Having a chat about Black Rat with DZ DEATHRAYS

DZ DEATHRAYS // Simon Ridley and Shane Parsons

A couple of months back, a petition was started to save Night and Day Café in Manchester – One of the many gig venues to come under close scrutiny recently for noise pollution. ‘Noisy neighbour’ complaints from the people who live next door to a live music venue. Right…

Thankfully, the Night and Day Café is still going strong and it was here that I recently caught Australian rad dudes DZ Deathrays playing to a pretty packed out house. The Brisbane duo are just finishing up a run of shows in the UK in support of their new record ‘Black Rat’, which officially came out over here in August.

When we spoke, the DZ Deathrays boys Shane (guitar) and Simon (drums) were already a few shows into the tour, having started their week in Oxford. But they’re no strangers to the UK, as Shane noted “We’ve been here for a fair while now, just been going around and round. We’ve been doing that for a few years actually, so it kinda feels like a second home to us. I kinda feel like we’re starting at the bottom and trying to chip away at the UK and try and get a good solid fanbase like we do at home in Australia, just keep working at it. This year’s just been insane the amount of shows we’ve done and heaps of festivals too, it all helps.”

2014 has been a big year for DZ Deathrays, and they have indeed been chipping away at the UK, trying to get a good grip on these fair Isles. As well as playing this year’s Reading and Leeds, earlier in the year they teamed up with fellow awesome duo Slaves to support Blood Red Shoes on tour. But in terms of on-stage patter, it wasn’t all smooth sailing as Simon jokingly adds “That was tough going on, ‘cus we were swapping over between like us opening and Slaves opening. So having to go on after Slaves is always hard, ‘cus we don’t have any stage banter just ‘Thank You – Another song’ *Laughs*…I feel like I did less stage banter than ever, just because I didn’t want to say anything dumb *Laughs*”

BLACK RAT // The new record from DZ DEATHRAYS

Their new record ‘Black Rat’ follows on from their debut full length ‘Bloodstreams’ released in 2012. As is usually the case with most sophomore records, this time around the band took a bit more time to work on ideas during the production process, as Simon notesIt was kinda different considering the first one we wrote all the songs and went out and tested them in front of people. This time we really had only played one or two songs, most of them we’d just write a really sloppy song – like 80% done, record it and then move on with other ideas.”
Shane “Things changed all the time. We kept changing the songs, so it was a really different writing process. We went over and over just like ‘this song’s alright but needs a better chorus’ or whatever, there’s a lot of re-writing over and over and over.”

Early reviews have been good, both in the press and with fans, as Simon jokes “…everyone’s pretty into it which is good – haven’t had any hate mail yet.” But whilst they are important aspects, reviews and press attention were not at the forefront for these two, as the laborious process behind making a record can often be fruitless. The thought process is more focused on changing up a gear, as Shane comments “We never have any expectations with records, ‘cus you never know how they’re gonna go and you never know when they’re gonna go or if they are at all. I think since we’ve put it out, it’s going forward and upwards so that’s a good thing, rather than getting to the end of it and like ‘nothing really happened with the record, maybe we should go and write something else’ We are starting to think now about trying to write some new songs because once we get home at the end of this year we’ll need to really knuckle down and get some more tunes done.”

For a lot of people, their first taste of DZ Deathrays was in the form of the video for ‘Mess Up’, the bare bones short that sees the lads caning a bottle of Jägermeister on camera for the duration of the song. With ‘Black Rat’, they’re continuing on with producing brilliant music videos for their singles, keeping that sense of humour firmly in place. The band certainly see the plus side from their experiences with videos, as Shane discussesI think they’re pretty important, it’s just another medium to get the song out there and if you’ve got something that kinda looks good as well, it could be funny or moving, it helps get people into the songs and maybe into the album. It’s happened with me so many times – I saw a video clip for that band Pup from Toronto;  a friend of a friend posted it online like ‘these are the guys I was telling you about’ so I clicked it and I was like ‘oh my god, this is fucking awesome!’ So it got me into them and their record.”

In the opinion of Birthday Cake For Breakfast, their best video so far is the one they filmed for ‘Reflective Skull’, taken from the new record. Brilliant in its simplicity, the video sees Shane and Simon walking the dog, looking swag, intercut with shots of girls doing that classic move you used to do in school with your jumper – Which until this interview; I didn’t know the name of… Simon: “*Laughs* ‘jumper-pumper’…That was you and Alan out drinking I think, saying it would be funny if we did that – so we did!”
Shane: “One of my good friends, his main job is creative advertising, so he’s always thinking of witty ideas and he’s like ‘you need to do a film clip where you do a jumper pumper, or just have it like a dance thing’ So I was like alright, let’s do it for this song. So we just got our friend to film it and some girls that we’re friends with to get in hoodies and just kinda like…”
Simon: “He had some areas he wanted to shoot in so we were like ‘yeah, just do whatever when we get there’”
Shane:” It was actually one of the funniest days I’ve ever had I think *laughs*”

