No Place Like Home

30 May 2012 | 8:30 am | Mitch Knox

"It’s those moments when your character’s tested, and your soul’s a little bit crushed..."

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It's a bittersweet homecoming for Dead Letter Circus. On the one hand, the Brisbane-bred alt/prog quintet has spent the majority of the last six months abroad in the United States touring with Texan prog-rockers Fair To Midland and are now returning the favour by bringing them along on their own headlining Sleepwalker tour in Australia, so it's got to be good to be home.

“Oh dude, it's incredible,” frontman Kim Benzie enthuses. “Most of the shows are selling out. It's really great to come back. We've been being the support band throughout America for three out of the last six months, so coming back home and feeling the home country love, it's pretty amazing.”

It should be especially good to be home because, as Benzie explains, touring in America is not for the faint-hearted.

“So basically, we did August, November and March over there – two of them were with Fair To Midland, one was with Animals As Leaders. It's just a taste of what real-deal touring is over there. It's a 24/7 thing – there's no days off. You play Mondays, y'know, you drive ten hours a day. You don't have time to have those days where you feel run-down and tired; there's no time out, it's just go, go, go. It helps you take it to the next level. But it's really good. It's like entering in this massive machine where you get sucked in one end and spat out somewhere else.”

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So it's an insane pursuit, then.

“It's amazing. It's pretty incredible going there and having people know the words to your songs an 18-hour flight away. You've never played before in that city and you just go, 'How the fuck do you guys know about this?' It's crazy.

“I guess it's just that you don't really stay anywhere – you kind of live in the van, so you spend a lot more time staring out the window. It's like a survival thing over there, you know? You get to the venue, try and find some food, load all your gear in, do the show, wait till everything's packed up at the end of the night, drive five hours toward the next town, try and find a crappy motel, sleep for four hours and get up and do it all over again. But it's awesome. After a while, when you're that run-down and tired but you've had to do it every day, you forget about the fact that you're run-down and tired, and you become this crazy, base, animalistic human. It's cool.”

The realities of road-touring in the US acted as a catalyst in many ways for Benzie. It allowed him the headspace to write his contribution to the band's as-yet-untitled second album, pushed back to allow them their overseas detour. But it also opened his eyes on other levels.

“I think we're really lucky to be Australian, after travelling,” he admits. “Our standard of living here is just phenomenally high – everything's old and worn in America. All the roads are, like, the worst roads you've ever seen in Australia. That can go for hundreds of kilometres… all of the money's obviously gone elsewhere… they're really experiencing the worldwide recession, which we haven't really felt that much here. You can really notice it. As far as music goes, there are amazing bands over there. Those hardships seem to be hitting some pretty amazing shredders.

“It's those moments when your character's tested, and your soul's a little bit crushed, and you need a sliver of hope, that's when the human spirit rises up and does amazing things, and there's a whole country of that going on over there. What I did notice about America is their international image… the actual people behind that, the people on the street, are fucking really nice people. They're totally misrepresented. The whole arrogant American concept just doesn't even exist over there. They're the friendliest, warmest, most welcoming people that we've met on our travels.”

Including, as it turns out, their touring mates both in the US and here at home, Fair To Midland.

“Originally, we were looking for bands to tour with over there, and obviously we could bring bands here and put them in front of people, and somehow the CDs of each other ended up in each other's hands, and we got a link saying, 'Check this band out,' and we were like, 'Oh, man, we've already heard this band, they're fucking awesome.'

“It's actually borne the biggest bromance in the history of band bromances, I think. There's probably gonna be some tears when the tour's over.”

When the tour's over, the band will finally be able to properly concentrate on releasing their follow-up to their 2010 debut, This Is The Warning, and you can expect that it'll be heavily influenced by their international experiences to date.

“My tour of America basically saw my contribution to the album,” Benzie says. “Because we were the band before the headliner, the second we finished I'd be grabbing my laptop and a microphone and finding a dusty corner of the venue, anywhere I could find that was quiet enough for me to do some writing - that was me for like two hours after we played. Even at the hotel, I was in the convention room barricaded behind a bunch of tables just with my laptop at four o'clock in the morning trying to get some ideas out. It's really interesting because when we wrote the first album, we wrote it from the comfort of being home, and now we've kind of been doing it under duress… there's no kind of 'nine hours of comfortably sitting there, sipping a latte, having a break, calling a friend,' it's just boom – let's make this happen now. You're super tired and sometimes you don't even feel like doing it but some of the most amazing stuff seems to come out.”

But global realities, musical soulmates and creative energy aside, Benzie still finds his thoughts falling back home rather than to the States and is adamant that Brisbane shouldn't prepare itself to lose Dead Letter Circus any time soon.

“We'll never relocate or anything like that, but as far as touring and your experience goes, for us, we like playing a lot, and in Australia you can only play a certain number of times a year. So now that we've done three tours of America we'll probably do another one before the end of the year. We'll go on a three-month tour, rather than a one-month tour, like you would in Australia. But yeah, man, Australia's the best country. There's nowhere I've been yet where I've gone, 'I'd rather live here than live in Brisbane.' We're really lucky. It really is a lucky country.”