London post-rock quartet deathcrash generate a captivatingly climatic sound, bringing a slice of the American Midwest’s dynamic balance between tranquillity and dissonance to the more overtly chaotic punk of our wee island.
Following in the footsteps of bands such as Mogwai, deathcrash have been carving out an off piste spot for their absorbing slowcore since 2019. Tracks such as ‘People thought my windows were stars’ offered a suggestion as to how deathcrash artfully create tension in order to weave a range of sentiments throughout each track. With the release of Return, deathcrash realise their full potential, following the form of their earlier release whilst building on lyrics that deliver a perceptual insight into their own relationships and the relationships of those around them.
Return offers itself as a refreshing break from the dominance of punk and post-punk in the current UK music scene. How did the distinct deathcrash sound develop and how has it altered in the three years since your formation?
Patrick (bass): We played through a host of different styles and sounds from when we first jammed together to ‘deathcrash’ being formulated. The line-up would change and so would the musical influences we were feeding to each other and slowly some things dropped away while other aspects began to stay. We were painstaking with our approach to writing because we wanted to convey certain feelings in a true sense. Over the last three years I think we’ve gained more confidence in our sound, so maybe our writing process is more open and free now.
Your sonic influences are easily discernible, but who (or what) inspires your frank and earnest lyrical style?
Tiernan (vocals): There’s a lot of musicians whose lyrics I like, but I wouldn’t say many are direct influences or inspirations behind our way of writing words. It’s more important to me that what someone is saying feels sincere when they say it, and songwriters who have been influences on me all seem to have this in common (e.g. Phosphorescent, The Low Anthem)
More directly, at university I spent time playing music with Famous and Jerskin Fendrix. Jack and Joscelin changed the way I thought about songwriting and lyric-writing. They each took it so seriously and put themselves so directly into their songs, and that wasn’t something I’d really been exposed to until I met them. It took a long time and many different things to happen in my life, but slowly I think I’ve managed to carve out a lyrical style that gets closer to a reflection of the sort of person I am.
The words for deathcrash have always been inspired by those closest to us also. It’s important to me that the ideas aren’t just my own. I’m not convinced that the stories of singers in rock bands are the most pressing stories that need to be told. So lots of the words come from conversations I’ve had with others, people who don’t generally turn their worries into art because they are living through them instead, and I’ve tried to do the best service I can to that.
Do lyrics on Return get written as one extended prose or are they always fragments of thoughts spliced together?
T: I’m not sure it’s either of these things, or maybe it’s a combination of both. Lots of the words come from fragments of diary entries and conversation, or at least begin from that point. It’s not a strong point of mine to give a narrative or tell a story directly, so I’m very happy to leave the songs quite open in that respect. Each song has a specific angle to it, so it’s never random fragments gathered hastily together. I usually have the first few ideas that come more or less simultaneously with the music, and then slowly piece together the rest of the lines to complete it. It takes a while, but it probably ought to.
Return was recorded live- were there any limitations to recording live that shaped the album in an unexpected way?
P: Yes there are limitations to recording live, and freedoms too. The backbone of the song has to be set in stone and refined by the time you record, there’s a chance for some overdubbing but it’s not like recording separately. I think that meant we really had to hash out what we wanted the songs to look like before we went into the studio, which helped. It can be unbelievably tense recording live too so I think it is a great way to capture a lot of emotion in the playing. You learn to look for the best take, not the perfect one.
Slowcore and Post-Rock are lesser attempted genres in the UK, why do you think that is? And do you think that your style would have been the same if you hadn’t grown up in the digital age of music?
Matthew (guitar): I think you can draw some fairly distinct lines in American guitar music of the 90s and 00s from their influences, whether that’s folky, open-string Americana or hardcore and metal. I don’t think those scenes were so big here – there was the whole britpop thing going on which feels to me like it’s more about the personality of the singer than the specific guitar sound. There are some great hidden uk gems though – Empress’ self-titled album from 2000 is some great UK style slowcore.
There’s no doubt that we probably couldn’t make the music we did now if it weren’t for the internet. Having all that music and musical history at your fingertips let’s you poke around and pick up different bits from different times and string them together into something new.
Your performance at St Matthias Church in June last year was one of the best that we have ever seen and certainly the best of 2021. The light show perfectly emulated the set list creating a visually appealing accompaniment to your sound- how did this idea arise and is this what fans have to look forward to on your upcoming tour
J: When you’re first starting to tour as a band you rarely have control over the lighting and it’s hard to make shows feel special without spending money on equipment or an engineer.
When we supported Lost Under Heaven for our first show as “deathcrash”, their lighting engineer James used a projector to shoot light out from behind the band as they played. When it was mixed with smoke it brought a whole new element to their show and created a spectacle that you don’t get from par cans and a lighting desk.
We developed our own version with Gabriel Davidson, where each song has its own group of projections that are triggered live by our manager Joe. It’s portable and adaptable to most settings and venue sizes. It was particularly special to use this set up at St.Matthias because of the scale.
For the forthcoming tour we’ll be using both projections and bringing our lighting engineer Fran Albrecht with us. It’ll be bigger and better than ever.
Emotive moments can be appreciated in both the quietly reserved and cacophonous points on ‘Return’. It’s easy to imagine the album collectively and tracks individually on a movie soundtrack. If you could redo the soundtrack of any movie which one would you pick?
J: Killing of a Chinese Bookie. The stretched out time of darker LA and Cassavetes’ noir narrative would suit us. Take nothing away from Bo Harwood’s beautiful soundtrack, I just like the film and it’s sitting on the shelf in front of me.