Behind-the-scenes of DZ Deathrays new album: “We just got really drunk”
Frozen margaritas, male bonding sessions and 2am spa sessions – SARAH SMITH discovers that the recording sessions for DZ Deathrays new album was one big party.
The first single from DZ Deathrays new album surprised a lot of fans upon its release last year. Produced by Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine, The Horrors) ‘Northern Lights’ is slicker and more melodic than anything the Brisbane two-piece have done before. However, according to frontman Shane Parsons, it’s also the softest moment on the band’s forthcoming album.
“What we wanted to do with ‘Northern Lights’ was kind of throw a little curve-ball out there and prove to people that we just don’t just do ‘loud’ – that it doesn’t just have to be blasting,” Parson explains to FL from his girlfriend’s parent’s house in Sydney. “The new album grabs from that song – the more atmospheric, swooning stuff – and takes it on-board with other elements of what we’ve already done. There is another song called ‘Ocean Exploder’ which is the heaviest on the record and [the rest of the songs] just kind of take from both of them – a mashup of melodic and heavy.”
Parsons has just picked up the masters for the new record which is due out “sometime in early May”, and is unashamedly proud of what the band has achieved. “It’s a bit of a different sound for us, a bit tighter,” he continues. “We kind of constructed it differently to the first record. It was put together [a little] like a dance record, even if it doesn’t sound like one.”
The man responsible for assisting in this evolution is Australian producer Burke Reid (The Drones/Liam Finn) who Parsons attributes with helping the band push themselves out of their comfort zone. “Burke has seen us live before and he was like ‘Essentially you have three elements to the band, which is guitar, drums and vocals. So you need to make every part count’.”
“We just got really drunk and it was kind of like a big male bonding sessions”
While Parsons and DZ drummer Simon Ridley had never met Reid before, they were in regular email contact with him in the leadup to the recording, sending him samples of songs so he could get a better understanding of what they wanted to achieve. And when they did finally meet up for two weeks of pre-production in a small barn attached to The Grove studios near Gosford on the NSW east-coast, they hit it off. “We just got really drunk every night and it was kind of like a big male bonding session,” Parsons jokes.
“Everyday for two weeks, eight hours a day we were just working on tempos and parts and moving things around, fixing vocals and getting things tight. Then at night we just drank.” The after-hours bonding sessions were bolstered by the presence of producers Scott Horscroft (The Presets/Silverchair) and Matt Lovell (Something For Kate) who both happened to be working on projects at The Grove at the same time. “That just left you with five enablers, because no-one would say ‘Maybe you shouldn’t drink’. We’d have dinner and everyone would be really quiet and then Burke would be like ‘Does anyone want a frozen margarita?’ At two in the morning we had Thriller blasting through a PA down at the swimming pool and everybody doing 2am night swims.”
But once pre-production was wrapped and recording got under way Parsons says they had to reign in their partying ways. “When we came back in January we had to be good. We didn’t do any of that kind of stuff when we were in the studio. Days were starting at 11am and then wrapping up around 4am.”
While most of real magic happened in the studio, Parsons considers those two weeks of “male bonding” integral to the finished product. “It was certainly worth having those two weeks pre-production just to sort out everything – having that time to lock down the basis of each song and find out which songs worked. Because if we hadn’t done that I don’t think our album would be what it is now.”
And how is it sounding compared to their debut Bloodstreams? “This record is a lot more concise in terms of the songs. Also the vocals are a lot different. I’m singing a lot more rather than doing that scream-y thing that I can do quite easily… Burke really pushed me, telling me he wanted me to sing and try and get more attitude and sing the notes. It was just about trying to get those melodies to stand out on top of the music. So ultimately it’s still got those punk rock pitches but its just a bit more well put together.”
Being “put together well” also comes with a few challenges, like trying to replicate additional guitar parts live. With a few extra melodic flourishes on the new record DZ will now have to consider enlisting a third member into the band. “At the moment we are planning on getting friends to get in on shows” Parsons says. “Or if we are on tour with a band getting someone stage to just jump in.
“We’re not too worried [though], they can be played as a two-piece…but we want to try and replicate the album as much as possible. And it was sort of inevitable that we were going to have to have someone play extra guitar live because even on the first record we had some overdubs of guitar that we got away with not doing live. But now we need to have someone. It could change the dynamic of the live show.”
With less than three months until its release date Parsons says he can’t wait for fans to finally hear the finished product. “I’m really happy how this record has come out. We’ve evolved a little bit but not gone miles away from why we’ve started the band.”
DZ Deathrays play Coolangatta Hotel on the Gold Coast Sunday March 2 before heading to SXSW and the UK