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“We’re still just working it out”: DZ Deathrays on 10 years of madness

Back in 2008, when DZ Deathrays first started as a band, they had a policy of only playing house parties. That’s pretty difficult to believe now, considering they’ve just wrapped up a tour that saw them perform at some of the country’s biggest venues.

Fresh off a huge show at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre, we caught up with vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Shane Parsons to chat about the wild road that’s led them to this point.

Dz Deathrays, 10th Anniversary Tour, Enmore Theatre by Dani Hansen

As DZ Deathrays celebrate their 10th anniversary, we caught up with frontman Shane Parsons to reflect on what has been a wild 10 years.

HAPPY: Hey congrats on making ten years man!

SHANE: Hey, yeah thank you very much.

HAPPY: When you first started as a band, did you ever imagine that in ten years time you’d be where you are now? Did you ever imagine you’d be touring the country playing venues this big?

SHANE: No. Well, when we first started this band, we wanted to play shows, but when we started we didn’t really want to play venues because the band that we were in before would get turned down from all these places. So we were kind of over interviewing all these people. But once we started getting better, we started getting hit up by more people, and then once we took a few gigs we started taking heaps more.

HAPPY: When you first started you only played house parties, hey?

SHANE: Yeah that’s it man. Like we didn’t care. We were just like “nup, fuck this, we’re just playing house parties.” We didn’t really look too far ahead. But we were always having these silly ideas for light shows and stuff. So I guess when we got the opportunity to play a couple of shows. I think the main one was that we got a show at The Zoo on a Thursday, I think. We had like a hundred people turn up or something. I’m sure most of them were our friends, but it was amazing to have that many people turn up to a show. That was a big jump from playing a couple of house parties to playing The Zoo. And then all of a sudden we’re playing 170 Russell. So after that we decided “yeah let’s give it a go” and we started touring.

HAPPY: On this 10th Anniversary Tour you’ve been playing a lot of older material that I haven’t heard you play in a while. What was it like reviving some of those older tracks?

SHANE: It’s been really refreshing, to be honest. We just wanted to make sure that this tour was different to the tour we did in May. Because, for us, we think there’s a lot of people who would’ve come to the May shows who also came to these shows, so I wanted to make sure it was a different show. So we kind of tried to pick the songs that have been our favourites from over the years. And there had been songs that we’d never played live, but now we’ve got Lachy there who can keep time with the guitar arpeggiator, which I was never able to do. Back when the first record came out, Simon and I had a go at doing it in the jam room, but we just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t hear everything. But now that we’ve got better production, we can actually do those songs.

HAPPY: Do you find that when you’re playing a song that you haven’t played in years, it has that same feeling?

SHANE: Yeah, I think so. It’s sort of interesting to see how the new and old material still fits together. The old songs don’t really feel out of place. And a lot of our fans would’ve picked up on us in the last couple of years, so they might not have even heard those old songs, so it’s kind of nice to give something to the fans that have been around since 2011, or earlier. Then we can drop into a song from the past couple of years that everyone knows.

HAPPY: Your latest album Bloody Lovely sounded so much bigger than your past releases. Was this a conscious decision you made as a band, to go in this direction? Or was that just the natural progression of the band?

SHANE: Yeah no, we did. We kind of wanted that album to be so it didn’t slow down at all. Over the years we’ve worked on different recording techniques, and when we did Black Rat especially, we recorded that so differently to the way we recorded Bloody Lovely in terms of the way we brought the songs together, and with tones. One this one, we wanted it to resemble more of a live sound. I want every record to have its own flavour. You don’t have to stray too far from what you’re doing, but if you can somehow make a record that’s in some way different from the last one, it’ll rev people up a bit more, and you might gain a few new fans. There’s probably people who were fans of the first album and didn’t really dig the second one, but for us, we always go into the studio and try something new with a clear direction. We wanted this one to be big and raucous. After this tour, the first thing we’ll be doing is going back into the studio.

HAPPY: Oh right?

SHANE: Yeah we’ve already got another album ready. To me, I think it’s different again in terms of song structure and the way that we’ve approached the songs. And in other ways it’s way heavier so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with it, and how people react to it.

