“Holy Sh*t. We’re Gonna Do An Album”: Dead Letter Circus Talk Stunning Themselves With Their “Personal” New LPWritten by Sally McMullen on September 24, 2018
Only a year after the release of their 10th anniversary acoustic album The Endless Mile, Dead Letter Circus had no intention of dropping a record this year. But it would appear that the gods of rock n’ roll had other plans. Without the pressure of deadlines or expectations, frontman Kim Benzie couldn’t contain the creative floodgates if he wanted to. As a result, DLC have produced their most effortless album yet.
Out now, the self-titled record is 10 tracks of harrowing self reflections and social commentary. Tunes like ‘The Real You’ pine for the truth beyond the masks we wear on social media, while others like ‘We Own The Light’ explore mental health and the fragility of traditional masculinity.
In the past, DLC have cloaked their lyrics in sweeping metaphors, but Benzie took a more literal approach when writing their fifth record. To compliment the straight-shooting subject matter, the Brisbane quintet also pulled back on digital production to let their signature heavy hooks and towering riffs take the lead.
To celebrate the new record, the boys are kicking off a massive Australian tour in November this year. Touring stages across Bunbury, Margaret River and Perth through to Adelaide, Canberra, Wollongong and Sydney, DLC fans should have no trouble catching the boys to hear the new record in the flesh.
Ahead of the tour and album release, we had a chat with Benzie about the DLC brotherhood and how they used a tactic titled ‘true movement’ to create their most authentic record yet.
Music Feeds: How does it feel right now in the calm before the storm of the record release?
Kim Benzie: Yeah, good! Calm (laughs). We’re psyched!
MF: Dead Letter Circus has been described as the most organic album of the band’s career. What makes you say that?
KB: It just came out really pure and easy. It was an easy album to write. In the band, the chemistry between us is just at an all-time high. When we write together, we’re just really committed in the sense that we’re a really awesome team. We just jam for hours upon hours and then the album happened.
We didn’t really do much afterwards. Sometimes you might put synth layers in and refine it over and over, but we didn’t do any of that. We just jammed it, wrote it, recorded it and then it was done. It was a really painless experience. Whereas sometimes you might get to the end of your studio time and you don’t think the song is perfect yet, so you go off to fix it. But we didn’t have to do any fixing. Everything flowed really well. So it was pretty epic.
MF: Did you go into the studio with stacks of songs prepared, or did it all come out of these studio sessions?
KB: Well, how it works is I generally create a pool of ideas that are really simplistic vocal lines with maybe a synth or hook of guitar or something. I find the first part of the story. I’ll spend a month carving out those ideas. It was really weird because we’re about a year ahead of our usual schedule, because we did an acoustic album last year. But I called up one of the guys and said “Man, I’ve got the album!” and after giving it a listen, he was like “How did that happen?!”. We convinced the other guys to book a room and try to do a song, and we did ‘The Real You’ I think and everyone went “Holy shit. We’re gonna do an album” (laughs).
We spent two weeks on pre-production to jam everything and then we just started executing the album. All up from conception to end, nothing existed three months before.
MF: Wow. Is the process usually that fast for you guys?
KB: Well, I was stunned. When I was doing my part at the start, all of the songs were just coming out so fast and they all had the most stupid names because I didn’t have time to think about them (laughs). It was a really magical time. And then in the studio with the guys, they’re just such magnificent jammers. Just watching them free-forming for hours and exploring the possibilities of the songs was really awesome.
MF: Was there also less pressure creating this album because you were following a creative impulse rather than meeting a deadline?
KB: We write our albums to please ourselves first and we’re lucky enough that they resonate with other people. The band is not just a financial pursuit for us. It’s just a thing we get to be. And the first step of that involves us writing music together and if it was just that and we walked out with nothing else, I would almost pay for that experience of just getting to write those songs with the guys.
We’re not very good businessmen based on that statement I just made (laughs). We’re just in it for all of the right reasons. We want to make music and I want to write it with my bros and then the next step is I want to see people react to it and love it as much as we do.
MF: I think fans can hear when an album is inauthentic or being dictated by a label, so sticking to your guns is probably always going to be your best bet.
KB: Yeah, based on the strength of our songwriting, we’ve been propositioned by one of the biggest labels in the world to do exactly that. We wrote a song called ‘One Step’ and with a song like that, we got flown to America, we did all of these showcases. I won’t say with whom, but we showcased our way to the top of the music industry. Then we were presented with this path where it involved cutting out our producer Forrester (Savell), who we wrote that with. We were also asked to scrap everything but that song on the album. So to our manager’s horror at the time, we just said “No, that’s not who we are”.
