Hockey, hardcore, and Hüsker Dü: A conversation with The Dirty Nil ahead of their 10/28 headlining show at the 7th St. Entry

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Canadian punk rockers The Dirty Nil are making a stop in Minneapolis on October 28th for a headlining show at the 7th Street Entry. Formed in 2006, the band may best be described a messy, but beautiful cross between grunge, punk rock, and hardcore. The Dirty Nil are set to kick off the first dates of their North American tour next week. Opening up for the band at the 7th Street will be Dead Soft and Johnny Yuma. If you are interested in coming to the show, tickets are available HERE.

The Dirty Nil recently released their third studio length album Master Volume full of rock n’ roll bangers such as “That’s What Heaven Feels Like”, “Auf Wiedersehen”, “Super 8” and “Pain of Infinity.” This album is a honest reflection of life on the road and being in a touring band. Master Volume is arguably the band’s most ambitious, complete and sonically successful album thus far.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Luke Bentham, front man and vocalist of The Dirty Nil. He was eager to talk about growing up in a supportive scene, the new record, touring, and his favorite Minneapolis punk bands.

Full interview is listed below:

AH: I’ll start off by asking a question about your hometown. I understand you guys are from Hamilton, Ontario, and I’m curious. What is the local music scene like there?

LB: Yeah, I feel very fortunate to have been a young band there. It’s very favorable if you live in Hamilton because Toronto is obviously one of the more major cities for music in our country, but in Hamilton it’s a lot more affordable as an artist. You can base yourself there and still be about 40 minutes away from Toronto. I would say that there’s a very proud lineage of loud rock n’ roll from Hamilton so we were surrounded by those influences early on. In our early 20’s, there was a lot of good hardcore music in Hamilton as well. There’s also a pretty healthy show going audience as well, which is great for a young band trying to accumulate a fanbase from nothing – so it was definitely a good place to start out.

AH: That’s great, it sounds like you guys definitely had a lot of support from your local scene.

LB: I would definitely say so. There were a few venues that were always happy to have us play when we reached out to them. It was definitely a great place to start getting the ball rolling. Especially because we were close enough to Toronto and close enough to the border where we could get down to New York as well to play shows.

AH: I know this probably a very stereotypical thing to ask a Canadian, but do you ever have a chance to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame? Are you a hockey fan at all?

LB: I am definitely a hockey fan in the peripheral sense, I grew up playing as most people do. I have been to the Hockey Hall of Fame and it is awesome. I can’t remember the last time I was there, but it was probably for a birthday party in my teenage years. It’s a must see. Especially growing up in a house cheering for my dad’s beloved Maple Leafs.

AH: So you guys are kicking off your North American tour, and I believe you have played Minneapolis before. Where did you play the last time you were here?

LB: Yes, we have played Minneapolis a few times. We’ve played 3 or 4 shows at the 7th Street Entry, which is hallowed ground for me because The Replacements are my favorite band of all time so I love playing the 7th Street. I’ve also played First Avenue in another band called Single Mothers when we were opening up for Quicksand. So going to the 7th St. is like going to graceland. It’s a very spiritual kind of experience for me.

AH: Do you have any spots in the city you look forward to checking out while you’re here?

LB: Yes. In St. Paul, Mickey’s Diner has the greatest omelettes in the world and that’s something I will stand by for the rest of my life. I always go there if I can. Also, the last time we were here we went to the Stinson home where Tommy and Bob Stinson grew up. There’s a very nice stained glass painting on the upper floor that’s an approximation of the cover art for the Let It Be album. We took our bikes down there and paid our respects to that hallowed ground.

AH: Oh that’s awesome. The Replacements are fantastic. I had a chance to see them play at Midway Stadium about 4 years ago and it was an unbelievable experience.

LB: Yeah, we got to see them in Toronto during the first reunion show they did at Riot Fest. That was a magical day.

AH: I know you also have a song called “Wrestle Yü to Hüsker Dü”, so it’s safe to say you are heavily influenced by Minneapolis punk bands. In addition to The Replacements, is Hüsker Dü a big inspiration for you guys?

LB: Oh definitely. I mean the whole Twin Tone thing was great and very big for us when we were growing up. I can’t remember how exactly we found our way into it, but I think when I was growing up my guitar teacher showed me “Bastards of Young” and after that it was a long and wonderful trail into the world of Minneapolis punk. We were part of the first YouTube generation, so having access to all those shows indoctrinated us. Like Hüsker Dü playing at PinkPop festival and The Replacements playing at the 7th Street Entry. All of those videos were on heavy rotation for us. It was an easy way for us to connect with something from a different era and place than were we lived.

