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DZ Deathrays: Rising to the challenge

DZ Deathrays aren’t the type to rest on their laurels. With each release, the rockers don’t meekly tip toe into uncharted sonic territory instead they deliberately leap into the abyss of the unknown every damn time. So, when faced with the challenge of progressing their sound further with Positive Rising Parts 1 & 2, the trio took the plunge.

That’s not to say that everything always goes to plan, and as Blunt Magazine would learn speaking with Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley, it’s often best to set your plans of progress on the shifting sands rather than the stable rock. “There was supposed to be about six months between releases,” Shane explains of the original master plan for the double album of Positive Rising. We were planning on releasing this around March…

“Obviously COVID happened, so we were like, ‘Okay, well we’ll push back a ton of shows, we’ll go to September.’ And then it was November. Then it was April the next year and then it finally landed at July, and that’s pretty funny because we’re in lockdown again. There’s no beating it, really, in the end.”

He surmises diplomatically that “it is what it is.” After all, fans of DZ Deathrays certainly haven’t been deterred, nor have media who were quick to herald Positive Rising: Part 2, out now, as an overwhelming success story.

Rather than stress at the roll-out snafu, DZ Deathrays themselves instead decided to double down on their confidence in both their songwriting and their craftsmanship. For the first time ever, the Positive Rising sessions had the band writing as a three-piece, affording unlimited creative licence to their newest addition, Lachlan Ewbank. “We had a lot more material and we were like, ‘Let’s just do something different for this record. And let’s try and put out a lot more songs and we’ll stagger it.'”

Given all that’s happened to the creative arts and live music space over the past 18 months, any artist could be forgiven for playing it safe. But changing things up between releases, no matter what the industry climate, was never a risk for DZ Deathrays. It’s what they’ve always done to play it safe would be the risk. “I feel like every time you do a record, especially working with somebody else, you pick up all of these extra skills or little learning notes, and then you take them onto the next one.

“Even the first record that we ever did,” Simon continues, “that was like four years worth of music that we had written when we first started the band, and we were super green, and we didn’t really know what we were doing. And we just picked 14 tracks that we were like, ‘Yep, these are going to be on the record.’ We didn’t change them from what they really started out as.

“Then we got to Black Rat and Bloody Lovely, we were working with Burke Reid and he really pushed us to rearrange songs and think about melodies a lot more. Then on these next two records, we worked with Miro Mackie and it was like a whole new learning experience working with him. He’s very lyric-oriented and he’s a great musician himself.”

Positive Rising: Part 2 is a darker affair than its older sibling, featuring more brooding not just in its lyrical content but in its soundscapes and delivery (even down to the album artwork, which sees the sunkissed scenery of Part 1 plunged into darkness). Despite how cohesive the concept may seem, Simon notes: “I don’t think there was any intention to do it that way…

“I think that’s kind of just how it ended up. I think Part 2 has got a bit more experimentation. We’ve got a cello on there, and we’ve got horns, and we’ve got weird percussion parts that we never really ever experiment with.” Shane interjects, noting that it “was completely unintentional.” He caveats: “We’re just putting songs on that we thought fit together well.”

Intentional or not, DZ Deathrays managed to compile a seamless anthology, a series of releases that smoothly progress from light to dark while touching on every shade in between. Furthermore, they’ve left plenty of blank spaces for listeners to interpretively fill in Rorschach tests if you will implying that so much remains still for listeners to find meaning in. “I like to write lyrics that are pretty ambiguous,” Shane says.

“Obviously, not all songs are like that,” he concedes, pointing to Part 2 album track ‘All Or Nothing’. “Obviously that’s about touring and playing guitar and having that love affair of playing guitar.” Fellow lead single ‘Make Yourself Mad’ is another example, “about people getting angry on the internet.” But then there are songs like ‘Positive Rising’, the eponymous track nestled within the closing moments of Part 2.

The 6-minute epic is nothing short of a masterstroke from DZ Deathrays, taking the form of more of a mood piece than a traditional song. It feels like something you’re sitting in on, rather than listening to. “I wanted to have a bit of a story in there it almost felt like it was a science fiction story but it actually had a tendency to lean into what was happening in America. It was back when [they were] talking about building this giant wall between America and Mexico, and [we ended up] having that idea floating through what portrays itself as a science fiction story.”

He concludes: “So yeah, when it works, it works. And other times, you end up just rewriting and rewriting, and you have so many different ideas. It’s like, I don’t even know what this song is about.

“But as long as it sounds cool and people can make up whatever they want, then that’s fine.”

DZ Deathrays Positive Rising Pt. 2 Australian Tour Dates

With support from NERVE

Friday, 3rd September
Magnet House Perth – 18+
Tickets: DZ Deathrays

Saturday, 4th September
The River, Margaret River – 18+
Tickets: DZ Deathrays

Friday, 10th September
Uni Bar, Hobart – 18+
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Saturday, 11th September
The Gov, Adelaide – 18+
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Saturday, 18th September
Miami Marketta, Gold Coast – 18+
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Sunday, 19th September
Nightquarter, Sunshine Coast – 18+
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Wednesday, 22nd September
Kambri, Canberra – 18+
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Thursday, 23rd September
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle – 18+
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Saturday, 25th September
Wollongong Uni, Wollongong – 18+
Tickets: DZ Deathrays