The DZ Deathrays duo have pulled out all the stops to bring fans a new album Black Rat. Just before the band headed off on a UK tour in support of Blood Red Shoes and a subsequent Australian tour with Palms, GEORGIA HEIGHWAY spoke to drummer and vocalist Simon Ridley about what inspires their gutsy style of house-party thrash rock.
From the craziness of gigging around suburban Brisbane to touring worldwide with the likes of Foo Fighters, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Crystal Castles, DZ Deathrays are a pair known for their ability to bring chaos and fun to any crowd – large or small.
As soon as tracks like ‘No Sleep’ and ‘The Mess Up’ are blasted at high volume, you get a true sense of the late-night mayhem and teenage antics that their brand of gritty rock stands for. DZ Deathrays’ first two EP’s: Ruined My Life and Brutal Tapes, as well as their first album Bloodstreams, all proved to be exceptionally popular among the hoards of people looking for thrashy, fuzzed-out party music.
When asked to describe their band’s style to someone who had never heard of them before, Simon simply replied: “Music that people can dance to and get crazy to.” Also, on the subject of how the band came about, he noted that he and Shane – DZ Deathrays’ guitarist and vocalist – “wanted to make music that could be played at house parties”.
Such a task is no mean feat in the digital age, where music listeners are practically spoilt for choice. However, this has proved a piece of cake for the pair, as they are now globally recognised for their ‘pack-a-punch’ collection of records and spirited live performances. Admiration for the band was clearly apparent in 2012, when the duo won an ARIA for ‘Best Rock/Heavy Metal Album’ over bands like Frenzal Rhomb and Buried in Verona.
I was curious to know whether, as the band grew, Simon had preferred the mayhem of suburban gigs over their later performances on massive, guarded stages. Reflecting on such a question, Simon mused: “They’re both great for different reasons…We’ve done massive gigs in castles, and we’ve played at stadiums…but you play at house parties or club shows and anything could happen.” As an example, Simon recalled that on one of the very first gigs they did whilst launching an EP “some guy went flying over the stage, landed on my drum kit and snapped my snare…[and] at that same show, security grabbed me and tried to kick me out.”
Following the release of these records, the band embarked on a frenzied worldwide tour, playing in the US, UK, Italy and Australia at a number of festivals and gigs. You’d think that after such a whirlwind process the pair would be ready to take a break. Instead, following these triumphs, they decided to hit the road and toil over a diverse compilation of tracks for a new album.
The process for Black Rat spanned several locations and involved many a sleepless night, with Simon noting that at times “it was like a job….almost turning into Groundhog Day.” The first leg involved a road trip around rural NSW, with the duo stopping off at a homestead in Yass to flesh out their recently released single ‘Northern Lights’. Listening closely to the abrasive and punky tones of the tune, you can almost imagine the two working in the isolated town, jamming out under a blanket of country stars.
After probing further into the meaning and inspiration of ‘Northern Lights’, Simon told me he and Shane were “huge glam band fans” and were into the likes of “Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and Poison”. He also added that “those types of bands do ballads like ‘Home Sweet Home’…and ‘Northern Lights’ is essentially our version of one of these ballads.”
The skeleton of their album was procured on the road and following this trip, the pair returned to Brisbane to compose other tracks in an empty nightclub. Simon relays the eccentric experience of working in this space, reflecting on the fact that “you would go in there at midday and it would be sunny and bright outside, and then you would enter a dark nightclub with no one around…Afterwards you would walk out, it would be night time, and you wouldn’t know how long you’d been in there for.” Although such a process proved to be quite arduous, Simon fondly remembers it as “kinda great [because] the vibe came out in the record”.
Such a vibe is definitely apparent in their punchy, memorable tune ‘Gina Works at Hearts’. When asked whether the song was about a girl or an event on tour, Simon noted that while Shane writes most of the lyrics, the song is actually about the atmosphere you might find in “a dodgy L.A. dive-bar or strip club”. Clearly, their new album is not the kind of music you listen to while sipping a cup of Earl Grey.
Finally, when asked what kind of artists he and Shane were digging at the moment, it was no surprise that Simon replied with: “We’ve just come out of a massive Danny Brown phase.”
Black Rat is set to be released on Friday the 2nd of May and a national tour will follow on the 8th. When asked about the future of their music and who or what inspires them to make music, Simon gave a promising reply: “as long as people are still having fun and we’re still having fun, we’ll keep going.”