“Strike the match and light the fire/ whole word burns/ a funeral pyre,” sings Jeremy De Tolly on the lead single from The Dirty Skirts’ new album, ‘Lost In The Fall’. “It’s all gonna burn, it’s all gonna burn”.
Bit of a change then for the band best known for wanting to punch a hole in Saturday night (‘Homewrecker’) and describing dads who don’t dance (‘Daddy Don’t Disco’).
“It’s definitely a very different album to ‘Daddy Don’t Disco’,” De Tolly confirms. “I think it probably is a lot more serious, definitely a little bit darker, and very much more visceral and direct. It’s saying something quite clearly.”
What it’s saying is we’re screwing up Earth.
“There’s a strong feeling in the album of how dire the situation is on the planet in terms of what we’re doing on an ecological level. We are absolutely as a species destroying the planet at a radically high speed and we’ve got to stop right now.”
To illustrate his point, he recites the chorus to the “brutally and seriously straightforward” ‘We’re All Gonna Die’: “If things don’t change we’re all gonna die/ If things don’t change we’re all gonna die/ If things don’t change we’re all gonna die/ We’ll take it all with us, tear a hole in the sky”.
Not that the group have become holier than thou.
“We didn’t want to do a Bono and make a ’causes’ album, but it’s just emerged with this sense of fury and desperation and introspection and urgency,” he explains.
“The album looks at the situation at a personal level and at a wake up call level of let’s do something – let’s haul ass, let’s be conscious, at least be radically conscious and wake up,” he continues.
“And it sometimes comes from quite fun places too,” he laughs at the contradiction.
Just don’t expect a response to Jack Parow’s ‘Cooler As Ekke’, which names and shames De Tolly. “His song is bloody clever and really funny – it’s possibly too good and I wouldn’t even want to take it on. I’d look pretty stupid.”
And don’t expect another ‘Homewrecker’.
“In a way songs just come out from where we are as human beings so it’s a little bit like saying: ‘Do you want to be the person you were four years ago?’. It’s good to evolve and grow and I think we have.
“‘Homewrecker’ is a wonderful snapshot of a time and the way that life was but the songs now are about different things and feel like different things. It would be quite fun to write something as irreverent and as fun as that, but it’s quite fun writing what we’re writing now. What we’re writing now has a gravitas and a clout to it that’s quite fun to do.”
Fun, perhaps, but not easy. While ‘Daddy Don’t Disco’ was written and recorded at “lightning speed”, the group have taken a more considered approach to ‘Lost In The Fall’, with De Tolly sometimes rewriting his lyrics “five, six, eight times”.
“I tried to be absolutely, one million percent, convinced about what I put down,” he says, not at all worried about losing any of the sense of spontaneity that marked The Dirty Skirts’ previous albums.
“The most remarkable things can happen with a pair of headphones and a microphone on a random Tuesday morning, when you’re deep in the zone and something completely spontaneous comes out right there and then. The spontaneous can happen right now – it generally does happen right now.”
Or it can happen on surfing trips. Towards the end of last year De Tolly and guitarist David Moffatt visited the Philippines (“We did quite a lot of writing on that trip – we had acoustics with us and we sang and recorded what we wrote and that kind of stuff.”) And a few months ago they hit Bali’s surf (“I took the album on a laptop and we mixed and played and listened.”)
He’s pleased with the final results, but unsure what fans are going to say.
“We’ll see – we’re just going to do what we do. We’re not really doing any of it to please anyone other than ourselves. We’ve enjoyed making this album and hope people are going to tap into some of that energy, that ferocity and enjoy it.
“And if they don’t, that’s OK too. I think we’ve been quite clear that we’re doing this for ourselves and if we lose a lot of fans in the process that’s OK too.”
They’ve also cut back their expectations of international success.
“We’re not jaded,” De Tolly laughs. “We tried quite a lot but we really are just actually making music for fun. We’re not interested in the drudgery. We love what we do and it’s in the writing, and in putting out albums, and in the gigs we get invited to. It’s wonderful, it’s just a joy.
“But slavishly succeeding for success’s sake is no longer really where we’re at,” he says.
“So we’ve reduced things to: this is what we like doing, we’re increasingly cutting out any shows that we don’t feel like doing, and we’re just going to play for people that really want to see us and just do it for the pure enjoyment of it.”