“It’s not a job for us – that’s never what it’s going to be…”
I sit in The Unknown Locals’ jam room, opposite three of the four members of this newly formed band. They’ve amassed an unprecedented western suburbs following, seemingly from nowhere, from just one backyard show and a whole lot of quintessentially Adelaide word-of-mouth.
I’m surrounded by stories in this weatherworn, beer-battered shed; there are holes in the ceiling, there’s graffiti on the fridge and then, of course, there’s the minefield of leads and wires and pedals that is the guitarist’s dream and the clean-freak’s nightmare.
A brand new matte black drum kit stands alone as the pristine element in the shed, while two colossal, black amps stand menacingly, plonked haphazardly in the middle of the jam space.
Gus the dog tries his luck, tiptoeing nimbly through the unruly maze of equipment before being rounded up and exiled from the shed indefinitely.
Upon my arrival, the band was hashing out its latest song, a Luca Brasi-esque thrasher entitled ‘I Hate Mondays’ – self-explanatory, and that’s just how they like it.
Then, joining me in the corner of the room, the boys flopped down on a velour-upholstered couch that is also sure to hold some tales – but I’m not entirely sure I want to know what they are.
The three of them are clearly at home here; Jesse Jenke, the bassist, is flanked by frontman Jono Dewar-Cutting and drummer Corey Battersby.
Guitarist Jack Woolford is MIA.
The genesis of this band is something of an anomaly, but I suspect it was Jono’s brainchild all along.
“Me and Corey have been playing music together since year eight – that was when I picked up a guitar,” says Jono.
Corey chimes in at this point.
“I said to Jono one day that I’d bring my kit around and have a jam, just play some covers, but I rocked up and he’s got two songs written down.”
Jesse’s entry into the ensemble was not one without its hiccups, according to Jono.
“I took him on guitar first,” he says, “Shittiest guitar player ever.”
They all laugh.
“But if I taught him something, he’d go home and he’d play it every day – he worked so hard and he had so much commitment.
“So I just sort of asked Jesse if he’d mind jumping on the bass and, the legend he is, he just said yes straight away – he just wanted to be in the band!”
The band was made complete with the arrival of Jack, who plays in the same footy team as Corey, and had, unbeknownst to the boys, been playing with another Adelaide band previously.
“I thought he was taking the piss,” says the drummer, “but I eventually asked him if he was serious about playing and the rest is history.”
The boys don’t seem to mind playing second fiddle to Jono’s larger-than-life presence; they know their parts, they play them extremely well, and they’re happy with the Gang of Youths-style band dynamic.
“I do all the writing,” says Jono, without the slightest hint of ego, “But that’s not because I want to be the one doing everything, you know?
“I’m just the only one who does it at the moment,” he gets an affirming laugh from Jesse to his left, “I always tell the boys that if they’ve got any material to bring it in and we’ll make it work.”
Fast approaching is The Unknown Locals’ first honest-to-God gig, at the iconic Worldsend pub on Hindley Street.
On Saturday the 3rd of June they’ll be supported by local acts Baba Ganoosh, The Smocks and The Effends on the night, with the event having attracted interest from more than 260 people on Facebook.
Singing plainly of life in suburbia and its ups and downs, frontman Jono makes magic out of the seemingly mundane, but there’s also a deeper meaning behind a lot of his lyricism.
Despite a lot of the Unknown Locals’ music being about everyday problems—being fed up with the boss, having one or ten too many drinks, being shy around girls—the band was born somewhat out of a struggle that was very real indeed.
“Our music basically started because I was depressed as f**k,” says the 21-year-old, bluntly, “I was really struggling; my dad was in hospital from a really bad infection, and then my girlfriend left and went to America—I was heartbroken—and the next month my best mate’s mum died.
“In the space of a month I was absolutely wrecked; I just fell in this hole and I couldn’t get out.
“Music was the only thing that kept me going through that period,” he says, getting serious for a rare moment, “It’s the only reason why I’m still here today and that’s actually what a lot of our music is about.”
As far as plans to record their music go, the Locals have been putting it off while they build and polish a substantial back catalogue of tracks.
“I remember one of the first times we jammed,” laughs Jono, “we planned on getting five tracks down before we started playing shows.”
“Now we’ve got 17 songs… and we still haven’t released anything!”
The band wants to play a few shows and get some merch happening so it can fund its recording without being too much out of pocket – a wise strategy for any band starting out in little old Adelaide.
“We’ve probably got enough material for an EP and an album already, but we want to do two EPs and then work on a record,” says Jono.
“The next couple of shows should be a good indication of what people like,” Jesse adds, “The backyard show was good for that; we got some feedback on the style of songs they like.”
It’s always an uphill battle in the music industry, and the boys are under no illusions that it’s a hard road ahead, but they’re not here for financial gain.
“We’d rather have a room full of people wearing our $20 t-shirts than sell them for $40 and make more money – we don’t care about the money,” says Jono, “We’re just really keen to actually have a few beers with bands – we all love local live music so much.”
From humble yet inspiring beginnings, The Unknown Locals are already making waves in the west and, at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before they make the city of Adelaide their own.
Images: Ash Smart, JB Creative Media