Stranger days will keep on coming / My brain changed, but it’s still running / I get phased and in the end it’s nothing, sings Ben Reed, partially recounting life during a global pandemic, life changes and personal struggles, and the past several years growing for his band Skegss, who have ascended since their 2018 debut, My Own Miss, and its follow-up Rehearsal in 2021 and are continuing their journey with “Stranger Days,” and two new singles “December” and “Bunny Man.”
Written around the time the band—Reed, along with bassist and singer Toby Cregan and drummer Jonny Lani—were working on their Rehearsal, which reached No. 1 on ARIA Australian Album chart, “Stranger Days” was initially shelved for a later date. “The chorus wasn’t as big as what it’s become now,” Reed tells American Songwriter, “so by waiting we figured it out a little better.”
“Moving between the band, who are seen sequestered in a windowless storage room, the video, directed by the band’s longtime collaborator Jamieson Kerr, cuts in imagery of Lani running a never-ending marathon in the outdoors and through the city and stage, all wrapped around Reed’s emotive lyrics and encouraging chorus I’m gonna try do good / I swear that I’m gonna try / From now on and for the rest of my life / I’m gonna power on, i’m gonna enjoy the highs / And the lows will come and go … And may your dreams never die.
Their first new music since Rehearsal, “Bunny Man” is an ode to the band’s touring crew and their jack-of-all-trades tour manager and unofficial bandmate who they refer to by the sweeter nickname. Directed by Cregan and Kerr, the video shows Skegss playing the song for Bunny.
“I know it’s kind of over the top sentimental, but who gives a fuck,” says Cregan, who sings on the track. “These people are the best. ‘Bunny Man’ is our tour manager, guitar tech, driver, photographer and great friend. He goes to extreme lengths to help people out. When I sent him the demo of the song, he said that he cried happy tears, and that made me so happy.”
Cregan adds, “He’s had a really tough couple of years because of the lack of gigs, so if this song got him to feel good for a moment, then that’s all that matters to me.”
Also an unofficial holiday song, “December” was written off a chord progression Reed was playing with and documents more recollections of Reed’s hometown of Foster in Victoria and end-of-year gatherings—You don’t know how much I miss this / I’m just so glad its Christmas—around the Australian summer.
“I must have been thinking about being at home where I grew up in Foster, and it’s got the word Christmas because it’s a song about that time of the year whenever everyone can come home with friends an family,” shares Reed. “Sometimes that period of the year can be so split up with everyone being in different places, but it’s about being together… having beers down by the beach and everyone’s just in that relaxed mode.
All three songs are reflective of the times and holding on to the more precious people, places, and things of their lives and were built less around deadlines or the pressure of following up an album like Rehearsal.
“Being fortunate enough to have a little bit more time up our sleeves in the studio was helpful,” says Reed. “We used to be a bit rushed going in, money-wise and time-wise. Now it’s fun to say ‘oh I always wanted to try that.’
Set to play a number of shows in the US, kicking off in April, including Coachella during the summer, Reed is ready for the next ride, however stranger the days become.
“I think as time goes on, and we’ve made more songs, now we can take more chances,” he says. “Even if it’s a song we can’t play live, maybe we can add on more instruments. Every now and then we can experiment a little bit with a song and just put it in our catalog.”
For the new songs, Skegss returned to work with longtime collaborators producer Catherine Marks (The Killers, Foals, Manchester Orchestra), who worked with the band on Rehearsaland Chris Collins, who picked up a 2021 Aria Music Award for Engineer of the Year for his work on the album.
“It’s hard to know what we’re going to do after these songs, and in the future,” reveals Reed of the new songs and working with Marks, Collins and their entire crew. “In the past, it’s always pretty amazing when you meet somebody and it’s got to a point where you think you’re pretty happy with a song and then they come in and teach you a few new tricks. If you combine everything, it’s always a good recipe.”
Reed adds, “We should take more chances, and try to meet new people, even if we don’t ‘have to.’ It’s always worth it meeting new people, just to see what magic they have to offer.”
Skegss 2022 US Tour Dates
4/12 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
4/13 – Seattle, WA – Madame Lou’s / The Croc
4/15 – San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
4/17 – Indio, CA – Coachella
4/22 – San Diego, CA – Music Box
4/24 – Indio, CA – Coachella
Photos: David Herington (aka “Bunny Man”)