The Dirty Nil on Why Denny’s is Not a Good Place to Eat

The Dirty Nil on Why Denny’s is Not a Good Place to Eat

The Eagles had the Hotel California, Leonard Cohen had the Chelsea Hotel and Canadian alternative band Dirty Nil? They have Super 8. The band is out with a new album this Friday (September 14) titled Master Volume (on Dine Alone Records) and it features a not-quite ode to the chain, titled, appropriately “Super 8.” And the story behind that one? Well, you’ll have to hear it to believe it.

“Super 8” is studded in an album packed with thoroughly fun, polished tracks — thanks to the production work of John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie) and lead singer Luke Bentham’s simple, angtsy lyrics. The record follows up 2017’s back catalogue collection Minimum R&B (via NOFX frontman Fat Mike’s Fat Wreck Chords) and 2016’s debut Higher Power, both of which helped score the band the coveted Juno award for Breakthrough Group of the year in 2017. They have toured with the likes of the Who and Against Me!, the latter of whom certainly informed Dirty Nil’s sound.

Before that breakout success, Bentham and drummer Kyle Fisher were just high school students messing around in their hometown of Dundas, Ontario, learning to make music through trial and error. (Their current band is rounded out by bassist Ross Miller.) According to Bentham, the first song that the band ever wrote was called “Rotten Apple.” He was 16 and the Dirty Nil, he opines, was “still the best fucking band ever.” Still, that wasn’t the song that helped them grab the attention of labels and punk fans alike. That would be their 2011 two-song seven-inch, which featured the insanely catchy “Fuckin’ up Young.”

Read on for an interview with Bentham including, yes, the story behind that infamous Super 8.

On a truly terrible hotel… We were pulling into Texas for South by Southwest a couple of years ago and we were staying in Dallas. There was a gigantic motel complex — I do believe that it was a Super 8. As soon as we got there, there was just kind of a bad vibe about the whole place. There were police officers everywhere and people running around and banging on doors all night. People asking if we had seen the police recently.

We remember waking up in the middle of the night to pounding on the door and opening up the door slowly and no one being there. And when we woke up in the morning to get the hell out of there, right outside our door there was this super highway of ants stretching basically 100 meters and then around the corner. So we followed this line of ants that just kept going and going. We couldn’t tell where it started or ended.

I have a love/hate relationship with hotels. For me, they represent a little bit of a safe haven, but also a place where you can’t help but reflect on the failures of all the relationships in your life.

On the biggest misconception he had about being in a band when he was a kid… I lived in a small town and there weren’t any role models for [being in a band]. No one toured a lot or anything like that. Everything we were doing was for the first time. So I would say the biggest misconception about being in a band is that maybe it was going to be fun the whole time. It’s just like any job but it’s the best job in the world.

Also, here’s kind of a weird one: that Denny’s is a good place to eat. As a kid, I thought it was pretty good, and then we started touring and eating Denny’s and Waffle House… I can’t even look at the sign anymore without being a little bit nauseous. Denny’s, Waffle House and IHOP were all very exotic to Canadian boys, but, yeah, not so much anymore. I’d rather go to a grocery store at this point.

On the first song he ever wrote… The first full song I ever wrote was a song called ‘Rotten Apple’ and I was 16 years old. Kyle and I actually wrote it; it was the first song our band Dirty Nil ever wrote. It was really long. It took us a really long time to get the form down and become better writers and arrangers, but I would say that even in high school, we were still the best fucking band ever.

On learning lessons on tour… Going back to the misconception question, my third misconception is that you’re ever going to find lasting satisfaction in your career. When you’re a kid, you look at big bands playing stadiums and you’re like, ‘Oh, they must be super satisfied by where they’re at.’ They got there. That’s it. Boom.

We’ve played with the Who and Against Me!. The Who are running around… I met Pete Townshend and he’s complaining about how their merch sales were going and whatever. Yelling at his guitar tech about something. Against Me! was concerned about how this one show was selling. Every single band has the same concerns, no matter what the size. Every band of every level is always striving toward the next thing. That’s probably the biggest misconception that I had as a kid: you get to one level and then you’re just there.

I would say in terms of lessons learned from other bands, there were definitely lessons learned with playing with bands like Against Me! and Billy Talent about how certain arrangements of songs work in which venues. Fast songs have their place, but putting everything together deliberately and simply, that’s the best sound you can have in a big space. Because once you get into a big area, you discover that sound travels at all different times and rates. So the simpler you can make things, the more powerful you can sound for people in the cheap seats as well as the front row. It wasn’t a totally conscious thing, but hanging out and being in that environment for so long definitely affected how we thought about [the new album].

Another thing that we learned from playing with these bigger bands is to try things and have fun. The best bands we played with played different sets every night. The best bands – the bands that have the most fun – approach it like a club show that they’re doing with their friends.

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