Having offered up multi-layered and highly energetic songwriting for eight years, today Brissie alt-rockers Dead Letter Circus release their fourth (and self-titled) studio album. We put some questions to vocalist Kim Benzie and drummer Luke Williams about how the epic Dead Letter Circus came to be.
The album was recorded over six weeks – is this a relatively succinct sort of timeframe for the way you guys usually record, or did you find you had extra room to breathe and experiment?
Kim: We really refined our process on the previous album as to how we tackle the creative and execution phase, and found that open-ended timelines don’t work for us, and that we in fact thrive when there is a deadline.
Kim, you’ve eschewed metaphor in favour of a more unvarnished approach to lyrics on the record; did this make writing lyrics more difficult because it’s more direct, and hence more personal?
K: With this one I just opened the gates and it poured out. I feel like if you strip away your fear of judgement with super personal lyrics, it’s easy, as you’re speaking an unfiltered truth. I’m comfortable baring myself in that way to the awesome peeps who love DLC after all this time.
Luke, your drumming is particularly propulsive on this album – you match or flip the feel of the guitars with a lot of dexterity. At what point in a jam or the writing process do beats and percussion come into things?
Luke: Everyone’s parts are constantly in a creation/evolution state, where they are being written and changed to create the best possible outcome for the song. Sometimes the drums are the genesis point of a new idea, but sometimes they’re the afterthought. We don’t have one particular way in which we work a song into its final state, to be honest. One thing is for sure though: everyone has an idea on how the drums should go… which is great, as it means that the drum parts constantly have a fresh injection of outside influence.
Kim, an effect you’ve used before very successfully – but which is especially present on this album – is letting vocal melody lines sometimes fall unexpectedly into the major camp, when a listener might be expecting a more sinister minor note. Is this a tool you use deliberately when writing, to keep us on our toes?
K: I’m a self-taught ear muso, so I was unaware of this being a special move of mine until I did a bit of co-writing outside of the band. Within the band it’s simply referred to as a ‘Benzie’ thing, but when I was helping out another band and the singer was a full nerd, he really broke it down for me one day as being an unusual trait. To me it just sounds right.
Is the fact that this album – four into your career, or five counting last year’s acoustic The Endless Mile – is self-titled, a declaration of solidification within the band?
L: I don’t think we’re saying that this is the defining sound of the band. I think we’re well aware that our sound is evolving constantly, and it’s all just a magical musical journey to us. We did grapple with album names for this one, but felt that nothing was fitting with the theme of the record. We are very happy with our workflow now as a band, and the writing/recording process is at its most efficient and enjoyable position ever. Writing music for us used to be quite a difficult thing, fraught with overthinking. But now we are at a point in our career where we are playing music that feels good in the jam room, and just going with it. So, in a way, we are more solidified there – but by no means would we consider that this new record is “it” in terms of our end musical goal. It’s a constant journey of discovery and self-expression that will be over only when the band calls it a day.
Dead Letter Circus is out now via UNFD.