The Dark & Disgusting Minds of The Scratch

It’s time we talk about the disgusting videos put out by the weirdos from The Scratch.

This is long overdue. We probably should have sat them down when George projectile vomited beer into Kieran's face. But we overlooked it. Or perhaps last year, when Kieran slowly went insane and butchered an alien with a stanley knife. But again, we let it go.

And now they’ve released a video in the lead up to Weekend of Darkness that shows Kieran… well… perhaps you should watch it for yourself. Make sure you’re not eating at the time.

For those who don’t know, The Scratch is a small bar in Brisbane overflowing with creative and strange minds. They run all kinds of interesting beer events throughout the year, but their two annual events - Weekend of Darkness, their dark beer festival in winter, and Weekend of Tartness, their sour beer festival later in the year - are the cream of the crop. They have a cult following, and for good reason. Each year the festivals are heavily themed, with the team pouring an incredible amount of effort into costuming, decor, and videos leading up to the events.

The videos aren’t all disgusting. While Weekend of Darkness always clings to some subgenre of horror, Tartness is colourful and shiny, playing with discovery and imagination. Like psychedelic aliens and weirdly short space tunics, or claymation astronaut cowboys riding dinosaurs, or funky fish at a reef rave. (No one's every accused the folk at The Scratch of being normal.)

But the hype video for this year’s Weekend of Darkness was too much for at least one person. Becca King, manager at The Scratch, says, “We did get someone hide all Facebook posts from us as a result of the most recent video… which I was kind of proud about! Because to be honest, this one wasn’t that bad. There’s always some sort of spewing of some sort of liquid, or some element of disgusting shit in there…"

It’s only a matter of time before one of these videos breaks some kind of indecency law. So to gather evidence to bring against The Scratch team, we sat down to chat with Bec about the creative juices that go into their beer festivals.

 

What possessed them to make this video??

What makes Weekend of Darkness or Weekend of Tartness different to other beer events?

A huge thing for us is it being a vibe. It’s not just, “We’ve got this crazy dark beer on,” or “I’ve found something that’s 16 or 18 percent.” We’re doing it ‘cause it’s an opportunity for us to be as freaky as we want to be, and let everybody else bask in that. That’s a huge thing for us, just being like, “Look at how dumb we actually are! Is this funny? Do you guys like this too?” And most people being like, “Yeah, this is rad. I’m into it.”

It’s more about the atmosphere than necessarily the beers pouring, if that makes sense. The beers are important – they’re integral to it – but I think there’s an excitement that comes from everybody participating in it.


How did it all start?

This is our ninth [Weekend of Darkness] - coming up on ten years, which is pretty crazy.

The guys [Scratch founders] were just leaning into the dark beer thing. Tim was a huge pusher on that, with his love of dark beer and dislike of almost every other beer. I think we just started off with seven or eight taps the first year. If you look at the tap list from the original weekend, some of those breweries don’t even exist any more.

Things have really changed… it’s really evolved into its own thing. Normally we have around 40 beers… I think we’re going to have about 35 this year, so a couple less.


Where do you get your ideas? Talk me through the brainstorming process.

Generally someone has something in mind, and is like, “Hear me out… what if we did this?” and people kind of piggyback off that.

This year’s a very weird mash-up. We decided to lean into what we’ve done previously, and actually do a continuity. So in the video we have a callback to last year’s Day of Darkness, and then at the end of it there’s a callback to 2019's Weekend of Darkness. There’s this attempt to make a Scratch Universe, like we’re actually confirming that this all exists in the same timeline, or there’s a multiverse scenario.

I think I came up with a medieval vibe this year. And then [Ben] Nicholls was like, “What about medieval forest horror?” What the fuck does that mean?! I don’t know what that means. So it’s like medieval, Wicker Man, space horror, alternate-verse… we’re just throwing words at the wall, and being like, “That could work.”

We do go off on absolutely stupid tangents, we’re having a ball coming up with ideas, and then one of us has to bring us back down to earth, and be like, “Okay but what could we actually achieve in the timeframe that we have?”


OK. So you’ve got your theme. Then how do you go about pulling together the video?

We tend to divide up roles - someone will be on prop sourcing or prop building, someone will be on costuming, someone’s the person who’s going to film it and then edit it. There’s a lot of little jobs in there, and it does require more organisation than us just doing a little reel. It requires us to be on the same page.

 

Tilly makes a good dinosaur.

Is there ever a point where it seems too ridiculous, or too hard to pull off?

A lot of the time! Tilly did that stop motion one a couple of years ago, the Tartness one, space dinosaurs… She worked so hard on that, and we were like, “Is this really a thing that you have the time to do?” And she was like, “Not really, but I’m going to do it!

That’s totally the vibe - “This is going to take a fuck-tonne of time, but… we’re just going to do it. We can't not do it.” Shev and I built that latex chest in a day, and then I came back another day to work on the shading with it. I went and bought pastels! Put proper skin colour on it, and pastel brushed the nipples! You can’t see them! Why did I do that?? [Note: I reassured Bec that I had not only noticed the nipples, but had gone back and watched that part three times.] There’s hair on that chest - actual physical human hair on it that we brushed into the latex. We could just cut corners and not do that, ‘cause it’s not that integral, but I think once we’ve said we’ll do a thing, we’re gonna do it.


So… why do you do it?

It gives us great joy to do it. It’s a creative outlet for most of us. The bar is great and we love working at the bar, but these little things let us lean into our nerd stuff a lot more.

