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The Dirty Nil: “We don’t take ourselves too seriously”

The Dirty Nil are a band who find themselves falling under many labels as you listen – punk, garage rock, or even grunge at times – there’s definitely hat tips to all of them, but what underlies it all is a “snotty” rock’n’roll approach that packs all their songs with a demand, piercing through your speakers or headphones – one that you must pay attention.

Their live prowess is wild, and it’s something that’s been channelled into the album, cranking it up as far as it can go. Luckily, the Canadian trio have come from a thriving music scene, one that’s brimming with exciting bands, but also a community vibe, in Hamilton, Ontario, where you can hone that side of being a band. “There’s a lot of fantastic bands in and around there,” begins Luke Bentham, vocalist and guitarist. “About 45 minutes up the road you have got Toronto too, so there’s some excellent bands up there. There’s a lot of fantastic music, there’s a lot of mutual support in terms of what everyone’s doing, everyone goes to shows and supports each other’s events.”

The rock’n’roll snark that pushes through is something that binds them all together in influence. “We definitely got together as a band around late-1960, early-1970s rock music. We have all gone off in all different directions when exploring other types of music but that’s central to the DNA of our band. We don’t borrow too heavily from one source, though as a band together there are some things we still lean on that we reference.”

“We wanted a more amped up version of us playing live on our best night.”

Their years so far have seen them release 7”, and even cassettes, keeping tangible music at the core of what they create. “I think that is kind of paramount in the philosophy of our band,” notes Luke. “Dave Nardi, our bass player, has been the talent of all of our packaging, all of our artwork and our merchandise. He’s really big into vinyl; we all like vinyl to a certain extent, but Dave is really, really into it. 

“It was really just the 7” release schedule we had a few years ago until now, but we really wanted to have tangible things that people could actually pick up off our merch table. I’ve been to a lot of shows where people are giving away download cards and you just don’t take them seriously. They sit in your pocket, they go through the wash and then nothing. It was important to have something you could hold and look at, that’s kind of central to my enjoyment of music, at least.”

If we’re talking about enjoyment of music, which luckily we are, little can compare to an album that makes you want to listen, that feels like time well spent and forces you to leave it on repeat. Their debut ‘Higher Power’ is one such record, unrelenting and just downright fun. “We had a series of conversations of what we want to do and what we wanted to present at this point, what was going to be our first full-length album,” he says. “We wanted a more amped up version of us playing live on our best night, that was the blueprint for how we wanted it to sound. 

”We took a couple songs from out earlier 7” and our 10”, we wanted a very cohesive group of songs that flowed well together. It was definitely a conscious assembly of songs rather than, ‘hey, I’ve got a bunch of ideas, let’s just go record them and see how they fit together’. We definitely put some thought into how we wanted to sound and how we wanted to flow. I’m very proud of what we accomplished with the very talented engineering of our friend Josh Korody, production of our friends Adam Bentley, Shehzaad Jiwani and our mixer John Goodmanson. We had a great time making it, but it was an adventure. I’m really happy and excited to show people it.”

’Higher Power’ is an eleven song escapade without any real respite, but what ones stand out to him? “One song that really stands out to me was one of the last songs we really assembled before we went into the studio,” Luke explains. “We did some assembling in the studio, it was the last song ‘Bury Me At The Rodeo’ and it was about our first time going around America really extensively. 

”We went into the studio to record ‘Higher Power’ right as we got off our first two big American tours. That was kind of a love letter, in particular to the Colorado area, and how good of a time we had out there. The other songs are about a bunch of varying themes and stuff but they’re just snotty rock’n’roll songs. I think the lyrics came from a more experiential place right before we went into the studio, so they still feel pretty fresh in my mind.”

As one of their first real attempts at writing about experiences ahead of the studio, it leaves a feeling of promise for what their future holds. But for now, their full-length album is their step up to try something bigger, a fuller vision of what they’re all about: as a statement of intent for The Dirty Nil, what does it say? “In general it’s a pretty snotty declaration of supremacy. We don’t take ourselves too seriously but we wanted to make a pretty aggressive rock’n’roll record. I don’t know if I can boil it down to one thing, but one of the subtitles that was kicking around in my head for a while after we recorded it and did the final mixes was, ‘It’s higher power than your band’, so I guess that would be my answer.”

So you’ve got an album ready to unleash into the world, you’ve just played your first UK dates with more planned as part of a hopefully relentless touring schedule, what else does 2016 hold for the band? “Volume, stars, anger and just a good rock’n’roll show. Come have some fun.”

Taken from the February issue of Upset, out now – order your copy here. The Dirty Nil’s debut album ‘Higher Power’ is out now. Photo: Phil Smithies.