Australian Guitar - - Contents -

The new DZ Deathrays al­bum is bloody lovely – no, re­ally, that’s what it’s called! The dance-punk duo go harder and harsher on their long-de­layed third LP.

If you’ve ever won­dered what it would feel like to ex­pe­ri­ence an earth­quake, stand in the crowd at any DZ Deathrays con­cert. The sheer, in­ex­haustible chaos that surges through any venue they in­vade is some­thing of leg­end: you have to see it to be­lieve it, and af­ter you do, the words to de­scribe it are at once out of reach.

The duo don’t make it easy to watch pas­sively: if his play­ing is metic­u­lous on record, front­man Shane Par­sons is the loos­est of units on­stage, cou­pling sharp, pun­ish­ing yells with shred­ding that re­calls the jit­ter-brew­ing car chases of an early Fast And Fu­ri­ous movie (back when they were all street race punks and not bald­ing dads with he­li­copters).

As the Bris­bane dance-punks leap head­first into their third LP, Bloody Lovely, they’re tak­ing that glo­ri­ously scuzzed-up live en­ergy to the stereo.

“I think the last record was a lit­tle rigid,” Par­sons says of the tight, chop-and-change mu­si­cal­ity of 2014’s Black Rat. “It was cool be­cause I hadn’t re­ally heard any­thing like it be­fore, es­pe­cially in a heav­ier sense. But for this one, we wanted to get a lit­tle slop­pier and loosen our­selves up a bit. I don’t even think there was any gui­tar feed­back on Black­Rat, but that was some­thing we were ex­cited to play with on this one – it giv es the record a lit­tle more of the swag­ger that we have in the live show.”

To amp up the nat­u­ral sweati­ness of their sound on tape, the band hit their ar tistry with an over­haul. They buck­led down with ac­claimed pro­ducer Burke Reid once more, but ven­tured to strip back the com­plex­ity that marred their last trip to the stu­dio with him.

“We were al­most try­ing to make a dance record with Black­Rat,” Par­sons elab­o­rates. “There were so many dif­fer­ent tones for the low notes and the high notes, and we tracked the drums sep­a­rately for verses and cho­ruses. But for this record, we went into the stu­dio with a very straight­for­ward ap­proach; we fo­cused more on get­ting our sound right at the start and then just go­ing for it. The drums didn’t change much at all through­out the process, and we had, like, five gui­tar amps that we al­ter­nated be­tween de­pend­ing on what vibe we were go­ing for.”

And of course, a sec­ond time in the ring with Reid gave Par­sons a chance to learn from pre­vi­ous mis­takes. “The big­gest change this time was that we ac­tu­ally didn’t leave the vo­cals un­til right at the end, be­cause oth­er­wise I would’ve been com­pletely f***ed like I was last time,” he laughs. “Try­ing to sing 11 songs in three days and ex­pect­ing every take to come out right… It just doesn’t work like that. So we got the drums down first, and then we al­ter­nated be­tween gui­tar takes and vo­cal takes. It was a lot bet­ter that way be­cause we were slowly build­ing stuff up, and we had an op­por­tu­nity to be a lit­tle more ex­per­i­men­tal.”

Thus led to an al­bum that keeps in­tact the bare bones of DZ’s sig­na­ture ‘party thrash’ flavour, but taps a lit­tle deeper into their artis­tic po­ten­tial to un­earth a few sounds the blokes had pre­vi­ously shied away from. Most no­table of the lot is a raw, blis­ter­ing punk tone (see “Bad In­flu­ence”) that Par­sons chalks down to his cur­rent go-to axe: a weather-worn Burns MR2 Mar­quee.

“Burns are pretty well-known for their surf gui­tars and more rock’n’roll sort of stuff,” he muses, “But this is a bit more high-gain and it’s got a re­ally nice, dark tone which I like. You can split the pick­ups five ways, I think, so it’s one of the more ver­sa­tile gui­tars in my col­lec­tion.”

Va­ri­ety came in the amp se­lec­tion, which in­cluded – but Par­sons is adamant wasn’t lim­ited to – a 50- watt Or­ange head, a Roland Jazz Cho­rus, an Am­peg SVT, a small col­lec­tion of Gold­en­tones and “this one Dr. Z amp, which was a cus­tom-made Brazil­ian model. It was like a JTM50 crossed with a Bass­man – a lit­tle combo, it was re­ally great.” But de­spite no shor tage of toys to play with, the band made an ef fort to keep things at least a lit­tle co­he­sive.

“We would try play­ing one part through pretty much every piece of gear we had, but we didn’t f*** with the set­tings too much,” Par­sons notes. “We found the right set­ting for each one and just changed amps when some­thing didn’t feel right. We used a bit more of the ZVEX dis­tor­tion and Full­tone gain ped­als as well, which made a big dif­fer­ence. I didn’t use toomany wacky ped­als, ex­cept for maybe the Elec­tro­har­monix MEL9 – I com­bined that with a ZVEX Lo-Fi Junky to get all of those kind of Western sounds. I wanted that

re­ally weird, kind of warped sound. You’ve gotta have a bit of weird­ness on there!”

