It may not seem like all that long ago that Brisbane's DZ Deathrays were dropping album number two, Black Rat. This may be, in part, on account of the fact that the duo have never really gone away. Their touring regime has kept them in the triple figures most years, and they're now established as a global commodity with audiences ranging from the States to the west of Europe and back again. By the time work had finished on their third album, the sharply-titled Bloody Lovely, some three whole years had passed – and nearly four by the time the album came out at the start of February. According to the band themselves, it was a matter of coping with tour demands and getting themselves in the right headspace.
“The ideas were floating around more or less as soon as we finished Black Rat,” says Simon Ridley, the drumming half of the band. “Nothing really came of it, though, because we spent the next two years doing something like 150 shows a year in 20 different countries. We're not the type of band that can write on the road – we're absolutely rubbish at that. I think you really have to be a Bon Jovi type of band in order to succeed at that, where you've got absolutely everything else taken care of for you. It doesn't help that, when you tour that much, you come home and music is the last thing that you want to think about. We really had to wait for the cycle of that album to die off before we could put something together for a new record.”
After some one-off recording sessions – including one that sported the 2016 standalone single ‘Blood on My Leather’ – Ridley and guitarist Shane Parsons started work on Bloody Lovely in earnest around the start of 2017. Behind the boards was Gerling alumni Burke Reid, who also produced the aforementioned Black Rat. “I don't think there was even any kind of conversation about it,” says Ridley on working with Reid again. “We just started sending him more and more demos after Black Rat was recorded. Everyone just knew – we were on the same wavelength.”
Reid allowed the band to try out different things in order to get the best sound out of the recordings. Parsons played bass on Bloody Lovely, for instance, instead of simply putting his guitar through an octave pedal as he's done in the past. As for Ridley, he used a very unique approach to recording his drums – the actual drums and the cymbals were each recorded separately. “It's something we tried for the first time on Black Rat,” he says of the admittedly confusing process.
“It's really difficult and it's really challenging, but it allows for you to get the best sound out of the full kit with no bleed. I have an electric drum kit, so I brought in some of my cymbals from that to use. We had those running in my headphones so I could play the kit properly, but when you played the recordings back you would just get the drum sounds from the mics. The next session, you'd come in and play just the cymbals off the cues. It's a headfuck, but it means you're getting the best possible mix with no interference and no bleed.”
Reid, Parsons and Ridley ended up making a record that's loud, fun and dynamic – playing to the strengths of DZ Deathrays as an entity while still exploring new territory. It's also probably their most consistent album to date – which is something the recording process itself had something to do with. “We had a bunch of different drum kits that we were working with on the last record,” says Ridley. “This time around was a lot more streamlined – once we found a good drum sound, we just ran with that. I don't think we even changed snares. Everything was a lot more focused in terms of the sounds – there was not as much fucking around. Same drum sound, about four amps for the guitar and bass. We locked into the tone and ran with it.”
DZ Deathrays are touring nationally in May. Bloody Lovely is out now through I OH YOU.