NOVEMBER 9 was a joyful occasion for the Trophy Eyes family.
The Newcastle pop-punk band were in Fingal Bay celebrating guitarist Andrew Hallett's marriage to his new wife Eliza. It was a glorious spring day in the Port Stephens hamlet.
Meanwhile, unaware to the band, the life of their childhood friend Sam Fenning was in ruins.
Bush fire had just razed Fenning's family home in Nymboida, near Grafton on the mid-north coast. Another 80 homes in the village of 300 people were also destroyed.
Sam and his father had both suffered burns fleeing for their lives and the family dog was missing.
When Hallett and Trophy Eyes bassist Jeremy Winchester heard the tragic news the day after the wedding, they immediately decided to make the most of their band's popularity to help their old friend.
So on December 15, Trophy Eyes will perform a benefit show at the Cambridge Hotel with money raised to be split between Fenning's family and the NSW Rural Fire Service.
"It was real tragic stuff," Winchester tells Weekender. "One of our good friends put up a donation page and we were thinking like we needed to do more, but we weren't sure what to do.
"We thought we have a platform, so let's do something with it and do a benefit show."
Fenning grew up with Hallett and Winchester in Clarence Town where they attended primary school together. The trio then progressed to Dungog High School and also shared similar interests in music.
Fenning was a bassist in Newcastle bands Same Old Story and The Cavalcade, the former an early influence for Trophy Eyes.
We thought we have a platform, so let's do something with it and do a benefit show.Trophy Eyes bassist, Jeremy Winchester
But what always stayed with Winchester was Fenning's generosity. That's why he felt compelled to return the favour.
"We lived in Clarence Town and I got a job at a KFC in Maitland and it was too far to travel for work all the time and Sam had moved to Rutherford and he offered to let me stay at his house," he says.
"Originally I was on the couch for a couple of nights a week and eventually he gave me a room to sleep in."
The benefit show will be Trophy Eyes' first hometown gig since they sold out the Cambridge in February.
The release of their pop-flavoured third album, The American Dream, last year with its radio-friendly tracks You Can Count On Me and Friday Forever has undoubtedly made the four-piece Newcastle's biggest contemporary rock act.
"We changed the direction a little bit on the album and we weren't sure how it would be received, but we were very sure that's what we wanted to do," Winchester says. "That's the sound we wanted to make.
"Lucky for us it was received really well and we started getting bigger offers for bigger festivals. It couldn't have gone any better to be honest."
New material is expected early next year to coincide with their three-date Figure Eight Tour in February.
Winchester wasn't giving much away, but he promises the next album will build on the pop-punk direction of The American Dream, rather than revisit the heavier sounds of Trophy Eyes' earlier albums Mend, Move On (2014) and Chemical Miracle (2016).
"With the last album we definitely felt like we hit a groove," he says. "We're really happy with where we are and the sound.
"It took us a while to find the sound and now we've found it, we've started to master it more."
What Newcastle fans won't see at the benefit show is a new rhythm guitarist. At Splendour In The Grass in July former guitarist Kevin Cross played his final gig with Trophy Eyes.
The band had considered finding a replacement, but Winchester says the band will continue as a four-piece.
"We decided to go without a guitarist, at least for now," he says. "Kevin decided to leave the band and pursue his career and start a family and we were all supportive of that.
"We felt no one could replace Kevin, so we didn't want to replace Kevin."
Tickets are on sale for Trophy Eyes' benefit show at the Cambridge Hotel on December 15 through Oztix.