Published Apr 22, 2008These short, sharp shocks definitely wont kill you but they may make you bounce around the room and smile. Though they posses an ominous name and a sometimes ominous sound, the Death Set are all about pounding drums, fast riffs, shouted vocals and songs that are stripped to the bare, catchy essentials. With 18 songs in 25 minutes, theres no fat to be trimmed and, indeed, the band sound like theyre playing for their life. "Negative Thinking is the crown jewel by far, with the two lead dudes harmonising amongst the crunchy, lo-fi guitar and rapid-fire drum beats. I still cant stop listening to this song. "Cold Teeth has some urgent "ahhhs! below the fug of shitty recording equipment, while "Had A Bird actually has a bit of jangle to it. Actually, the best way to think of the Death Set is as Times New Viking if they cleaned up their recording method enough for you discern things while still being charming. This is fun, disposable music but there is the nagging feeling this may be it for this Death Set.
Where does the band name come from? It sounds like a gang (in a good way).
Johnny Siera: Yeah, it was originally meant to have a kind of gang or group feel. For me its funny, as the name obviously doesn't reflect the positive energy of the band. So people may be expecting some tough dog metallers and be greeted with good spazzy energy.
How did the band start? Was it just the two of you from the beginning?
Beau [Velasco] and I met in the town we grew up in, the Gold Coast; a surfing town in Australia. Very beautiful but pretty devoid of many things interesting. Not a lot of mentors to show us we could tour or be a productive band. So, yeah, it was just us two in the beginning. We actually played in another band called Black Panda which had two other members but the other two couldn't really commit due to family obligations and such so we just decided to go for it as a two-piece. So we decided to move to Sydney where we wrote a lot of the tracks, put a poster of NY on the wall and decided to move and kill it. No doubt.
The bands associated with the Baltimore scene. Does the art/music scene (e.g. Whartscape) influence your music in any way? How?
I think, more so than the music, the Baltimore scene has influenced our aesthetic. That being like other Baltimore artists such as Dan Deacon doing things like playing on the floor where possible and having no barrier between audience and band. Touring as hard as possible and trying to create as energetic and positive energy at shows as possible.
Is it intentional to keep the songs short? Or is this the kind of music that youre drawn to naturally?
It just seemed to be the songs that came out naturally. Nothing superfluous. It probably came from playing shows where we were just spazzing as hard as possible and its obviously harder to keep that type of energy up for a long period of time. For me seeing a show with a short blast of energy is so much more exciting. Almost leaving like not knowing what just happened.
How do the songs come together? Does one person lead the songwriting or is it pretty collaborative?
For this record it was pretty collaborative. We both brought songs to the table. I would then do the production with Beau lending input along the way. The songs were usually written in either a typical rock way where the melody and lyrics are written on guitar first or the opposite way starting with a beat or synth line like an electronic track is usually written.
Did you bring in a lot of friends/musicians from the Baltimore scene for this record, or was it just the two of you?
This record was just the both of us. We did sample a couple of friends though.
Along those lines, the songs straddle tight musical statements and sloppy fun. Do you try to strike a balance?
For me playing live definitely leans more towards sloppy fun. Trying to create an energy is much more important that playing our music "tight" for me. That ethos of ideas and energy being more important than musicality or proficiency is crucial for me.
The songs actually put a sound to fun and enthusiasm, in my opinion. Is this something the band strive to capture?
Yeah, for real. I think obviously its fun but I think it's interesting that you said enthusiasm. We are obviously trying to create an enthusiastic energy but how crazy it gets is really dependent on how enthusiastic and open the audience is. Shows can differ so much, like playing to arms crossed "too cool heard it all before even though I just moved to a major city from my small town two months ago" type vibe to real psyched kids. It can be a challenge sometimes leaning from the best possible feeling to the worst but, overall, the energy is usually great.
What bands, if any, do you count as influences?
When I first saw the Lightning Bolt DVD when living in Australia, that was pretty huge. I had never seen anything like it. Not just sonically but the DIY shows, community and energy was so eye opening.
From the photos on your website, your live show seems pretty intense. Do you draw on that when crafting your music? Do you like to road-test songs before committing them to tape? Gauge crowd reaction?
Kind of. There are definitely some songs written hoping it will create a great energy, I feel. Sometimes, though, songs which I thought wouldn't work just do for some reason. But yes to answer your question. Songs are played many many times live before being accepted into the set.
Then, do you try to capture that live energy in the studio? How?
That was the hardest thing to try and achieve with the record. Obviously a ridiculous bpm helps.
Ever been mistaken for a goth band? They seem to like things associated with death.