DZ Deathrays

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DZ Deathrays

Lennon & McCartney, Jagger & Richards, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – throughout history select musical duos have exemplified a special chemistry. Enter Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley of DZ Deathrays. Since mainlining their brand of thrash-pop-punk into our systems with their 2012 ARIA Award-winning debut Bloodstreams, DZ Deathrays have toured abroad and locally, perpetually hungover and having a blast! I caught up with drummer Simon Ridley ahead of the release of their sophomore album Black Rat (out now through I OH YOU).
At the start of our chat the line is fuzzy, dropping in and out. Soon the feeling of frustration is mutual. “Isn’t it amazing that you can get email and Facebook on your phone these days, but they haven’t been able to get them to do the one thing they’re meant to do well?” Very true – this man is wise.
When the line becomes clearer our talk turns to their recent SXSW adventure. “We ended up doing about ten shows in four days! We just destroyed ourselves, so in that sense I’m glad that’s over,” Simon laughed.
While there, Simon said that he and Shane did nothing but eat, gig, sleep – repeat; however, a couple of sets caught their interest. “There was a band called Diarrhea Planet, they were great, and another act that played before us a few times at different venues called Tony … something. I can’t quite remember. It was just this one guy. He’d play pop-punk songs with a metal breakdown, but he was hilarious. He was so good.”
Having travelled to over fifteen countries in the last few years, Shane and Simon have become connoisseurs of the live gig and have specific ideas about what makes a killer show. “There has to be pyrotechnics!” Simon joked. “Seriously though, just seeing a band believing in what they’re doing, rocking out, that’s all I wanna see. I’m over seeing all the laptop bands – they’re everywhere, especially in the US. They’re indie bands – they don’t need computerised back tracks. So bands that are all real are so refreshing.”
With that, Simon’s thoughts turn to the making of Black Rat. “That’s what we try to be, and on a whole the reception so far has been really good. We were nervous putting out ‘Northern Lights’,” Simon admitted, “but we wanted something that would be seen as a curveball, and we’ve always wanted to do our version of a Bon Jovi or Mötley Crüe ballad.
“‘Gina Works at Hearts’ is pretty classic of our sound, so we knew it would get everyone on board. I really like ‘Gina’ – that’s one of my favourites. And ‘Less Out of Sync’. Those two songs are a lot of fun to play.”
Simon tells me they wanted Black Rat to have a very distinct after-dark feel and electronic overtones are evident on tracks ‘Night Slave’, ‘Tonight Alright’ and ‘Fixations’. “The band’s sound has changed: the new songs are definitely a lot more refined. On our first album [Bloodstreams] we’d always have screamy vocals over the chorus, with tons of cymbals. This time we wanted to make the songs catchier and have each track stand alone from the rest.”
With help from producer and good friend Burke Reid, Black Rat began to take shape amid a beer-goggled haze. “I’d never really met Burke before – I’d only talked to him briefly on Skype or over email. The first night we met we must have drank a million beers together and from then on we were best friends! We get on so well, so recording together went smoothly. It just felt like hanging out with a friend.”
Although Simon reiterated that the recording process for Black Rat was relaxed, I couldn’t help but wonder if either felt pressure to surpass their debut, ARIA Award-winning effort. “Bloodstreams did so much better than anything we could have imagined or anticipated!” Simon explained. “To us it wasn’t like having to follow-up the giant Temper Trap album or anything. We felt there was no risk or fear of failure. I would hate to be one of those bands that have to back up a massive internationally acclaimed album – we can just chill, which is great!”
However, Simon admits that their laid-back party lifestyle may come back to bite them soon. “I’ve got more out of shape from all the drinking, but that’s probably it. The party lifestyle hasn’t caught up to me yet, but I haven’t been to a doctor recently either, so… ”
From all accounts, Simon may need that check-up imminently, having just spent the last month touring nationally with buddies in tow – WA’s Foam and Sydneysiders, Palms. “We’re so lucky to have our mates join us on tour. We heard about Foam two or three years ago through a friend, and we’ve had them open our WA shows ever since. They’re awesome – really good guys making rad music that we love. And Palms – we’ve been friends with some of those guys for nearly ten years. They’re all legends. We just hang out and drink with them in Sydney or whenever we see them. It’s been so much fun having them on tour.”
After their last show in Sydney this weekend – and providing they get the all clear from the doc – Simon and Shane will be winging it back to the UK for the 2000trees Festival in Cheltenham. “After that, hopefully we’ll be back and forth from Europe and the US. We hope to be going pretty strong ’til the end of the year – but we’ll definitely be back for Splendour in the Grass!”
When&Where: Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay – Sunday July 27
Written by Natalie Rogers