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The Dirty Nil Are Betting On Themselves On New Album

The Dirty Nil Spring 2023
[Photo by: Steph Montani]

Thanks to the group’s newfound freedom, The Dirty Nil has issued their electrifying, fourth studio album, Free Rein To Passions. Across the 10-track record, the band decided to shake things up and approach the collection with an audacious mindset. While they threw caution to the wind and disregarded any thoughts of radio play or external pressures, this album was a labor of love made purely for themselves—a stark contrast to their previous release, where they found themselves battling against management’s expectations.

In a new interview with vocalist Luke Bentham, he reveals how the band delved deep into their musical roots, creating a sound that is more ferocious and stripped-down. Bentham also proudly shares that they intentionally aimed for a raw and aggressive vibe across Free Rein To Passions, unafraid to keep imperfections intact. 

Read more: Heart Attack Man Feel Like A “Freak Of Nature” On New Album

Tune in to our chat with Bentham and let yourself be swept away by the high-energy and unapologetic authenticity of The Dirty Nil’s latest opus. This is not just an album; it’s a declaration of artistic freedom—a wild ride you won’t want to miss.

Free Rein To Passions is your fourth studio album as a unit. How did you approach this collection differently than your previous releases?

Well, I guess the thing that separates this one from the previous was that we had zero thought of radio. We had zero outside pressure on ourselves in the creation of this one and basically just made it for ourselves, which I can’t say exactly was the case with particularly the last one. We had a lot of management pressure to make certain decisions, and we had to fight against those. Basically, we split with our management during the pandemic, and we made this one completely by ourselves with our producer John [Goodmanson]. We made it to satisfy ourselves without any kind of commercial goals, so to speak.

Would you say that the creative direction was more to get back to the roots of the band?

I think it’s a cliché thing to say, but it is actually quite true. I think we wanted to make something that we were going to be really excited about and that we are going to be really pumped to play every night for a year. We really [wanted to] reconnect with why we started the band in the first place and do something that makes us happy.

How would you describe the overall sound and vibe of the new album compared to your previous releases?

I would say that it’s a bit more aggressive and minimal by design. I think we made it a goal to not do a bazillion takes of every single thing. We wanted to just keep it raw and have lots of space in the actual music. We wanted to move away from the luster and shine of the last album and just lay down some nastiness. And that’s what we did. I’m really happy with the final product. We also recorded it really quickly too.

Oh, really? Can you tell me about the recording process and why you decided to do it so quickly?

Well, in the past, we’ll do guitar for a week, and then we’ll do drums and bass for another week. And then we’ll do vocals for a week, and then we’ll do overdubs for a few days. We did the whole thing in a week and a half this time because we wanted to trust ourselves and not allow ourselves to keep editing. I think we designed the circumstances and the recording dates to facilitate rawness and not to allow any kind of perfectionism. We only booked enough dates so that we can get it down and then get out. That was one of the designs of the whole thing, to not sit in there for weeks and be mulling over it. We wanted to lay it down and walk away, and that’s what we did.

Our first intention of purely satisfying ourselves. But then our second consideration was, “What do our fans want?” Our fans don’t want us to push any deeper into FM radio territory. And I have to add that we’ve made a lot of friends in the FM world and the terrestrial radio world, and those people will always be close with us and real big supporters of the band. But we got really far into the radio thing with the last two albums. It’s just not our world, it’s not our thing. It’s like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole with our band.

We’re content to stand behind our hooks and our music, and we’re not really willing to shake all the hands and kiss all the babies of the terrestrial radio world. This album is a bit of a revolt against some of the forces that were pushing us before that we didn’t really yield to. We were just tired of those pressures.

Has the thought at all gone through any of the minds in the band or had a conversation amongst you guys that because this album isn’t conforming to the radio format as much that it could stifle how far your career goes?

That thought has certainly entered into our minds. And I think one of the things that we said right after we came to this realization about what our direction was going to be was that we’re prepared to accept the consequences of not playing ball in that carnival game anymore.

And at the same time, it’s a very double-sided coin. Because you could actually become far more successful and build an even larger fan base by just being true to yourselves and the art that you create.

