Steadily becoming one of Australia’s most well known punk bands, Brisbane’s critically acclaimed and ARIA award winning DZ Deathrays have released a massive new album and tour dates.
After a 4 year break between their last release ‘Black Rat’ back in 2014, the new album ‘Bloody Lovely’ has received unprecedented attention since its release in February, and the band are set to unleash their high octane sounds and energy in an Australian tour this May.
Backyard Opera had a chat to Simon Ridley, DZ Deathrays’ drummer, about their massive year ahead, and their strange collaboration with a certain childhood icon.
BYO: How are you guys going, getting ready for the big tour ahead?
SIMON: I don’t know, it hasn’t really set in that we’re going to New Zealand next week. We’re getting all the merch and that stuff sorted, thinking about the production and how everything’s going to play out, so it’s coming a long pretty well.
BYO: What goes into creating your set lists?
SIMON: Since its been 4 years between albums, we’d been starting to play the same songs over and over for the past few sets, so it will be really nice to start playing some new stuff. I think for this tour we’re just going to play 75% new stuff off the album, and then a couple of oldies.
We did throw it out to a couple of people online so it’ll be good to see what they’d said, I’ll definitely be taking it into account.
BYO: What’s tour life like for DZ Deathrays?
SIMON: It depends where you are. Australia is really fun, because you get to go home every week. It’s kind of just like the weekend warrior; fly in and fly out. Most weeks we’ll have Monday, Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday off, to recuperate at home, then its 24 hours a day for the rest of the week. We try to fit as much as we can in, with after parties and stuff.
BYO: Which venues/cities do you like playing the most?
SIMON: Brisbane is always fun, I guess because it is the hometown. But, I guess we’ve done so many places around Australia now, we’ve done most cities, so everywhere in Australia is fun for us to play.
We’ve also played in New York; I really enjoy doing shows in the US. I think its because I watched a lot of American TV growing up, and it always feels like you’re in movies when you’re in LA or something like that. The shows aren’t as good as the Australian ones, but its good to go out after.
BYO: Are the crowds different in the US?
SIMON: I think it depends who we’re on tour with! We’re just playing dive bars and stuff over there still, no one really knows who we are in the US.
BYO: You guys have been creating music for a few years now. Do you think you’ve changed much in style or how you go about the way you create music?
SIMON: I think we’ve gotten a lot better at playing our instruments, hopefully. I guess, we picked up a lot more tips and tricks about how to write songs, and make them better. I think we’ve improved.
I think the last album we put out, I know most bands say this, but I think it’s the best one we’ve done so far. It might be the peak; the next one might suck. But I think we are still improving.
BYO: What went into creating ‘Bloody Lovely? What inspired the album?
SIMON: I think it was just going around, travelling the world playing dive bars; we spent a lot of time doing that after putting out Black Rat - we toured internationally for 3 years. We were doing clubs and bars around Europe, North America and stuff.
When we started sending demos to Bourke, who produced the album, he was like yeah, this is the sort of music that you’d either turn up really loud of have playing in the background while you play pool in some dingy bar. And I guess that was where it all came together. That idea.
BYO: What was the process like in creating the album?
SIMON: We usually start the music first, its either a guitar riff that Shane’s got, or I’ll send him a little drum loop or something like that, and then we back and forth it over email, because we live in different cities. And then after a while, once it gets to song formation and we have 4 or 5, we’ll get together and hire this house out in Yass, where there’s nothing else to do but make demos and that sort of thing. We did a fair bit in this studio called Troy Horse in Sydney, but that ended up getting closed down.
So that’s how we write it. Then Shane does the lyrics, very seldom do I have to help him out with that, thank god! That’s the hardest part of the song. And then we go into the studio for 2 weeks and try to smash it out.
BYO: What’s it like creating music over email? Do you send riffs as audio files to each other? Or just the musical notes?
SIMON: Yeah its both! We start an audio file with a song idea, and it could be called ‘Shitty Drum Loop’, and then I’ll send that to Shane and he’ll be like ‘Okay, I’ll put this guitar loop on it’. And then you backwards and forwards it, adding little bits and pieces; they’re just MP3’s we’re sending back and forth, with little notes. And eventually then end up as little songs that we like. Sometimes we just scrap them, or put them on SoundCloud so other people can say it’s bad.
BYO: How did it feel when Bloody Lovely was so well accepted?
SIMON: We were not anticipating that at all. It’s an awesome feeling. It’s been about 4 years between records, so its pretty hard to tell if anyone is still into what you’re doing, but we spent so much time on the record so I’m really glad that people liked it as much as we did.
We’re pretty selfish when it comes to writing, so as long as we really dig it, we’ll put it out. But it’s really really good for your self-esteem when other people seem to like it as well.
BYO: Did you think, when you started playing music, that you’d be where you are today? Winning ARIAs and touring overseas so prolifically?
SIMON: I definitely dreamed about it, and its fucking cool to be doing it, but I didn’t think it was going to happen at all. Everyone tells you it’s not going to happen. We just kinda kept going at it until eventually we’re at that point when we do tour overseas and stuff.
BYO: How did you guys start as a band?
SIMON: Shane and I have been friends for years, we grew up in the same town near Bundaberg. He was in a high school band that used to play at my house parties; that sort of deal. And then we both moved to Brisbane to do university, and ended up starting a band. It was like a 3-piece pretty much what our live band is now, but I was playing guitar, and we had another drummer, but he bailed, and we were like ah okay we’ll just be a two piece. And now we’ve ended up as a 3-piece again.
BYO: I have so many questions about Murray the Red Wiggle’s appearance in the ‘Like People’ video; how and why?
SIMON: I can’t remember what made us think of Murray. We kind of see him around, every now and then, I’ve seen him once or twice at the studios, and I remember Shane saying he saw him play with ‘You Am I’ in a pub show. And we were like, that would be pretty funny to get Murray in to do like a ‘weapon of choice’ style film clip. And it just so happens that the director, Gus, knew him, and Murray was keen to do it!
He just did it pro bono, he just loves being involved in stuff; what a champion. He just liked the music and wanted to be involved, which is crazy.
When we showed up to the shoot, he’d already been there for 3 hours, and the poor dude, it was so hot, and he was so sweaty. We felt so bad for him. But he killed it, and he was great.
BYO: What’s been some of the best experiences you’ve had being in DZ Deathrays?
SIMON: Just that sort of weird stuff, where you’d never imagine being in that scenario. Like, for example, having a film clip with Murray. I don’t know, it’s weird. We’re not that big of a band, but we’re starting to get to do weird stuff, like playing shows with Foo Fighters, and getting to see all these like familiar, celebrity level people. That sort of thing.
The Murray thing is probably the latest one haha! That was surreal.
BYO: Where did you get the name DZ Deathrays?
SIMON: So, that old band, that I was talking about before, we were called ‘Denzel’, and we used to reference that as DZ, just like a shitty in joke I guess it would be. And then after that, we just thought we’d call ourselves DZ anyway. So that’s where that came from.
And then there was another dude in the US, a dubstep guy, called DZ, back when Dubstep wasn’t popular. Then it became popular and he got back into it, so we had to had to add the Deathrays onto the end of our names.
And then he quit again!
BYO: So you could’ve stayed DZ!
SIMON: Yeah, we never got a cease and desist letter, but we just thought ‘ugh’. We had put out an EP, and he had put out a remix by DIPLO, so we just thought it would be better if we changed the name anyway.
BYO: Less confusion when people are searching you guys up.
DZ Deathrays are touring Australia from May 4, and will be hitting Sydney on Wednesday May 9. Their first Sydney show is already sold out, so get in quick before you miss your chance.