Interview with DZ Deathrays

Words by Samantha Bedford

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Bundaberg is the 9th largest city in Queensland with a population just shy of 100,000 people. What was it like growing up in Bundaberg and performing at friends’ house parties? And what are your thoughts on Queensland Diesel?

I’m actually in Bundaberg right now! And I reckon Queensland Diesel (Bundaberg Rum) is pretty shit at the best of times. We didn’t really start out so much that way, not the way Wikipedia reads anyway. In high school, we’d all just hang out on the weekends, me and the music nerds, and just put on gigs at each other’s parties. I didn’t play at any myself and didn’t really play any gigs until I got to Brisbane. It’s pretty hard to book gigs around here (Bundaberg), especially if you’re young and starting out. Shane and I moved down to Brisbane for uni and the band just started from there.

Why did you move to Brisbane?

It was all under the guise of doing uni, most of our friends moved there for it. I was doing science, which I didn’t finish. Shane actually has a degree in business.

You covered The B-52s’ song ‘Love Shack’ last year with The Gooch Palms. You’ve also just released a somewhat collaborative effort with Briggs, Jesswar and Trials. Does this mean more collaborative efforts are on the horizon for the group?

Yeah totally, we love playing with friends and people we admire. On the record that just came out, we got Matt from The Bronx which was really cool. Shane and I are huge Bronx fans, so it was pretty wild playing with someone we idolise. There was a moment there where we were just standing in the control room just looking at one another saying, ‘holy shit, I can’t believe this is happening’. When we first started the band, Shane and I put together a list of acts we somewhat wanted to sound like or at least have the characteristics of. At the top of that list was The Bronx and then just under that was Justice. Ten years later we’ve got Matt from The Bronx playing alongside us, which is just about any musos dream really. We just finished recording Part II of the record and we got Ecca Vandal on that one doing a little guest appearance. We never pass up an opportunity to collaborate because we’re always keen to do stuff with other people.

As an avid ‘Wiggles’ fan myself, I had the pleasure of running into the Blue Wiggle, Anthony. Was this a somewhat surreal experience for you having grown up with The Wiggles? What’s it like collaborating with a Wiggle?

You know what, we were just outside age bracket of The Wiggles growing up, just a little too late. It was all of our friend’s younger siblings when they blew up. We were definitely aware of them and exposed to them. Murray actually just lent one of his guitars for the last record. Murray’s got his own band called The Soul Movers and they just play everywhere.

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Did he actually help out at all with Like People’? Or was that just an idea for the music video?

That was just an idea because Murray is always hanging out in the music scene and is super approachable. We just sent him the idea and track and he was on board. Now he lends us guitars and stuff, it’s so cool! The Wiggles are actually really awesome when you think about it. Doing what they do would be so difficult, especially when the majority of your fans need to be in bed by 6. At the end of the day though, they’re just a touring band like any of us. When we hang out we just hang out telling tour stories like any band would. The Wiggles get so many attendees at their gigs it’s wild. For example, when Prince sells out Madison Square Garden, everyone will hear about it- it’ll be in the papers and whatever for ages. The broadcast news might even report on it. The Wiggles can sell out Madison Square nine times over and no one really hears about it, they’re a serious underdog of the music scene in that sense.

Given the popularity of bands such as Royal Blood, Polish Club and Hockey Dad along with the influential Death From Above 1979, in your opinion, are two member bands going to be something we’ll be seeing more of in the future? Are there inherent difficulties with this kind of set-up that makes it unattractive for most start-up bands?

We did it because we started out as a three piece and then our drummer left, so we just had difficulty finding people who wanted to do it full time and shared our vision. Sam and I are on the same page about how we want to approach everything and so it was easy for us. We figured out how to make the sound and layer stuff. We take a lot from other bands’ music, so this really helped us initially. Once we really started writing, it became such a hinderance for us being a two piece because we couldn’t necessarily play it live. Then we decided we would just write and figure out the live stuff later- it works a lot better that way. It’s a necessity for us the two-piece thing. It’s also a lot easier.

Shane and I started another band called Velociraptor which I think has 12 official members, but we have 15–20 people in that band. When we play live we have have so many people on stage and that’s way harder to tour live with. Initially Velociraptor was a three piece, but then Shane and I were away on a show or something, so we just told Jeremy to get some friends in to play while Shane and I were away. But then those friends were also in a band so sometimes all of us would be on tour, so we’d have to get more friends in. But then sometimes we’d all be in town and we’d all play on stage together, and it was just way more fun that way.

Velociraptor has quite a different sound to DZ Deathrays. Do you have different influences? And do you have to be in a different mindset when you switch bands?

Well, with Velociraptor it’s kind of more Jeremy’s thing. As you say, it’s a bit more pop rock that’s the vibe throughout the outfit. I think a lot of it comes from him because he’s the main writer. Because there’s so many of us and we’re all really shit at learning songs, the less chords the better, and typically that makes for a catchier song.

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