Dirty Skirts: Indie rock goes eco-death drum ‘n bass

Cape Town rock four-piece The Dirty Skirts are back with a new album, ‘Lost In The Fall’, their most ambitious yet – and their most darkly conceptual.

First appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2011/ 07/24.

The Dirty Skirts - Justin Polkey

It’s been three years since the last Dirty Skirts album although the band tantalised fans with the release of “Strike The Match” earlier this year, an offering which saw them go to No.1 on the MK89 music video charts, hit 5FM’s Top 40 and the Top 10 on Highveld and KFM’s “Homebrew” charts. Now, the band are back with a full length album which plots a new course as far as their music, lyrics and conceptual direction are concerned. “Lost In The Fall” has danceable, radio-friendly and anthemic singalong element to it, but presents a darker, grittier and – dare one say it – rockier sound than their previous songs and albums.

“Some fair-weather Dirty Skirts fans will not ‘get’ this album,” says guitarist David Moffat towards the end of the interview, and it seems this sentence sums up the band’s new offering: a piece of work into which they’ve poured every ounce of creative energy and of which they are remarkably proud. Along with that comes the understanding that a new direction always risks some natural attrition along the way, and it’s a risk the four local rockstars are prepared to take. Asked to sum up the band’s vision for the new songs in a few word, vocalist and frontman Jeremy de Tolly muses for a spell and then says, “I’d say ‘expressive’, ‘highly creative’, ‘selfish’, ‘brave’ and ‘black sheep’.”

“We produced this album ourselves, and we went into the recording studio with a very clear vision of what we wanted to achieve,” continues Moffat. “We wanted something a bit more gritty and a bit more lo-fi. Rather than being obsessed with getting an over-produced feel, we wanted to achieve something that was more visceral, with more character and personality. Ironically, you’d think you could bash that kind of sound out in a studio quickly but, if you listen to old stuff like The Pixies or, more recently, The Libertines, getting a rough sound like that is not easy to achieve.”

De Tolly concurs, “It was incredibly intense. I don’t think I’ve ever poured this much love and creativity into something, or pushed so bloody hard to find the best ideas that I can come up with. We put a lot of energy into it, and the vision for what we wanted was not handed over to somebody else to produce – it was really great grabbing our own production and leading it, even if that meant sometimes rewriting a single song twenty times. Going over it until it feels good, until it feels right – until we were satisfied with what we were creating.”

“Lost In The Fall” was recorded at Heritage Studios by Brendyn “Rusti” Rossouw and then mixed by South African rock legend Neal Snyman before being mastered at Sterling Sound Studios in New York. Finally, it’s out – but why the three year wait? “We’ve been writing material for some time and we did loosely think it was something we would have out by the end of last year,” says Moffat. “The Dirty Skirts has always been quite independent and we have self-funded all our records, which has meant recovering a fair amount of debt, so we had to emerge from the hole that was ‘Daddy Don’t Disco’ plunging back into things and then, as 2010 revealed itself, it became clear that we would be rushing tracks and that was something we did not want to do. We tracked the whole of ‘Daddy’ in just over two weeks, but for the new one we had a block booking for six weeks, that then became eight weeks… Plus we have a good relationship with Marshall Music and we had access to all sorts of gear, like vintage amplifiers and a choice of guitars and pedals. We spent a lot of attention on choosing tones, for example, and experimenting with sonics a lot more.”

As to the conceptual territory of the new work, it is certainly the band’s most ambitious to date. “I’m wondering how much I want to reveal my cards here, because people should make of it what they will,” says de Tolly, “The music is integrated into what you’ll see in the videos and the artwork for the album and a lot of creative talent that’s gone into making that. Lyrically, I looked at where we are as a species right now – on the verge of destroying a planet and ourselves for the sake of silly shoes and computer games. We’re all stuck on this crazy boat and none of us can get off it, so it seems a really strange thing to be doing. That’s the macro-level, and there’s another level to the songs which is very personal, but it is all framed within that context.”

Asked to pinpoint two favourite songs from the twelve on the album, de Tolly singles out “We’re All Gonna Die”. “We put it onto Soundcloud so people can have a little listen before the shows. It’s 180 beats-per-minute of riffage and drum ‘n bass rock with a singular message. You could call it ‘eco-death drum ‘n bass’. It’s fun, and you can dance to it, but it’s got content for sure. Then there’s ‘You Are The Machine’, one of the finest things we’ve done, I think. It’s dark and broody, beat-heavy, highly creative and very different sonically. It’s a really tasty piece of music.”

The Dirty Skirts launch “Lost in The Fall” in Cape Town (Saturday 23 July, Zula Bar), Johannesburg (29 July, Town Hall), Pretoria (30 July, Arcade Empire) and Durban (27 August, Unit 11). “Lost In The Fall” is out on 2 Feet, an imprint of Sheer Sound. Hear a taste of the new album by streaming “We’re All Gonna Die” off Soundcloud.com – get the link at Facebook.com/TheDirtySkirts. The band are also live on MNet’s “Studio 1” on Thursday 28 July, and on Jon Savage’s rock show on 5FM, as well as on that station’s Fresh Drive on Friday 29 July, and launche the new album nationwide in August, with two new videos slated over the next three months. Also see Twitter.com/TheDirtySkirts and download “Lost In The Fall” from RhythmMusicStore.com.

* photo courtesy of Justin Polkey and The Dirty Skirts

First appeared in the Cape Argus “Good Weekend” of 2011/ 07/24.