“We started making music for the right reasons. We started off in a fairly naive, fairly innocent way. To us, it was something to break the boredom, something that we really enjoyed doing. We just got a kick out of it – and we still do.”
The Datsuns roll into WA this week in support of their new album, Deep Sleep. Supported at all shows by The Volcanics, they hit the Leisure Inn, Rockingham, on Thursday, December 11; the Prince Of Wales, Bunbury, on Friday, December 12; the Astor Lounge on Saturday, December 13, and the Railway Hotel on Sunday, December 14. DAVID JAMES YOUNG checks in.
It’s just after midnight in Switzerland and Dolf De Borst, lead singer and bass player of New Zealand rockers The Datsuns – as well as the owner of one of the all-time great rock’n’roll names – is in a post-show haze. He and the rest of the band are in the midst of an extensive tour in support of their sixth studio album, Deep Sleep.
Despite being over a decade into their career, there are still surprises to be found and unexpected fans turning up at every corner.
“It’s still so strange that we can trek halfway across the world and there are people that know the songs and are buying the records,” says De Borst. “We were in Stockholm recently, and there was a guy that flew over from Russia to see the show. He had every single one of our albums – including the test presses and these production bootleg versions of them. It was really surprising and really weird to me. That’s pretty fucking cool, you know?”
Would a visit to Russia ever be on the cards to make it up to the guy in question?
“Probably not at the moment,” says De Borst with a nervous laugh. “Still, who knows? It’s always hard to find good promoters in certain places, but if someone was willing to take a punt and pony up, I’m sure we’d look into it. You can never say never in this sort of thing.”
The Datsuns have made a life out of prolific touring and consistent album releases, seemingly never on any kind of downtime. The way the group has gone about those shows, however, differs substantially to how they began.
While the band formerly relied on the simple ethos of ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’, De Borst believes there’s a bit more to a Datsuns show these days.
“When we were touring our first two records, we had enough material to do maybe an hour at best,” he explains. “They were pretty high-energy shows – we always wanted to make it count. We’ve got six albums out now, so we try and make our shows ebb and flow a bit more. Sometimes, our shows have gone on for up to an hour and 40 minutes. The shows get longer and longer, so we’ve been teaching ourselves how to pace it out, including peaks and valleys, stuff like that. We’re focusing a lot on the last two albums, although we try and include something from every record. I know a lot of people still love our first album (2002’s The Datsuns), but our headspace is definitely more in the new stuff.”
Deep Sleep, released in October, arrived almost exactly two years after their 2012 LP, Death Rattle Boogie. With a more subtle approach to their normally brash and boisterous take on classic rock, the record sees The Datsuns indulge in a touch of The Doors and some more slightly trippy detours. This, as well as the way the songs themselves were created, proved to be quite different for the band – a welcome challenge, if you will.
“Normally we just get together and we just see what everyone’s got,” says De Borst. “We pick out ideas, make songs out of them and we pick our favourites again out of that lot. This time around, there was a bit more of a manifesto, for lack of a better word. We wrote songs together for about five or six days, and then recorded the bulk of it about four days after that. We were listening to a lot of obscure prog metal from the ’70s and reading a lot of weird science-fiction comics. We were all on the same wavelength, so the songs themselves came together really quickly.”
The Datsuns will continue their tour in support of Deep Sleep into a run of Australian club shows, which they’re greatly anticipating – as they have always done in the past. “One of the first times I really thought that we’d made it was when we packed a room in Melbourne for the first time,” recalls De Borst. “It’s always a pleasure to come back.”
Looking at the grander scheme of things, it’s quite easy to view The Datsuns among the few true survivors of the garage rock revival. While many of the band’s peers either imploded or fell off the wagon, The Datsuns never split up, their line-up remains practically untouched and they’ve been as faithful to the write/record/tour cycle as any of the hardest-working bands around. What’s kept the harmonic generator going after all this time?
“We started making music for the right reasons,” says De Borst. “We started off in a fairly naive, fairly innocent way. To us, it was something to break the boredom, something that we really enjoyed doing. We just got a kick out of it – and we still do. I’d like to think that we’ve remained music fans. We listen to a lot of new stuff, and we try not to get too cynical about the whole thing.
“Another thing is that we’re all living in different cities these days – some of us are even in different countries. That makes the time that we actually do spend together all the more special and all the more important these days.”