Thriving during the COVID-19 lockdowns, TikTok stars Punk Rock Factory have become widely popular in the UK with their punk rock covers of various Disney and pop culture tunes. A truly humbled band, they appear to simply be enjoying the ride on which they find themselves. If you are not yet a fan, just “Let it Go!”

Whilst attending the wondrous event that was Download 2022, we managed to catch up with PRF members Benj Allison and Ryan Steadman for a lovely chat about their rise in popularity, collaborations, and giant inflatable hotdogs. Be sure to check out their new album A Whole New Wurst 2. Listen along to this interview just below and/or via V13’s SoundCloud here.

Okay, so I’m joined by Benj and Ryan from the Punk Rock Factory. So how are you guys doing?

Ryan: “Very good, man.”

Benj: “Very good, dude. Thank you.”

Now, you guys first hit the scene in 2020 with your first album covering punk rock songs. What drew you towards this because, you know, you’ve got me humming Disney songs something that I never thought I’d be doing.

Ryan: “We’ve known each other since… but you’ve known Kob for all your life haven’t you?”

Benj: “I’ve known Kob since I was 16, I’m 38 now, so it’s a long time. I think we were all in bands back in the day and then we all stop being in bands for our actual jobs, and we just kind of thought we should do something musically, and we just decided on we’ll do covers of popular songs. So we did that like one night a week in a shady little studio in Newport, and then kind of disappeared again for ages because we’re doing other things, then we came back and sort of started doing them again, got all the songs we were working on from before, and put an album together, and there was one Disney song on that, and then we put that up on TikTok and it went wild.”

Ryan: “We put up a few videos after we’d gotten like, a couple of thousand views then we put the Lion King (‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’) up, and a went from 10,000, 20,000, we text each other saying this is bonkers and then it was on 600,000 within an hour, and that’s when we thought then like, well Benj just did some research, and he said, no one’s done an entire Disney album and because the comments would fly in saying you should do this one. So that’s kind of where the birth was.”

So I think you’ve probably answered this question, but what was the actual inspiration behind it? As I said, I think you’ve already answered that, but if you want to elaborate a bit more?

Ryan: “As cheesy as it sounds, the fans was the inspiration behind that, but the song that did it was, ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King.’”

Benj: “Yeah, we put that up, and then I think we were just in the studio one day, and we were like, ‘I think we should do an entire Disney album,’ and then from there, it was just like, yeah, we just got working on it. We did it all remotely, didn’t we?”

Ryan: “Yeah, but we didn’t expect this at all.”

Benj: “We didn’t expect a response.”

So obviously, A Whole New Wurst was released in 2020, and obviously, at the height of the pandemic, everything was locked down. Everything was, for want of a better word, shit. How did you tackle this approach? You know, producing it in a remote way?

Ryan: “Well, to start off, I did shitloads of overtime in my job, and I ended up buying four campers by accident, which cost me 6,000 pounds. So I had to quickly sort that up before we could do anything. Then, yeah, we were, I just kind of rigged it up in the house, and, how did Kob do the drums?”

Benj: “So me and Kob just did the drums together, he was in one separate room, I was in the other room away from each other, the studio is at his house, and he had a vulnerable person in the house. So you know, we shouldn’t really have been there, we managed to get all the drums done for all the tracks.”

Ryan: “Then send them over to me then I was recording, like the guitars and stuff like send them back to the boys make sure it’s all ok.”

Benj: “We get and then we would get Peej over separately to do his vocals, and I would go in and do backing vocals after that, and then I would just mix it on my own then with none of these fuckers giving me input trying to change things.”

Artwork for the album ‘A Whole New Wurst 2’ by Punk Rock Factory

So really your band was born out of the pandemic to a degree and most bands sort of like crashed, crumbled, burned, and found real difficulties, where you thrived. I mean, do you think there was anything particular behind that? Or was it just pure luck?

Ryan: “No, I think it’s unfortunately for bands, they couldn’t do anything because they couldn’t get in a room together. They couldn’t tour and you know, where you make a lot of money and stuff. So they all just kind of took some downtime, but with us, we just lived solely online. So we never thought about doing gigs or you know, playing live so we sort of went fuck it, just carry on releasing songs because we could. Didn’t expect it to go mental.”

Benj: “Yeah, I think we were just born as an online entity anyway. So we were kind of already set up for that to happen. So as soon as the pandemic hit, nobody could do anything. It turned out we could do everything. So it was great worked out well.”

Now you’ve got an array of quite well-known rockers actually guesting on most of your songs like, how did you actually approach this or did they approach you because obviously, as I’ve said, you’re still quite young in this world? I’m just fascinated because sometimes it takes a long time to persuade someone to come and guest. I mean, you had Jaret Reddick on one of your tracks!

Ryan: “He put a video up of the Phineas and Ferb song, him doing it on acoustic and then Kob played drums to it on TikTok, and then he got in touch with us.”

Benj: “I think Kob was in, Kob our drummer, was in conversation with Steve Rawles from Belvedere about doing a song with us in the future, and we were gonna do ‘Hero’ by Enrique Iglesias. We were talking about that and going back and forth and trying to like figure out if we could actually do that song, and then when the Disney thing came up, it was like, well, instead of doing that song, you want to do a song on the Disney album and he was into it so he did ‘How Far I’ll Go,’ and then Jaret I think we just reached out to him or something. Or he reached out to us on Instagram. We were like, just putting it out there.”

