The crowd inside Bristol’s Exchange crowdsurf, jump about and even throw a few devil horns up throughout Dinosaur Pile-Up’s loud, potent Thursday night set. The band and the audience shred their vocal chords belting out the band’s career spanning set with a lack of pretence and warm commitment that’s incredibly, unironically refreshing. Dinosaur Pile-Up are crushingly elemental, soothingly melodic and attention-grabbing tonight and those in attendance are captivated by the band’s distorted bubblegum.
Upstairs, before they take the stage, Dinosaur Pile-Up are some of the warmest hosts I’ve met as I’m offered mince pies and beer as we start our interview. Touring in support of their latest release, the dark, all-conquering riffola 11:11, there’s a palpable air of buoyancy and excitement around the trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Bigland, bassist/vocalist Jim Cratchley and dummer Mike Shelis. 11:11 is the first album they’ve recorded as a trio – previous releases Growing Pains and the wonderful Nature/Nurture were recorded solely by Matt – and captures the sound of an outfit pinpointing their musical unity. “It worked out really well as we kept the nuances of playing live” Matt tells me, “throughout the recording we were more dynamic and could feel out the push and pull of the verses and when to ease the tension. 11:11 felt generally more collaborative, like more of a live thing.” Compared to the gruelling process of recording an album solo (a process Matt details as “taking a really fucking long time”) the sessions for 11:11 seemed a breeze, albeit a focussed and loud one (perhaps more of a hurricane). “11:11 was a lot of fun to make together and we don’t have any stories of us falling out or anything,” Matt reasons. “Mike completing 13 or 14 drum tracks in two days helped too”. “Yeah, recording all my drum tracks in two days gave me plenty of time to get drunk in the back of the studio and wind everyone up” laughs Mike, “but I managed not to get in the way of the album!”.
Recorded by Royal Blood/Band Of Skulls producer Tom Dalgety, the group were guided to creating a “big, unapologetic rock record” in Mike’s words. After playing a slew of festivals in India, the band decamped to Henley-on-Thames to work through songs with Dalgety – who had previously worked with Matt on Nature/Nurture – bonded quickly, rested up over Christmas and then recorded for a solid month. “We were going to add some other tracks to 11:11 to create a more light and shade dynamic” continues Mike, “but Tom was insistent that it was a lean ten tracks, so we ended up cutting songs from the album. To his credit, I think the album really works in that heavy, concentrated respect.” “We knew we wanted to make a heavier record so that was a theme throughout the album”, details Matt, “and we kept it in the back of our head at all times. Also, you can never tell what’s going to happen in the studio; you can plan as much as you want about recording technique and how it sounds.” As Dinosaur Pile-Up talk about 11:11 it’s very obvious that they’re proud of the album and, as they talk about the process, you can see them steadily getting excited for tonight’s show. The group feel not only confident, but understood too, as Matt explains: “We’re now representing what this band is in the best way we ever have with 11:11 and everyone has understood us more as a result. A lot of people in our camp – the team, the record label – instantly thought this was our most realised album. I think we’ve always wanted to make this record – I know I personally have – and having a full band behind it made all the difference. We were all in the right place as a band to create this album.”
"We’re now representing what this band is in the best way we ever have with 11:11 and everyone has understood us more as a result."
Tonight’s crowd treat Dinosaur Pile-Up with a reverie, excitement and the aforementioned understanding that reminds me of the adulation I showed the rock bands that were formative to my tastes: Reuben, The Hold Steady, Biffy Clyro, Bloc Party, Dinosaur Pile-Up’s sometime tour partners Brand New. It’s important that bands with a pure, unabashed love of their craft exist to inspire and elate crowds, especially bands who do it with the aplomb and glee of Dinosaur Pile-Up. ‘Red and Purple’ and ‘Grim Valentine’ usher in the set; 11:11 highlights and two of the band’s most realised songs to date. These tracks sit nicely alongside the band’s previous peaks such as the pop nous of ‘White T-shirt and Jeans’ and ‘Arizona Waiting’; breakout single ‘My Rock N’ Roll’; a stripped-down version of ‘Derail’ and a mammoth rendition of‘Nature/Nurture’. 11:11 tracks ‘Anxiety Trip’, ‘Might As Well’ – which exists in the band’s most anthemic space, the whole crowd already familiar with every word – and the title track all sound colossal and wonderful, energising crowd and band alike.
The band are clearly a tight unit on and off the stage: “we love touring, which can be a nightmare and totally fuck up the relationships between some bands, and have grown to understand each other better. Touring just hasn’t been a difficult time for us” Matt tells me. “We’ve learned to live with each other’s weird idiosyncrasies!” expands Jim, “there’s a lot of sitting about that comes with being in a band and we’ve learned to manage it all and manage each other well.” This band is evident onstage, as Dinosaur Pile-Up play off each other perfectly, with Mike’s pummelling drums locking in with Jim’s driving low-end and Matt’s unabashed, melodious guitar work.
Before tonight’s show, Matt, tongue firmly in-cheek, described himself as “a cockroach, in that I won’t be exterminated” when asked about what’s given this project longevity, despite all the line-up changes and tumult along the way. “I wouldn’t know what else to do and this is all I want to do” is Matt’s honest answer, “I have a burning desire to make music and I fucking love doing it. The band are good and I’m sure we could’ve started something new but Dinosaur is a good thing that I’m stoked to be a part of.” The whole band nod in agreement before Mike interjects: “and Matt’s not qualified to do anything else”.
Words by Joseph Fuller