Touries is a discussion of touring life and the memorable moments that come along with it. This time, Hamilton rock band The Dirty Nil shares some of their most triumphant, dream-affirming, and shameful moments from their decade together.
It's been about a decade since The Dirty Nil first joined forces. Beginning in 2006 as a humble high school band, the Hamilton trio have been steadily building buzz, releasing several 7 inches, digital singles, as well as a 10 inch EP, SMITE. However, they're ready to take things to the next level in 2016.
Higher Power, the band's debut full length, is the product of a decade spent fine-tuning their sound. It's loud, energetic, and raw, and although they're hesitant to label themselves as punk, the up-tempo ferocity of their songs certainly makes you want to get your mosh on. It's the type of music that lets you have fun, no strings attached.
It's a boiling point, says Luke Bentham, but it's also a specific moment in time. "In some ways, it's a combination of everything that we've done prior to this, from the songs to the production, but it's also very much a snapshot of where we're at as a band right now," he says. "It's definitely a nod to our past, but also a statement about our present, you know?"
They're celebrating the release of Higher Power starting tonight with two back-to-back shows in Hamilton before visiting Toronto, London and St. Catharines to keep the party going. "As cheesy as it sounds, it's a celebration for our fans, too," he says. "I would just like to say thank you very much everybody for supporting our band over the past seven or ten years, however long we've been around. It's the coolest thing ever."
After so many years of touring and making music, I was sure Luke had accumulated his fair share of memories, and as it turns out, I was right. He was kind enough to share three stories that stuck out in his mind as being either significant, or downright hilarious.
The Dirty Nil's Debut Full Length, Higher Power, is available tomorrow via Dine Alone Records.
Dirty Nil's East Coast Baptism
Luke Bentham: So we were touring the east coast in 2011, our first real tour all together. We had this dream of going out to the eastern edge of Canada and shaving these awful beards that we had accumulated over the course of our two-week tour. Feeling the Atlantic wind on our faces was kind of the dream that we had while we were sitting back in Ontario.
So, we were at the Bay of Fundy I believe, and we did that. We got to the coast, and we pulled my parent's Dodge Caravan into a parking lot next to the ocean and turned on the stereo really loud. We passed around some whisky, shaved our beards in the van, and ran out. This was, like, the spring, and all the locals were saying "do not go to the ocean right now, it's a nightmare." But we persisted. Against the advice of the locals we ran into the water and got very, very, very cold.
It was a very baptismal feeling, like we had reached the apex of the tour. As we ran back through this kind of pounding ocean rain, we got back to the van and realized that the battery had died because we were blasting the stereo the whole time. So we were sitting there just freezing our asses off for, like, three hours waiting for CAA to come.
For some reason that memory sticks out for me as a kind of moment of vindication. Reaching the coast of the country, having battled our way through a bunch of lacklustre shows — it was a really nice moment, other than the fact that we were stranded for several hours until the lovely folks at CAA bailed us out.
Visiting The Dischord House
Luke Bentham: On our most recent tour of the eastern United States we got a chance to go visit the Dischord House in Arlington, Virginia, which is holy ground if you're a Fugazi or Minor Threat fan. It's where Ian MacKaye still runs the majority of Dischord's daily dealings. It was a very surreal experience. Leading up to it, we covered a Fugazi song and got in contact with him, and he was interested in hearing it and excited about it, which was amazing in and of itself. He told us, basically, if we were around on our next tour, that we should come by and drop off a few physical copies for their archives. So, we got a chance to do that.
Basically, getting to the front door and seeing the stairs of the Minor Threat band photo house, we were all trying to contain our excitement. He came to the door, and showed us around. He was just the coolest dude ever, like, he answered all of our questions and was the one driving the conversation. We weren't punishing him or anything. He was very much interested in giving us all the information we wanted.
Minor Threat on the steps of the Dischord House
We went down to the basement and there was a bunch of Fugazi gear, like some Marshall 4x12's with "Fugazi" spray painted on them. All of us spent time looking at all these pictures of DC bands practicing there, like Black Flag, all these bands that used to rehearse in his basement with really low ceilings. Not to abuse the word surreal, but it was something else, man, it was something else.
He told us that the old Marshall 4x12's, when they were touring Europe before they amalgamated all the currencies into the Euro, they used to get all this colourful money that was only valuable in that small little area, and they'd have to move to the next country. So, basically, while they were on a European tour, they would get this money, which he called "funny money," take the back off a Marshall cab, tape it on the inside, and re-drill it shut. That was how they kept all the money that they were making in Europe. It was a significant amount of money, too, because they were playing to, like, at least 1000 people per night.
