The Datsuns New Album, 'Headstunts' Due October

Friday 19 September 2008

From full throttle rock'n'roll to psychedelia to pop melodies, The Datsuns have written a magical follow up to 2006's Smoke & Mirrors.

With the dirgey throb of High School Hoodlums as our first introduction, followed by Human Error, a song which harks back to the balls-to-the-wall simplicity of their self titled debut and the sixties pop feel of Cruel Cruel Fate, Headstunts feels like this band have poured every ounce of musical goodness they have into it. Recorded early 2008 at Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenborg, Sweden and self produced, the album plays through with a relentless vigour and sparkle . . .

A conversation with Dolf de Borst (vocals, bass) about Headstunts:

Lyrically it’s about mind games really, “Headstunts” is an anagram of The Datsuns. We were aware of it all along but we didn’t want to make it too obvious, I suppose that’s out the window now . . .

We got a new member of the band on drums, Ben Cole, so it was like making our first record again, with new influences and new abilities. With a new person, we were able to feed off each other in different ways, and also revive some old ideas that did not click before. Taking those ideas, and then flipping them around, just like you do with an anagram. So I suppose there is some kind of clumsy poetry there.

I’ve known Ben since we were kids – he comes from the same town, Cambridge in New Zealand, as us. So it’s useful to have someone else with the same reference points but also someone who is fresh to the touring and recording process.

We produced the album ourselves - by the time you make your fourth record you’re pretty comfortable in your own skin as a unit, and it doesn’t matter about people’s preconceptions or what they expect of you. It’s like, ‘This is what I am and the kind of music I make.’ You’re less self-conscious.

When we started making this album we played a lot together, and we were doing long, drawn out songs, but we ended up making a power pop record: it’s a lot more pop than anything else we’ve done, but it still sounds heavy. It began as a series of meandering instrumental jams but the songs got shorter and shorter. Maybe we’ll leave the stoner album for next time. We like messing around in the studio with long playing but that punk rock thing naturally comes to the fore. We’ve got short attention spans. Are we a jam band in punk clothing or vice versa? I’m not sure.

When we rehearse we mess around a lot and swap instruments. I play some guitar on this record, Phil (Buscke, guitar) plays some drums, Christian (Livingstone, guitar) plays Hammond organ, piano, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes and Mellotron - I associate the Mellotron mainly with The Beatles, but yeah also with progressive groups. They say it’s the postmodern age, you take pieces of what you like, and it doesn’t matter what movement or time it’s associated with, you can cut and paste small bites of what inspires you.

Maybe it’s a failing of my generation that we want to romanticise periods of time we haven’t lived in but I think every generation has done that. And maybe there is a sense of homage in what we do. You can sit and debate that; it’s a perfect Head Stunt. We just do what comes naturally when the four of us sit behind our instruments; it’s a spontaneous development. Certain parts are calculated but most of them are instinctual. It’s honest.

Lyrically, this album is far less personal and more general in its themes. Is it the best Datsuns album? It’s the album I can listen to without cringing or being fucked-off! I’m like one of those filmmakers who make a film then can’t bear to watch it or go to the premiere. This time I’m more comfortable about who we are and what we do and who I am as a singer – although even saying that out loud makes me feel uncomfortable, thinking of myself as a musician or singer. But I’ve been doing this for over a decade – three of us have been together for 12 years, and we’ve been making records since 2002 – so it’s obviously what I do. We’ve made four records in six years, which is pretty fast. The gaps between albums have been 18 months, 18 months, two years and two years. I’d like to do another one next year.

I'm really bad with hyperbole. I can’t sell myself well: “it’s bigger-faster-harder-stronger-but-also-sweeter”. Some people can pull it off. It must be nice to be able to give complete sound bites. But I definitely feel more comfortable with this one compared to the other three. This time, I didn’t go, “That part sucks” or “I hate the production on this part!” There were still the same questions: is the Datsuns a collaboration, a four-way democracy or a four-way dictatorship? It’s hard to define whose perspective is biggest. Even if I write the song or the melody it bears the influence of the others in the band; we’re very collaborative, and it would be wrong to say it’s Dolf’s band or Christian’s band. It’s a collective. If it was just me, or just Phil, it would be completely different.

What are we? We’re just a rock’n’roll band playing music the way we want to do it. It can be too light for people into heavy metal, and too heavy for people into straight garage – we purposefully make it so it doesn’t fit into one place. That can alienate people. Prog, punk, rock – I like them all; I don’t see them as conflicting.

Rock music can be very snobby. Some people only listen to rock music from between 1956 and 1966, or between 1975 and 1980. That seems very narrow-minded to me.

Headstunts will be released on 13 October on Hellsquad Records through Universal Music.