappas Bar-B-Q — is it Pappas?” Sandwith chatted before “Nambored,” the opening song. “So, before we get going, I just wanna say be cool. Have fun. Go nuts. But look out for everyone around ya. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. This first song is about a real shithole in Queensland called Nambour.”

That’s more or less how the set went, little time for small talk but big on song intros like “This next song’s about a really hot day. It’s called ‘Stinker’ or “It’s about ordering from a restaurant and leaving before the bill arrives,” introducing “Dine N Dash.”

When The Chats did chat about stuff besides the songs, their wit and charm came through, just as it does on record. For instance, the band taking a beer break mid-set and likening it to athletes having an orange slice during a timeout. That bit of improv drew some giggles and showed some of the band’s personality, which is part of what we’d been waiting the whole pandemic to see. The songs were great and worth the wait, but more of that next time, please.

The Openers: Sadly, THICK, the Brooklyn-based, all-woman punk act was done with its set at 8:04. The sun was still shining practically (okay, it was setting) but their go-time during dinnertime meant we missed all but a few songs they offered. We loved what we heard though, as did the crowd, revved by tunes like “Your Mom” and especially “Party with Me” and we hope to catch them when they’re back in town again and hopefully on a headlining gig.

Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
Mean Jeans was a perfect segue into The Chats. The veteran act won the crowd over early by suggesting its song “Born on a Saturday Night” was inspired by partying with the late, great DJ Screw. A couple of songs summed up their everyman approach to punk. “Coors Light” was followed by “Sizzler.” The steak and beer pairing wasn’t just representative of the band, it sent us to the band’s discography where we were delighted to learn there’s a complete Mean Jeans album called Jingles Collection which includes songs centered around brands like Applebees, Cheez-Its and Totino’s. Sprinkled in were covers by Spin Doctors and “Today,” by the band we shall now only refer to as “Smash Pumps,” thanks to Mean Jeans, all creating a highly entertaining set.

The band has a Ramones thing going on with its members named Billy Jeans, Junior Jeans and Jeans Wilder. Near the end of the set, Billy Jeans said, “For anyone who's ever fell into a bog, this one’s called ‘I Fell into a Bog.’” So, maybe they’ve influenced The Chats a bit on this tour.

Personal Bias: Even if you’re not one of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers, there’s something so satisfying about telling someone to buzz off by singing, “I’M ON SMOKO, SO LEAVE ME ALONE!” If you’ve never done it, try it immediately. It’s fun!

Overheard in the Crowd: “The guitarist has crazy eyes.” - about Mean Jeans’ Billy Jeans.

Random Notebook Dump: Shouts out to HOB’s Paige Mann who is the consummate pro and who I’ve missed chatting with tremendously over the hiatus — see you at Tori Amos, Paige? And, a special thanks to Jay, “like Jay and Silent Bob,” a fellow Chats fan I met just before the set. Jay was very stoked for the show and agreed that part of the fun of any Chats song is singing in Sandwith’s very pronounced Aussie accent. Jay told me he listens to “Smoko” while he exercises, which is pretty funny when you think about it and also pretty reflective of the sorts of fans this clever, energetic band draws.

The Chats Set List:

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.