Scab Baby on Roots and Rad Bar

It’s pretty safe to say that anyone who has ever set foot in Rad Bar has heard the frantic howls of Scab Baby. Local three-piece consisting of two Toms and a small plastic infant, the local punk icons are (were) as much a fixture in Rad as ringing eardrums and Martin Naylor.

We chatted to them a day after saying goodbye to Rad – a sobering day sweetened by schooners, space invader, and a visit to their old stomping ground.

Interview by Mia Hull
Photography by Phillip Muzzall

Let’s start with your names:

Tom Darlington:

Tom and Tom. Darlo and Jonesy.

Tom Jones:

Tombo and Thomas.

And what’s your band called?

Darlington: 

Scab Baby.

How did you come up with that?

Jones:

When we first met we started jamming in my downstairs room, and we would do these like 40 minute recordings on my phone, and we’d name them just something weird just so we knew what it was and then one day we called one of them ‘Scab Baby’ and we were like, “Oh that’d be much better if it was a band name than a song name so we did that.”

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And tell me about the Scab Baby doll.

Darlington:

The baby was actually given to us by a young fan called Jacob. He just came up to us and was like, “I love you guys so much – I got you this.” 

So yeah it’s just been a part of every set ever since. 

My friend told me that at every Scab Baby gig the baby goes missing but then it always  comes back.

 Jones:

Yeah! It’s notorious!

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So it sounds like the gigs get pretty wild. Walk me through a typical Scab Baby gig.

 Jones:

No set list. Rocking up… Usually pretty drunk and a bit wild and a bit manic.

Darlington:

I’m just keen to hang out and just see what happens, yeah. I usually get a little bit nervous beforehand and then just start playing. 

I don’t know. Just rock up, do our thing, and a lot of the people just take to it really nicely as well. They just get into it. But gigs can also vary depending on where you are as well which is kind of cool. We try and shake things up with different songs all the time and so some people will just be like, “Aw let’s get into it,” and other people will just be bobbing and weaving.

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I think it’s definitely a different experience listening to you guys live than on Spotify. 

 Jones:

Yeah we’re a bit more of a live band than a recorded band hey.

Darlington:

Yeah 100 per cent. Because we just lose our shit every time we play each other. Even when we’re jamming it’s just always been like, “BLAAAGGGHH!”

And I’m like, “I’m going to do this now,” and he’s just like, “Aw I’m going to come in with the guitar right now,” and it’s like, “Woah!” Yeah people just seem to take to it as well which is cool.

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So Scab Baby’s sound has obviously got roots in Wollongong’s kind of garagey punk scene, but you seem to bring a much greater intensity. Tell me about that.

 Darlington:

Haha yeah! We’re two very energetic people – we’re very anxious as well so when we play our music we literally go like, “BLAAAAGGGHH; LET’S JUST GO!”

I try to play as fast as I can to try to see how fast [Jones] can play.

 Jones:

I find we often compete with our intensity as a two-piece. I’ll be trying to play harder and he’ll be trying to play faster and more intense and we will just topple over each other. It doesn’t end.

Darlington:

It’s real fun and just kind of cheeky. I know when I’m doing it to him as well – you can see him just go, “Ah you bastard,” and I just go, “I’m not stopping man!” So yeah competing against each other a well as playing with each other at the same time is probably the best way to describe it

Jones:

Definitely. 

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So talking about live music, you guys have a pretty strong relationship with Rad Bar. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Jones:

Rad Bar is the venue that started us. That was the first show we ever did for our friends because friends helped us out getting a gig and ever since then we’ve just been bombarding it with gigs. Like, we get asked for supports and we never say no and sometimes we get up to four or five Rad Bar shows a week. Pretty Ridiculous.

Darlington:

Yeah we just go for it. I think our first like 50 shows were probably just at Rad Bar. Which is cool though. It helped us figure out how to do it really. 

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Do you play other venues much? 

Darlington:

Yeah we try and get somewhere else a little bit. We got off our arses and were like, “Alright we’ll go somewhere else for a little bit, and then come back to Wollongong,” and everyone was like, “AAGGH!”

And we were just like, “Yeah aw cool alright. This is nice.”

Jones:

Yeah we actually got a lot of that for like the first gig we didn’t play there. People were like, “What there’s a show and Scab Baby’s not there,” and we were like, “Haha but we’re here tomorrow night.”

But yeah it was good for us. A place to grow. Fantastic.

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So if Rad Bar has played such a pivotal role in your growth as a band, what do you think about it closing, and other bands not getting the same opportunity?

Darlington:

I try not to think about it hey.

Jones:

Aw! Huge bummer! It’s almost not real.

Darlington:

Yeah I don’t think it’s fully sunk in for me yet hey. Like last night was the last gig but I’m still thinking we’re going to be there on Wednesday or something.

