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The Death Set

Written by Daniel Clarke on April 7, 2009

The Death Set love to play fun shows wherever they can. Sometimes that means abandoning the idea of a stage altogether and playing on the dance floor, surrounded by the crowd that came to see them.

I ask Lead singer Johnny Siera about their unconventional performances. He tells me it has to do with the nature of the DIY circuit.

“You’re playing in warehouses and you’re playing at peoples houses and galleries and stuff like that where it’s not your typical rock club so it’s not really a decision it’s more just what happens.”

“When you’re playing shows to fifty or a hundred people, ninety percent of the time it is better on the floor, you can connect so much better. The way I play it is that when I rock up to a venue, I’ll gather whether it will be more fun and the band will be able to connect better with the audience on the floor or on the stage.”

Connecting, it seems, is what their live shows are all about. Johnny explains that when he goes to see a show he wants “to be entertained. I wanna see the singer hanging off the roof with blood coming out of his forehead or something.” While that hasn’t become a feature of Death Set shows yet, they do like their theatrics.

“For me entertainment is watching a group going absolutely crazy, out of their minds. That’s entertainment for me and I guess that’s the sort of show I want to put on.”

Since 2005 the band have played hundreds of shows all over the place, from North America through Europe and even occasionally in Australia.

Johnny admits that can get tiring but his whole idea for the Death Set was to be a touring band, with their experiences on the road having helped shape their debut album Worldwide.

“I’d like to think that the record we made was affected by that touring, rather than writing a record and then being put on tour.”

“I think that’s the ethos behind the band. I love playing shows, I love playing music. Obviously, doing any one thing gets tiring after a while but I’m still having fun.”

The band have had a fairly hectic journey to get where they are. From basements in Surry Hills to being penniless in Brooklyn sleeping on friend’s couches, the living arrangements haven’t always been ideal. Reflecting on their many haphazard lodgings, Johnny at least sees it as a positive influence on the development of their music.

“Living on a homeless style strange mattress in that warehouse in Surry Hills was in hindsight a really perfect place to write music. We’d literally wake up and start writing music and wouldn’t have to worry about anything else. For the first time I just moved into a place where I actually have a bedroom and that’s been the first place in three years.”

“To be honest I’m happiest when I’m being creative and doing what I want to do” he adds, before reflecting. “Having a door or a bedroom is nice, but it’s really not important.”
By his own admission, the Death Set play “underground music that isn’t that digestible” so their following is still quite underground, but hastens to add that “it’s great if a more general population listens to it.”

I observe that you can’t expect everyone to like your music all the time, and Johnny agrees. “Exactly. If they did it’d be boring, wouldn’t it?”

With two years of almost constant touring under their belts, the Death Set have surely matured with time. I ask what Johnny has learnt from his experiences.

“I think I’ve gotten used to playing a lot more different shows. Especially this year, since we’ve been going on these bigger support slot tours, playing from anywhere to five hundred to six, seven thousand person shows I’ve gotten used to how to deal with it.”

“It’s been a crazy little journey to be quite honest, and all the little different places around the world react differently and it’s been an experience to learn how to deal with that.”

The immediate future sees Johnny with two months off “for the first time” so he’s looking forward to a little relaxation. Returning to Australia to visit, he plans to “sit on my parent’s veranda and watch the park” in between writing material for a new album.

It certainly sounds like he’s deserved a bit of a break.

The Death Set’s ‘Worldwide’ is out now on Counter through Inertia.

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