Genre is constricting; a means to limit an artist’s potential. Thankfully genre boundaries are loosening with bands breaking free and exploring. Jagwar Ma, Animal Collective and Beck: allow me to quote Futurama: “I always dreamed of being a musician-poet who transcends genres even as he re-invents them.” DZ Deathrays, Brisbane’s ultimate thrashers, have a lot on the horizon and Jake Wilton thought it’d be as good a time as ever for a status report from Shane Parsons.
While still contemplating their overt sound as a band, DZ Deathrays combine enough musical elements to make mash-up DJs of themselves: metallic, jagged heavy rock guitar tones, the crashing cymblas and the arpeggiated dance-punk undertones – or “heavy disco” as christened by the duo.
Each of their releases have developed and fleshed out these techniques, yet their new offering, finds DZ Deathrays reaching, exploring and domineering in every possible way.
The duo consists of Shane Parsons [guitar/vox] and Simon Ridely [drums], who have spent the better half of their Deathrays adventure on the road and the other half creating the most inventive heavy music to come out of Brisbane. Having graced the Splendour in the Grass, Laneway, Falls, Reading & Leeds stages, just to name a few, on the back of their fiery debut Bloodstreams. DZ Deathrays have again daisychained boards of pedals and broken periphery lines of genre to create their follow-up Black Rat.
Now stretching over the two year mark since Bloodstreams the band wanted their new record to be out by the earliest, of late last year. Simon and Shane though have not been sitting on their hands: the constant touring, which included one-off DJ sets spread across Australia and the crafting of the new Velociraptor record, led by Brisbane’s cultural reference icon Jeremy Neale.
For another first for the duo, DZ Deathrays did two weeks of pre-production in November/December of last year. This proved invaluable for the band as Black Rat presents an intriguing complexity in the guitar tones – whether it be the propulsive Ocean Exploder or the unnerving dance-punk of Fixations.
“I feel like it’s an extension on Bloodstreams – it’s not a full departure from it, but I think it’s a little more shorter and sharper and more melodic. It’s got a little more pop and polish… but not in a terrible way,” said Shane.
The two singles, Gina Works at Hearts and Northern Lights, are a chance for keen DZ thrashers to glimpse Black Rat before the looming release date. These two very different songs presented varying viewpoints into just how Black Rat would form.
At first listen, a hefty shift of focus toward melody and Shane’s voice can heard. Where this can be seen as a broader swing into pop, Shane sees it as another layer or genre to attach to their belt. DZ’s new album is produced by Burke Reid and, according to Shane, he may as well be the much fathomed third member of the thrash outfit.
“He really wanted me to sing more. We actually went back and added more screaming into it to add some more energy.”
The lack of screaming on the record does not detract from the exploding riffs and crashing cymbals. Perhaps it was an effort to bring more attention to Shane’s lyrics – an element of DZ Deathrays’ music which has also been tough to decipher.
Consider Night Walking; a swirling, vacuumed track that touches on some shoegaze and pop facets brought in by Northern Lights. Its chorus sees Shane’s voice glide and soar over his guitar line – something which would have easily been replaced with screaming if it were to be found on their debut. The band considered this to be their most diverse track to date, but it was Burke who convinced Simon and Shane that it had to make the 11-track strong album. The band even flicked through some of their old record bins to find inspiration for the track.
“We were going for a Walkmen / Joy Division style on this one, which we haven’t done before,” Shane explained.
The boys have been able to keep themselves busy before the record is released, rather than eagerly watching how many pre-orders they’re receiving. The last time we spoke, Shane and Simon were getting ready to fly off to Austin, Texas for one of the world’s largest music conferences, SxSW. Having done it twice before, the boys appreciate the experience and the opportunity, but understand the consequences,
“We just know what we’re getting ourselves into…” The idea of the festival is to play as many shows as physically possible, drink beer, play more shows, rinse and repeat.
“Some of the shows were really early in the day and, by that stage, you were struggling to survive as a human then you’d turn around and play at 1.00am the night before and the night after,” Shane said.
The hard worked paid off in the end as they wound up their rapid US trip in Lake Tahoe for a few days of relaxation on the lake.
DZ Deathrays have also returned from a run of shows in Europe supporting their good friends Blood Red Shoes. Using the tour to their advantage, the duo were able to road test some Black Rat material before crowd surfing their way around Australia armed with these new songs.
“It’d be nice for us to come into the Australian tour being road-ready,” Shane said.
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Black Rat is out now through I Oh You and DZ kick off their national album tour right here on the Gold Coast at Elsewhere Bar, 8 May.