Soundcheck is all about checking out new sounds. In these exclusive chats with bands, producers, rappers, singers and musicians, those upcoming artists that deserve the spotlight get a chance to shine.
It’s that forward-thinking rock sound: melodic and accessible, but still laden with monstrous riffs and dynamic drumming. The Dirty Dead represent a breed of rock band that both the rock purists and non-regular listeners are excited by. We speak new members, writing an album in basically two days, and being a “horrible rock band”…
E: Elliott (bass)
D: Dan – (guitar & vocals)Your debut album ‘Nightingale’ is incredible, you’ve stated that “It’s not trying to be a Maroon 5 album. It’s a horrible rock album, there needed to be grime left under the finger nails.” With such a raw sound and subject matter, what’s the story behind your gritty album?
E – “I had nothing to do with the writing of Nightingale, but it was the exact feel that you described that made me want to be involved. It is a great album.”
D – “Haha that’s not true Elliott. Elliott played a little on the album, he was around while I was recording some bits so he ended up doing a few vocals on some tracks and played drums on ‘The Ballad of the Dead’. To be fair he played drums on that track because I couldn’t be bothered to run out and record them myself.
“Thank you. It is a horrible rock album, it needed to be. It is a love album at heart but also an album of self-deprecation. It has a bit more of an uplifting end – I think so anyway. The thing is, I don’t really write “love songs”. So I added an undead element to it. It tells the story of the undead falling in love with the living world, but never feeling good enough.
“I’d say 90% of the album was written over a weekend, with the exception of the bridge to ‘Ghosts of Guinevere’. I just caught that spark of inspiration and ran with it. I produced it with a lot of grit and grime to help with the atmosphere of the story.”
‘Ghosts of Guinevere’ is one of ‘Nightingale’s highlights for me. Despite its plodding bass and crunchy guitars I could still imagine it receiving popular airtime. Bands like Royal Blood appear to be exceptions, but how do you feel about rock’s current situation in the popular market?
E – “‘Ghosts…’ is one of my favourite songs to play and listen to. I think there is always a place for “rock music” within the mainstream market. It’s such a broad term. And bands are constantly proving how much you can get away with. I think as long as you have a good hook, a wider range of people will accept it.”
D – “Yeah ‘Ghosts…’ for me is a banger. The first time I heard that chorus back I thought that this has to be a single. So now we are in plans to make a video for it.
“I think that rock music will always be in fashion. Pop music changes but as long as the song is good no one cares if it has big drums and big guitars, it will still be around. Bands like Muse, Slaves and Biffy Clyro will always be on radio. I think because bands are actual musicians that have worked their whole life doing what they love you can really feel the energy and emotion in a rock song.”
Hear it here:
Since you’ve recently grown from a duo to a three-piece, how has having Elliott join the setup changed things for The Dirty Dead?
E – “Well, being the Elliott that you mentioned I’d have to say for me it’s changed from not being in the band to being in it. I like this change.”
D – “HAHAHA!
“I loved the two piece thing, we could improvise live it was a little easier to travel. But because the album was more than “two piece sound”, it meant that some of the songs on Nightingale had to be modified live, or not played at all because they didn’t sound right.
“Me and Elliott have been playing in bands together since we were 14, The Dirty Dead was the only band I had played in without him, and now look, he’s turned up again! He adds way more than just a third member of the band. We feed off each other’s stage presence, he is a great all-round musician, he now helps with the writing process and he is an illustrator. It’s a no brainier really.”
A lot of up and coming bands we speak to are still students. What do you think are the advantages and drawbacks of being a little older as a band?
E – “I don’t think it’s down to age I believe it’s down to experience. I’ve been in bands with Dan as early as 14, and that has taught me so much. Even if The Dirty Dead was the first band I’d been with at 30, I believe I would be just as clueless as I was in my first ever band at 14.”
D – “It is just about experience. We now know that getting offered an opening slot at a show in Scotland, in a small town pub, is probably not going to be the best way to spend time, money and fuel. We know that playing the same place every month isn’t going to build your fan base. We now know exactly what we want out of a band. No one is going to be famous, so you may as well write the music that you just love playing.”
What’s next for The Dirty Dead? Will there be a part two to ‘Nightingale’s narrative concept?
E – “The writing process is very organic, but we have had brief discussions about the narrative for the next album. We believe since the dynamic has changed, perhaps a new story would be more appropriate. Something equally as dark I imagine…”
D – “Yeah, we have about 10 or so demos recorded, and have a few ideas for a new concept. I think we even have a name for the album. But the dynamic has changed and for the better. I wrote the last record on my own, so I had a lot of times while mixing where I would think “Is this even good anymore” – I just got sick of it. Now I have another songwriter to bounce ideas off and add a new flavour. Don’t worry, we will still be a horrible rock band”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe
Images by: Emma Hendey