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DZ DEATHRAYS // Demo Vocals, Evolution & Creating A Party Album During Lockdown

Love riffs? Step on up and come witness the sixth studio album, R.I.F.F, from iconic dance punks DZ Deathrays

MORE: AVATAR: The Eagle Has Landed, Avatar Are Finally Heading To Australia This August REVIEWS: REDHOOK: Postcard From A Living Hell  // THE AMITY AFFLICTION: Not Without My Ghosts // SLEEP TOKEN: Take Me Back To Eden // THE USED: Toxic Positivity // THE DIRTY NIL: Free Rein to Passions // AVENGED SEVENFOLD: Life Is But A Dream… // DZ DEATHRAYS: R.I.F.F

Now with over a decade as a band, supports with the likes of Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro, awards galore and effortlessly endearing charm, DZ Deathrays have continuously proven to be a positive and powerful force on the Aussie rock and alternative landscape. 

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Now armed with album #6, their most immersive and expansive to date, the trio have vehemently brought to life the very core of who they are as a band and what they wanted this album to reflect, and it’s this fact that is unlocked in the album’s very title.

With its titular acronym translating to “Remember, It’s For Fun”, R.I.F.F is entirely just that and then some. And tracing its origins back to 2020 and the peak pandemic years, the end result is a genuine party-starter that 2023 truly deserves, as vocalist and guitarist Shane Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley recently revealed to

“We’ve sat on it for a long time just waiting for it to be done,” Ridley enthuses. “And it’s so close now, it’s gonna be great!”

“We started R.I.F.F in 2020, essentially in lockdown,” reveals Parsons. “I was in Sydney, and I didn’t see Simon for 11 months. And in that time we just wrote songs via email, like we always do.”

“But then I started recording some stuff, and I was working with our producer Nathan [Sheehy] in Sydney in his studio. We were just mucking around, we were kind of like: let’s just do stuff and hang out at the studio and record. And then we got a couple of songs in and I was like: should we just record the actual album, because we had nothing else to do. And we just decided: yep, let’s do it! And from there on we kept chipping away at it.”

Eventually, Ridley was able to finally head to Sydney to join Parsons, with repeated visits working and re-doing drum parts. From there, the process unfolded without pressing time constraints, allowing the band to also deviate from their usual writing and recording modus operandi.

“After Simon was able to come to Sydney and do some drums we’d have a session where we’d have a couple of days doing guitars and hanging out doing vocals and stuff,” shares Parsons. “And then there’d be a random day the next week where we’d do some guitars. It was really slow because we were just doing it kind of like a day or two a week. And we were writing a lot of the stuff as we were recording it as well, which is pretty different for us.”

This was the first time we were like: I guess we can afford to record the record ourselves and then maybe license it out, It kind of just ended up being the funnest option to make your own label, because then you can do whatever you want.
[ Simon Ridley – DZ Deathrays ]

Boasting 13 tracks that traverse new sonic flavours and influences for the band, embracing Brit pop, garage rock, post punk and beyond, R.I.F.F also features multiple interludes and a hazy outro that lingers long after its final tones draw to a close. And upholding the “fun” element in its titled acronym with all their might, the party-ready vibes throughout R.I.F.F were definitely no accident, as Parson explains. 

“We had a lot of songs that were kind of a bit sad,” says Parsons, “and I think there was a conscious decision to make sure that this was kind of a party record. I think we needed that.”

“In terms of our evolution, we’ve always wanted to do more than we can actually do, essentially. When we did our first record, we wished that we could be running samplers and having synths all through it. We did have a little bit of that, but we just didn’t have the skills to do it at the time. Now technology’s come a long way and we’ve been able to do a lot of that stuff at home and learn how to do it. And then with songwriting: every time you write and do an album, you learn so much stuff. And working with different people, you learn even more stuff.”

“I just feel that genuinely, bands should get better. Maybe they don’t, I don’t know,” Parsons laughs. “But for me it’s like: I always like every album of ours more than the last one. Even with this record, I went back to some of our first ones and listened to them and was like: what was getting us excited, what were the sounds that were getting us excited back then and what were we doing? That meant I got a little bit influenced by the old stuff too. And that’s kind of also why it was made to be a bit of a party record.”

Threading the beloved trademark DZ Deathrays sonic DNA throughout, R.I.F.F simultaneously nods to the band’s lauded past and burgeoning present without feeling hackneyed or pandering to expectations; a feat made even more impressive given the band’s ongoing tenure, multiple ARIA Awards under their belts and an enviable list of accolades and critical acclaim that has accompanied their career so far. And putting together the R.I.F.F jigsaw to achieve the infectious end result during such a unique time in human history meant less time constraints and distractions; but it also meant, at times, wading through multiple versions of various songs, including the band’s head-turning recent single King B

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“Usually some end up on the cutting room floor,” Ridley reveals of the DZ selection process when crafting an album tracklist. “We have a bunch of songs demoed somewhere, but for this album it was like: well, we can’t get together and jam out these songs, so just start putting ‘em down!”

