Pokies, pranks and public toilets: Private Function does whatever it wants

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Pokies, pranks and public toilets: Private Function does whatever it wants

Private Function
Words by Andrew Handley

There’s a sense of urgency in Chris Penney’s voice on the phone one afternoon. “I’m just trying to find a toilet,” he explains.

Due to plumbing works at his house, he’s mid-journey to his friend’s house to use theirs. “Crisis averted,” he tells me with a sense of relief when calling back shortly after.

“It’s fucking outrageous how little public toilets there are in Melbourne. It started when 7-Eleven bought heaps of petrol stations, and then closed the toilets to the public. If you’re going to be serving coffee and food and shit you need to have a toilet,” he jokes, sort of.

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This kind of humour and candour isn’t surprising from the vocalist of Melbourne punk group Private Function – a band known for not taking themselves too seriously. Penney is recovering after playing a raucous sold-out show at Brunswick Ballroom the weekend prior, which featured B1 and B2 joining them on stage and a whole lot of crowd surfing on inflatable pool toys. 

“Brunswick Ballroom ask us to play there all the time, and they’re like ‘do whatever you want’. There’s some venues now, I guess because of insurance laws, who are like ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that,’ but they’re just like ‘go for it, let’s see what happens.” 

Previous live performances have featured pro wrestling at the Forum and being joined on stage by Joanne to sing her song Jackie at Meredith Music Festival. “Most of the money they paid us for that show we put back into the show,” says Penney of their Meredith set. 


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“When we have a big show, we spend heaps of time thinking about what ideas to do and then we go to costume stores and prop hire places… and then other times, just before the show, we’ll go to Kmart or walk around and go to the pub and think of something dumb to do on the night. I like doing the bigger shows, but I couldn’t do it for every show. Sometimes it’s good to just have just a pub rockin’ show.”

While Private Function appears to have some momentum behind them, Penney says he’s just taking it as it comes. “I don’t really give a fuck about anything anymore,” he laughs. “I feel like once upon a time I did, and now this is just a hobby to me.”

“Whatever idea I can come up with, everyone [in the band] is in a similar boat. We’ll just do it and see if it works. Maybe it doesn’t work, maybe it does. [The band] just gained popularity on its own, which is awesome.”

The band’s new album 370HSSV 0773H is out March 31. “We’ve had a couple of people get it straightaway and then some people immediately start thinking about the numbers and letters… trying to crack the code,” says Penney of the curious album title. “I love the simplicity that to read the album name you have to turn the album upside down.” 

Like the album title, the band enjoy having fun with their fans, even if they’re not always in on the joke. “We like making fun of them a lot,” laughs Penney. After Private Function released a shirt featuring their name with the iconic Neighbourhood Watch logo, they went one step further.  


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“I think after the first load of those, we sent everyone who bought one a letter that was a cease and desist from Neighbourhood Watch. We had their addresses in our file, so we sent them a piece of paper that had the Neighbourhood Watch letterhead and the current CEO. It was this full legal disclaimer telling them to return it. Two people sent us back the shirts, I couldn’t believe it,” laughs Penney. 

The first 3,000 vinyl copies of the band’s new album will have a scratchable cover with Australiana-themed icons underneath each scratchie. Only one will have three matching icons, and the owner will be rewarded with a test pressing of the record, $2,999 in cash and their face printed on every subsequent pressing of the vinyl. “I got the idea when I was playing the pokies,” says Penney. “I think that pokie machines are absolutely fucked up and are disgusting, but scratchies are a bit of fun.”

“The ultimate irony is we’re kind of gambling with our career, people could have a serious problem with this because I know that gambling reform is a red-hot issue in Australia, so maybe we’ll get cancelled,” says Penney. “Do we get a top ten album or do we stop playing music forever?”

370HSSV 0773H features songs titled Jusavinageez and Good Fight, Good Night, which are rich with satire. “I find it easy to write silly billy songs… because music that has some sort of weird depth to it, I find it’s hard, for me at least, to do anything new with that,” explains Penney. “If you take it too seriously, you’re very much stuck into these pigeonholes of what you can and can’t do.

“We also don’t particularly have a genre, like the last one we released was [a] metal/hardcore song… and I’m already writing songs now that have acoustic guitars in them. That’s the lucky thing about being in a band like this, you don’t need to stick to a genre or sound, we just do whatever [and] it seems to work pretty well.

“What happens is we’ll be at the pub and someone will say something funny and then we’ll think of a melody for that, and that’s kind of the songwriting process in a nutshell,” laughs Penney. 

Their new album also features a cover of Coldplay’s Yellow. “I realised it’s just a three-chord song, and we like all three-chord songs,” says Penney. “Then I got my guitar and played it down-stroking, and I was like ‘this sounds like a fucking Buzzcocks song.’ We’d never do a cover of a song that is already perfect, there’s no point. As for Coldplay, you know, fuck ‘em.”

Penney isn’t thinking too far into Private Function’s future, but likes how it’s going. “The thing I love most about this band is that it’s just so easy,” he says. “I think I’ve found the right group of people.” 

“Every other little band I’ve been in [has been] such a slog, as being in a band should be – it’s really hard to be in a band and really fucking annoying. Everyone except me, I think I’m the one that makes things most difficult for everyone. Everyone else is an angel.”

Follow Private Function on Spotify here.