Cameron Baines – Bodyjar ‘Punk Rock with Substance’

The earliest Bodyjar show I can remember happened back in 2014 when I was living in the Snowy Mountains, during my reckless travel years. The band toured through Jindabyne alongside ska/punks Frenzal Rhomb and stopped by the country town to give us a night of Aussie punk rock. As a seasoned snowboarder, ski towns are quite notorious for their nightlife and sending in two punk acts to the snow was a change of pace amongst the usual calibre of live music the town of Jindy gets.

Anyways, I probably only knew one or two Bodyjar songs, but even after a few beers, I remember really getting into the band, and I showed up to see them play Dead of Winter Fest in Brisbane five years later. Vocalist Cameron Baines has quite the memory of that night though:

“Man. I remember that night. I remember our old bass player throwing oranges at Gordy during the set, he stopped playing and they nearly had a fistfight. Oh, it was a good gig but yeah. That night has got a few regrets.”

Fast forward seven years and Bodyjar are older, wiser yet still love to play the music they began with back in the 90s and 2000s. On ninth studio album New Rituals, these now punk veterans are celebrating the music they started playing all those years whilst presenting themselves in a more serious manner. It’s quite rare for a band of their tenure to still have the ability to produce a cracking record. Honestly, after one listen, I found New Rituals to have a mature-aged take on punk rock inspired by the addition of a little more substance:

I’m a massive fan of bands like Descendants and all and writing songs about girls and love songs. We’ve always had a few social political songs, but for New Rituals we really wanted to write purely about things that piss us off. There’s a lot of political lyrics and a lot of issues that need to be talked about in society and in general. It’s a little bit more of a serious album for us, but we’ve tried to keep as much melody and everything in there as we can. But it’s definitely a bit noisier, this album.”

To help them carve out the band’s new era is bassist Nick Manuell (The Sinking Teeth, Hawaiian Islands), who debuted with the band when they released ‘Big Shot’ two years on the verge of the pandemic. Their new record contains some of the band’s most political lyrics they’ve ever written with the help of Nick:

“Nick brought a lot of new ideas as far as lyrics, arrangement and even how the artwork looks. He has a lot of strong opinions on punk rock, and he knows his music really well. Musically, we thought this album has to be tough, and it has to be a little bit more forward. We can’t just go back to writing three chord punk rock songs. I think there’s definitely a bit more structure on this record and a bit more to listen to. If you listen to this album, you will discover something everytime.”

That’s exactly right. You want more of the pop punkier style of ‘One in a Million’? Last year, the band released the vibrant yet hugely infectious ‘Get Out Of My Head’ which will no doubt cause a riot in future mosh pits and will entice even the newer generation of punks to get involved. Moreso, Cam insists that there’ll be something in it for every kind of Bodyjar fan, in particular those that were around during the Rimshot! era:

“New Rituals has that, but then it’s got faster songs that sound like the Rimshot! era. We’ve been playing ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ for years, so ‘Rain’, which is an 80s cover, is the same sort of vibe. Hopefully we’ve covered all the bases that people want to hear in a Bodyjar album.”

For their ninth record and to celebrate almost 25 years being a band, the boys have thrown in a few surprises up their sleeves, from garnering an extremely catchy collaboration with Press Club’s Nat Foster on ‘Pieces’ to keeping the OG crowd entertained with a feature from Shihad frontman Jon Toogood on ‘Be The One’. Cam is very enthusiastic about the calibre of acts we have in this country right now:

“There’s some great bands out there. Nick’s got another band called Raging Hormones who are really good. I love Press Club. Even Gyroscope and bands like that sort of came up a bit after us. I dig young bands, but I know we’re a little bit older now and probably too old for Triple J. Whenever I hear good pop punk bands come through on Double J, I love it.”

If you ask me, there’s probably a good chance Bodyjar could get into next year’s Hottest 100, especially with that Press Club feature. With New Rituals though, the band are re-emerging in 2022 as a genuine rock band leading the way for a new generation of listeners to appreciate the simplicity of punk rock, and hopefully their forthcoming single, ‘Surrender’ does just that:

“‘Surrender’ has got a bit of an environmental kind of message in it, and the lyrics are really cool. I like songs that are just simple, where you hear the riff and it’s just chords but it just works, you know? When Tommy (guitars) recorded a couple of demos and sent them around, I could tell straight away there was something special about this song.”

If that won’t entice the next generation, then maybe the fact that the band’s fifth record, Plastic Skies turns 20 this year will. The record was a monumental time for Bodyjar back then, as it birthed one of their most popular singles with ‘One in a Million’. It also saw these legends land a slot on the Vans Warped Tour‘s Aussie run in 2002 alongside Pennywise, New Found Glory, 28 Days and the now defunct The Might Mighty Bosstones:

“We still have the three inch CD that EMI, our record company put out that we gave away at the Vans Warped Tour in 2002. That was the time where anything goes as far as pop punk. There were some good bands coming out then. Blink-182, Pennywise, all those bands were just killing it.”

For older fans that attended the Warped Tour back in 2002, I am envious as hell. However, we all might be in luck as a 20th anniversary set of Plastic Skies might just be on the cards when I put the idea into Cameron Baines’ head:

“I’d like to do like a vinyl version and do a little tour of it, that would be sick. But we’re probably too late because if you want to get vinyl made now it takes ages. I’d love to do a whole set of that album though. That’d be cool. I reckon that’s something we should look into for sure.”

Never say never guys! With the emo revolution in full swing and a new crop of pop punkers appearing everytime we refresh a screen, the OG crowd are beginning to notice and want in on the fun. Yeah, they’re a little older but at the end of the day bands like Bodyjar still have that same punk rock mentality as their younger peers. Hey, if it works for New Found Glory. Regardless, Cam is stoked:

“If you had told me 20 years ago that we’d still be doing this, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It’s surprising, but at the same time, I can’t imagine doing anything else. We started two and a half years ago writing songs for New Rituals. In the end, between the pandemic and other lockdown things, it’s probably good for the album because it gave us a bit more time to get the songs right.”

Now all we need is the government to sort its shit out and give back our shows so New Rituals can be enjoyed in the best way possible — in a rowdy ski town in the dead of winter — and hopefully, there’s a Plastic Skies bonus set squeezed in there too!

Interview by Tamara May @citylightstam

Bodyjar’s new album, New Rituals is out this Friday.
Pre-order here

Bodyjar – New Rituals tracklisting:

1. Burning Truths
2. Billy
3. Get Out Of My Head
4. Ignorance
5. Surrender
6. Big Shot
7. Rain
8. Pieces
9. Be The One
10. Tongues
11. Reaction
12. When the Stars Go Out

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About Tamara May (1085 Articles)
Wall of Sound's Head of Album Reviews. Weekend Content. Pop Punk Enthusiast.