Album Walkthrough: Death By Denim break down their debut LP, Sleepless and Sunkissed
After a three year rise to blossom into one of Perth's most exciting new bands, Death By Denim bring their strengths together on a debut album.
One of the most unavoidable bands on Perth's live music market throughout the last few years have been Death By Denim. The alt-pop four-piece have blossomed into one of the acts synonymous with Australia's next-generation, with a string of early shows and releases - including a debut EP - putting them on people's radar back in 2017, which then soon evolved into a group of loyal fans that have gotten behind their every release, helping elevate the group into a real force in WA, and one beginning to grapple with attention on the east-coast too.
It's not too hard to understand why people are so drawn to the group either. They create wind-swept, dancing indie-pop that feels built for the festival stage, merging together the realms of synth-pop, indie, psychedelica and beyond into a distinctively Death By Denim-esque sound, one that's been a driving force behind the band's rise particularly over the last 18 months. Their 2019-released EP Year Long Minute, for example, felt like a defining moment - opening a new chapter of rich indie-pop thick with dancing melodies and sing-with-your-fist-clenched anthemic hooks, while the singles since have further built on that, exploring new facets of that aforementioned genre intersection amongst new paths entirely.
Today, however, things get taken to the next level. November 27th marks the arrival of their debut album Sleepless and Sunkissed, an 11-strong collection of tracks that feels like Death By Denim's long-overdue and well-deserved time in the spotlight, one that hopefully, will edge the band further towards their breakthrough moment. It's a record that brings their strengths together; eleven tracks of catchy indie-pop - and some exploration beyond that - which draws comparisons to groups like Tame Impala and MGMT albeit with a unique twist, separating Death By Denim from the rest of Australia's saturated indie-rock space.
Throughout the course of the record, Death By Denim play with a contrast between seemingly quite bright sounds and darker, underlying meanings. As they explain, the album descends into questions of "new experiences and new highs," depicting "burning the candle at both ends and destructive behaviour" while also being sure to balance it with a sense of hope that seems to drive the album's rich sounds: "It’s also about not being content with your situation and a search for fulfilment and personal growth."
Across the course of Sleepless and Sunkissed, Death By Denim seems to explore that combination. On one side, you have songs that see the band really dive into the MGMT-like haze; Homemade, for example, being a far-reaching exploration of the group's recent(-ish) addition of synthesiser. Elsewhere, however, the album dances around some heavier moments, but the band to an expert job in charading them amongst the summer-esque tones of the record. Take Jump To Mars, for example, and how it reflects on mistakes so bad they make you want to leave the planet entirely (but you probably couldn't tell that from the song's sound).
No matter which end of the upbeat/down-tempo; light/dark contrast they choose to approach, Death By Denim make it their own. Sleepless and Sunkissed focuses on the balance of the high points and the lows points - musically and personally - but regardless, they do so with a craft that seems to capture the last few years spent honing in on their craft and elevating themselves - the album being a deep evolution of their past EPs, rather than an extension which keeps things feeling rather stagnant.
It's a wonderful time, and you can listen to it below, alongside an album walkthrough taking you through the album's themes one song at a time. Also, stay tuned for news on a national tour - after a year of very few shows, we have no doubts that it's gonna be an unmissable bunch of gigs sometime in 2021.
We really enjoyed the slow build of this song and how it allowed Nik space to tell the story before we brought in the classic Death by Denim fuzzy groove one element at a time. It was easy to escape the clutter that can occur when layering synth and guitar and this made for a nice introduction to the album. The grand piano was a unique feature which brought a refreshing feel to the instrumental melodies.
Kicking off 2020 with this tune was very fitting as we were starting to really grasp our signature sound. A lot of the consistent elements of our last EP Year Long Minute were consolidated in this track and it made recording it a breeze. Homemade definitely felt like the soundtrack to our summer here in Perth.
Out of Habit
The vintage chorus of this track was a real stand out amongst other songs we were working on at the time and there was a lot of excitement to see where we could take it in the studio. It was surprisingly a bit of a challenge to bring all the pieces of the song together with a consistent vibe. There were a lot of 70s and 80s references floating around in the studio and it was interesting trying to combine this inspiration with our contemporary sound.
We loved upping the ante on this track with a speedy bpm, something we haven’t really done before. The change of pace mixed with driving guitars felt a bit more in the spirit of rock’n’roll then the other tracks on the album. It came about surprisingly naturally, despite the bulk of rehearsal being undertaken separately during lockdown. This was the last single we released before the album and we did a really fun video with Dual Pixel Creative out of Perth.
Satellites in Paradise
This song was initially quite upbeat, and synth-based, that quickly changed though because we felt like we were playing an EDM track in the jam room. Slowing it down and switching to the guitar brought on this really dreamy soundscape and allowed all the lyrics and melodies to shine through. Stripping it back meant for quite a simple recording experience. This one’s also got some of our more serious lyrics, it’s really about who you can call in the middle of the night for help.
This is the summer comedown song and it’s one of the groovier songs on the album. We were all dancing around the studio as soon as the drum and bass were put down. We ended up cutting the final chorus and running with an alternate ending to change things up a bit and let the drum groove take the lead.
This song we had to work on individually during lockdown, but it was surprisingly natural when we brought it all together in the studio. It was a neat addition and we experimented with some new dynamics in this one. It’s about a drawn-out breakup and that feeling when your ex shows up yet again.
This wasn’t a song we thought would turn out to be one of our more reputable tracks. The initial idea sounded quite funny on an acoustic guitar but once it got its signature fuzz guitar riff it took on a new dimension. Nik discovered a new vocal range at the end of the song which brought the end of the song to greater heights. Wiggy was on our last EP but we couldn’t release our debut album without it, plus it really did fit in so well with the new music.
This is one of those song ideas we never thought would actually get recorded. We all knew it was a bit cooked but when we first jammed it a lot of interesting melodies were whipped up and we had to see it through. The use of vocoder and autotune throughout the song for style was a bit polarizing at first for some of us but we all got around it in the end. It’s probably the most experimental track on the album.
Jump to Mars
We really went for this cinematic feel for this track to match the lyrical content about making mistakes and wishing you could just leave the plant. Many references were made to rocket ships launching into space and astronauts talking through their radio channels. The chord change in last chorus made for a very epic ending.
Sleepless and Sunkissed
It had been a while since we put down a ballad. Some of our earlier songs like Take Me Far Away Sometime and Ocean Lines really resonated with people and we knew this song had that flavour. We were determined to set it apart and experimented with vocoders and a mixture of guitar and synth base. It feels like the perfect ending to the album.
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