It might come as a shock to some fans given DZ’s quirky, dance-slathered tones, but Par­sons is an avid be­liever that ped­als and amps will al­ways pre­vail over DAWs. “You could em­u­late all of those lit­tle string sec­tions in Pro Tools, but it would just sound like you did it in Pro Tools,” he says. “It makes things sound a lit­tle more pumped up when you ac­tu­ally have a gui­tar to get those sounds from scratch, and to me, that’s a lot more in­ter­est­ing than just pulling a sam­ple from some soft­ware.”

In the end, it all comes back to their vi­sion to bring a live feel to Blood­yLovely. “There are so many dif­fer­ent things that go into the sig­nal chain,” he con­tin­ues; “You’ve got the gui­tar go­ing to the ped­als, the ped­als to the am­pli­fier and then all of that to the mi­cro­phone – and every time you change one of those vari­ables, you’re chang­ing the whole sound. I guess you’re never go­ing to repli­cate the ex­act sound you have live, but it’s re­ally cool when you’re able to cap­ture some of that at­mos­phere.”

It wasn’t just in the realm of pro­duc­tion that DZ Deathrays shook things up. Best ex­em­pli­fied by lead sin­gle “To­tal Melt­down”, the band poured more fo­cus into writ­ing huge, sticky cho­ruses and ear­worm-ish hooks that don’t just fiz­zle out of the lis­tener’s mind once the next tune rolls around.

“We were think­ing a lot more about how a song is put to­gether – how pop songs in gen­eral are put to­gether – and how we could have these loud, ‘party rock’ songs that also have a lot of thought put into them,” Par­sons ex­plains. “We had to step back and ask our­selves, ‘How do we have that clas­sic sort of verse-cho­rus-verse-cho­rus-bridge-cho­rus struc­ture, then f*** it up so that peo­ple don’t ac­tu­ally no­tice?’ Be­cause I love lis­ten­ing to songs and go­ing, ‘Well this is just a clas­sic pop song,’ but then real­is­ing that there’s all these lit­tle bits that make it spe­cial. A lot of peo­ple can write a verse and a lot of peo­ple can write a cho­rus, but it’s all those lit­tle in­ter­est­ing bits and bridg­ing sec­tions that make a good song stand out.”

In the age of the Spo­tify playlist, it’s more cru­cial than ever for bands to make ev­ery­thing they throw at the wall stick, and stick hard. “Peo­ple have been do­ing rock mu­sic for f***in­gages, so you’ve re­ally gotta find a way to stand out and be cred­i­ble with­out hav­ing some sort of schtick,” Par­sons says. “You don’t want to be the band that makes peo­ple go, ‘Ah, yeah, he looks like that,’ or, ‘They sound like that.’ We just want to write solid rock songs that hope­fully stand the test of time, and that peo­ple can lis­ten to on re­peat or lis­ten deep enough to no­tice all the lit­tle ex­tra bits.”

Par­sons is happy to con­firm that, although it took a whole four years for DZ Deathrays to pump Bloody

Lovely out, its fol­low-up is al­ready in the pipe­line. The band have a rough out­line for where LP4 will take them, and if re­cent de­mos are any­thing to go by, mosh fiends will be stoked with their new di­rec­tion.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a lit­tle heav­ier,” Par­sons teases. “There are a few de­mos that sound a fair bit dif­fer­ent to any­thing we’ve done be­fore. We’ll see where they end up and if they fit into the whole spec­trum of things, but for now, yeah, we’ve got a bunch of songs fly­ing around. It’s nice that we didn’t stop writ­ing once we fin­ished Blood­yLovely, be­cause the hardest thing is get­ting started again af­ter you’ve taken a break.”

As if early news of a fourth al­bum wasn’t enough, Par­sons is quick to sling us an­other bomb­shell: “We’re writ­ing it as a three-piece,” he says proudly. Lach­lan Ew­bank has been the band’s sec­ond gui­tarist on­stage since 2015, but has, un­til now, al­ways been rel­e­gated to the sta­tus of ‘tour­ing mem­ber’.

“He’s been play­ing with us live for three years now, so it just made sense to bring him on­board,” Par­sons says. “He didn’t write any­thing on Bloody Lovely, but we were sort of bounc­ing ideas off him here and there. And then when we started writ­ing this next one, we were like, ‘Well, we play live and travel to­gether al­ready, why not give it a shot?’ I think it’s a nice thing that we have three brains worth of ideas com­ing to­gether, be­cause y’know, a lot the gui­tars on the records are all ideas that˜ I came up with, and when it all comes from the same place, it can get a lit­tle bor­ing some­times – es­pe­cially af­ter so many al­bums.

“It’s a bit like we’re throw­ing an­other colour onto the can­vas; maybe it’ll end up be­ing messier, but maybe it’ll be way more beau­ti­ful. It’s just one of those things where we felt like we needed to take a risk. We’ve got a whole bunch of tracks that we’re happy with so far. We’ve still got a shit­load to write, but y’know, we’re get­ting there!”

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