Interview: Luke Bentham of The Dirty Nil
By: Kat McGouran (@KatMcGouran)
Can you explain “The Record Club”?
The Record Club is basically a subscription service wherein you pay $50 and receive three 7” lathe cuts a year, plus a sprinkling of other bits of merchandise. It’s 100% unreleased music that you can only get through the Record Club; the A-side is an unreleased original and the B-side is an unreleased cover. Dave [Nardi, bass] came up with it. We had a lot of material sitting around from a session that yielded our first 7” ["Fuckin’ Up Young"]. We had a lot of songs that were recorded in that same batch and they were all mixed and ready to go, but we knew we didn’t want to release a full-length or anything like that. This kind of seemed like the best way to let people hear the songs and also keep putting out physical material for people to actually be able to enjoy. It’s an important part of our band: we like putting out music physically and vinyl is definitely part of the identity that we’re trying to establish. It was just a really good idea to help fill the space between major releases. Also, we kept getting emails and messages from people who were saying they wanted to hear more material. We had more material. So this is kind of the best of both worlds.
How have fans responded to this?
It’s been really good. We show the cover of the laid cut beforehand and they always look so cool. Dave does the artwork and he’s got a sci-fi thing going on right now and it’s awesome. People are always really excited about the artwork. One of the things is that it’s just increased people’s interest—if you want to get into our band, this is a great way to do it. We want to release music, but we like to take our time and plot out our major releases carefully. This is a way for people who want to hear our music really quickly to get it to them really quickly, and they’ve responded to that.
On that note, how do you feel about the resurgence in popularity of vinyl, specifically the 7”?
When we were first starting out, we were 17 and just had a couple CDs on our merch table. Once we had done that recording session that we got the first 7” out of, we were standing at the crossroads wondering ‘are we gonna do another CD or what?’ And luckily we had some good advice to just do a single.
Dave works at Cheapies [record store] in Hamilton and since I’ve met him he’s been a huge vinyl enthusiast, and it’s been a great outlet for him with art. It’s part of our identity now—we are definitely a 7” and vinyl-oriented band. We also love putting stuff out on cassettes—we’ll have at least a couple of cassette releases this year—and we just did a 10”, but the 7” is a vital form. It’s a lot more substantial than like, ‘here’s a digital download card, go download our single.’ Fuck, no, you’re not going to do that! You’re going to put it in your pocket and it’s going to get wrecked in the wash. If you have a 7”, you can sell that for $5 and you have a tangible object that you can hold and remember the band by. It’s very important to us.
What are you working on right now?
We just put out a 10” EP (Smite) and we’ve got a lot of new material. We have more new material now than we’ve ever had and nobody’s heard it. But we’re getting plans together for the next step. We’re not in a position to say we’re doing an LP or anything like that, but we’re building towards a substantial release, and by that I mean a record. We want it to be the right time. But, we have a ton of new music coming this year and next year. What exact form it will be coming in I can’t comment on right now, but that’s our feelings toward the subject.
I’m sure most bands feel the same about their first actual record. It’s something that we’re very excited about doing at some point, but this 7” thing has been very constructive for us. We’ve been able to invest money in pressing ourselves and recouping in nice increments so that we don’t have to make any huge financial wild swings and gambling all our money on a 12” and not getting any response. When we have the right amount of support, we’ll do a 12”.
What should we expect in terms of the sound of all this upcoming music?
Dave has a couple he sings on in our new batch—70 percent of them I sing, and we meet in the middle on a couple of them. We released a 7” that had a B-side that Dave sang called “Hate is a Stone” the last time. That is the first time he sang lead vocals on one of our recordings. Dave has a very different voice than mine and I like just getting to play guitar and letting Dave sing. He’s really good at it and it’s a new dimension of our band that we can explore. I’m just not prolific enough to write everything. I take my time too much with everything. To have an extra guy like Dave who has a unique voice is great. So, that’s something to be expected: some rippers from Dave and more of the same from me. The direction we were going in with Smite is a pretty good indication of it—we’re just going to keep going that way. There’s some rippers. There’s a slow one or two, but there’s no quiet ones. We’re going out further in the rippin’ electric guitar, drums and vocals direction. We’re having a very good time.
Hamilton has a very rich music scene, what’s it like to be a part of that?
It’s a geographical location that we happened to be born into. We have pride that we’re from there and get to play with and be friends with bands in this city—there’s some amazing bands from Hamilton right now and we’ve got a very strong scene and lots of people are going to shows and supporting these bands, it’s very cool. But it’s hard for me to really identify a Hamilton sound. People have said there’s a specific Hamilton sound and we’re a part of that picture, but I don’t see as much of a unifying scene. Although, we’re in it on the ground level and don’t really see the things that people on the outside do, so if people say there is a sound, I’m not going to say they’re wrong. It’s awesome that we can be mentioned in the same sentence as these other bands because obviously there’s a lot of respect for them and we’re friends with them. We’re all rooting for each other very hard and are very supportive—we buy each other’s records and go to each other’s shows. There’s definitely some camaraderie. But we have the same camaraderie with bands from Toronto as well, so it’s in no way an “us versus them” thing with Toronto.
What does the band’s future look like?
It’s hard to say, but if I’m being honest, I see us becoming very reliant on touring as our business model. That’s what’s had the most immediate response. I think we’re going to be doing a lot of American touring and working on releases that I can’t talk about right now, but we are very excited to put them out and talk about them soon. I’m just very excited that we get to do what we get to do. We’ve been a band since we were 16 years old and it’s really weird moving from Rolling Stones covers we were doing when we were 16 to… well, we’re still doing Rolling Stones covers, we’re just having a very good time. The attention that we’re getting is awesome. At the end of the day, most of the enjoyment just comes from getting to play with Dave and Kyle.
Kat McGouran is a staff writer at Anchor Shop.