Visually, it’s wonderful. You have the “jumper-pumper” shot so well! Much like the other videos they’ve produced, the production is so slick, owing to their association with people in the industry of making things look good, as the boys put it – Simon: “I think Tristan, our mate, he shoots a lot of ads and stuff, so the guy just knows – you can just give him an idea and you know he’s gonna shoot it amazingly.”
Shane: “He knows how to shoot well. I think they’re the best ideas; it’s actually harder to come up sometimes with something simple. It’s always like, if we do that we need to have this or we need to have this. When we did the ‘Mess Up’ clip it was only because we had no money, we were like ‘let’s just do shots and I’ll sing.’ That was the one that got passed around the most but it was just through pure no money. The idea was so simple that people got onto it. We’ve had friend’s bands that do copycat ones – It’s quite good that people have taken on that idea and run with it. It’s rad.”

The cliche image of a “rock star” is the high life, and the ability to cane it on the booze every day of the week, so I quizzed the boys on whether or not the video of them shooting Jager has had a detrimental effect on their livers…Shane “For a while there, every show people were coming up to us the stage, like in Australia especially, they’d bring shots of Jägermeister and give ‘em to us on stage. There’d be Jägermeister all over my pedals and stuff; it’s really sticky that stuff. It’s funny that that was our choice of shot; because I think it’s just that easy to shoot that we were like ‘this is something we could do for 3 minutes.’ If it was tequila or something…”
Simon: “No more than three and you’d be gagging *Laughs*”
Shane: “*Laughs* You wouldn’t get very far… “

DZ DEATHRAYS

So you might have noticed a trend recently with two pieces – They’re everywhere at the minute. Not that it’s a new thing, but the flavour of the month seems to be playing in a two piece band and rising to stardom. But the choice for these boys wasn’t quite so fame-hungry…Shane: “…being in a two piece is fun. We were only in a two piece because we didn’t have anyone else to play.”
Simon: “No one else would join our band *laughs*”
Shane: “We were a two piece for five years, and now we’ve actually got another guitarist playing on stage with us. We started as a three piece as a different band, Simon actually played guitar and we had another drummer and he left – We lived together and were like let’s just keep going as a two piece, so we just figured out ways to fill out the sound. Now it’s funny, ‘cus you get paired up with two piece bands whenever you play live, even get things like – I think someone put a photo up of us playing live ‘can’t believe you’re a three piece now’ *Laughs*”
So not only is the video production slicker than slick, and the sound crunchy and fresh, the boys are also ahead of the pack. Simon: “Two pieces, they’re the new fad. We’ve gone ahead, gone back to the three piece.”

With the new record getting good reviews and hype starting to build around DZ Deathrays in the UK, I asked the dudes to comment on where they’re at as a band. The main point is focus, as Shane discusses: “In the end, unless you do a Royal Blood and go Number 1, we’re still just like pushing the record same as always, just trying to get the word out there about the band and play as many shows as possible. We always found that our strong point is playing live shows. It took a while in Australia as well; we used to play in Melbourne, and every time you play a show in Melbourne everyone would be at the back of the room. One day it just changed and all of a sudden all these kids are at the front and Melbourne is the craziest place to play. I think with us it just takes time, but once you get to that point where people are excited and wanna jump off the stage and go crowd surfing, the whole show just changes and it becomes this crazy mess of booze and partying and sweat. Instead of sitting back and watching – to be honest, I go and watch bands and I do that too, I go and stand at the back of the room – but it’s cool when you’re playing and people start going crazy.”
Simon: “It’s good when the crowd becomes the show, and we’re just the guys stirring it around. *Laughs* Making background music.”
Shane: “You rock out but you can stand still for a little while and just watch – like a little ocean of people.”
Simon: “It’s just great watching people do the crowd surf fails. We did a show once with The Bronx, and there was a big photo pit gap, and then there’s a barrier gap, and this kid tried to jump – He tried to go off the fold back and it just rolled and so it gave way, and he just landed on the barrier, to the point where everyone was just watching him and the band pretty much, I think they did stop or Matt stopped singing, everyone just looked at him and he just goes *Makes heavy groan and bursts out laughing* The security were just like ‘oh my god!’ and then he kinda just hobbled back over the barrier and disappeared into the crowd, and that’s the sort of shit that’s just fun to watch, when shit goes awry.“
Shane: “On that note, hopefully within the next couple of years it does go in the UK like it does in Australia, so it’s a DZ show – it’s time to fucking go crazy and cut loose.”

To hear the interview in its entirety, check it out below – and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

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