Jones:

It’s arguably the best venue in Australia. When you talk to like anyone out of state and in NSW, everyone knows Rad Bar from Wollongong.

It’s wild. It’s sorted out. It’s very inclusive. It’s just a top place to be at. And it’s also a nice layout. Like all the art and stuff.

Darlington:

Yeah, very interactive place. And the pinball machines as well. You can just hang out upstairs or just hang outside.

 Jones:

Yeah and they’re pretty loose too. They sort of let the rules slip a bit which is really good for us because whatever we can get away with we’ll do it. Yeah Rad Bar was sort of on the same mindset as that.

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When did it all start for Scab Baby?

Darlington:

At Rad Bar. Literally the first time I remember meeting Tom, we were dancing at the front of Space Boys.

 Jones: 

Two years ago.

Darlington:

Yeah we were dancing very similar and I was like, “Hey man, your moves are cool. What’s your name?” And he was like,“Tom,” and I was like,“My name’s Tom too.

And then there were a couple of weeks where we’d be at the same shows and we’d talk to each other for like ten minutes. 

 Jones:

Find out more similarities every time.

Darlington: 

And yeah every time we’d get to know each other more. And one day we were at Space Boys for a house party and I just went up to him and I was like, “Oi! We’ll jam tomorrow! We’ll jam tomorrow!”

 Jones: 

Na na he was like, “Oi! Do you know Tanaya?” and I went, “Oh, I know Tanaya,” and he goes, “I’m the other Tom.” 

Because ages ago I dated this chick and she dated another Tom straight after me and it was a big deal. And he goes, “That was me!” and was like, “OH!” and then we just decided we have to have a jam. It was destiny.

Darlington:

Yeah we found out we’d known each other for ages, but then yeah. The next day we jammed and we wrote two or three songs on the spot I think. And then yeah, here we are. 

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Has Tanaya come to any of your shows?

Jones:

She actually has!

Darlington:

She has, she has. She’s very supportive of the band. She thinks it’s cool.  

And if it wan’t for that conversation when I brought that up we probably wouldn’t have jammed. 

Jones:

It’s true. Honestly it was such a like, “Oh, this has to happen now,”

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I love that. And what does the future look like for Scab Baby?

Jones:

I’d like to play bigger shows… but not just bigger shows, like more DIY shows like skate parks, beaches, bush doofs… Stuff like that. 

Darlington:

Yeah just random stuff.

 Jones:

Bring back the ’80s vibe!

Darlington:

Just like, “Oh my god there’s a big stage in the middle of nowhere – I’ll play that.”

 Jones:

That’s exactly it. Do as much as you can with music and live acts and stuff. There’s too  many rules and laws and stuff and NSW is really hard to get gigs and play like ‘appropriately’. Going to Melbourne’s much different. Melbourne and Wollongong are really similar vibes – looseness. I want to do more stuff like that. Maybe move down to Melbourne; maybe not. I’m not sure.

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But your sound is so Gong heavy.

Jones: 

Yeah I don’t want to move down to Melbourne because I don’t want to lose the novelty of being a Wollongong band. 

Darlington:

I don’t know I think the future with Scab Baby is a little bit uncertain, but like that’s how we go into every single gig or every single jam. We’re just like, “Oh whatever.”

So I think Scab Baby could potentially go anywhere as long as it’s given the rope I suppose and we’d be keen to go for it but if not it’ll just keep going along as whatever it is now.

Jones:

I think exploring different genres and different avenues of song writing and performance is good. Like we’ve started wearing balaclavas and masks and stuff… Just doing all different stuff. 

Darlington:

We always like to try and do something different every single time. We’re always open to anything. Like we might even stop doing punk music and start playing some dirty classical jams. Let’s get some Beethoven man. Like with some Pink Floyd ‘Echoes‘ over it or something man. I don’t know – we’ll just have to see where it takes us. 

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What are you currently listening to?

 Jones:

I’m currently listening to heaps of RMFC, and Skyhooks, and Australian Crawl

Darlington:

I’m jut starting to get into Connan Mockasin at the moment. Just into acid jazz at the moment. But I alway like quick Aussie punk songs. Just quick and fast. Like The Stooges or something. I love driving and listening to ‘Fun House‘. I think that’s the ultimate driving album for me. 

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Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

Darlington:

We’re Tom and Tom. We’re in a band. We play music. 

 Jones:

We’re sorting out a new album soon. A live album and a normal  album. 

Darlington:

We’re probably going to release that live album on tape and then try and look at recording an album and then see what we can pop that on. There’s been talk of vinyl. We don’t know how that would go but there’s talk of it so we’ll see what happens in the next couple of months. 

Very cool!

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