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DZ Deathrays

DZ Deathrays

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Tuesday 17th June, 2014 12:44PM

Australian duo DZ Deathrays are heading to New Zealand next week for a double-bill tour off the back of the release of their sophomore album Black Rat. The pair (comprised of Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley) admit the new record sees them step up from their thrash-punk roots to a more developed sound, thanks to the assistance of producer Burke Reid (who has worked with a variety of musicians including Liam Finn, The Drones and Courtney Barnett). In an entirely different approach to the live studio recording for 2010 debut album Bloodstreams, the three men took the fledgling songs for Black Rat and worked them up into Queens-of-the-Stone-Age-style rock tunes layered with heavy riffs and punchy choruses. We caught up with guitarist Shane Parsons ahead of the pair's trip across the Tasman to see how they are feeling in the wake of the album's release...

UTR: So you guys are playing with Die! Die! Die! who is the first band who ever asked DZ Deathrays to support them. How did that friendship come about?

Shane: Well, we’ve been big fans of those guys for a long time and I think we were constantly hitting them up, this is like back in the Myspace days, and we got to open for them at a show at The Zoo in Brisbane. That was awesome.

When was that?

Ahhh, I would say around 2009. So it was awhile ago, but since then we have kept in contact and we’ve run into each other in different parts of the world, like in England we’ve like bumped into each other at shows. So it’s quite cool.

And so when you come over it will be your third show in NZ. How do you find playing here, compared to some of the other cities you have toured around the world?

Well, I hate to say it but we haven’t been to New Zealand enough, which is kind of frustrating because it’s right there. But every time we’ve been there it’s been really fun and everyone’s been great. It’s unfortunate we haven’t been there in the last couple of years, but I’m hoping that people still remember us and come and have another crazy night with us. I dunno, it’s always reminded me of Australia quite a lot, you know, the style of doing a set late at night and it’s very booze orientated which is very good and fun.

I read a bit about you guys reconstructing the songs with Burke for the recording, which was a stark change from your approach to the first album. How did you find that process?

It was gruelling, because it wasn’t just with Burke that we reworked stuff. For this album we worked with ideas more than songs, so we had ideas that Simon and I would record, and then I would go home and work on vocals and, then we would go back and re-do it again. And then the vocal would change a lot, and the song structure would change a lot.

Then we went to Burke and he would be like: “cool, that bit is the catchy bit, so you need to to put that somewhere near the front, and make that bit the chorus”. So we totally worked with him and let him tell is what he thought of everything and we weren’t precious about anything. So, yeah, I quite enjoyed that process because it always meant that things were feeling fresh, right up until the point where we were like, “yep the record’s done”. Which makes it feel more exciting.

So how do you feel going back and listening to the record now?

Well, you don’t really go and listen to your own record a million times after it’s done because you’ve done that during the couple of weeks you’ve been making the album, so if I do go back and listen to it now, those new moments, those choruses and parts we added in at the last minute still sound really fresh to me, so it’s nice.

Do you think working in that way has influenced how you will approach recording in the future?

Well, the way we worked on this album is that we weren’t holding onto anything dearly. We would easily get rid of whole parts or whole songs, because we tried to really trim down the fat on this one. And it’s still 11 tracks, which in this day and age is still a fairly long record. But yeah, I think in the future I do want to work like that again. I quite liked putting together a record without being able to play it live yet, and then figuring that out later. Because the first record was just live songs, that we stood in a room and recorded and then lay vocals over top. And the way we put Black Rat together was like a dance record a little bit, each part was recorded separately, and each instrument has it’s own tone or tuning. Because it is a two-piece band we thought if you have those two things always changing slightly in tone it can hopefully keep the sound interesting the whole way through, and you won’t feel like its a guitar, drum, vocal, and that’s it.

One reviewer said the new album helps move you past the “trash punk” origins, do you think that is a fair comment?

Yeah I think so. There’s a lot less screaming on this record. When we were finished tracking everything I actually went back and did more screaming because there wasn’t enough screaming on there. And that was a thing with Burke, he was like, “I actually want you to sing and not do that scratchy throaty screaming stuff”. But what we found is that when we did both it gives the songs a bit more energy as well. It was a big learning curve for me with vocals and stuff, but it makes it more fun. And when we get into those chorus live now everyone is singing along and it makes the atmosphere in the room waaay better.

It must be cool to have that energy bouncing between yourself and the audience…

Yeah it so much fun to have those moments happening at shows. I mean, when we put out the first record there was those moments, but it was more like people getting involved in the music and pushing around and jumping around and going crazy. But this time, you can hear everybody singing along to the songs and it’s awesome.

You guys both play in Velociraptor which is a huge collective of musicians. How different is it playing in a duo?

It’s like a double-edged sword sword in terms of writing and recording because it’s really easy to write with one other person because you bounce off each other. And it’s 50/50. Umm, but the other side of it is that you don’t have the extra parts, like the guitars that we added to recording, you can’t do that in the rehearsal space. And the other thing with being in a two-piece it’s a lot easier to tour.

Lastly, what is your favourite track from Black Rat?

I think my favourite is ‘Less Out of Sync’, because that is one of the songs we wrote and then changed. I think it was originally backwards, so the chorus was a verse, and a verse was the chorus. I think that’s my favourite, it’s really fun to play live.

DZ Deathrays and Die! Die! Die! are playing on Friday 27th June at Kings Arms in Auckland and Saturday 28th June at Bodega in Wellington. Click here to buy tickets through UTR.


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