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The Death Set - Better Off Dead

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Death Set are an explosive – and nomadic – indie punk band from this corner of the globe now living across the pacific. Singer Johnny Siera namedrops Spank Rock and Ninja Tune while speaking to 3D’s Carlisle Rogers about “spazzing out”.

The Death Set’s debut LP, Worldwide, is one of those rare rocks that gets dug up every once in a while and either turns out to be more valuable than anything yet discovered, or is just another cat’s eye.

It’s almost impossible to define this pseudo-hardcore band’s sound in traditional, they-sound-like-these-guys-with-a-bit-of-these-guys technique, so I offer singer Johnny Siera’s own description.

“I have a girlish high voice,” he says, none-too girlishly. “Somebody said we sounded just like a bunch of kindergarten kids in a punk band. I’m not too unhappy about that statement, that’s a good little analogy. I love the spazziness of punk rock music, but the whole macho-ness of it is bullshit to me. My whole idea is to put my little spin on everything; to be playing high energy punk rock and smiling at a bunch of happy kids out there instead of punching the ground. The band is intrinsically positive. I’m going to be spazzing and playing hardcore songs with a smile on my face, and hopefully the crowd will be feeling that and singing along with a smile on their face too.
The structure is not new; it’s pretty much a hardcore structure with lots of different influences mashed in there. We were going for short, fast and direct, with no time for superfluous bullshit or solos or anything like that. That’s what I was going for. I like so many styles of music: electronic, hip hop and punk, and they all influenced how I wanted it to sound in a big way. All those different genres were mashing around in my head and I tried to vomit it out, this weird little beast called Worldwide.”

It’s hard to say exactly what the ‘home town’ of Baltimore outfit The Death Set really is too. The Gold Coast, New Zealand, Kentucky, Baltimore; connect the dots between Siera and Beau Velasco and it’s like a Spirograph set on Methedrine.

“I grew up on the Gold Coast. I went to high school and uni there,” Siera begins. “Beau, who I wrote the record with, was born in NZ and grew up in Kentucky. He lived in Australia while he was in school and until we both moved to the States. The live line-up, I met all of those kids in America.

“From the get-go, the bands that I was looking up towards were touring bands, and I wanted this band to be a touring band. Bands like Black Flag, guys like that. I felt like the sound should be influenced by playing shows, rather than the other way around, writing a record and touring after that. I felt that was the opposite from what we wanted to do. So moving to the States accommodated touring. As you know, you play four cities with 1000km in between in Australia, and it’s not really realistic. Whereas in the States you could play 35 shows back to back and it’s easier and more realistic to live as a touring musician here.”

Hooking up with Spank Rock when they first moved to the US, Siera says they slept on the band’s floor and became acquainted with Spank Rock’s management, who worked at Ninja Tune.

“When the record was finished I sent the record to them and they were all stoked. The heads of Ninja Tune in Montreal and the UK were both old punks, so they were really psyched on it,” he says. “It was apparently one of the few records that they all agreed on putting out. It was luck, but that luck came from playing shows and lots of them.”

Siera credits the band’s success, and the fractions of time their songs make up, to a return to the very roots of punk itself, never mind hardcore.

“It goes back to fast punk rock,” he says. “The Ramones, that sort of structure is what I like. Coming back to playing live. The way that the band is presented is in short, fast bursts of energy, that is the way that we’ve found to get people hyped. That is affecting the songs. You can’t spazz to a four-minute guitar solo. As an audience member, and I’m not hating on four-minute guitar solos, it’s not something that I would be pogo-ing to, if you feel me.”

WHO: The Death Set
WHAT: Worldwide through Counter/Ninja Tune/Inertia
WHEN: Out now

With most of The Death Set’s songs clocking in between one and two minutes in length, we thought we’d look at a few tracks from opposite ends of the length spectrum. Note: this is not definitive.

- Liam Lynch hit number six on the ARIA charts in 2003 with his single, United States of Whatever, which lasts a total of 1 minute and 28 seconds.

- Queen hit number one in the UK with Bohemian Rhapsody (5:55 minutes) while Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell must surely be Britain’s lengthiest Top Ten charting song, coming in at 9:54 minutes.

- The 1958 hit What I’ve Been Looking For (Reprise), by Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgen is one of the shortest songs of all time to chart in the Billboard Hot 100, clocking in at 1:19 seconds.

- At 9:08 minutes, Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia is the longest song to poll in triple j’s Hottest 100, entering in 2005.

- According to the internets there’s a track with a duration of 30 seconds called Shitgobbling Hate Generation by Gore Beyond Necropsy. We’ll take their word for it.

- Earlier this year Super Furry Animals performed an untitled track that lasted a mere five seconds and contained one lyric at the Echoplex in Los Angeles.