Punk Rock Factory Take The Fun Down Under

Punk Rock Factory are a band on the rise. Their seventh album of pop punk covers has just been released, and the four-piece from South Wales are about to start their first of three tours before the end of the year. “We are flat out now,” smiles vocalist and guitarist Peej proudly.”We fly to Australia on Monday, then we have two weeks, then our UK tour starts, then we’re home for two weeks in November, then we’re out for our European tour…We’ve never been to Australia before, it’s pretty wild, it’s pretty cool. We’ve just done the Bluey theme tune so we’re going to play that, and we’ve managed to shoehorn the Neighbours theme tine into the middle of a song. Oh, and we’re doing You’re The Voice by John Farnham.” Then, of course, there’s the upcoming welsh tour in 2024: a short run of dates in obscure venues across the country, and Peej is very much looking forward to this par tof his schedule in particular “Our welsh shows have got bigger and bigger as we’ve gone along.  We started out with 300 [capacity] rooms to play in to selling out a 1500 [capacity] room (In April, Cardiff Great Hall).  We get so much call from other areas of Wales, but we only play Cardiff, so we’re doing this ‘play down’ Welsh tour in little 200 capacity venues across Wales.  I think we’re really going to enjoy that. Playing smaller venues, the little intimate venues, the venues we would have played  in bands when we were younger…little sweaty gigs, it’s always a laugh!”

Punk Rock Factory

Punk Rock Factory (Press)
Punk Rock Factory (Press)

Punk Rock Factory, or ‘PRF’ as Peej refers to them, have been covered everything from Disney classics to modern musical favourites over the last four years, but the project started almost a decade ago. “It was just a laugh, a bit of fun,” Peej explains. “We’d all got to a point in our lives where life had taken over: kids and jobs and stuff, and none of us were doing anything musically. A friend of ours had a little recording studio so we’d go there on a Monday night and just hang out and chill. We ended up putting ever some punk covers of pop songs. We did some bits and bobs, that was in like 2014. Then we went down other avenues and did some other things.” All it took was a global crisis to push PRF to the next level. “In 2019 we kind of started back up again. We had songs that we hadn’t finished, but we found some time and started doing it again. Covid hit in 2020, and it kinda worked really well for us [laughs] Everyone’s at home, nobody can go and do anything, everyone’s glued to their phones on TikTok, instagram and Youtube, and we kinda took advantage of that! We put ourselves everywhere so people couldn’t help but see us and hear us! It worked really well!” Of course, it’s impossible not to compare PRF to the other masters of the punk cover, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. The American punk supergroup have taken on songs from everyone, including Barry Manilow and Dolly Parton. Peej laughed at the mention of his American equivalent: “There’s a little rock bar in our local town called ‘The Pub’, and they used to do a ‘Stars In their Eyes’ at Christmas and Easter. We did it as Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, before PRF even started. Our tour manager is actually Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ tour manager!”

Their latest album, Masters Of The Uniwurst: The Lost Tapes, is a compilation of Punk Rock Factory’s versions of TV theme songs, and builds on their previous takes on their favourites. “Our last soundtrack album Masters Of The Uniwurst was very much childhood nostalgia,” grinned Peej. “Anything we could pull from our memories, like Captain Planet or Denver The Last Dinosaur, stuff like that from our childhood growing up in the 80s and 90s. Whereas Masters Of The Uniwurst: Lost Tapes is short versions that we’ve done on TikTok that we’ve compiled onto that album. It’s [still] very much nostalgia stuff, like the Toys R Us theme song. It’s stuff that everyone knows and everyone’s forgotten about. It’s our kind of niche I think, very much guilty pleasures and nostalgia.” So, with TV on their minds, what would be the essential PRF tourbus viewing? Peej answers instantly, without hesitation. “Phoenix Nights. We always end up watching that on the bus. It’s an absolute staple for us. The Inbetweeners, we rep that on the bus. Last time we were in the van I think we watched the Back To The Future trilogy back to back.” Of course, if a TV show was ever made of the PRF experience, ‘it’d be have to be something stupid and funny’, according to Peej. “Our shows are very much stupid. We’re playing TV themes and Disney stuff, we can’t take ourselves too seriously, right? Think of Blink 182 live. It’s all shit jokes and dick jokes, that’s literally what we are. Between songs we’re messing about, laughing with the crowd, laughing with each other. Our shows and everything we do is about fun. I’d like to say Mark Hoppus [to play me]. I know he’s not an actor but I think he’s do it. He was in American Pie!”

