The Dirty Nil: “Let the money roll in.”

The Dirty Nil: “Let the money roll in.”

By Ben Tipple

Feb 2, 2016 13:08

As Canadian trio The Dirty Nil stand in a distinctly characterless stairwell adjacent to London’s Black Heart – tonight’s location for a one-off showcase in support of their forthcoming ‘Higher Power’ LP – conversation inevitably turns towards their stint on last summer’s Warped Tour. A quick glimpse at their interview history gives an honest insight into their experience, perhaps bluntly summed up as eye-opening. It’s easy to see why. Their powerful blend of rock and roll and punk, although adamantly not a punk band, sits at odds with even the traditional values of the touring festival. “Suck my fuck” t-shirts, guitarist and vocalist Luke Bentham laughs, are not the name of their game.

“The biggest thing was meeting someone in a lunch line and having a burger with them, and being like “I’m going to come check out your band tomorrow,” and you hate their band. It’s just not your thing,” says bassist Dave Nardi, prompted by Bentham for his retrospective thoughts on lessons learned on the tour. “You’re allowed to have different taste even if I hate your taste. You can connect on a different level.”

It’s part of a conversation dominated by their respect for music, fellow musicians and gear. “Just because you treat them like a captive audience and throw something new down their throats doesn’t mean they are going to respond to it,” says drummer Kyle Fisher who becomes most animated during the Warped Tour conversation, referencing a largely disinterested crowd. “Just because Kevin Lyman [founder of Warped Tour] decided to book us on the tour doesn’t mean they are going to change their minds.”

It’s a whole different world for The Dirty Nil, who present an altogether more gritty, garage sound. Unpolished and raw, it’s a stunning sight to behold on stage. Having played together since high school, it’s accomplished and assured, yet remains suitably rough around the edges. A far cry indeed from their touring companions, and easy to see that now is the time for them to make their mark in their own terms.

“We’re born again virgins,” Bentham jokes, playing with the perceived notion that bands truly start when their debut album is released. For The Dirty Nil, as with many bands, the story is somewhat different. Having released their first single, ‘Fuckin’ Up Young’, back in 2011, it’s taken them almost five years to get a full-length onto the shelves.

“The first five years of the band, we were all still in high school so it took a while for us to get serious about it and realise people might actually listen to it. Before that it was just our parents and our immediate friends. Even they didn’t even necessarily like it. My mum still doesn’t like this band,” Nardi explains. “It took a long time for us to reach that point where we thought we should put out a real record. Once we did, it was a much faster process to release two songs than to wait a few more months and accrue a few more songs. It seemed like the quickest way to build momentum once we got serious.”

“We were strongly discouraged in 2011 to release a full-length album. We were pushed in the direction of a 7” release. It definitely did us well,” Bentham adds, explaining the benefits of the more scattered approach. “If we’d released it at the time nobody would have heard it. It also added some fiscal factors. We would make a 7” and accrue some finances to make the next one, rather than sinking all our capital into a full-length record. We wanted to make sure that people wanted to hear it. That there was going to be some audience waiting for it.”

With a willing audience, and plenty more in the wings, ‘Higher Power’ pulls together their years of experience with their strong musical influences. Borne out of a mutual love for rock and roll classics, there’s an unmistakable retro vibe that forms the backbone to the record, mirrored in the album title.

“It’s just a fucking snotty rock and roll title. You can derive whatever you want from it. It’s tongue and cheek from our end,” Bentham explains. “It’s a little bit playful but it has its footing in some rock and roll referencing,” he adds before explicitly ensuring I am aware it’s “only a title”. Religious connotations are incidental. “Our higher power is rock and roll,” Fisher jokes, met by much eye-rolling.

“We used to cut out teeth when we were 16 picking obscure rock songs from the 60s or 70s, and just trying to learn them,” Bentham explains their love of the classic sound. “We were getting a grasp of our instruments. Our band is fundamentally built around those kind of things. Dave and I would get together and play guitars, work on things and toss around ideas.”

It’s a method that led to their love of the technical too, not necessarily in their song-writing but in their gear. “It’s the most basic thing Dave and I can unplug our minds about. Kyle can nod along and talk about drums every once in a while. It’s kind of a different world. The guitar and bass world is intertwined, but…,” Bentham trails off, smirking at Fisher who returns a knowing glance.

“Guilty as fucking charged,” Bentham responds when accused of being a gear nerd. “We’re not claiming it as a badge of distinction. If anything it’s a poison. A lot of our heroes don’t give a shit about gear.”

The conversation moves on to which tour they would like to be involved in, an impossible question for the trio, and one which opens up floodgates about bands that inspire them. “There’s so many divergent lists. There’s the legacy list where the audience wouldn’t even care we’re playing but we’d be stoked to be on the bill. We could go on tour with Dinosaur Jr, and the audience would hate us but we’d be stoked. There are other tours that would feel more beneficial,” Bentham goes on to list the likes of Protomartyr, Titus Andronicus and Parquet Courts.

But any chance of them returning to Warped Tour seems unlikely. “I’ve heard some rumblings of a complete overhaul in the format,” Bentham reveals. “Just because the Warped Tour brand has some strength in amongst itself, it’s going to have some difficulty diversifying. Even though I think the brand has more to do with the kind of person, and demographic that it attracts rather than the actual tour.”

So with that out of the question, at least for the time-being, what do The Dirty Nil have in store to celebrate the release of ‘Higher Power’? “A lot of home shows,” Fisher responds. “We’ve never played two nights in Hamilton before, so we’re trying that out. South By Southwest, and an East Coast run with Restorations in the United States. After that there’s some plans to come back to the UK.”

“We’re not going to relax,” Nardi concludes, before jokingly and loudly declaring with a playful glint in his eye: “We’ll let the money roll in.”