Shev built this massive wheel, it’s like a gear scenario, a giant wheel to another wheel with a rope, and it’s got a hand crank on it… you barely see it in the video! He spent so much time on that. I made my costume, fully made it… you barely see it. We put a lot of effort into stuff that I think is mostly just for us when we’re doing it.

But then the reaction afterwards is huge. It gives us a sense of accomplishment when people are like, “This is fucked. You guys are stupid. I live for this every year.” Yeah! People like the stupid shit we do! It’s not just us fooling around in someone’s garage, spending way too long, getting high off latex fumes.


Do you get help from outside the business, or handle it all yourselves?

We’ve leaned on people in the community, and everybody’s so generous, they’ve helped us out with whatever it is we need. We’ve got a huge community of creative and lovely people.

We’ve used Newstead Brewing’s upstairs space a bunch of times for filming, which they’ve graciously allowed us to use. This year we used the field behind Ben’s house for filming, but Tartness was Newstead, Darkness last year Newstead, Tartness before that was Newstead… we’ve used Newstead a lot! We’ve filmed in the basement of Netherworld a couple of times. And we used Fitz and Potts once for the disco ones, a couple of their rooms.

Ben Gibson usually does the score for us. We’ll do a rough cut, send it off to Benny and he whacks out some ethereal random horror nonsense. Used a song from Nice Biscuit a couple of years ago.

Tilly did the artwork this year even though she’s not working for us anymore, so that was a nice little contribution from her.

 

To acidity... and beyond!

How about the events themselves? How do you bring the theme into the bar on the day?

Things like the playlist really contribute to the mood. We talked about what kind of music we’d play this year - it’s usually a metal playlist for Darkness. It’s kind of hard this year… I was like, “Um is there such thing as medieval metal?” And they’re like, “Yeah but it really fuckin’ sucks.”

And how we decorate the bar. There’s only so much you can do with the space. You can’t completely overhaul it every time. We can’t make it a medieval beer tavern with the space that we have. We just have to rearrange stuff.

The idea is to make some wicker effigies to string up places, and we’ve got these medieval house banners we’ve made, and we’re getting tunics and shit from Mitch at Netherworld ‘cause he’s got a bunch of LARPing costumes. We have boxes and boxes downstairs in our dungeon area filled with stuff for events, and costumes… it’s an obscene amount of props for a bar to have.


How much do the punters get on board?

The last couple of events we’ve asked people to lean in and participate, which patrons love. They love being asked to put on a stupid outfit and be part of the crew. It makes them feel an ownership over the bar as well. I think that’s a huge motivator for us, just being like, “How silly can we make this three day event?”

Last year, we picked a bunch of people who had to submit why they thought they should be at Darkness [the closed event for the livestream] - the whole thing was that they were joining the space team or whatever - and so people submitted little videos. Two guys got on their motorcycles dressed in white, and pretended to be zooming through space; people did a green screen scenario where they were like, “I’m floating in space…” And we asked everybody to wear white to the event, and everybody did.

The Darkness before that was the cult one. We asked people to dress in red, and you could get your Polaroid taken in this photo booth where it was Nicholls’ head and a red robe painted on plywood, and there was a hole you could stick your face in. And we’d put your Polaroid on the wall, under ‘ONE OF US’, like you were part of our family.

I think this year we’re going to put the chest on a piece of plywood and you can be emerging from Kieran’s chest…

People don’t have to adhere to a dress code, and they don’t have to get their photo taken in the photo booth, but including that as an option for people to really lean into it more is such a nice thing.

The Scratch team in their costumes. (Not pictured: any shame whatsoever.)

How did fit it feel having to do Darkness differently in 2020?

Last year was definitely weird for us. Darkness was just the one day, which was a weird vibe, but nice because we got to do the take home packs and people tuned into the livestream. Pivoting a dark beer festival the only way we could think of. I can’t remember how many standard drinks were in that 24 pack… but we did encourage people to split it with a group of people!


Tell us about the upcoming Weekend of Darkness.

We’re going to make Friday night more of a session this year, because we have a lot of regulars who have other stuff on and just can’t come down on a weekend.

And Sunday night is what we’re calling Dregs Fest. Typically we get people who are working on the weekend and think, “I’ll just go on the Sunday night and see whatever they’ve got left.” So it’s going to be any leftover stuff, or things I’ve stashed away - an opportunity for us to pull beers early in the weekend to save for Sunday night.

As for beers, we’ve got something from The Bruery, Verdant, Nerdbrewing in Sweden, Deschutes, bunch of Canadian stuff, Garage Project. A lot of locals - a Brewtal beer and a Happy Valley beer, something from Range, Ballistic… Black Hops, Bright and Bridge Road, Hop Nation, Kaiju, Boatrocker… I think we’re going to have Stone beer as well, the barrel aged one…

I’m excited about the list as a whole. I think everything together looks really good, and really well balanced. Except for the ABV… the average ABV of the beers on this list is like 10.5 percent, so it’s not going to be a light session, that’s for sure!


And Tartness?

I think we’ve settled on our theme for Tartness. I can’t really talk about it just yet, it’s definitely a hush hush scenario, but it has already been discussed. Everyone’s really keen for it, but it’s going to require quite a lot of work to do… it’s going to require a bit of physicality from everyone.

It’s going to be dumb. As per usual.


Weekend of Darkness will be on July 16-18 at The Scratch Bar, Milton. See the Facebook event for details. (As with everything in these uncertain times, keep an eye out for updates closer to the time, whether to COVID restrictions or on The Scratch's Facebook page.)

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