AH: Yeah, when the Super Bowl was here in February Bob Mould and Soul Asylum played as the sort of honorary openers for the event. And I remember sitting there in the crowd thinking, oh my god it’s Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü.

LB: Yeah he’s a badass. I remember seeing him on Letterman or one of the late night shows and he just destroyed the place. He was awesome.

AH: I read somewhere that you guys played over 350 shows over the past 3 years. How was that experience, do you ever get “tour lagged”?

LB: I think there is a certain point in each tour where you start to feel a little bit lagged. But I tend to really like long tours because you get to really settle into a rhythm of things especially in a van. We’ve been flying over to Europe the last few years which has been really fun because you get to play in some areas where people like your songs but don’t necessarily speak a whole lot of English. So that is always a fantastic experience in and of itself. But I think being in a van is an easier adjustment because you don’t have the constant jet lag and security checks. Touring in a van is pretty much all I ever wanted to do since I was 12 years old. This is the destiny that all of us in the band chose for ourselves.

AH: You guys have a new record out called, Master Volume. What do you think is different about your new record compared to the last one?

LB: The album was written in a very short amount of time compared to anything else we had done before. We pretty much had to write this album on the road, so that made the last year of tour way more focused because we were giving every minute to some sort of aspect of material that we were ultimately going to record. This record is definitely just a reflection of what it’s like to tour in a rock band around America. It’s a collective and unified statement rather than us collecting old songs and re-recording them which we did on the last records. These songs all came from scratch and were put together in one year. We also took a lot of time to make sure we were satisfied with the arrangements of the songs and did a bunch of demo sessions before recording. So I can confidently say we did more in this last year than we have done in the previous last 5 years combined in terms of our focus and dedication.

AH: Do you have any personal favorites off the record?

LB: I mean, I like them all. They’re all hits.

AH: You guys decided to close your new album with a cover of Metallica’s “Hit the Lights”. What was the thought process behind this cover?

LB: That cover is just for the Spotify release. But when we were doing all of the songs for the record, we were also dedicating time tinkering around with a lot of songs that we liked and doing demos covering them. We wanted to get ourselves familiar with the studio environment since we were always focused on the live aspect for so long. We never had that much time in the studio, so we made a conscious effort to spend our time in the studio properly. So whenever we spent a little too long on one song, we’d take a break and go, “oh let’s just play Hit the Lights or something.” It was something that helped us change the channel and reset our brains. We did a lot of covers, and that was just one of them that we really liked. We also wanted to show Metallica some love.

AH: I’ve seen a few YouTube videos of you guys playing live, and it seems like you are always wearing shirts and jackets with stars on them. I’m curious – what is that about?

LB: I would say it started in Montreal in the spring of 2011. We walked into a store where everything was $10, and there was this white button up with stars and my friend said “If you wear that, I’ll buy it for you.” And so he did and I didn’t take it off the rest of the tour and it just kind of became a thing from there. My theory is that it makes me 10% better at electric guitar. So I’ve stuck to that superstition ever since. It’s just fun. The Replacements and David Bowie all had style and that kind of conscious visual presentation has always been a part of my attitude towards playing live.

AH: Your show at the 7th Street is not yet sold out. So I want to suggest a challenge. If you were in a supermarket and had to get a stranger who knows nothing about The Dirty Nil to come to your show, how would you pitch your band to them?

LB: Well it depends on the type of supermarket. If I’m trying to get someone at a Whole Foods to come I would say, “We have the best gluten free, free range rock n’ roll with lots of lava lamps.” But if we’re at a 7-Eleven, I would say, “If you’re a fan of shitty, trashy things, you’re gonna love our band. So come on down to the 7th Street Entry.”

AH: I love that answer. So before we end I have to ask one more, very important question. What does “The Dirty Nil” actually mean?

LB: Well, I think about the Elvis Costello quote, “Talking about band names is like dancing about architecture.” But I will divulge that we became a band in 2006 and I was about 16 years old when we started. And at the time I just ripped off two band names that I really liked and put the names together. When we told our parents what our band was called and they were like, “what?” and seemed very unsettled by it. So the fact that it made our parents very uncomfortable to us was really cool.

AH: Awesome. Well Luke, it was an absolute pleasure, thanks for taking the time and chatting with me. I’ll see you at the 7th Street show on the 28th!

LB: Thank you very much, we’ll see you very soon!

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