DIE! DIE! DIE!
The rise and rise of Dunedin’s relentless noisemakers Die! Die! Die! began a whole five years ago with their Steve Albini-produced self-titled debut album, and continued steadily upward with their critically-lauded follow up Promises, Promises. For the release of their third LP, Form, the band signed to a freshly resurgent kiwi national treasure, Flying Nun Records. The significance is not lost on frontman Andrew Wilson as he prepares for an Australia-wide launch tour. “I suppose it all came down to good timing – we were looking to record again, then all of a sudden Flying Nun came back as an independent label.”
The iconic imprint harnessed the definitive kiwi-pop sound of late last century, now its influences are more evident than ever worldwide – particularly in indie circles. “I’d say it’s been more of a subconscious influence on us more than anything,” Wilson states. “We’ve always been progressing to a greater sense of melody, but the sound of those bands is something you sort of take for granted growing up around here.”
Encompassing the kiwi sound has allowed the band to shed inhibitions, leading to some degree of vulnerability, Wilson figures. “With the new tracks we feel naked,” he notes. “Like this is who we really are as a band, musically.”
Dunedin’s seclusion and strong artistic community may be the key to its richly fertile music grounds. The creation of Form seems to be a very in-house affair, with the sessions being produced by Nick Roughan of post-punk pioneers The Skeptics. “We had people from pretty much every Dunedin band come into the studio at some point,” laughs Wilson. “I mean, it’s like you don’t care if some punk kids say what we’re doing is shit when you have the guys from The Dead C (also Flying Nun kiwi-pop icons) coming in and saying it’s awesome,” he grins.
Putting in the hard yards locally has paid off for the trio, resulting in some solid mainstream penetration. “Yeah the album’s been received pretty well at home actually,” he states modestly. The band’s first two full lengths received universally positive reviews, though not much in the way of commercial success. As well as topping the independent charts, Form has hit the New Zealand top 20. “It’s weird for us, being in the proper, mainstream top 20. It’s stayed in the charts ever since. I mean, you need to take it with a grain of salt because we’re a pretty small country,” he muses, “but I suppose it’s a sign of the times, what with indie acts like Arcade Fire doing the same in the American charts.”
Die! Die! Die!’s musical growth and further exploration of melody has by no means diminished their characteristic tenacity, evident in their ever-reliably chaotic live performances. “I think we just did something like twenty-six shows in twenty-two days around New Zealand for the album launch here,” Wilson says without any signs of exhaustion. “We try and put on as many underage shows during the day as possible. We’d like to do it over in Oz, but doing a show a night means you’re always travelling to and from shows.”
While they’re unable to satiate their younger fanbase while on our shores, the band are traversing further into regional markets, “We’re heading to Geelong again, then to Ballarat for the first time,” Wilson states before revealing what may be a cause for trepidation. “I was just reading the news about three schoolkids beating a kangaroo to death with a steel pole. I hope that sort of shit isn’t going on in those towns.”
A flat-out touring schedule doesn’t leave much breathing space for leisure, which doesn’t seem to faze Wilson, “I think we have one day off in Perth, then it’s straight on a plane to launch the album in the ‘States.
“We’ve been hanging around New Zealand for a good part of a year,” he adds, “so I’m looking forward to busting out and seeing the world again.” This routine might prove taxing on a lesser band, but the kiwi lads seem more than up to the task, “We should probably do fitness training or something in between shows, but I think we’re too lazy for that to happen,” Wilson chuckles.
So where does all that explosive energy come from onstage and, more often than not, in amongst the punters on the floor? “Ha, well I’d say it’s a hundred percent adrenaline… we can’t help it.”
Die! Die! Die!’s upward trajectory runs concurrent with New Zealand’s staunchly independent musical showcase Camp A Low Hum, a hidden gem of a three-day festival which the band have perennially headlined over the past few years. “I think more people in Melbourne know about ‘Camp than kids in New Zealand do,” Wilson argues. “It’s great that this tiny little festival is gaining a lot of recognition.”
The trio are also gaining recognition of their own, evident when they were selected to open for Pixies’ only antipodal Splendour In The Grass sideshow. “It was pretty awesome, you hear stories and sort of expect these big acts to be real dicks, but they were nicer to us than most other bands we’ve done shows with,” he says, “Pixies are definitely a major influence on our sound, so we were happy enough just to see them play again.”
With their third LP looking likely to elevate Die! Die! Die!’s status further, the trio face the very real risk, like so many kiwi legends before them, of being mislabelled as Australian. Even in a week where Australia morbidly claimed the skeletal half of Phar Lap’s remains, Wilson seems nonplussed by the possibility of an Aussie tag. “We sort of get that already when we’re doing shows overseas.
“Our bassist, Lachie, is from Brisbane, so you guys can rightfully claim a third of us if you really want,” he pauses, “though after taking so much from us, it’d be nice for you to give something back I guess. How about letting us have The Dirty Three?”
DIE! DIE! DIE! launch their fucking ridiculously excellent new album Form at Revolver Upstairs this Saturday October 9, and Karova Lounge, Ballarat on Sunday October 10. Form is out now through Flying Nun/Remote Control.