Who knows what the world could’ve held in store for us or if we would’ve broken up by now? Or maybe we wouldn’t have been able to do it, because we’ve never written a song on command. But that’s just us through and through. We’re just here to make some awesome tunes and it’s great that people love it.
I’m in it for the moment and getting to make music with those four other dudes. And I guess it’s part of my legacy as well. We’re leaving something behind that will live forever and that someone can listen to and remember us by. You’re part of this movement where you’re creating music and we’re all creating history. Everyone who writes a song is doing that.
MF: Let’s talk about the record’s debut single ‘The Real You’. It’s about the masks we wear on social media, but can you tell me a bit more about the thought process behind the song?
KB: I think when I was writing the song I’d just gone to the shops or something and I felt like I was in a zombie phone apocalypse. And you know when there’s a couple online and they post the most gushy shit you’ve ever seen like “OMG! This person is my soul mate” and then they break up like three weeks later? And then you’re like “So it was all fake?!” (laughs). Something like that happened.
Technology is this incredible thing and it’s changed our lives. Whenever big things like that happen, there are cultural by-products as a result. For example, our parents, they lived through that age of convenience where everything is faster and cheaper. The legacy from that is that we have factory farming, for example, and the crazy animal cruelty to try to make McDonalds burgers cheaper and all of the things that created that culture. And we’re in this digital thing where we’re just guinea-pigging with our minds.
What I’m talking about in ‘The Real You’, is we’ve created this thing a way to communicate with each other but how we interact with it has become… How can I explain this properly? We’re taking 20 photos to get one good one so we can show people what we think we’re supposed to show when we’re not really showing our true selves.
I was reflecting on my own phone addiction as well. Like I just went to the shop and got to the traffic lights and I felt like I needed to pick up my phone because I needed to be stimulated. So from that I was wondering in 20 years what legacy will be from this?
So I was just thinking “Who is the real you anymore?”. It’s the true gift of your eternal friendships, the ones who get to see the real you and those people don’t really give a shit about all the other stuff. So it’s kind of multi-themed around all of that stuff. I think I was quite frustrated at the time I was writing that chorus. And back to the couple on social media, their happiness then made me question my own happiness because I don’t feel the need to gush like that about my wife on social media, you know? (laughs).
MF: On the topic of phone addictions and social media, how do you feel about fans filming gigs or watching shows through their phones?
KB: Well, at first you’d almost get annoyed that someone would be in the front row and they wouldn’t even be looking at you, they’d be looking through the phone. But then I lost that because sometimes people can’t be there and they’re filming for their best friend or something. But what I have noticed is that it was prolific for a while and then it died off. I think people are a bit more present and in the moment. So I don’t judge people if they’re filming at a show on their phone.
MF: This album also tackles issues like identity and mental health, can you tell me more about the inspirations behind the record?
KB: It’s the most personal one we’ve ever written. It’s all really first person. There were themes on the last album where we were on a bit of a revolution vibe and on this one we just came right back to the person and your own positive mental health, really? We just channel this stuff, really. Especially the lyrics. I write them really quick and get into this really awesome headspace, and I get this feeling or it’s like I can see the album writing itself and then I just let it come out.
I’ve done some writing for other people, so I guess I can craft a particular thing but when it comes to my own music, it’s best when it just comes out. I have a term ‘true movement’ to describe when there is no gap between the action and it happening. It’s like when you think about everything you do. Like when you see a cup and reach over to pick it up. There’s thought involved in that. Whereas in other moments, say when you’re having sex or whatever, you go into this animal mode where there’s almost no thought and there’s no gap in there for any type of corruption of the action. It’s just pure ‘true movement’. And that’s just the state I try to get into when I’m writing lyrics.
MF: You’re also doing a massive tour in November and December, including a bunch of regional shows. Is this just like a month-long road trip for you guys?
KB: Yeah! Well, if you’re talking to our wives and partners, it’s gonna be a lot of hard work (laughs). But on the down low between you and I and all your readers, it’s going to going to be fucking awesome! (laughs). When you go on tour, you try to convince your family “Nah we’re working. It’s a lot of hard work!” but really it’s just a lot of fun. We can’t wait!
Dead Letter Circus’s new self-titled album is out now & you can catch them touring it across the nation this November & December.