If you are looking for a band to help fill the gaping hole Sticky Fingers hiatus left, Perth band Death By Denim is exactly what you are looking for. With influences like Sti Fi and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the bands spirited blend of indie pop and rock are youthful soulful all at the same time. I recently had a chat with lead singer/guitarist Pallè Mazzulla about their debut EP, playing Southbound last year, and the creation of the 4 piece boy band.
Even the band’s etymology is so plainly cool, as Mazzulla explains…
‘I first met Nik Iliadis in March last year. Nik was a family friend of my brothers fiancé, Tara. They had gone to have dinner in the city one night and he was playing a solo acoustic set. Tara and my bro told me I had to pair up with him for a jam after seeing him play. I was skeptical at first because apparently he was very fresh to playing live and even singing in general, but once I heard some of his solo work I was very impressed and saw a lot of potential. I myself had played guitar and wrote music for most of my life, but had never been in a proper original band and it was starting to weigh on me.”
“Being a guitar teacher and playing cover bands wasn’t enough but I wasn’t ready to just go for anything. After a bit of Facebook mingling we eventually got together, had a chat and a jam and just started writing a whole lot of music. A few weeks later we had about 10 songs we liked. George Gunson (bass) had been one of my good mates for a long time and while he does front his own band as a singer/guitarist, I knew he had some serious bass chops. I showed him some demos and he was in. It took a while to find a drummer. Hamish Macarthur (drums) was a name I had heard a lot over the previous year and was highly recommended. Fortunately George had played with him before and invited him to our first band jam. We all got along very well, had a laugh and a band was formed.”
On asking him where the bands sound came from, he fills me in on the development of it over the last year.
‘It wasn’t until we all got in a room together that we really found our direction. When we started out our first batch of songs were much more chill. I had a heavy 60s/70s/80s rock background but I was trying to fit into the vibe of Nik’s solo acoustic work. Most songs had in fact been written on an acoustic guitar and when we took it to the band it sounded alright but it felt like it was too clean and pretty and everyone was holding back. I wanted to crank out face melting solos. George wanted to shred his bass and make whacky facial expressions. Hamish wanted to bash his drums and Nik wanted to bust a move but instead we were playing this friendly PG13+ soft rock and it was unnatural.”
“Once we started to get a feel for the way we all played together, the next batch of songs were much more rocky and just a whole lot more fun to play. We took a lot of influence from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers at this time in trying to find a sound that was high-energy rock but not too overwhelming and thrashy. Now we are heading in all kinds of directions: rap-rock, R&B, dance, funk, old school ballads, rap-metal, you name it. We just call it ‘denim rock’ – music for all seasons.”
Pallè also assures me no one was injured in the making of the bands name.
“I can confirm no one was harmed in the making of the band name. There was just a period of time in my life, which still might not be over, in which I always wore double denim. One day a friend at university said I was wearing enough denim to kill someone. “Death By Denim” sprang to mind. I liked it a lot and thought if I ever have a rock band it’ll be called that. Some people get disappointed when they see us play and there isn’t that much denim, but it was never supposed to be a uniform or anything like that. Others think we are some kind of heavy metal band when they hear our name but that’s not it either. Basically, have you ever seen someone so attractive it just kills you? For me that was usually a girl wearing a denim jacket – that’s why the name stuck.”
While there are no current tour dates coming up, we are assured that live shows from Death By Denim are in development and more of a presence from the band will definitely be felt on the West Coast soon.
‘We currently have no plans to tour, however we are thinking about doing a west-coast tour towards the end of the year. The last few months have mainly been about getting this EP done properly and not DIY in my make-shift home “studio” like most of our other tracks to date.”
I also had to ask the most important question of all…. If you did go on tour, who would be the most annoying?
‘That’s a good question. I feel like Nik would be the kind to just disappear and show up a few days later after a series of random events. Hamish would be the most responsible although perhaps also the most unpredictable. George is either the most chill or the most bombastic member of the band…unless he is on stage – then he is definitely the most bombastic and theatrical. I myself tend to always have some kind of physical ailment when times are busy – when we played Southbound Festival 2016 I was dealing with a compressed nerve in my left arm, and when we recorded the debut EP I had barely slept and was surviving off instant coffee. Who knows what will it will be next, my ears have been taking a bashing lately.”
Their debut EP, Suburban Royalty, dropped June 3rd and only recently did the band launch their impressive first record to a great reception at Perth’s Amplifier. Mazzulla takes us through the making of Suburban Royalty, and how the band managed to finally settle on the final five tracks.
“We recorded the whole five track EP over three days at Debaser Studios (Perth) in March with legend mixer/producer Andy Lawson. It was an extremely fun time and while it did get a bit intense we came out relatively unscathed and very happy with what we had. Big props to Andy, he was very easy to work with and more importantly put up with the large volume of bullshit that spilled from my mouth each day. A couple of the songs we had been playing since our first gig in July last year were all written at the start of this year. It was very hard to settle on five songs we wanted to record, but these were ones we thought all blended quite well together, however were each unique in themselves.”
“Each of these songs came from certain personal experiences. I’d come up with a riff and lay down a first verse or chorus, then Nik would come round and I’d first sing it to him and then say, ‘Now you sing it back with your golden voice’. If it sounded good we would finish the song together. That’s pretty much how it has been since Day 1. While we try to make every song we write different, it’s George and Hamish who really drive the groove of each track and take it beyond our initial expectations. They are so solid that half the time I think, ‘Does this song even need a guitar?’. However, they definitely need a guitar and a solo. A big solo. We wrote “Ocean Lines” and “Suburban Royalty” together in one session. “Georgia, Grace” was just me writing about a couple rejections that had come about in a short space of time. For the self titled last song, “Death By Denim”, the only lyric we had was “gotta say its death by denim” for about three months. It was just something we used to close the show but eventually a complete song had to be written.”
With live shows described as a ‘big ol’ party’, you’d be ludicrous to not get behind these boys. Now, just less than a year since their first gig, Death By Denim have set themselves up for quite a career, if you ask me.
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