Interview: Shane Parsons of DZ Deathrays (Brisbane) talks about the band’s long awaited new album "Black Rat"

As they travel the country on their Black Rat album launch tour, John Goodridge chats to DZ Deathrays front man Shane Parsons about life on the road and the brand new album.

Hey Shane, how’s it going?

Not too bad man, how are you?

Not bad, I’m actually in New Zealand at the moment which is cool. Have you guys ever toured here?

Yeah we’ve been over a couple of times and done shows in Wellington and Auckland.

Your new album “Black Rat” is doing really well.

Yeah, it’s exciting. I don’t know, it seems like a lot of people are really getting into it, which is great.

It seems to be getting good reviews on-line – even the BBC gave it a good rap.

Yeah I think we got a top ten on the i-Tunes chart, I think we got a number nine or something and BBC premiered one of our new singles. So it’s really good.

And have you guys just come back from England?

Yeah I just got back like two hours ago.

Wow!

Exactly, yeah. So I’m a bit jetlagged, my head’s all over the place.

That’s crazy. So what were the highlights?

It was pretty good the whole way through. We toured with Blood Red Shoes. We’ve toured with them before, we toured with them in America then we toured with them in Europe and they were doing their album tour in England, so we got to do some pretty big shows. Yeah like London was 1200 people sold out, which is a pretty nice one. It’s some of the bigger shows we’ve played in England.

So was there a lot of Aussies there?

Not really, because we were supporting an English band, which is great. It’s what you want – getting in front of new faces.

I heard you did really well in America too, with SXSW.

Yeah that was pretty hectic. We did like ten shows in four days.

Ten shows in four days! That’s insane!

Yeah like on the last day we did four shows. It was midday until midnight, pretty much. It kinda was a bit ridiculous in the end. We were running around a bit like headless chooks. Some of the shows were great; some were not so great. In the end you just feel like you spend the whole time just setting up and packing up. You only get twenty minutes to play and if anything goes wrong you get even less. But we played some really good shows over there, which was fun.

From what I heard, the Aussies made a bit of an impact over there.

Yeah I think so, there are more and more Australians going there every year and it’s great experience. We’ve done it three times now, so we kinda know the whole situation over there. Next time we’ll try and get like two key shows that are actually banging and then we can spend the rest of the time trying to actually catch bands. I’ve always missed out on seeing so many great bands.

I guess you would because you’d always be playing.

Yeah that’s it.

Now getting back to the album, who did most of the songwriting?

Well Simon and I, we wrote it together. I’ll come up with a riff, or a couple of riffs and we’ll go into a room and sort of jam it out until something clicks and once it clicks we’ll work on that a bit more and demo it and then I work on vocals by myself before we craft it into something you can listen to.

We’ve talked before about the departure from the straight out rock sound, how do you think that’s been received?

I think pretty well. I know when we put out “Northern Lights” a few people were like “what the fuck are they doing?” kind of thing. But even when we did it we said it was kinda like a ballad to try and soften the blow. We were just trying to prove that we could do something else and it was actually like a ballad. It is the slowest song on the record, but it also has elements that other songs take from it.

I’ve been seeing people on-line saying they didn’t like “Northern Lights” but now listening to it on the record it makes sense and they’re glad that it’s on the album because you need some sort of breathing space. So I think yeah so far so good. We wanted it to be an extension of “Bloodstreams” – we weren’t gonna go completely off-track but we didn’t want to do the same record again otherwise people start expecting that you start doing the same record again and again and then when you actually do a change it’s a big deal.

We’re still finding ourselves as a band and still trying to find our sound but at the moment it’s great to be able to touch on different genres and bring them all in to play. As a two-piece you have to be a bit adventurous I think.

I was a bit the same. When I first heard “Northern Lights” I was ‘wow what’s this’ but it’s grown on me. Which I think it the mark of a good record.

That’s good! It’s a funny one because we haven’t played it too much live but it’s a really good song to bring into the longer sets. Like when we’re playing the album tour, which we start tomorrow, and that’s like 45-50 minutes and having that four minute slower song is a really nice time to sit back and cruise along for a while before you get back into the brutalness and I guess if you want to become that band that plays an hour long set or an hour and a half, which would be mental, you gotta have some songs in there that you can sit back and fall into, rather than being on the edge of your toes all the time and screaming down the microphone. It wears people out. It can be a bit single note.

It seems you guys never stop – you’re either touring or recording. Do you have “downtime”?