Anyways, we were just kind of shaking in our boots trying not to embarrass ourselves. It was a really exciting thing. He also took us up to his computer room where he was in the process of really archiving all of Fugazi and Minor Threat's stuff. Everything pertaining to Dischord. He showed us all these early versions of "Provisional," the song we covered, where they were just kind of messing around. It was just a fantastic experience. I'm a huge Minor Threat fan, so it was awesome to be able to ask him questions about Lyle Preslar, their guitar player. We hung out for, like, over an hour and then he gave us a bunch of posters and stuff. We went to the gig that night floating on cloud nine.
The Dirty Nil with Ian MacKaye on the steps of the Dischord House
The cherry on the top of this story is that when we were leaving and shaking hands, we were all kind of looking at each other because we all had the same thing in mind, which was: "can we convince him to take the Minor Threat picture with us on the stairs?"
As we were about to leave, I think Dave pulled the trigger and let the question rip. [Laughing] He just kind of shrugged and was like, "yeah, okay, fine." We got to do the Minor Threat photo with him, so, I mean, what better way to end that experience, you know? He was an awesome guy; he shattered any kind of preconceived notion I've had about meeting your heroes.
Burritos, Strippers, and Shame
Luke Bentham: This is the more questionable story, so I saved it for last. We were in Montreal, on tour with a band that, for the purposes of this story, will remain nameless. We played a show, a terrible show, at a burrito place called Burritoville. We'd been there a few years before, and they had paid us in burritos, but this time they wouldn't even do that. On top of that, they wanted to charge us money for playing there. Nobody showed up, so they wanted to get some money out of it. So we said, you know, "fuck you," and left. They told us that we'd never play at Burritoville again. I said "awesome, that's great."
So afterwards we were looking to wash the taste of that out of our mouths, and we did so with a lot of beer. Like, a lot of beer. We went to some really cheap bar down the street and just absolutely let it rip. We ordered pitcher, after pitcher, after pitcher, and then just kind of stumbled down the street and found this big glowing awning for a strip club. The band that we were on tour with was a year or two younger than us, and I don't think that they'd ever been to anything like that. We decided that this was a fantastic opportunity for some baptism in the fire.
So, we went into this strip club, and were sitting there in the main room. A bunch of people from the band that we were with went off for lap dances, which they were gleefully walking into because they had never experienced anything like that. It was kind of like bringing a five year old to Disney World or something; the mouths of our crew stayed open the entire time, in awe of what we were experiencing. So, one guy, the drummer of the band, that's all I'll give you, went off into some booth with... hmm, actually I didn't know at the time who he'd gone off with. Anyways, I was sitting there, and about fifteen minutes later a very large, very beautiful, very tall woman came up, grabbed my shoulder from behind and said, in a very low voice, "your friend owes me a lot of money."
[laughing] Not exactly what you want to hear at a strip club. You're in a very precarious position because you don't really have any power of your own there. So, apparently our compatriot had fallen asleep in the private room and had just kind of sat through a number of successive dances. He accumulated quite a tab with this lady, and only had $5 on his person. [laughing] I don't know what his original plan was, I don't know what he was really thinking.
We had to run to an ATM and bail this guy out. Then we were immediate rejected from the strip club. Their band was feeling quite a bit of anger at each other after that, and they proceeded to actually get into a brawl. At some point we were able to load everybody back into the van and ended up sleeping underneath an overpass of the highway. We had eight people in a seven, maximum, person minivan. It was the most uncomfortable experience of my life.
I woke up in the morning, and there was dew falling on my face from the windshield. I was sitting shotgun. It was this moisture that had accumulated from our collective exhales. It was a rainforest inside my parents Dodge Caravan. It was just raining down on my face, made of fucking beer breath and shame. I looked outside the van, and Dave, our bass player, our prime chief yeller, had woken up at some point in the night, left the van, and laid down on the pavement using one of those parking blocks as a pillow.
Check out The Dirty Nil's record release shows below:
02/25 – Hamilton, ON @ This Ain’t Hollywood (all ages) w/ Greys, Chastity, Sideman
02/26 – Hamilton, ON @ This Ain’t Hollywood (19+) w/ Solids, Century Palm, Scrapheat
02/27 – Toronto, ON @ The Horseshoe Tavern w/Solids, Century Palm, Casper Skulls
03/04 – London, ON @ London Music Hall – Rum Runners w/ Solids, S.M
03/05 – St Catharines, ON @ Detour Music Hall w/ Solids, S.M