‘We’re doing this Disney album. Would you want to be on it?’ He was like, ‘Oh, I love you guys, man, yeah, I’m definitely up for that.’ Then we just kind of tried our luck with others like Tony Lovato from Mest, just dropped him a message like, do you want to do this? And he was like, ‘oh, yeah, I’ll do it, and I can get you Adrian Estrella from Zebrahead as well.’”

Ryan: “Yeah, and Spencer Charnas from Ice Nine Kills, he got us in touch with him.”

Benj: “So it kind of just snowballed, we just tried our luck, basically, because all these bands weren’t doing anything. I thought it was like a prime opportunity for them to get on something during the pandemic. So, yeah, it worked out really well.”

Now, do you have any stories about working with any of these particular artists, something that really sticks in your mind?

Ryan: “I suppose. There wasn’t a lot of interaction, it was all just through email. So the only one we’ve really kind of interacted with is Benji Webb because he came up to the studio to film his parts, and obviously, we’re out of lockdown now so, and if you’ve ever met him, he’s a fucking bull in a china shop, salt of the earth, absolutely lovely guy, he was wicked, he came out larger than life, and he’s a pro at jumping around our studio.”

Benj: “I think from a mixing perspective, like I’ve got all these vocals by all these, like really good singers, and I’m like, I can’t fuck this up. I think like the one vocal, I think that really stood out to me that as being like, just super impressive boys, well there’s two of them, was Adrian Estrella and Spencer Charnas, their vocals were just like, like butter. They were perfect. The rest of them weren’t bad, they were all great. Just those two stood out for me.”

I just love the sudden caveat defending yourself. Now, we’ve already touched on this a little bit, but your band is gaining traction at a massively impressive rate, did you ever expect this kind of attention coming your way? Or is it just a complete surprise?

Ryan: “Bro, I’ll be perfectly honest with you, right, you saying that still blows my tiny little mind! Like, we stay in the studio all day. It’s like a full time job. So we’re in the studio. I still can’t believe I’m like in a press area at Download! It blows my mind when I go on stage and there’s people everywhere. So I’m surprised every single day.”

Benj: “We knew the Disney stuff will be popular. We didn’t anticipate how popular it’d be. I mean, we put the vinyls up for pre-sale and they sold out super fast. I didn’t expect it. But it’s cool. Yeah, love it.”

Ryan: “We’re taking nothing for granted with this, and every day we just saw like, appreciative and just mind blown like. We do this for a living now, so it’s actually really nice to do it, we can just keep slamming it out because of the support we’ve had from everyone who loves it.”

Now, how has it been being part of Download because, I’ll be honest, this was a complete surprise to hear you guys were here. I’m not actually camping, I’m staying in a hotel. I’m being posh, you know, all of that. So you guys are actually on the Dog House stage, how has it been like playing actually for more of the campsite side of things?

Ryan: “Banging! It went off on Thursday, there were people as far as you could see, and they all fucking loving it. We have this new gimmick now, live, where we have these inflatable hotdog lilo’s, that we throw it into the crowd during ‘You’re Welcome,’ and we just get people to ride them, and all Thursday night one of them rode so far back into the crowd that he was he was a dot on the horizon. Legend says he’s still going.”

Funny you mentioned that, if you look over there. Oh, you actually looked as well, I’m impressed. What was the best experience been so far apart from the hotdog fiasco?

Ryan: “I think for me the hotdogs, it’s just so funny. We like to incorporate fun into our sets, so for the crowd to embrace it and send a guy off into the distance that was fun. Yeah, that said, just seeing people just loving it. Like when you see it when the phones come out, like, you know you’re doing something right. If someone loves you so much they want to send it to their friend or keep it forever or post it, whatever.

So cell phones and people crowd surfing on hotdogs. I love that when we come offstage and instantly people just want to get photos with us and stuff and like, record video messages, they can show their kids and things like that, which is already cool, our band encapsulates that family vibe. Yeah, so it’s nice to be able to do that and generations can enjoy it.”

Now, will you be back next year do you think, if they offered you would you come back, and have you got a desired stage you’d want to play on?

Ryan: “I’ll take any of them, yeah. Honestly, whatever stage bring the party bring the crowds, any stage.”

I would like to close on a little interesting fact just to end it in an interesting way. My fact for you is, did you know the last part of the human body to die is actually your pupils. Did you know that now? It’s because they dilate! I know. Sorry. I love closing on dad jokes, and you know, just because I love you guys.

I’ve got one more for you. So my uncle actually lives on a farm and he’s got a terrible internet connection. So I suggested to him, why don’t you put the modem in the barn? Worked really well. Turns out he’s got a stable WiFi! Well, I’ll put it out to you if you got a bad joke you want to share with everyone?

Ryan: “On the streets coming to Download and a guy threw a bottle of milk at me and I thought how dairy! Then he threw a block of cheese, at me and I thought, that’ mature!”

Benj: “I’ve got one as well, so people these days aren’t really called lands for the mediaeval times they were called Lancelot!”

Fantastic to chat to you, and hopefully, I’ll see you guys live soon. Thank you very much.

Damian with Benj Allison and Ryan Steadman of Punk Rock Factory at Download 2022