The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By



stu­dent of rock ’n’ roll, Dirty Nil front­man Luke Ben­tham knows there are two ba­sic kinds of per­former—the ones in dan­ger of tak­ing root on-stage, and the ones that show up ready to sweat. It’s not by ac­ci­dent that he and his band­mates—bassist Ross Miller and drum­mer Kyle Fisher—have planted their flag in the lat­ter camp.

“One of the first peo­ple who I re­ally saw take things to an amaz­ing level in terms of con­nect­ing with an au­di­ence was Jon Spencer from Jon Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion,” Ben­tham says, on the line from a tour van headed to Detroit. “When I saw them it was just this sort of Steve Al­bini–fu­elled Elvis-like char­ac­ter who ab­so­lutely cap­ti­vated the crowd. It was like, ‘Holy shit!’ Part of our stage pres­ence is a bit of a re­ac­tion to cer­tain mu­si­cal scenes that we grew up in, filled with peo­ple star­ing at their shoes and fo­cus­ing on their in­stru­ments—try­ing to look cool, I guess.

“As part of the first Youtube gen­er­a­tion, part of our ab­sorp­tion of rock ’n’ roll was dis­cov­er­ing it through Youtube form,” he con­tin­ues. “That ex­plains my love of bands like the Who and the MC5. I re­mem­ber watch­ing the Who at the Rock and Roll Cir­cus, them a lit­tle bit drunk on brandy, just fuck­ing de­stroy­ing the place. Tight as hell, but a lit­tle bit loose at the same time, knock­ing over mi­cro­phones and stuff. That was some­thing that I per­son­ally as­pired to.”

That com­mit­ment to go­ing over the top is more than ev­i­dent on Mas­ter Vol­ume, the sec­ond ful­l­length from the Dun­das, On­tario, trio. There’s no short­age of things to love on the record, from Ben­tham’s wide-eyed rawk-war­rior vo­cals to the brute-force bot­tom-end bom­bast of Miller and Fisher.

“That’s What Heaven Feels Like” is the sound of hope­less adren­a­line junkies main­lin­ing Thin Lizzy, “Please Please Me” is rag­ing punk at its most swing­ing, and “Bathed in Light” serves as a re­minder why the early ’90s were a golden time for pure power pop.

A cou­ple of things stand out to make Mas­ter Vol­ume one of the great records of the year. One of them is Ben­tham’s heavy-as-fuck gui­tar sound, which, in the hy­per­dis­torted tra­di­tion of Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould and Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, sug­gests that some­one spent a lot of time com­ing up with some­thing truly in­ven­tive. The other is that Dirty Nil has never sounded more sta­di­um­ready, trad­ing the lo-fi aes­thetic of past out­ings like Higher Power for some­thing im­pos­si­bly bold and shiny.

“From the sec­ond we be­gan de­vel­op­ing the ma­te­rial that would be­come Mas­ter Vol­ume, we were very fo­cused on cre­at­ing a record that would son­i­cally com­pete with things that we looked up to,” Ben­tham says. “We weren’t sat­is­fied with the murky pro­duc­tion that we’d rested our hats on pre­vi­ously. We pushed our­selves harder in the year lead­ing up to Mas­ter Vol­ume than we ever did in the 11 years we’ve been a band, prac­tis­ing ev­ery sin­gle day.”

The ul­ti­mate goal was to make a record that any stu­dent of rock ’n’ roll would love. Mis­sion ac­com­plished, with the Dirty Nil sound­ing more than ready for its close-up.

“The band changed a lot since we recorded Higher Power in the fall of 2014 and early 2015,” Ben­tham says. “We played a gazil­lion shows and we played on some re­ally big stages. And we learned some sub­con­scious lessons about what works and what is true power. Play­ing with the kinds of bands that we did on that tour­ing cy­cle—billy Tal­ent, the Who, Against Me!, and many more— taught us some lessons while we watched from the side of the stage. They weren’t re­ally spo­ken things, but they ended up be­ing firmly writ­ten into our brains.”

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