Dead Letter Circus: Proud Exponents Of "Sissy Metal"

20 September 2018 | 11:13 am | Brendan Crabb

As Brisbane's Dead Letter Circus unleash their latest effort, frontman Kim Benzie tells Brendan Crabb about being proud exponents of “sissy metal”.

More Dead Letter Circus More Dead Letter Circus

Dead Letter Circus vocalist Kim Benzie takes The Music's call during that oft-anxious limbo period for an artist. Namely, their new self-titled album (and fourth full-length of all-new original material) is completed, and they've been living with it for an extended period. Now the Brisbane melodic prog alt-rockers are awaiting its release, including the inevitable feedback from fans and critics alike.

On that front, what's the worst review the singer can recall the band receiving? “When we go overseas, we quite often get lumped [with], like, we get sent to super heavy metal dudes... It's probably fucking torture for them to have to sit there and listen to it for 40 minutes,” he chuckles. “I think someone just called it 'sissy metal'. I think was the best term we ever heard. I can't remember the whole thing, but we kept that term with us for ages. That was the best one, someone going, 'This Australian sissy metal.'”

The new album – recorded over a six-week period at Studio Circuit, Gold Coast – is their first set of all-new material since 2015’s chart-bothering Aesthesis. “This album has no screaming, so it definitely qualifies as sissy metal,” Benzie laughs. “We don't have any breakdowns in the songs, that could be another thing.”

Whether grizzled metal devotees embrace it or not, Dead Letter Circus brims with the melodic sensibilities, ethereal atmospherics and towering riffs that won them legions of fans elsewhere. As 2017’s The Endless Mile, whereby the quintet re-imagined songs from their career in an acoustic and strings-laden setting drew near completion, Benzie happened upon a burst of creativity that led to the new LP arriving “a year ahead of our normal schedule”. His “seed ideas” were fleshed out with assistance from bandmates, who could scarcely believe their frontman already had dozens of songs in development.

This fruitful period for the singer eventually spawned a change in tack as a lyricist. “We sort of spent a couple of albums in real political revolution mode, I guess. And this one kinda swung right back to what we started writing songs about, being about relationships, interactions and your own state, your own vibration. That's why we went with the self-titled album as well; because we thought it was a return to the themes of where we began.”

On previous records, the group has taken a strong ethical stance regarding issues such as fracking. Despite the 24-hour news cycle and social media readily providing platforms that many artists are willing to utilise, some musicians, especially stateside, seem reluctant to openly reveal a political stance, for fear of potentially alienating sections of their fanbase.

“I found with the music, having two albums pretty much all about, one about, 'Let's awaken together,' and the one where, 'I see you there awake, let's hit the streets and march together.' Like a call-to-arms, and having people come along and sing these songs. But the second that you might do a political post on your Facebook, or support Sea Shepherd, like [something] as passive as that; give money to the people that are trying to save whales from Japanese whalers, you'll get some dickhead on there saying, 'Mate, just stick to the music.'

“When people come to like ten of your shows you become acutely aware of the shape of their head,” the vocalist laughs. “You look at the profile pic and you're like, 'Fucking hell dude, you have been in the front row for the past three years, singing the words to a song which is pretty much everything that you just said that you hate about musicians.' That, 'I hate it when musicians get into politics.' So people get really offended.

“I don't really have any kind of emotion about it because you can't really get angry about people expressing themselves. It's more of a fascination of, like, 'How did you even come to that conclusion?'... And it's like, 'Where do you want to see passion in other people?' We don't really change any of our behaviour because of it, definitely not. And we're not scared of it, it's just a fascination of the human condition that people react in certain ways to it. You're like, 'Wow, I never thought that dude would say that.' I couldn't imagine many people I know steering away from it because then I guess that would almost be like selling out, wouldn't it? The modern sense of that would be [being] too scared to do things because you're offensive. That's playing it way too safe.”