Magical Mystery Tour

1 August 2012 | 12:37 pm | Chris Hayden

We were a bit nervous about sending the tracks overseas and doing everything via the internet, and when we got the mix from Matt it was just banging

On the line from Bali after a particularly hedonistic night out, Dirt River Radio lead vocalist Alex Raunjak has every reason to be feeling a little rough around the edges. Taking in one last holiday before his beloved band gear up for the release of their second record, Rock And Roll Is My Girlfriend, Raunjak is determined to take advantage of the free time. “We've been riding scooters around like crazy fuckers,” he laughs. “I had a massive night out last night on these Bali mushrooms, man. The Doors haven't sounded so good since 1973.”

Sounds like fun, but hallucinogens aside, there is work to be done in the Dirt River Radio camp. Namely the release of that latest album, a good old-fashioned Aussie rock romp recorded, like all of the band's previous efforts, with renowned producer Matt Voigt (Paul Kelly, Midnight Oil, Dirty Three). “Heath (guitar/vocals) and I have made about three or four records over the years with different bands and strangely enough we've only ever worked with Matt,” Raunjak explains.

“We met him when we were a bit younger, maybe ten years ago, and just went into Sing Sing not realising how much money we were in for. We were on the dole at the time, had no money and some pretty grand plans. It was a bit dumb but looking back on it now we got a great record and once you've recorded in a room like Sing Sing you can't really go anywhere else. It's just a magic place.”

When the time came to mixing Rock And Roll Is My Girlfriend, Dirt River Radio had some similarly grand ambitions. Initially working with Grammy-winning New York mixer Kevin Beamish, the boys had a last-minute change of heart, preferring to stay closer to home. “We spoke to Kevin in Nashville about mixing the record and he demoed a song for us which actually sounded great.

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“But then we started talking to Matt about getting that real Exile On Main Street vibe to the whole thing and it was just absolutely perfect. We were a bit nervous about sending the tracks overseas and doing everything via the internet, and when we got the mix from Matt it was just banging.”

Moving into the visual side of things for the first time with this record, the lads have also enlisted the help of filmmaking collective SteepleJack Creative to create their very own rockumentary, titled Too Hot Days, Too Hot Nights. Far from taking the warts-and-all approach adopted by the likes of Metallica in Some Kind Of Monster, Steeplejack's film found the band in a pretty agreeable place. “We used to do a Thursday residency at Pure Pop Records in St Kilda for the longest time,” Raunjak explains.

“We met them there and they just started filming everything for a year. They rang us one day and told us they'd put together this movie and that we could come have a look. My favourite parts are when they actually capture the moments when some of the songs are spawned. There were a couple of really great moments like that.”

Taking these riffs into the pubs of the world has never been a tough process for a band like Dirt River Radio. Known as a classic “balls to the wall” live band, they make sure to keep up with their audience whenever they hit the stage. “We used to do this thing where if someone wanted to request a song, they'd have to buy the band a shot of tequila each. It got a bit crazy though and by the end of the show we'd done eight or nine shots of tequila each and we were just falling over. It's not always a drunken debauchery but it helps.”