A LOT of bands may think they're one of the best in Australia, but Hunter act Mokobenj can actually prove it.
The five-piece, from Largs and surrounding suburbs, took out the NSW heats of the Global Battle of the Bands competition earlier this month.
Now they're set to compete in the Australian titles in Sydney. If they win, they will contest the world competition in Norway in March, to be in the running for $US100,000 in cash and band development grants plus a golden trophy.
It's an incredible prospect for the band, who signed up to the Newcastle heats of the competition on a whim.
"We just went in it for the hell of it, really, to be quite honest," keyboard player and vocalist Bruce Schneider tells Weekender.
"We were just seeing what we could do. We've been playing a few local gigs and we thought it would be interesting to go into a band comp."
The five-piece, which also features Shane Pyers on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jason Lightfoot on drums, Shawn Thomas on bass and Chris Drew on guitar and vocals, didn't do quite as well as they thought in the Newcastle heat, coming second, but ultimately progressed to the next round.
They are glad they managed to go one better.
"We thought we'd probably do OK, we kind of hadn't expected to get this far, but we got there, so obviously we realise we've got something going for us," Schneider says.
Considering Schneider - one of the group's founding members - is a chemist by day, it's no surprise the band has the formula to success. They're fans of a big sound, emulating international acts like U2, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Muse.
"I like to think we've got a fairly dynamic sound, we've got songs that are very sort of slow and soft through to songs that are fairly raucous," Schneider says.
"Being a five-piece we can get a really, really full-on sound when we need to."
Songs like Only Human, Warming Heart and Your Playground secured their passage to the Australian finals, where they will be allowed to play just two songs to impress the judges.
They are thankful they have some time to practise and take a step back, considering they changed their guitarist just four weeks before taking out the NSW title.
"We had four weeks to break him in, and he's really come through for us," Schneider says.
And though it did take a while to nail down their line-up, the choice of what music to play was much easier.
"We decided right from the very beginning that we weren't going to play covers," the 55-year-old explains.
"We've got a lead singer who's a prolific songwriter. In fact, we're only playing a very small proportion of his current repertoire.
"I'm a songwriter myself, we're currently doing two of my songs . . . we all sort of write in that '70s, '80s rock style, and I have more of an electronic influence."
Schneider, who is also a sound engineer by night, mixed the group's debut EP Mokobenj, which was released in June, and designed the psychedelic-blue cover art. Lead singer Pyers - who makes films in his spare time - produced the video clips.
Mokobenj are in the process of writing and recording their debut album - a democratic process where each member chooses a song they like from their back catalogue before putting it to a vote.
It's an undertaking that could surely be expedited if the band have an extra $100,000 up their sleeve, but they have already garnered overseas attention for their music, with their songs distributed and played on British radio.
"We've actually had a lot of good feedback from overseas, because we've had information through a magazine in the UK called Fireworks magazine," Schneider says.
"From that we had a distribution of the EP to various radio stations and music presenters over in the UK and we've had feedback from them, which has been very positive."
It does get difficult for the band to get together to practise. Their day jobs include shift work, painting, teaching, a government job and working in the mines, so they take time when they can - like 9am on a Wednesday morning. So it's fitting that their distinctive name is a play on a kind of coffee.
"It's meant to sound like 'mocha binge'," Schneider explains: drinking too much of the chocolate-flavoured latte.
Mokobenj play the Lemon Tree Passage Bowling Club on Sunday, November 23, and contest the Australian final of Global Battle of the Bands on November 29 in Sydney.
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