Punk Rock Factory

Punk Rock Factory (Press)
Punk Rock Factory (Press)

It would be easy to dismiss Punk Rock Factory as a joke band, were it not for their array of guest stars. Members of Bowling For Soup, Ice Nine Kills and Zebrahead have joined in with the fun, but it has to be Benjy Webbe from Skindred who has made the biggest impression.  The exuberantly dressed frontman added guest vocals to Shiny, originally part of the Moana soundtrack, in a role that he was made for. “We didn’t even brief him on the whole Shiny thing for the video,” Peej laughs, “and he just turned up with a sock full of bling.” He mimes holding up a sports sock full of accessories. “He was like “oh, it’s shiny innit?” And he’s chucking on all these rings and his massive glasses, and he’s got his leather jacket on with all this sparkly stuff on. It was so funny, and he literally lives like five minutes away from us.  He’s an absolute pro.” The guest star Peej would love to include, however, is closer to his heart and lives slightly further away than Webbe: Dave Grohl. “Growing up, the first alternative band I got into was Nirvana. I was a huge, huge Nirvana fan. I remember buying Nevermind on  cassette when I was about eleven, and that album just blew my mind. It did the rounds with all my mates and everyone loved Nirvana.  Our guitarist, Sted, was a huge Nirvana fan and had long blonde hair because he wanted to be Kurt Cobain. Dave Grohl is music royalty, right? And what a nice guy! He’s such a nice guy! There’s like no ego with him, he’s class…” Punk Rock Factory have even included their fans in their videos, making us their most regular guests. The video for Moana’s You’re Welcome featured small children on guitars, stormtroopers with lightsabers and death metal gurning, all via fan submissions. “We did it twice, and it was ‘send us a video of you miming to the song’. We did a bit of a social post on it, and pushed that. We had so many entries. The You’re Welcome one was during the first lockdown, and it was a bit of a morale boost for everyone I think, a ‘come on, get involved’! It was cool, we enjoyed that. We had videos from all over the world, it was wild.”

Despite covering songs from Frozen and The Little Mermaid, neither film has made the top of Peej’s Disney shortlist. “Moana is definitely my favourite because of how popular the songs are!” He reveals. “Our version of How Far I’ll Go is still to this day our best performing track constantly. iIt’s always number one. I really like the Cars films. My son drilled those when he was younger and I really liked those films, they were class. I really liked the story behind them, like they were a grown-up film made for kids.” But the band’s favourite songs to play live come from their own sense of fun and nostalgia. “The one I love playing love because it’s short and a bit of a banger is the Thundercats theme. It’s class I love playing that. One of the others I love if our version on [Kate Bush’s] Running Up That Hill. It’s super fast and we’ve made it quite heavy, it’s super punk. I think all four of us enjoy that one. It’s very much old school PRF stuff: it’s fast it’s punk and it’s relentless nonsense. One that we dip in and out of is Down Under [originally by Men At Work]. That’s off the first album we ever did, that’s just flat out punk and it’s a banger.”

With a packed schedule, a vast social media following and a whole new world of covers in their back pocket, Punk Rock Factory are going to be everywhere this winter. It’s time to embrace your inner karaoke star and belt out Let It Go at a venue near you.

Punk Rock Factory

Punk Rock Factory (Press)
Punk Rock Factory (Press)

An interview with Peej from Punk Rock Factory by Kate Allvey.

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