“Yeah, we always have a few songs that don’t make it,” adds Parsons, “but essentially what happens is that we’ll have maybe 20 or 30 ideas, some will be fully fleshed out, some will be half done, and there will be maybe four or five that really work well together.”

“From that, we’ll build outwards and go: all right, that song fits with this, and then that song fits with this one. And together they just feel right. And you just know. For us especially, because this is our sixth album, we know when those songs all fit together. At the end of it, there might be a couple of songs we’ll write with the album in mind, or we’ll be like: we need something that does “this” for the record, and we’ll go through all our ideas and flesh one out.”

“There’s a lot of ideas. There’s a lot of demos, and then there’s a lot of versions of every demo. King B had like 27 versions,” Parsons pauses, laughing, “until it got to where it is. But it doesn’t seem like it because it’s in its simplest form now. But that’s how long it takes to get it down to being really simple, because it’s all these ideas mixed together.”

“It’s like: wait, how do we make this really seem like a pop song that’s really simple?!”

Offering some tantalising insight into R.I.F.F’s end product, the aforementioned King B certainly snapped heads for both fans and the broader music industry via its pop-soaked rock theatricality upon release. But with all these new songs to choose from, what tracks are Ridley and Parsons themselves currently vibing from their shiny new album?

“I think for me it would be Eat You Up,” says Ridley. “I just had a lot of fun playing that one, and getting sent that track to jam along to during COVID when you’ve got nothing else to do, and you’re like: hell yeah! I couldn’t wait to actually get to play these songs live again and actually start playing drums again. It was a weird period. But that one was just a really fun song to knock some drums on.”

“For me it’s King B,” Parsons reveals, “because it took the longest time to make and we did the most changes to it. It was a real thing of like: no, it’s not quite right, we’re gonna redo this bit. It’s not quite right. And then we finally got it to where I was like: okay, now it’s good, now it’s done. And even the vocal on there, that vocal in the verses is all a demo vocal that I did, like a scratch vocal in the studio. That was done on a different microphone to the rest of the songs and it’s a real mishmash of a song.”

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“I feel like that was a really good one because we had the idea at the start, and then I just let go of it and it ended up becoming something I really enjoyed and never would’ve thought of previously. That was a good one!”

Officially launching R.I.F.F on its release day with a special album release party at Crowbar in Sydney, the setlist possibilities are now drastically expanded for DZ Deathrays with so much new music on the table. But it’ll be down to a rehearsal pre-party and gauging the responses live in action that will ultimately decide what new tracks make the cut ongoing. And, as divulged by Parsons, some other DZ’s treats may also be lying in wait for the group’s upcoming live shows. 

“We’ll see how well they do,” laughs Parsons. “We’re gonna have a rehearsal before the party and run through four new ones we’ve never played before. Then, once we start touring, we’ll just fall into the groove a little bit. We’ve been playing Paranoid for a little while so that’s now feeling super locked in. And we started playing Tuff Luck on this tour with Regurgitator and now that’s feeling really locked too.”

“It takes a little bit of time to get it to feel right. I feel like I would like to play as many off the record as possible, but I think we’ll probably play the singles plus a couple of extra ones and maybe alternate between those, and then we’ll just do some older singles as well because a lot of people still come to shows and wanna see those old songs. And we enjoy playing them! And also, it might be nice to throw in something old or something that we haven’t played in ages, you know, something from Bloody Lovely or Black Rat. But, yeah, there’s a lot of songs now. Six albums. What’s that? It’s like 60 or 70 songs to choose from!?”

A new album and live shows on the cards, who could want for more? But one extra cherry on top of the R.I.F.F adventure is the fact that the band also started their very own record label, DZ Worldwide, to bring their new album to life. Dubbed as “a record label dedicated to bringing you the best riffs in the business”, what better home for R.I.F.F than a label of their very own. 

“This was the first time we were like: I guess we can afford to record the record ourselves and then maybe license it out,” says Ridley. “It kind of just ended up being the funnest option to make your own label, because then you can do whatever you want.”

“As far as what we’re gonna do with it … I don’t know,” Ridley laughs.

“We’ve had some bands hit us up and are like: can you put out our stuff?” adds Parsons. “But it’s like: man, we have no budget. Our budget’s been blown up on DZ Deathrays. But hey, look, if the album goes well, maybe there’ll be some money in the bank and then we can look at other artists.”

“It would be really fun, but I also think it would be really stressful!” Parsons pauses, laughing.

“Putting someone else’s music in your hands, that’s tough,” adds Ridley. “Especially when you know how much goes into it.”

“There’s a lot of factors at play with music,” Parsons chimes in. “And sometimes, something that’s amazing doesn’t actually do anything, and something that’s terrible does amazingly. I can’t pick it!”

The music industry may be a weird wonderland at times, but there’s one undeniable thing DZ Deathrays can definitely pick – and that’s lashings of badass riffs. Catch said riffs live in action on Saturday 10 July at Tidal Sounds Music Festival in Coffs Harbour, and on Saturday 22 July at Bender In The Snow in Jindabyne. 

R.I.F.F is out Friday 2 June via DZ Worldwide.

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