Like most nights last July, it was a sweaty one. Amidst a long European tour, Donny “The Don” Benét was booked for Loophole with the support of Doris, the latest solo project of one half of Gurr. Sporting a look this strong, it’s no surprise that Benét was easy to pick out of the crowd. What was surprising, however, was his genuine and relaxed vibe. Just another guy with a spectacular mustache enjoying a beer before before the set. As soon as he took the modest stage, all evidence of normalcy dripped away with sweat in tow. In its place was raw, captivating entertainment with lust in its eyes and a Moog at its fingertips.
Complete with a thorough and completely falsified backstory, Benét is part of recent wave of talent coming out of Australia that casually spits in the face of convention. While the bulk of today’s artists are desperately striving to be taken seriously, he and a few others are here strictly for the lols. Regardless of the satirical nature of the performance, his musical chops are serious. What drives such an enigma? Why does his gaze make me feel funny down there? We attempted to part the curtain of mystery and see what inspires a man with his own folklore.
As noted, we caught you at Loophole over the summer. It was sweaty and delightful. We cherish that place for its intimacy, but we’re looking forward to seeing you somewhere like Urban Spree, since it’ll accommodate a few more people. When you show up to play a gig at a place like Loophole, does it conjure more eye-rolling or lip-licking?
Definitely more lip-licking. The Loophole show was very deep into my long July tour. I was pretty excited to play and very, very excited about the turnout. It was one of the sweatiest shows I’ve ever done – perfect for a place like Loophole.
There are a lot of different ways one could describe the music you make, but we’ve been describing it as a sort of ‘pisstake.’ Since you’re clearly an accomplished musician, do you think your talent is undermined by the satirical style or is it highlighted? e.g. ‘holy shit, this 80’s lounge singer can shred.’
Heh, I wouldn’t think of it with a term like pisstake… although I can see where you’re coming from. I’m pretty serious about shredding on stage and I put a lot of work into the songwriting and live performance. What probably seems weird is a balding middle aged man pouring out his heart to a bunch of kids in a club like Loophole.
The whole thing seems very punk rock to me. Is there any nihilism behind what you’re doing?
Maybe… When I first started performing there were a lot of real serious kids staring at the ground and strumming guitars. I was hipped onto this guy Tonetta and was really getting into Alan Vega. Around the same time I heard John Maus and really liked where they were coming from. Again, I like the idea of someone like me getting up on stage and shredding.
Between you, Kirin J. Callinan, and Alex Cameron, there seems to be a strong scene for satirical music brewing in Sydney. Did you guys feed off each other? Did this evolve organically? Are there any other artists in the same vein we should keep an eye out for? How does what you’re doing land internationally compared to back home?
I can’t speak for those fine gentlemen, but the Australian music scene is really weird – people will either take themselves really seriously or go to the other extreme. I think Australian music that does well outside of Australia is generally pretty strong and too weird for Australian radio and festivals. It’s a great place, but a really small scene.
My experience with Cameron is that his character is either a very convincing example of method acting or he really is that character. Is it safe to say you have very distinct onstage and offstage personas?
Not sure to be honest. Onstage I’m doing what I like, what makes me happy, and what I’d be happy to do day in/day out. Offstage I usually enjoy eating potato chips.