After a whirlwind few years that’s seen Dillastrate earn a reputation as a live force to be reckoned with, the Christchurch duo has revealed their debut full-length self-titled album on December 6.
It is a significant milestone for Dillastrate (Henare ‘H’ Kaa and Tim Driver) who have toured New Zealand countless times and played at some of the country’s biggest festivals, including Electric Avenue, Rhythm and Vines and Northern Bass.
The songs that make up the album are the result of what happens when you send two highly-skilled seasoned musicians into the studio with no agenda and let them go.
A tour through a world of musical influence, the record contains party bangers, late night slow jams, bleeding heart ballads and wonky sideways grooves, all the while embracing Dillastrate’s signature sound, which infuses soul, pop, hip-hop and electronic music.
“It is the net worth of our loves, frustrations and influences,” says the duo. “It is opposing forces coalescing naturally to create a sound that is consistent, artfully shaped and lovingly crafted.”
See Tim and H’s self-penned ‘track-by-track’ below.
All tracks on the album were written, performed and produced by Tim and H and producer Ben Malone. All three are esteemed musicians in their own right, with H recently travelling to London, UK, where he shared the stage with Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood. Read more here.
DILLASTRATE – TRACK BY TRACK:
‘Mama Told Ya’ (Track 1 and 2)
“’Mama Told Ya’ is about being in love with someone who is terrible for you. It tells the story of a woman being warned away from a man who will ultimately hurt her, and the man realising too late that he’s ruined his chances of love through neglect. It is a story of redemption, with the male perspective ultimately witnessing his lost love getting him out of her system and moving on with her life. The song is split into two parts, with the softer, slower introduction separated from the pulsing groove that kicks in as the story picks up momentum.”
‘Better Than This’ (Track 3)
“This is our tribute to a brilliant summer touring season. Written and recorded at the tail end of Summer 2018/19 and released in March, the song is also a vain attempt to convince the sunshine to remain, if only for a little longer. As we were writing the song, a sub-story emerged naturally, with the protagonist not letting a fight with his girlfriend stop him from his planned partying, even if he does feel a bit guilty about it ultimately. It is also a tribute to the NZ music community that has treated us so well, with an understanding that summer is always either approaching or receding somewhere in the world.”
‘Cross Your Mind’ (Track 4)
“’Cross Your Mind’ is a frank expression of the need for intimacy in a relationship – specifically love-making. Honestly, it’s about the desire to get down to it, as well as an open conversation about lovers’ needs, hopes and fears. In this sense, the song has a double meaning, with the lyrics expressing both the desire to love this person for as long as possible, as well as make love for as long as they are able to. Definitely a late night jam.”
‘Excuse Me’ (Track 5)
“’Excuse Me’ is a straight-up break-up song, written from the perspective of someone who has been hurt – badly. The song pleads with an ex to not be completely written off in their eyes and to remember the good times. It comes from a place that many people have been before – trying to salvage the scraps of a broken relationship and hold onto a sense of pride.
This song was entirely written in the studio during the album recording sessions. Like many other songs that were written in the studio and made it onto the album, the piano has a distinctively sleepy feel induced from long hours in the studio and sleepless nights during the recording process.
‘Can’t Catch Me’ (Interlude) (Track 6)
“’Can’t Catch Me’ is a breather interlude about being elusive. The track sees Dillastrate stepping away from the lead, allowing a session vocalist to tell the story. The song is reminiscent of schoolyard jibes, cajoling and challenging the listener to try and catch them out.”
‘Nightlights’ (Track 7)
“’Nightlights’ is about escaping the drudgery of life for the night and throwing caution to the wind. It’s a pure, unadulterated party song that celebrates the nightlife and its unhealthy ability to blow out the cobwebs. The song makes it clear that, while using partying as a means to escape your problems is ultimately unsustainable, it is temporarily effective and fun as hell.
This song stemmed from the performance of a throwaway groove jammed during a live set on a whim. The improvised lyrics and feel stuck with the band to the point that this groove made its way into the writing sessions and subsequently into the recording sessions.”