Well, I think that if that benefit comes our way, then we’re really happy. But I believe that no matter what, the bands that we all love and respect are the bands that just basically bet on themselves and made out whatever the hell they wanted to make. And so, why should we treat it any differently? I think our fans like us because of our charm and our imperfections. And that’s something that we’ve become aware of and have also leaned into. All the rock ‘n’ roll records that I love are full of imperfections and things that they totally could have done again, but they didn’t. I think with today’s technology, it’s never been more tempting to just iron everything out and make it just so. But that’s just not what we want to be.

At the end of the day, it’s really just about the song and the performance and the attitude. And I think that we’re more confident in ourselves than we were before. We’re much more willing to just live with imperfection and to purely embrace and celebrate the imperfection in our recordings.

I love that because, at the end of the day, what was rock ‘n’ roll built on, really? It was never about being perfect. And it was the absolute opposite of that. It was always a rebellion. I think you guys accomplished that on Free Rein To Passions in a beautiful, refreshing way. If I can be honest, to hear something that is aggressive and raw, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, it’s damn good.

We wanted to make everything as thunderous as possible and consider the vocals a little bit less than we usually do. Because, as I said, I think we’re just much more confident in what we do. And when we did our last album, we spent weeks doing the vocals. We had nothing better to do because it was the pandemic. We just did it all in a few days and said, “That sounds great.”

And I remember saying to our producer, “Hey, I kind of missed that line there. Should I do that again?” He’s like, “No. Remember, Luke, perfection is the enemy.” And so that was kind of our guiding mission statement of making this record. Let’s make something that’s raw and real and that we’re happy with and that we’re excited by, and then move on and not tinker with it endlessly and treat it like more than it is. It’s an album of songs that we worked really hard on, that we’re really proud of, and the performances are full of attitude and character, and that was our goal. And I’m very happy with the results.

I want to talk about the absolute ripper that is your opening track, “Celebration.” It’s such a true-to-form, irrevocable love song. I don’t feel as though we’ve really gotten something in this same vein from The Dirty Nils.

I think that when we came up with the music for “Celebration,” it was so pumping, and it made me feel really happy. And I didn’t even think about the lyrics. I just came up with them really fast. I’m a huge thrash metal admirer and fan. But it’s never been my strong suit to come up with those types of lyrics. So my favorite lyrics of mine are the ones that I have to put the least amount of effort into. The least amount of revisions, and sleepless nights of lying in bed, thinking about what rhymes with orange or whatever.

And so this one was really fun, and I think that it was really a fast song to come up with. It took very little work. We were throwing around references like, “What if we did the thing that The Jesus Lizard does at the end of ‘Mouth Breather?’”

We had a great time. And it came together really effortlessly. One of the things subconsciously on my mind was, how much our partners all support us in this insane lifestyle of rock ‘n’ roll that we’ve pursued. That was on my mind, and it was a letter of appreciation to them.

You mentioned that you worked with John Goodmanson, who is a longtime collaborator with the band. He’s always done an amazing job of helping to bring your albums to life. Since you’ve worked with him on so many previous releases, how did the communication change between the band and John to flesh out this body of work?

Well, we definitely made sure that we got all on the same page with the mission statement. When we showed John all the demos, we talked to him on the phone and basically said, “OK, we’re not going for any type of radio or anything. We need to make this thing as gnarly as it deserves to be.” And John was like, “Hell yeah, now you’re speaking my language.” So John was really excited, too. John’s such an incredible engineer with such a massive resume of bands that he’s worked with that he has such an amazing palette of craziness to call upon when it comes to making a really zany and out-there recording—a real rock record. So John was really happy to have free reign, so to speak, over how the record went and no outside voices telling him on how it should go.

And I think that it’s funny that you added the fluctuation in your voice there because, really, the album title is such a call to, “We’re going to do what we want, what we’re passionate about, what we love, and we’re not trying to appeal to the masses.”

Yes, exactly. I actually stole the title from a French murder documentary about a family who lives in rural France. One of them becomes incredibly wealthy, and the rest of them become so jealous that a bunch of crimes take place against his family. And the inspecting detective says once he got rich, it became “free rein to passions.” And I took that line, I told it to Kyle, and Kyle was really excited about it. So that was basically our battle cry running into the album.

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