Words by Stephen Shelverton
In an exclusive interview with Shane Parson, Simon Ridley, and Lachlan Ewbank of DZ Deathrays, we delve into the heart of their music and ethos during the ‘R.I.F.F (“Remember It’s For Fun”) Tour’. As DZ Deathrays continue to captivate audiences with their dynamic sound and exhilarating performances, they provide an intimate mid-tour look into the minds of the band members reflecting on their musical evolution, their influences, the value of fan connection, and the power of friendship and unwavering bond that propels them forward.
‘R.I.F.F’ is the 6th DZ Deathrays album and after listening to it about 60 times, I surmise that it’s a celebration of friendship that has outlasted the adversities of the past 10 years such as: gruelling tours, travel, Covid, and a music market over-brimming with emerging artists and expanding music platforms. As a band, you’ve achieved so much through that bond, and that strength is the centre of gravity for DZ Deathrays. That essence transcends to the audience in tracks like King B, My Mind Is Eating Me Alive, and Tuff Luck. It’s a fun album, with driving bass, seismic crushing drums, catchy anthems, and lyrics that fluctuate between humour, sincerity, and deep reflection, of course, punctuated with that explosive buzz saw guitar riffs they are famed for.
Simon: Very Nice!
Is this what you set out to capture?
Shane: The whole album was written over many years because we were locked down. In fact, we started even before Covid, and then when it hit, we said, oh well let’s just do an album then. We’d written lots of different songs, and many got cut. It was a conscious decision to cut anything too depressing because we wanted to bring out of Covid something that bought us enjoyment and wasn’t going to bring people down.
Simon: Yeah, something that especially wasn’t dated. Or tied to being a Covid record, because… fuck that.
That consolidation of friendship, it’s in the tracks and it is evident in the shows. Is that perhaps back to the origins of how you started out with Simon and collected this wonderful team in the band as it matured?
Simon: Yeah! I guess that’s pretty much it.
Shane: Yeah, we looked back to the early stuff and thought “what got us excited back in the day, what kind of drove the band to keep going”…and that was the whole mantra (‘R.I.F.F’), and once we got the songs together and talking about how many shows we’ve done together, we’ve done …well over a thousand shows…
Simon: Ahhh I reckon we would be closer to 2 thousand shows now.
Shane: It’s a lot, right…so you do a lot of shit shows, too, right… (We all laugh!)
No, I will refuse to believe that.
Simon: And then the bar tab rolls in, and they are all good shows! (More laughter)
Shane: That’s what I mean. If you take on the idea, that if you’re just there to enjoy yourself, and there to play music together with your friends, and enjoy it, it’s not a bad time at all! Even if there is no one at the show, or it’s a terrible venue, or you’ve travelled really far and there is no one there. You just go “Well, we are here together and that’s the main thing”. And that’s why we started a band in the first place,
So, the core is that friendship dynamics, right?
Shane: Yeah! We’ve been friends since we were in Grade 9 – a long time.
(Simon and Shane smile and nod their heads at what that statement means to them both…)
Talking about that friendship, having Luke Henery join the band is not only an Easter Egg for the Violent Soho fans, with his infectious smile while playing, it also seems to amplify this sense of comradery. This must be a satisfying experience for the group, for the fans, and for yourselves?
Shane: Before we even started DZ, we were huge fans of Violent Soho, and we all hung out together with them back in the day.
Simon: They’ve always helped us out, and been hanging out with them since we moved to Brisbane, we love their music.
Shane: I remember being a bit drunk at their shows and they were playing at the Alley Bar, I was saying, “I want to be your manager!” as I was studying business at Uni. Waking up the next morning, I was thinking, “Oh man, I have no idea how to manage a band!” Later asking Luke to join the band, it just made sense.
A celebration of getting back on the road again, is that how you approached this tour with expanding cities outside of capital cities? Was that part of the purpose?
Simon: Yeah, it was to do a big Australian Tour. It sucks if you only do 5 cities, you know. Thinking about when Slim Dusty would go on tour and hit 50 locations around the country on his tours. That is motivating, and it’s easy to do. It’s nice to get away again. The Regurgitator tour was only 6 shows, just as we were getting back into it it was over. Now we feel on this tour we are getting back into the touring rhythm again.
