Dappled Cities Interview: Sydney’s ‘statesmen of indie-rock’ embrace the label and fly the flag proudly with album Five

Dappled Cities, to me, represents a time where I first started digging a little deeper into what new music existed outside my hometown. 2006’s Granddance was released when I was approaching the end of school, while it was with the release of Zounds in 2009 that the Sydney indie rock band became a solid part of my iPod library. Looking to the east coast for sounds that were both entertaining and memorable as my interest in fresh Australian music continued to expand and I began the baby steps to get where I am now, professionally, I always remembered Dappled Cities being up there as one of my favourites.

So, fast forward a decade or so (let’s not crunch the numbers…) and I sit on the phone, talking with Dave Rennick about the release of the new Dappled Cities record, Five (styled as |||||). While serving as a long awaited follow up to 2012’s Lake Air, the album is a return to the band’s foundations. Spending five years away ‘chilling the fuck out’, as Rennick so delicately puts, worked wonders for the five piece and has seen them come back refreshed and prepared to get back into it.

The music scene Dappled Cities re-emerged into may have changed, but it kept them focused and very much present with the direction they decided their new music would be heading in.

“Coming together again after that little hiatus,” he remembers. “[We were] just asking the question: who are we? The answer is that we’re fucking rock band. You can’t help but see the way trends are moving. We saw the saviours of rock and roll enter the scene and bands become cool again and [now] we’re sort of seeing them on the out a bit, with the rise of production music. That’s all cool but you have to ask yourself, ‘What are you going to do? Are you going to try and be the next Flume or are you going to do what you know you’re good at, and that is play indie rock?'”

Then there’s that word that has long blanketed musicians and became a term music journalists either bitterly hated or embraced too much: indie. Their press release describes Dappled Cities as ‘indie rock statesmen’ but even Rennick admits that there’s a stigma ascribed to the word, much in the same way people would cringe at the word ‘pop’ in years gone by.

“Indie’s become a bit of a dirty word.” he laughs. “We’ve been overseeing our press releases and bios and we see the word ‘indie’ pop up a lot and at first we were like, ‘Ooh should we be flying the indie flag?’ and then we’re like, ‘Fuck yeah!’. Again, because that’s just who we are that’s just where we come from and where we’re going to go.”

“Coming to that realisation also affected the way we wanted to approach the recording of the record,” he adds. “We wanted to return to our live band roots. Play our instruments live and rely on our musicianship and the sounds coming out of the instruments; the expression coming through the melodies that we were coming up with, there and then. As opposed to getting too obsessive and clinical and basically digital about it. Funnily enough, Tim [Derricourt] and I both dabbled independently in more digital production styled music in our side projects and Lake Air was also heading in that direction as well. It just wasn’t satisfying and it hasn’t been satisfying.”

With ||||| being released next week (Friday, May 5th) and focus turning to the band’s ensuing east coast launch tour, Rennick positions the new Dappled Cities offering as one that has captured the essence of the band in a very present and truthful way.

“It feels relieving.” he admits. “This record really represents something that is quite important for our band, and that is this feeling of relief. The trajectory that we were on with the first four records was quite intense, to put it in a word, in that we were putting great expectations on ourselves and trying to match ourselves up against those who we aspired to be next to. That practice, frankly, got exhausting. It took us a couple of years to realise that the next record we wanted to make was to be super relaxed and spacious. A return to it being essentially a fun art; it’s meant to be enjoyable.”

Looking ahead to the tour dates coming up in May and June, Rennick is excited about getting back into the environment he believes Dappled Cities truly flourish in. Add to this the fact that fellow Sydneysiders Red Riders have resurrected themselves for the three-date run…it’s going to be a tour to remember.

“We’ve done this full circle thing of where we’ve returned to being a live band first.” Rennick explains. “Live first, recorded second. I believe we’ve always been a better live band than we have been on record, there’s a certain energy that we manage to get across when we’re all together on the stage. The live part is easy; when we came to this record, we decided that we wanted to play them really well live first. Now we’re just going to pick up the instruments and play them again.”

“We were so stoked when they said yes.” he says of reuniting with Red Riders for their first tour together since 2007. “We heard that they were all in the same city, which they haven’t been for a while, so we just said, ‘Hey – what’s it going to take for you guys to get back together just for this tour and come with us?’ and there was a few discussions, but it all came out good. We’re all so excited.”

“‘Golden era’ is a funny term, but it’s just that time where bands ruled.” he agrees, as we reflect on that time period of the early 00’s. “The funny thing is, you think about the real flagship bands of that era from America, say: Modest Mouse or The Shins and even Flaming Lips, to an extent, they’re all still touring and they all still fly the same flag in looking forward and releasing new music and continuing to inspire new generations of musicians.”

Bringing back home to Sydney at the conclusion of the tour, Dappled Cities are putting one hell of a hometown show on as part of VIVID Sydney – taking to the City Recital Hall for a blazing audio visual experience.

“It’s going to be incredible, it’s going to be the best Dappled show.” he enthuses. “The venue is stunning and all the visuals we’ve been working with have been incredible too. We’re working with an artist out of California named Paul Juno and some local designers named Studio Days; everything that we’re rolling out is really visual and graphic. That, combined with the allowance that VIVID gives you to turn it into a hectic light and visual show, it’s going to be next level.”

Re-entering tour life and the live music realm that has, in the case of Sydney especially, has undergone multiple significant changes in the past few years alone hasn’t been an element of this creative process that has escaped the band, either. Still, with a directive and focus very much in place, Rennick remains confident about Dappled Cities’ moves forward once ||||| drops.

“Having not released anything for five years and suddenly releasing something,” he explains. “You really notice how much the digital landscape has changed the processes in releasing and marketing a new record. It’s quite a shock. I was speaking to a record label owner and he’s like, ‘I’m [having issues] getting my bands to tour because I try to book them into venues and then the venues look them up on Spotify and see that they have no fans in that city and go, ‘Nope – you’re not coming”. That’s bullshit. The venues should just be listening to the songs and deciding for themselves if they want that music playing in their venue. It’s also got its huge perks too I guess, in that you can really drill into your fan base and see where they are and see what they like and don’t like. I definitely would not say I’ve worked it out at all.”

“As an artist, you can get so hung up on this kind of stuff. You can get so hung up on the number of views on your YouTube video or the number of likes on an Instagram post but again, this is the sort of epiphany that we’ve had on this record, that is really not our problem. It’s really not our role in this whole machine. We’re here to write songs and go to the studio and record them. Whoever decides to listen to them through whatever means they’ve discovered it, is just fantastic. It’s not up to us to worry about that.”

Five, by Dappled Cities, is released on May 5th. The band is on tour through May & June:

May 6th | Howler, MELBOURNE
with Red Riders and Darling James

May 12th | The Foundry, BRISBANE
with Red Riders and Rolls Bayce

June 4th | City Recital Hall, SYDNEY
with Red Riders and Tyson Koh (Keep Sydney Open DJ set)

Tickets are available via www.dappledcities.com.

Photo Credit: Chris Morris.

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