DIRT CITY // True Grit

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Despite how it might appear, Dirt City vocalist Warren Harding insists that his band didn’t set out to intentionally sound like an alternative metal band from the 90s.

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“It’s not something we actually went out trying to do,” he says with a knowing grin. “Obviously we all love Alice in Chains, but it was about going back to basics, more than anything: ‘Let’s just play some catchy riffs and see what happens.’ I wouldn’t say we’re even huge 90s heads, either. It’s just funny how that’s worked out.”


Dirt City’s own press kit namechecks the likes of White Zombie, Nine Inch Nails and Filter, while their self-titled EP determinedly hints at more modern influences as well with the inclusion of a cover of Billie Eilish’s 2018 spinechiller You Should See Me in a Crown. Harding admits to having long been drawn to dark things. His affinity for black clothes got him marked as a “Goth, or a swampie” as a younger person. 

“I like the dark undertones of anything,” he says, “and you can find it in anything, if you look hard enough. Even some really, really popular stuff like Billie Eilish draws me in.”

The lyrical inspiration was as equally dark as the musical influences. Harding suggests that at least one of the tracks came to him while he was watching Dahmer

“A lot of these come from a lot of horror movies I’ve been watching, and a lot of poetry I’ve been reading,” he explains. “I don’t like being overly explicit or implicit in what I’m trying to convey in a song. I like to leave something up to your interpretation too. So for me to say, ‘Oh this is about a serial killer’, well, it is, but that’s for you to draw out of it.”

Working with a producer is like taking a bit of a shortcut, but in a good way. Because we could be there for another week going
[ Warren Harding – Dirt City ]

He does, however, suggest that in some way, the EP is a metaphor for the path Dirt City has taken to this point: “I’ve thought of these songs as little sonnets that encapsulate this journey we’ve been on. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a concept album as such, but there’s a lot that you can read in between the lines if you start looking through the lyrics.”

Dirt City came together around some songs guitarist Ishan Karunanayake came up with that were in a different vein from the ones he and Harding had done in their previous band. Once they knew they were onto something, the pair started looking around for others to complete the project. Members were found, false starts were made, COVID happened. But at last, they were able to get into the studio and work on the songs they’d completed. As a final touch, they decided to bring in experienced producer Nathan Sheehy, whose credits include Birds of Tokyo, DZ Deathrays and Dune Rats

“[Working with a producer] is like taking a bit of a shortcut, but in a good way. Because we could be there for another week going, ‘What do you think of this one, what do you think of that one?’ It just takes the stress out of it, because we’re here as musicians and we’re here to enjoy this process rather than stressing over it, so that was pretty cool. We’ll definitely be doing that again.”

At the time of our interview, the band had yet to play live. Since then, they’ve played their first gig, at Sydney’s Duke of Enmore, and Dirt City is now hoping to concentrate on more live shows.

“[We want] to get on stage as much and as often as we can,” Warren Harding says. “I love performing, and I think that’s what this is all about. To really show people what we can do, and to get our music out there.”

Purchase Dirt City’s EP here.

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