Shane: Yeah, this tour is 20 locations, you get into the rhythm after 5 shows It would be different on the back of a European tour. With only doing capital cities in Australia, but like many artists, we hadn’t had that opportunity to do a lot of shows. Even with The Gurg shows, there was a gap between the two tours. We also toured in 2019 and did a regional tour, awesome…it was really good, I love going to the regions and satellite cities around the capitals.
Cliché question time. What is your favourite song on this album and why?
Simon: I think Eat You Up is mine.
Shane: My Mind Is Eating Me Alive has become the dark horse. I think King B mostly because it took so long to perfect, from when we first heard the original demo, it is crazy different. I knew what I wanted out of the song after Lachy sent me the riff, the movements and the key. Once we got it right, it was like, “Alright!”, but it just took us many versions to get there, 20 odd versions, 24 versions!!!. Even then, we recorded the drums, and we went, “AHHH that’s not right!! So, we had to keep redoing the drums.
Congratulations on DZ Worldwide record label. Do you feel a different sense of ownership of this album because of this being your own?
Shane: Yeah, we feel the ball is in our court. We paid for everything ourselves, it’s a lot more risk, but we can kind of do anything we want now.
Simon: Yeah, it is very liberating…Perhaps not a great financial decision.
Shane: Oh, it’s definitely not financially sound!
Simon: But it’s killer! I’ve always wanted to have a label.
Shane: It also means we can go off and do stuff by ourselves, if we want to release an E.P, or a live album, we can just do it. We’ve got the connections all set up now, you can press vinyl, that’s pretty easy enough to do. Getting the record made.
Who has motivated you in your personal life to reach the achievements in Music?… To launch, that hardest part you know to keep going?
Shane: Ohhhh…yeah. Simon… Other band members…. I was going to say early in the day it’s your parents, but they say things like “Make sure you have a back up gig” Ok, so I went to Uni. “Make sure you’ve got a good job”, so I went and got a job. And then I ended up playing music. It’s not like it pays very well, but we’ve somehow survived this long. It’s interesting the thing I wanted to always do I ended up doing because I was obsessed with it, and if you are obsessed with something you can’t help but succeed.
Simon: Yeah, I think that’s it “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life”.
DZ concert tickets at $45 for 3 awesome bands; Dust and Press Club as support acts. Is this to get people back out to shows, and take care of fans, to get them back out again? No one does this!
Simon: Oh, it was intentional (all three lads laugh)
Lachy: After Covid, people are struggling everything is so expensive now, we’d rather play to a full room you know?
Shane: I just felt bad, we get to play all the time. So, I didn’t want to charge $60, I’d rather people pay $40 and $5 for the download album, come down and see some great shows. And just build on that, rather than make it this exclusive thing and then we can’t play again for a year.
Simon: I don’t want to just play to people who are rich!… Sometimes you play overseas and there’s no one at the show because they are charging some extortion amount. I’d rather play if it were much cheaper, take less of a cut and bring people in.
Shane: A bad promoter will price hike up to a certain price they estimate dedicated fans will pay, to make the budget. But if they made it half the price, they’d get so many people in and make more from other means.
To me that sounds like the respect you have for the audience and your fans.
Simon: I like going to gigs, but not when they are crazy expensive too.
You make these merch bundles and concert tickets that defy the norm in value for dollar. Like the ‘R.I.F.F’ album launch; with a limited vinyl album, skull record holder ornament, jumper, t-shirt, tracksuit pants, and socks for $200. How do you do that?! Perhaps you could become the next Federal Treasurer! That’s great value!
Lachy: Yeah, we ripped ourselves off…. Fuck! (Laughing)
Simon: I’d rather have someone wearing it than sitting in a warehouse. And it’s nice to get items when you’re touring and forget to bring those things from home…. (All lads agree they need to get some of the DZ Socks!)
Lachy, you are designing the artwork for albums, and for the merch now?
Lachy: Yeah, sort of, I mean the album cover is just a photo, I didn’t take it though, I just made it gold! (Lachy is being modest, his artwork and designs deserve the credit).