HAPPY: It’s always surprising to me when I think about how there were four years between Black Rat and Bloody Lovely… it didn’t feel like that long.

SHANE: Yeah well we had a couple of singles between, which were meant to be part of an album. But we did a lot of touring and decided we really wanted to take our time making the album. That’s why it took so long.

HAPPY: Do you think it’ll take the same amount of time for the next album?

SHANE: Nah. I’m really keen to get it moving ahead. We’ve been writing music for the past two years, year-and-a-half.

HAPPY: When your writing songs that far in advance, do you find it difficult to sit on music for that long before releasing it? Do you find yourself wanting to jump ahead to the next thing?

SHANE: Yeah I think that’s the thing. Once you get one thing down, you start getting excited about something else. But then you go back and it’s like “oh sick, we’ve got all these that we need to put out.” But that’s not what happened last time. I hadn’t written songs for like a year-and-a-half. When we went into the studio, I had no clue where I wanted to take it. It takes a little bit of finding your feet before you say “alright this is where we’re going. These are the songs that are standing out.”

HAPPY: When you’ve been writing these last albums, you and Simon have been living in different cities, right?

SHANE: Yeah we have been for like six years.

HAPPY: That’s pretty crazy. Did you struggle at all writing an album like that?

SHANE: Nah not really man. We’ve done the last two albums like that. I thought it was going to be harder than it was. We kind of wrote a lot of songs by ourselves, and we recorded parts and sent them to one another, then we’d say “alright this song feels good now, let’s go and jam it out together.” Then once you get to the studio, you’ve got a better idea of where you want to take it. But yeah, I use GarageBand, Simon uses Ableton, and we just send MP3s to each other. Yeah, it’s totally fine. And on the next record we’re doing, Lachy is writing on that with us too, and he’s from Melbourne.

HAPPY: Three members from three different cities.

SHANE: Yeah three different cities. We might get together before a show and jam a little, or do some writing together. It’s a good way of doing it – you don’t have to sit there and annoy each other going over and over an idea. It gives you room to breathe, and to work out an idea on your own. I can send like six vocal ideas for this one track, and they can say “yeah, this one’s good.” I actually think it’s a lot easier.

HAPPY: Over the years you’ve done a lot of cool things, but one of my favourites was when you released your own beer. Now you, Violent Soho, Dune Rats, Smith Street Band all have your own beers… who do you think should be next?

SHANE: Ooh I dunno. Maybe The Living End. I think they’ve got a beer drinking crowd. But yeah, that sort of thing was pretty funny. We did ours through Young Henerys, and I just live down the road from their factory in Sydney. They’re really nice dudes. They said “do you wanna do a beer?” Then we tee’d it up with a launch and everything. It was fun. It got people really excited… and you get free beers!

HAPPY: Are there any particular things or moments from the past ten years that have stuck with you?

SHANE: Yeah, I think the Violent Soho tour is always going to say with me. That was just wild. Absolutely crazy. And I think all the festivals, they stay with me. The first time we played Splendour, that was out of control. I remember the Groovin The Moo tour being amazing. I remember being one of the first bands on, and walking out and seeing this massive crowd, and those kids partied so hard. It reminded me of when I was a kid at Big Day Out. It was like a community of people – you could go watch Frenzal Rhomb, and we’d absolutely lose it over that stuff. But there’s been so many good ones

HAPPY: It’s interesting you mention Big Day Out, because the first time I saw you guys was at Big Day Out. I think you were the first act of the day…

SHANE: Oh yeah. Oh man, that was brutal. It was like 45 degrees and we were clashing with Violent Soho.

HAPPY: Nah I think you were on just before Soho.

SHANE: Yeah I just remember playing and watching people leave to go watch them. Like surely they could’ve put us on at different times.

HAPPY: Was still great. And RIP Big Day Out. But finally, where do you see DZ Deathrays in another ten years time?

SHANE: Oh man, I don’t know. I think every year that goes past, we’re still just working it out.

Catch DZ Deathrays live at Beyond The Valley – December 28th, 2018 – January 1st, 2019 – Lardner Park, Warragul, Victoria. More info here.


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October 4, 2018