DZ Deathrays On Looking Back To Look Forward For Their Career-Defining 'R.I.F.F.' Album

2 August 2023 | 9:57 am | Ellie Robinson
Originally Appeared In

After going all out with a double concept album, DZ Deathrays threw it back to basics for their insta-classic sixth album, R.I.F.F.

DZ Deathrays

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The spirit of DZ Deathrays’ sixth album is in its title: R.I.F.F. The acronym stands for Remember, It’s For Fun, which became somewhat of a motto for the Meanjin/Brisbane trio in the writing and recording processes. It marks a complete 180 from their epic Positive Rising project, where they ambitiously dove into new genres and production styles, seemingly reinventing themselves multiple times across the span of two albums.

After leaping so far out of their comfort zones for those releases, R.I.F.F. takes DZ Deathrays back to their roots – it’s a charged rock’n’roll record with a strong dance-punk influence. As their national tour in support of the album winds across the country, we met with frontman Shane Parsons to recap the journey he and the band embarked on in creating R.I.F.F.

I always go into a DZ Deathrays record being like, “Okay, I know what DZ Deathrays sound like, I know what I’m in for here…” And then there will be, like, five songs that just totally blindside me with how unpredictable they are. Do you make a conscious effort to always keep your fans on your toes?

Every time we go into [a studio to] record something, I want to try to go somewhere new with the music and bring in some new elements – but I never want to completely estrange ourselves from our fanbase. Because our fanbase is kind of all we've got. We've been around for quite a long time now and we've got a really loyal fanbase, so I don't want to go and do something that’s going to make them be like, “Ugh, this sucks!” Some bands go and do that and then they just get a whole new fanbase, or their fanbase grows with them. But for me, it's always been about getting the best of both worlds: trying something new, but then also throwing back to some old-school stuff.

Before we went in to make [R.I.F.F.] I went and listened to some of our old records, and I was kind of inspired by them a little bit. I was thinking to myself, “What was getting me excited about music back then? What were we doing that was so interesting to me?” And then the other side of it is that I really wanted to bring more electronics into this record. It still feels like a rock record, but there's a lot of underlying sub-bass and synth, there's a lot of the [Roland] JUNO going on, and then there’s some soft synth stuff and hopped-up drum beats and everything like that. So yeah, there's a lot going on – which is probably why it took ages to put together [laughs].

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Some of the stuff on this record definitely reminds me of what you guys were doing on the Bloodstreams [2012] and Black Rat [2014] albums – just that super angular, experimental kind of vibe. Blending all of that with what you’ve learned from making the past three records, does it feel like you've been able to create the definitive version of DZ Deathrays?

Yeah, I mean, I’m always hoping that every record we make is the definitive DZ Deathrays record. But I reckon if I was to go back and look at the career, [Bloodstreams] was definitely just “all the songs we had at that time” – that’s just who we were at that point in time, we didn’t really have anything to build off of. [Black Rat] was kind of a new phase, though: we worked with a producer and started doing things like layering guitars and doing a little more song-crafting. And then when we went in to do the third record [2018’s Bloody Lovely], I remember being like, "I want this feel like a live record.” So we went quite “rock” with it.

The next two records [2019’s Positive Rising Part 1 and 2021’s Positive Rising Part 2] were their own thing – we were like, “Let's just do something really big.” But going back and listening to Part 1 recently, I was a bit like, “Oh, it does feel like we were sort of waving our heads and going, ‘Uhhh, which way do we go here?’” And so for this one, we had a bit more time to just be more concise with it. We had the ability to try a lot of new things, but also bring everything onto the same wavelength in terms of the sonics.

After making those Positive Rising records – which were definitely your most ambitious albums to date – were you eager to just kind of throw out the rulebook and not think too hard about the “vision” for this one?

Totally. I just wanted it to be fun – which is why it got called what we called it. We wrote a lot of songs for this record, and there's a lot of songs we wrote at the start of the process where we were like, “Oh, this is really cool... But it's a bit sad.” And I didn't really want to have any sad songs on this record – they can be angry, but they have to have that underlying bit of fun or energy in there. That’s also why it's ten tracks long without the little interludes – it's only half an hour long, so it’s really quite short and sweet. There's a lot of ideas in there, but yeah, that was a big thing for me – to make sure it didn't feel like a “lockdown record”, that it was very much fresh and energetic and new.

And that energy is exactly what makes this record. The first thing that stands out about it is just how fucking intense some of these songs are. As a guitarist, made you want to really tap into your inner shredder?

We kind of always want to do it – it's just about finding the songs that work for it. There's a lot of stuff we write over time where we’re like, “This sounds so good, it's so heavy,” but then the vocal just doesn't work. But with a song like Paranoid, it just worked immediately. Lachlan [Ewbank, guitars] actually sent me that track – he'd done all the guitars and stuff for it, and then the vocal just... Happened. It's was one of those ones where it all just fell into place. I remember sitting in the studio at all this points throughout the process, and we'd listen to Paranoid and we'd all be like, “Ah, this one feels so good!”

Even before the rest of the album was done, we were like, “This is the song that we need to come straight out of the gates with.” It was a bit of a pivotal track for the album – it really made us go, “Alright, this is where we want to go.” And then I think other ones that were pivotal were Tough Luck, Hope For The Best and My Mind Is Eating Me Alive.

But then there were tracks like Eat You Up. That was actually the first song we recorded for the album, and I originally sidelined it. But then when we revisited it, I was like, “No, this actually works really well,” and I brought it back and rearranged it. I actually sent the tracks to Miro [Mackie], who did the two Positive Rising records with us – he's really awesome at giving honest feedback as a listener, so I tapped him for some wisdom on Eat You Up and he was like, "I really like it, but it just feels a little… Unfinished.” So I went back and rearranged it, just to make it feel like a little more thought had gone into it – it had a bit more of a dynamic shift and stuff like that.

And then the last song we did was Love And Destruction. We had scrapped another track, and I had this really basic idea – it was all done on an acoustic guitar, but it was super riff-y, and we had to sort of craft that one. I was just like, “Ah, I feel like it needs something stompy in there.” And it turned out sick!


Thursday August 3 – Tarndanya/Adelaide, Lions Art Factory
Friday August 4 – Wooditup/Margaret River, The River
Saturday August 5 – Boorloo/Perth, Rosemount Hotel
Friday August 11 – Ngarang-wal/Gold Coast, Vinnies Dive
Saturday August 12 – Meanjin/Brisbane, Princess Theatre
Sunday August 13 – Murukutchi-dha/Maroochydore, Solbar
Thursday August 17 – Wurundjeri/Belgrave Sooki Lounge
Friday August 18 – Wadawurrung/Torquay, Torquay Hotel
Saturday August 19 – Bunurong/Frankston, Pelly Bar
Thursday August 24 – Yuwibara/Mackay, Seabreeze Hotel
Friday August 25 – Bindal and Wulgurukaba/Townsville, The Warehouse
Saturday August 26 – Gimuy/Cairns, Edge Hill Tavern
Thursday August 31 – Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung/Ballarat, Volta
Friday September 1 – Naarm/Melbourne, Corner Hotel
Saturday September 2 – Boonwurrung and Bunurong/Rye, Haba
Thursday September 14 – Ngunnawal/Canberra, The Basement
Friday September 15 – Tharawal/Wollongong, Unibar
Saturday September 16 – Eora/Sydney, Factory Theatre