Laneway Artist Profile: DZ Deathrays

Brisbane thrash-rock duo DZ Deathrays have a pretty well deserved reputation for wildness. For their first music video, for 'The Mess Up', the two drank a bottle of Jagermeister in three minutes (check it out below). On the UK leg of their European jaunt earlier this year, the Deathrays' Simon Ridley told NME, 'two people ended up in hospital, our tour manager got in a fight and we got vomited on a lot. It was pretty crazy.'

Drummer Simon Ridley and singer/guitarist Shane Parsons grew up in small-town Queensland, where there wasn't a whole lot to do of a weekend except get together and play raucous, anarchic house parties. Now that they've moved to Brisbane, have toured three continents and are playing much bigger venues –– the duo are supporting Foo Fighters on their stadium tour this summer –– the band's approach to playing live remains, refreshingly, pretty much the same.

'We want our live shows in venues to be as close to a house party as possible,' they told Music Feeds recently, 'or at least have that close up/in your face vibe.' The DZ Deathrays live show, as anyone who has seen it will attest, is a rare and amazing thing –– scuzzy, inventive, wall-of-sound punk that immediately commands your attention and doesn't let up for a second.

The band's commitment to playing what they want, how they want, has led to various labels and genres –– punk, electro, rock, thrash –– being thrown at them, none of which have really stuck.

‘People always say different things about us,’ Parsons told Rip It Up. ‘Some people say that we’re punk, and some people say that we’re rock and other people get angry because they think we’re an electro band. I don’t know, it’s kind of odd. We just write the way we write and we can’t write any other way. When we started the band the ideas were coming from a crossover of all different styles of music. We just wanted to be able to play at parties and have fun.’

The band’s ideal house party? ‘A massive stereo system pumping Motley Crue to a bunch of drunk attention-seeking girls wearing skimpy clothing drinking free booze,’ they told Purple Sneakers. ‘Emilio Estevez could be there giving his pep talks from the Mighty Ducks about taking beer bongs instead of hockey, and for some reason he has a backpack full of fireworks as well.’ 

Word on the band formerly known as DZ (they changed their name a little while back to avoid confusion with a veteran US dubstep producer of the same name) is beginning to spread. In March, they played a host of well received shows at SXSW, managing to nearly get caught in the almost riot at Death From Above 1979’s infamous comeback show, before returning home to release Brutal Tapes, their great second ep, and the follow up to 2009’s Ruined My Life.

Only having the cash to record two tracks for the new EP in the studio, the Deathrays recorded two of the remaining tracks at –– where else –– a house party. The EP is rounded out by a couple of remixes and a demo, and gives a pretty thorough accounting of the band’s raw, gutturally infectious sound, while showing the band pushing the envelope a bit more, with more structurally ambitious songs. Who The Hell called it ‘a polished, harder, sexier offering of dirty-glorious guitar riffs’, singling out Gebbie St as ‘the sexiest song of 2010/11’. (Check out the awesome fan-made clip for Gebbie St at right).

On the back of the EP, the Deathrays continued their ceaseless touring — the band have been travelling almost non-stop since forming in 2008 — first around Australia, then in Europe, where they quickly turned heads. Playing at the UK Great Escape Festival alongside the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Warpaint and Twin Shadow, the NME wrote that by the end of their set the Deathrays ‘even managed to achieve the near-impossible by coercing a fair proportion of the front row into jumping about like lunatics. Justice!’ Q Mag was similarly impressed, writing that ‘Shane Parsons barks at you relentlessly, demanding your full attention. It’s powerful, visceral stuff.’

The band returned home on a wave of positive press, being featured the in NME’s top 10 buzziest bands from Great Escape, and then as #8 in their 50 Best New Bands of 2011.

In November, Messrs Ridley and Parsons commenced work on the DZ Deathrays’ much awaited debut album, tentatively due in March. After the more structurally thought out songs on Brutal Tapes, Parsons says the album material ‘is even more in-depth. There are songs that are really short; there are songs that go for five minutes.’

We can’t wait to hear it, and to see their face-melting live show set the Laneway stage alight come summer.

Check out the DZ Deathrays’ Laneway Personality Test and some killer live footage over at their artist page.

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