Interview: DZ Deathrays

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It’s been all systems go for Brisbane’s favourite sons DZ Deathrays, who, after writing and touring relentlessly for the past year, are finally releasing their sophomore record Black Rat (I Oh You!) on May 2nd.

While the duo’s 2012 Bloodstreams LP more than packed a punch, Black Rat, judging by its preview tracks, is going to feel more or less like a fly kick to the face.

“We went really hard at this record for six months – just writing and writing and rewriting. We tried to come up with DZ-style tracks that had a few more hooks, in terms of vocals and melody.”

The band teamed up with Burke Reid, who has produced for the likes of The Drones and Eskimo Joe.

“We were throwing up ideas of who we wanted to work with, when our label reached out to Burke, who really liked our songs and agreed to record with us. He was actually traveling through Portugal at the time, so we flew him back home, and did some pre-production out of the studio for about ten days.”

What did pre-production involve?

“We just got really drunk.”

“… And played the songs over and over again to get the tempos right, and make sure that the arrangement was there before we went into the studio. We focused on getting the tones right and doing really good takes.” 

“After pre-production, we went away for Christmas and New Years, and then got straight into it on New Years Day. We recorded for two weeks and came back with 11 songs.”

Aside from rock albums, Reid has also produced for dance and indie artists such as Seekae and PVT. His wide knowledge and experience in different genres lent itself to the way Black Rat was recorded.

“It was really good to have somebody else push us in a different direction. We’d want things to get heavier and thrashier, and then Burke would tell us to ‘clean it up’, and so we’d clean up the vocals, for example. So combining the two approaches, things came out pretty nicely, especially in the more melodic side of things.”

“He wanted us to have more hooks in our songs, like within the drums to make a catchier beat. We even have some electronic samples of drums in there. Guitar-wise, we sort of separated everything: The low notes and high notes, with different sounds to make it more appealing to the ear. You might not hear it straight away, but if you listen to it over and over, you’ll start to hear each little note.”

Watch Black Rat’s album promo, set to the explosive track Less Out of Sync.

Following last week’s announcement of the band signing to UK label Infectious Music (Alt-J, Cloud Control) comes the news of a coveted slot on this year’s Splendour in the Grass line up. Clearly, a lot has been happening lately for DZ, but they insist nothing much has changed.

“We are still running on the same sort of formula. I think the only thing different will be in the live shows – we’ll have an extra guitarist on stage with us for a couple of songs.”

If you’ve never been to a DZ Deathrays gig, it’s time to book in for the show nearest to you. Raw and frenzied, the band’s live shows are equal parts thrash-pop and rock ‘n’ roll. There’s just something magical about two guys playing two instruments louder than the symphony orchestra.

However, playing as a duo does have its limitations.

“We love being a two-piece, but it was kind of inevitable that we were going to have to bring in somebody else to play an extra guitar, especially on this record. We’ve written some extra guitar lines that make those sections of the songs really pop and stand out. With the live show, we had the choice to play a backing track, or to bring a real person on stage. We’ll always choose to have real person.”

DZ have played countless gigs and festivals over the years, and as such, their sets have become notorious for bringing da ruckus.

“For the first couple of years, it was really hard to get people to come up the front and get crazy, even though we’ve always tried to put on a rocker show. And then one day, all of a sudden, all of these kids were going crazy and jumping off the stage.”

“Now it’s at a point sometimes where it’s like: ‘Okay, just maybe ease up a little bit, because you’re sort of smashing the microphone into my face!’”

The Black Rat Album Tour:
(supported by Palms and Foam)

8 May | Elsewhere | Gold Coast

9 May | The Zoo | Brisbane

10 May | Spotted Cow | Toowoomba

15 May | Karova Lounge | Ballarat

16 May | The Corner | Melbourne

17 May | Jive | Adelaide

22 May | Prince of Wales | Bunbury

23 May | The Indi Bar | Scarborough

24 May | Amplifier | Perth

25 May | Newport | Fremantle

29 May | Transit Bar | Canberra

30 May | Rad | Wollongong

31 May | Oxford Art Factory | Sydney

(Image via TomBronowskiPhotography)

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