In the winter of 2009, amid the crank and clank of cranes, containers and the rather large vessels that come and go from Dunedin's Port Chalmers, other noises were cast into the salty air.
To an upstairs room at Chick's Hotel came the members of Die! Die! Die!, intent on piecing together the songs they had created over the preceding two years. The result of that two-month hibernation is the band's third album, Form.The album marks a continuation of the no-nonsense attitude of their self-titled debut, yet also reveals a group willing to pull itself to pieces in order to grow.
"We took a lot more time with this one. We were going for a different sound and spent more time getting that right, thinking how we could progress. We spent a lot longer on mixing, something we used to spend very little time on. I think that worked," drummer Michael Prain explains.
Along with bass player Lachlan Anderson, and in collusion with producer Nick Roughan, the band members have trimmed all the excess from their songs. Several tracks on Form advance less than 10 seconds before Wilson's voice arrives, often on a dense layer of reverberation.
Introductions are kept short; like a firm handshake, they signal some serious business is about to start. The overall impression is of a cunning mix of ear candy and implied threat: cleaner tones or ethereal singing, each seemingly designed to pull in the listener, which give way to blistering, paint-peeling guitar.
"It was a case of not being afraid to try new things," Prain says. "Sometimes they don't work, but other times they work really well ... you also need a bit of that natural telepathy, of knowing what's working and what's not.
"It's about cutting the fat. It's just that much more instant. I found that a more exciting way of making the record, too. You can get really carried away with yourself and that can be quite boring. We've always found that is the approach that works best for us. I don't really want to start writing long-winded introductions."
Prain says the band was also keen to record in New Zealand, having made their last two releases in the United States: 2006 EP Locust Weeks was produced by US alt-rock figurehead Steve Albini and 2007 album Promises, Promises by Shayne Carter (of Dimmer and Straitjacket Fits).
Prain is only too aware that three years have passed between albums.
"I know. It has been a long time. The funny thing is, we did rush it towards the end of last year, thinking it was going to come out a lot earlier. Now it's July, so it has just been sitting around.
"We had been playing a lot and never got the opportunity to do it; also, people's schedules didn't fit.
"Just last week, we recorded seven new tracks. We don't want to take so long between releases again."
Though previous album Promises, Promises came out on New Zealand label Tardus, Form is being handled by Flying Nun, recently bought back from Warner Music by founder Roger Shepherd. The album is the label's second under the new arrangement, following Grayson Gilmour's No Constellation.
"They talked to us quite a while ago, when Roger was thinking about getting the label back together. We already knew each other, from having gone to the same shows in New Zealand and having similar friends around the traps.
"It took a while to get a contract signed but it's all go now," Prain says, adding that he is more than happy to share a roster with some influential acts.
"It has always been my favourite music ... the Skeptics, Bailter Space, Snapper ... stuff like that. [But] I've associated more with the bands than the label as such."
The release of Form will be marked by a tour before Die!Die! Die! head to Australia and on to Europe and the United States.
"It's going to be a really busy year from here on," Prain says.
"I never really find touring that draining. I quite like it.
"It's really good to go overseas. People do take a lot more notice of you if you are in a place where the main music press comes from." (To emphasise his point, Spin magazine last year named Die! Die! Die! in its 25 "must-hear artists" at the CMJ music festival in New York.) "There have been a lot of highlights," Prain enthuses. "We have played with some really great bands. But I'm really excited about the new record.
"With each record it's like starting afresh, which I like the idea of."
New album: Form, out July 19
See also: Promises, Promises (2007)
Playing: July 16, Galatos, Auckland, 6pm (all ages) and 9pm; July 17, Flow, Hamilton; July 20, Major Toms, Tauranga; July 21, Winston's Bar,
Gisborne; July 22, Cabana, Napier
- OTAGO DAILY TIMES