Cutting the fat from the form

Die! Die! Die!: (from left) Michael Prain, Andrew Wilson and Lachlan Anderson. Photo by Robert...
Die! Die! Die!: (from left) Michael Prain, Andrew Wilson and Lachlan Anderson. Photo by Robert Trathen.
New label, new album, new tour ... Die! Die! Die! is about to peel paint again, writes Shane Gilchrist.

In the winter of 2009, amid the crank and clank of cranes, containers and the large vessels that come and go from Port Chalmers, other noises were cast into the salty air.

The members of Die! Die! Die! had assembled in an upstairs room at Chicks Hotel, intent on piecing together the slivers and threads of songs they had created in any number of sound-checks over the preceding two years.

The result of their two-month hibernation is the band's third album, Form, to be released on July 19.

Significantly, Form has been produced by Nick Roughan, formerly of Palmerston North outfit The Skeptics, another band with a reputation for brutal, primal guitar-led soundscapes delivered in a squall of volume.

The album marks a continuation of the no-nonsense attitude of Die! Die! Die! yet also reveals a group willing to pull itself to pieces in order to grow.

"We took a lot more time with this one.

"We were going for a different sound and spent more time getting that right, thinking how we could progress.

"We spent a lot longer on mixing, something we used to spend very little time on.

"I think that worked," drummer Michael Prain explains via phone from Auckland, where he and fellow founding member Andrew Wilson have been based since moving from Dunedin in 2003.

Along with bass player Lachlan Anderson, and in collusion with Roughan, the band members have trimmed all the excess from their songs.

Several tracks on Form advance less than 10 seconds before Wilson's voice arrives, often on a dense layer of reverberation. Introductions are kept short; like a firm handshake, they signal some serious business is about to start.

Prog-rock noodling this is not.

The overall impression is of a cunning mix of ear candy and implied threat: cleaner tones or ethereal singing, each seemingly designed to pull in the listener, give way to blistering, paint-peeling guitar that provides the killer punch a few bars later.

"It was a case of not being afraid to try new things," Prain says.

"Sometimes they don't work, but other times they work really well ... you also need a bit of that natural telepathy, of knowing what's working and what's not.

"When I listen to a record ... it can get ... it's about cutting the fat.

"It's just that much more instant.

"I found that a more exciting way of making the record, too.

"You can get really carried away with yourself and that can be quite boring.

"We've always found that is the approach that works best for us. I don't really want to start writing long-winded introductions."

Prain says the band was also keen to record in New Zealand, having done its last two releases in the United States: 2006 EP Locust Weeks was produced by Steve Albini (Nirvana) and 2007 album Promises, Promises by Shayne Carter (Dimmer, Straitjacket Fits).

 

 "It was really good getting back.

"We had been so busy playing that we'd just make little bits and pieces up at sound-checks or whatever.

"Most of it came together at Chicks Hotel, in an upstairs room. We returned to Auckland and recorded over three weekends, nine days in total.

"It was really good working with Nick; he had some good ideas to share.

"We've known Nick for quite a long time now, since the band started, actually.

"He did our first Die! Die! Die! recording when we did three songs.

"It was going to turn into something but the bass player left the day after we finished it."

Prain is only too aware that three years have passed between albums.

"I know. It has been a long time.

"The funny thing is, we did rush it towards the end of last year, thinking it was going to come out a lot earlier.

"Now it's July, so it has just been sitting around.

"We had been playing a lot and never got the opportunity to do it; also, people's schedules didn't fit.

"Just last week, we recorded seven new tracks. We don't want to take so long between releases again."

Though previous album Promises, Promises, came out on New Zealand label Tardus, Form is being handled by Flying Nun, recently bought back from Warner Music by founder Roger Shepherd.

The album is the label's second under the new arrangement, following Grayson Gilmour's No Constellation, released six weeks ago.

"They talked to us quite a while ago, when Roger was thinking about getting the label back together.

"We already knew each other, from having gone to the same shows in New Zealand and having similar friends around the traps.

"It took a while to get a contract signed but it's all go now," Prain says, adding he is more than happy to share a roster with some influential acts.

"It has always been my favourite music ... The Skeptics, Bailter Space, Snapper ... stuff like that. [But] I've associated more with the bands than the label as such."

The release of Form will be marked by a 13-date national tour that includes gigs in Dunedin and Oamaru.

Die! Die! Die! then heads to Australia ("the album will be released there in August or September") and on to the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.

"It's going to be a really busy year from here on," Prain says.

"I never really find touring that draining. I quite like it.

"It's really good to go overseas.

 

 "People do take a lot more notice of you if you are in a place where the main music press comes from."

(To emphasise his point, Spin magazine last year named Die! Die! Die! in its 25 "must-hear artists" at the CMJ music festival in New York.)

"There have been a lot of highlights," Prain enthuses.

"We have played with some really great bands. But I'm really excited about the new record.

"With each record it's like starting afresh, which I like the idea of.

"When this actually gets released and we kick off touring again, there will be a whole lot of new, fun things out there."

Hear them
- Form is released on Flying Nun Records on July 19.
- Die! Die! Die! plays at the Captain Cook, Dunedin, on July 31 and at the Penguin Club, Oamaru, on August 1.

 

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