THEIR debut album might have won the 2012 Aria Award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album, but Brisbane thrash duo DZ Deathrays are expanding their sound on follow-up Black Rat.
“Our single ‘Northern Lights’ was one of the first songs we wrote,” explains singer-guitarist Shane Parsons. “It came together pretty quickly. We hadn’t put out a slow song in a long time, so we thought we’d do something that’s kind of like our ballad. We went over to England to do some shows with our other band Velociraptor and we used that time to jump in a studio and do that song over there. We wanted people to see that we could do other things; we’re not always going to be all loud guitars, cymbals and screaming. It’s the slowest song on the record by far; everything else is more upbeat and some songs are the heaviest we’ve done. It was like a bit of a curveball, I think; to see how people would react. We got a lot of good feedback, and we also got some people who were shirty as us for releasing a song that wasn’t exactly how the other songs sounded, which was interesting. But we can pretty much do what we feel like, and some people are going to like it and some aren’t.”
The duo of Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley have had a meteoric rise since their humble beginnings playing house parties, having toured relentlessly and played some of the biggest festivals in the UK and North America.
“We started playing a few of the new songs at SXSW, including the latest single, ‘Gina Works At Hearts’,” Parsons says. “We’ve played ‘Northern Lights’ for a bit, and another song called ‘Ocean Exploder’, which we’ve been playing since we toured with The Bronx about a year ago. It was our third year doing SXSW, and we did ten shows in four days. It was good to have that much to do, but at the same time it began to get a bit tough. We were playing a show at midday and then had a last show at one in the morning, and we were in town the whole time sitting in bars trying to stay sober but also stay a little bit drunk, you know? We played a couple of really great shows, but unless you’re a band that’s really high up on the buzz radar, you’ll play five shows and two will be good, I think. Maybe four out of ten were good for us this time. We only really saw the bands that were on before and after us, and even then I was too busy packing it. That was the worst thing probably; not being able to see other bands that I wanted to see. I had a couple of days off where I went to some showcases and saw a few bands. I went to the Laneway showcase and saw Royal Blood and a bunch of bands in one go, and the pressure was off, so it was good to just mosey around the festival. You go there for the experience, and we decided that we’ll do a lot of shows and push ourselves to the limit, and then we had a week off and went to San Francisco.”
Their upcoming headline tour of Australia will provide the perfect opportunity for fans to hear new material on home soil.
“It’s been great playing the new songs,” Parsons says. “We’ve been putting together the set-list for the Australian tour; being able to chop and change between the new songs is really fun. It’s not hard to reach an hour long set now, with two albums of material to choose from. It was a funny one because we really wanted to get something out last year. We had done a bit of touring at the beginning of last year and had the rest of the year off. We were a bit worried about being away for too long; especially from the UK and America. Then it just took time to actually get the songs together and get them to a level we were happy with for the album, and it’s really good to have it all sorted and ready to go. We did a few writing sessions where we went away into the countryside and came back with ten or twelve songs, and four of those would get re-written again and again. Even up until going into the studio there were a couple of songs about to be recorded that we hadn’t finished and were kind of half done or maybe didn’t work as well as some of the others. We just tried to write as much as possible and eliminate any dead weight. We wanted this album to be shorter in track numbers and a bit more punchy in terms of the songs grabbing you straight away, so we did focus on that a little bit more than on the first record.”
The growth in the band’s sound means an additional touring musician is needed, with a potential long-term opening for the right person.
“The new record has a whole bunch of extra guitars on there, and they’re the best bits,” Parsons says. “We can play the songs without them, but it doesn’t have the same impact as having them there. It’s just an evolutionary thing for the band, and if we could train somebody up on all the songs we would be happy to tour as a three-piece. We had a choice to have another person up there playing or having a backing track, and we’re always going to choose to have another person there. We had Cesira [Aitken] from The Jungle Giants play with us at SXSW. We’ve got a friend playing a few shows on the Australian tour, and Dion [Ford] from Palms – who are supporting us – is going to do all the rest. At the moment, we’re doing four songs they’re going to play on during the tour. I’ve got the guitar parts all tabbed out, so they just have to learn them, but it’s pretty easy stuff. In the future I guess we’ll see if somebody is willing to go full-time with us and tour everywhere. The only thing is it’s quite hard for somebody to go on tour with us, which means they can’t work at a job, which is hard when people have to pay rent and stuff. We’ll see how we go with it all; there are only a few songs which need an extra guitar, and the rest we play as a two-piece.”
BLACK RAT BY DZ DEATHRAYS IS OUT MAY 2ND. AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES:
Thu 8 May Elsewhere | Gold Coast, QLD (18+)
Fri 9 May The Zoo | Brisbane, QLD (18+)
Sat 10 May Spotted Cow | Toowoomba, QLD (18+)
Thu 15 May Karova Lounge | Ballarat, VIC (18+)
Fri 16 May Corner Hotel | Melbourne, VIC (18+)
Sat 17 May Jive | Adelaide, SA (18+)
Thu 22 May Prince of Wales | Bunbury, WA (18+)
Fri 23 May The Indi Bar | Scarborough, WA (18+)
Sat 24 May Amplifier | Perth, WA (18+)
Sun 25 May Newport | Fremantle, WA (18+)
Thu 29 May Transit Bar | Canberra, ACT (18+)
Fri 30 May Rad | Wollongong, NSW (18+)
Sat 31 May Oxford Art Factory | Sydney, NSW (18+)