With bands like The Chats, Beddy Rays, Ball Park Music, Waax, Violent Soho, Dune Rats, DZ, and Total Pace… to name a few; what’s made QLD the breeding ground for such a high volume of independent music success over the past 10 years?
Shane: … (without hesitation) Boredom, yep, boredom.
(Despite the raucous laughter from the band) I won’t put that in the article … (lies!)
Shane: No, seriously man!!! That’s how bands are formed. People want to do something together. When we first started, there weren’t many places to play music, I always wanted to be in a band and I always wanted to play music. Probably living in Bundy with fewer venues, when we moved to Brisbane, we were like, ok here’s our chance to play in bars and venues.
Simon: Plus, I think Brisbane is a lot less clicky, everyone goes to each other’s gigs.
Shane: Over the time we’ve been a band, the industry and the number of places to play has grown. Even the bar culture and scenes have grown a lot. Every time I go back to Brisbane, I’m gobsmacked, there are new places to play, that previously there was nothing, bars everywhere.
As long as we can keep them open, with places under threat due to noise complaints and developments in and around the city, that’s a real worry.
Shane: That’s a common thing now, all over the world. People say in Sydney, for a big city, there are not many venues left, and that’s true. For a big city, it lacks venues. And they started moving and scattering them all around the city. But if you go to Europe, there are no venues in the middle of the city, they are in other areas because they got squeezed out of the main areas.
Simon: Yeah, it’s sad, it’s happening everywhere.
The MURDER ME – Blood Red Shoes- DZ Deathrays Remix – That’s a juicy number, how did that come about.
Simon: We did America and Europe with them 2013/14, and we’ve just been friends for years, and they hit us up.
Lachy: Our long-lost brother – Brother Steve!
That’s one of the things I love about DZ, just when you think you can define the DZ Sound, then you’ll do something like that, the way it punctuates a new genre, and it’s unexpected.
Shane: We like all different genres of music, when we first started a band, we were influenced by a lot of electronic music, so it’s always kind of been there. A rock band on stage, but all the influences are there.
GCL: The ‘R.I.F.F’ album launch at the crowbar in Sydney was an absolute embodiment of the album. With free entry, DZ tequila shots flowing, no stage, playing on the floor with the crowd millimeters away from your face, Lachie pulling riffs as he gets swallowed up by the crowd, real DZ party vibes. How does that feel, bringing that level of energy to the fans?
Simon: Good man, great. It was like the first E.P. launch as well, minus the tequila!
Shane: That’s kind of like how it used to feel.
Lachy: It was also a thank you for supporting us, particularly over the last few years and the last few years after all the shit we had to go through, so let’s have a fucking party for it and have fun.
GCL: I relive it every night!
Shane: I also really like how people got into the support acts too,
I remember Simon saying “You’ve got to come and watch this guy DR Robot; you’ll never see anything like it!”
Lachy: Oh… Dr Robot! Quality! Love it!
Is this what fans can expect for the rest of the tour, minus DR Robot?
Shane: Ah … yeah, maybe bigger production, longer sets…
Thanks for your time guys, and all the best with the rest of the ‘R.I.F.F Tour’. I want to highlight the way you are always looking out for your fans, crew, and support acts. It’s really special. Here’s hoping that the R.I.F.F mantra will reverberate all across Australia and with the DZ WORLDWIDE Label.
REMAINING ‘R.I.F.F TOUR’ DATES
Sat 19 Aug – Pelly Bar – Bunurong / Frankston
Thu 24 Aug – Seabreeze Hotel – Yuwibara / Mackay
Fri 25 Aug – The Warehouse – Bindal + Wulgurukaba / Townsville
Sat 26 Aug – Edge Hill Tavern – Gimuy / Cairns
Thu 31 Aug – Volta – Wadawurrung + Dja Dja Wurrung / Ballarat
Fri 1 Sep – Corner Hotel – Naarm / Melbourne
Sat 2 Sep – Haba – Boonwurrung + Bunurong / Rye
Thu 14 Sep – The Basement – Ngunnawal / Canberra
Fri 15 Sep – Unibar – Dharawal / Wollongong
Sat 16 Sep – Factory Theatre – Eora / Sydney
Thanks to Twnty Three