Die!Die!Die! are one of the few contemporary New Zealand bands that need little preamble. In the course of their illustrious career they have produced a consistently excellent oeuvre of noise-pop nuggets; they’ve toured Europe and the Americas; they’ve worked alongside Steve Albini (who in turn has worked with the moderately well-known Nirvana, say, and The Pixies). Their new album, Harmony, was released on Friday the 6th of July to due fanfare. As numerous other commentators have noted, it forms a perfect midway point between the sprawling noise and ferocity of their earlier work (as a naïve 15 year old yet to explore the vitriolic and cacophonous worlds of Sonic Youth and The Dead C, my immediate reaction to ‘Promises, Promises’ was less ‘This is a noise-pop masterpiece’ and more ‘I want to press charges for assault’) and the harmonious, pop-tinged nature of their more recent output. The result is nothing less than stunning.
Frontman and vocalist/guitarist Andrew Wilson was generous enough to let me interrupt a spring-cleaning session at his Auckland residence to grant me an interview by phone and leave me feeling star-struck. The banter flowed back-and-forth fluidly, as we discussed a vast array of topics. This included the band’s new line-up- the group recently enlisted bassist Michael Logie of the Mint Chicks fame and F in Math ‘fame’, whom Andrew describes as both ‘one of the best musicians in New Zealand’ and ‘my best friend’ (TRU LUV <3). When speaking of his hometown, Dunedin, he expressed a desire to move back at some stage; though he vehemently feels that the (in)famous drinking culture of the city needs to ‘fuck off and die’. His desert island discs are worthy of a mention, topping that particular list with the collected works of Ol’ Dirty Bastard (complete with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) obviously; if you’re going to spend time stranded on a barren island you might as well bring da mothafuckin’ ruckus).
It was while discussing their new album, however, that Andrew became most impassioned. Of the songs on Harmony, he professes to be ‘proud of all them, yup’. It was the titular track, however, that he spoke with special fondness. The backstory of the recording is as fascinating as it is fraught; the music of the song emerged from a jam session in the French recording studio in which Harmony was recorded. The lyrics, however, were penned earlier by Andrew on a train in China while he was, by his own admission, miserably inebriated on 60 per cent liquor and suffering pangs of homesickness.
Unfortunately, this was not the only fraught moment in the recording of the album. While I did not think it appropriate to bring up the band’s recent departure from the Flying Nun record label (which many speculate was acrimonious), we tip-toed around the topic throughout the conversation. Whether related to the split-up or not, Andrew expressed consistently scathing sentiment about a music industry ‘which is designed to fuck musicians over’. His advice to young and newly-fledged bands was similarly sobering: ‘if you’re doing it for the fame, or the money… you have to realise that you’re probably not going to make it… you’re in it for the wrong reasons’.
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Whatever the case, Die! Die! Die found themselves without a label and thus without means to put out Harmony. And, by that point, Andrew was feeling deeply burnt-out and disillusioned by the entire experience. Die!Die!Die! devotees are lucky that Harmony was even released at all. Shelved for about a year before it’s official release, these circumstances conspired to damn-near ensure Harmony would never see the light of day.
I don’t think he imparted this to me in order to incense feelings of pity or to have an indulgent whinge, and if you, dear reader, take anything from this interview please let it not be that. Rather, this backstory was used to highlight what a marvelous place the band is in now. They have taken control of their music and released Harmony on their own recording label. Consequently, they have more creative control and input over their records, and are in a liberating position that abounds with potential for the future. As a result, and somewhat ironically considering Harmony may just be their greatest work thus far, Andrew claims a cavalier attitude towards any response to Harmony, saying, “I don’t really care, eh. Like it or don’t”. “But surely”, I press, “You’ll read the interviews at least?” “Yeah,” he concedes, “for a giggle”.
Harmony is available at record stores in both CD and Vinyl format.