‘Heroin’ (Track 8)
“’Heroin’ is a 6-8 soul ballad about the dangerous addictiveness of a fatal attraction. Likening a toxic relationship to the drug Heroin, it shows how a person can be brought to the brink of destruction by a relationship and continue to want more, even when the effectiveness wears off.
Originally jammed as a hat-tip to D’Angelo and Daniel Caeser’s 6-8 ballads, this song was entirely written in the studio during the album recording sessions. The lazy, rhythmically laidback feel in the piano can be attributed to the late nights and long hours spent in the studio during recording, imbuing the song with a dream-like essence.”
‘If I Was’ (feat Finlay Tate) (Track 9)
“This is a nostalgic look at a relationship without a happy ending. The song captures the different perspectives of what went wrong, with Finlay Tate providing the reality check! This is the first time Dillastrate have shared lead vocals with a female artist and gave Tate the freedom to share her unfiltered experience of love. ‘If I Was’ is a reflection on the moments we miss, the naive outlook on what a relationship should be and the wish for a do-over.”
‘Keep From Going On’ (Track 10)
“’Keep From Going On’ is a direct look at addiction and its root causes in people. It expresses the feeling of being trapped that often seeds addiction and continues to feed it. The chorus echoes advice that most people in this situation have probably heard all too often – “just stop doing it” – which is often ineffectual in helping people out of the trap.
This track was built around a set of loops developed by producer Ben Malone, jammed on during the writing and subsequent recording sessions.”
‘Too Soon’ (Track 11)
“’Too Soon’ tells the story of one terrifying night from the perspective of somebody who has experienced sudden heart health complications. The song recounts the inner thoughts of a person lying in the emergency room awaiting medical attention as they grapple with the possibility of their impending mortality. In particular, our protagonist is reacting to his partner trying to tell him that everything is going to be okay when he knows that there’s a strong possibility that it won’t be.
This song was written entirely and spontaneously in the studio when attempting to write a section for another song. The first three chords that can be heard at the start of the song emerged entirely at random, causing production on the other song to completely cease until Too Soon was able to organically develop. The song was then crafted right then and there, with newly written sections flowing out unaided.
‘Nothing’ (Track 12)
“’Nothing is a philosophical inquiry into the meaning of life, particularly the realization that there could be nothing after death. It’s an exploration of existential dread and the many feelings that accompany it. The longest track on the Dillastrate album, it is an opportunity for the band to indulge themselves in a progressive jam, moving through several sequences, eventually coming to a point of equilibrium.
This song was written as part of the pre-production writing sessions in an open, freeform jam. This form was recreated in its entirety during the recording sessions and subsequent production process in an attempt to not lose the spontaneity of the original jam.
The track features a recording of the purere hua and ko au au, traditional Maori instruments which are traditionally used at the start of a kapa haka performance.”
‘Common’ (Track 13)
“’Common’ is a modern adaptation of Maori legend. It tells the story of the great hero Maui revisiting the earth in 2019, walking through the streets and experiencing modern life as it currently is. He has a dark interpretation of what he sees and experiences, while still showing love for humanity in its current state. It is an imagining of a first impression of the modern world through the eyes of someone who has slept for a thousand years, revisiting their creation (te ika a Maui) with a caring heart and eyes.
This song was written from a jam during the initial writing sessions then recorded without a definite form. In the studio it was recorded as an open jam, elapsing a total recording time of around 20 minutes, during which it went into some very interesting places, bordering on avantgarde free jazz at one point. This can be put down to the delirium induced from long hours in the studio and general lack of sleep during the recording process.”
‘Vibe With You’ (Track 14)
“’Vibe With You’ is a song about the effects of low self-esteem in relationships. The song tells the story of a man who simply accepts that his partner treats him awfully and hopes that one day they will change. We have all known somebody in this situation at some point in our lives, and may have even tried to intervene. It also touches on the stigmatized subject of the battered man in the hopes of starting a discussion and getting it out into the open. The juxtaposition between the lyrical content and the upbeat, happy groove shows the willing ignorance of the man in this situation and his naivety in the face of an abusive partner.