Well I don’t really like having downtime too much because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything. I don’t have another job, so if I’m not doing stuff associated with the band I feel like I’m just sort of sitting there. I don’t like that feeling really at all. So we’ll finish this tour then Simon’s got a couple of weeks holidays so I guess I’ll have two weeks there and try and do something else. I’m really getting into video editing so maybe I’ll try and learn that while he’s away.

So are you doing videos for a film clip?

Yeah I really like editing and I’ve done a bit of it on basic stuff and I’m kind of interested so maybe its something down the track to get into, but I even reckon in that two weeks I’ll probably try and write new songs. I want to get a new record underway as soon as possible after this one. I think it was two years between the last one and this one so I wouldn’t want it to be any longer than that.

Yeah eighteen months is a good time.

Totally.

Long enough to craft the songs but not so long they forget who you are.

Yeah that’s it. Especially when we’re over the UK and stuff. People put out records so quickly over there and new bands come up and if you’re not active I think it can be a bit tough to get started again. It was ok for us because it was only about six months from when we stopped touring last year until we started again at the end of it, then Big Day Out was at the beginning of this year and been to South By and England and trying to keep as busy as possible.

So are there any plans to do Europe?

Yeah, definitely. It will be whenever we can. We’re going back over to England in July so hopefully we can get some European stuff while we’re over there.

From what I’ve heard the Europe market is massive.

We’ve been over there a bunch of times and toured around in 2012 and yeah it’s a fantastic place to tour. So many people, different cultures and everything. Great venues and you get looked after. It’s a dream place to tour. If you can get over there in the summer when it’s nice and warm and everybody’s happy yeah it’s pretty fun.

It’s good to see you’re covering Australia pretty well on the tour.

We try to, It’s hard, like we’re not making it down to Hobart this time which is a bit of a shame because I live it down there. You’ve just got to try and do as much as is possible without stretching yourself too thin that you just end up playing at shitty pubs. You just have to make sure there are people there that want to come and check out the shows.

So it must be a big balancing act between getting enough exposure and becoming overexposed?

Yeah well that’s it. The capital cities are always the key shows but its great to do the smaller places around those capital cities, but you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere on a weekday, like no-one’s gonna turn up.

The Brisbane sound is pretty big at the moment, with Violent Soho, you guys, the Dune Rats, Bleeding Knees Club, there’s a definite sound that seems to be resonating with the audiences.

It’s funny like that. We’ve been talking about it a bit recently. I mean Violent Soho have been kicking around for like ten years and we’ve been fans of those guys since we moved to Brisbane ten years ago. Like Simon said today, “I’ve been a fan of that band for one third of my life.” It’s so good to see them succeed.

It’s interesting because you don’t start selling out shows from the first time you put out a record, but it doesn’t mean that down the track you don’t strike a chord with people. They’re a prime example of that, stuck at it and kept writing, got a great record and yeah. I mean that first record was amazing as well, but it just takes time for bands sometimes.

So what about your arsenal of instruments? Are you buying more guitars or amps or anything?

Not really, we try to keep it limited as much as possible for touring but more just replacing things because every time you travel things break.

And you guys are pretty brutal with your instruments on-stage.

It’s not even on-stage; it’s more in transit. Like gear breaks and rattles around and things just go wrong. It’s all about forking out a bit of cash for good cases. I think one thing we’ve been buying is more lighting. Simon is extending his lighting rig, it’s insanely massive now so it’s a huge light show.

Photographers always like good lighting.

Well his are quite strobey which they hate.

So you were talking video before – any plans for video backdrops?

We haven’t really talked about anything like that yet, it depends, you need a big stage for that, like Splendour in the Grass, that size stage it would be great. We’ll just have to figure it out. At the moment we’re just doing the rollout of the record focusing on this tour and the next thing in Australia will be Splendour in the Grass and hopefully figure out a nice big show for that.

So anyway I’ll catch you in Adelaide at Jive Bar.

Should be sweet, I think it’s selling pretty well considering the One Night Stand is on the same night in Mildura. I’m looking forward to heading back to Adelaide though. We’ve got a few days off afterwards and we’re heading up to the Barossa.

Sounds cool. Last time I saw you in Adelaide was at Rocket Bar and it was insane with people crowd surfing everywhere.

Yeah that was a great show. Awesome mate – I’ll see you in Adelaide then.

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DZ Deathrays’ new album Black Rat is available now. The band have embarked on a tour around the country to celebrate and the remaining dates are below!

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+)

For more info visit: WWW.DZDEATHRAYS.COM.AU

Photo by Mark Tainton. Gallery HERE.

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