Die! Die! Die! had to get rid of some negative energy on the way to their new album. Chris Schulz meets the band alongside some real-life ghouls.
Walls are smeared in blood, body parts are dangling from the ceiling and whatever is under that white sheet on a surgical table in the middle of the room appears to be twitching.
Standing in the middle of this horrific scene is Andrew Wilson, the Die! Die! Die! frontman who's being sized up by a butcher brandishing a meat cleaver and bleeding heavily from one eye.
Crouching next to his band mate is Michael Prain, the band's drummer who is having his ear tickled by a demonic clown laughing maniacally while holding a machete above his head.
Then there's bassist Michael Logie, who is being spooked by a lumberjack who will later chase him through a forest with a chainsaw while yelling, "You smell good!" Where the severed hands came from is anyone's guess.
Despite this ghoulish scenario, the three members of Die! Die! Die! are sporting ear-to-ear smiles.
That's because we're at South Auckland scare factory Spookers to celebrate the release of Swim, their fifth album that comes after a tumultuous period for the Auckland-based three-piece.
Yes, TimeOut realises taking a band called Die! Die! Die! to Spookers for an interview is not only a tenuous link, it's also a bit of a cliche.
But just like the evil characters gathered with the band for their photo shoot, it turns out Die! Die! Die! had a few demons of their own to exorcise before they could make Swim. It's an album that finds them in typically abrasive form, but also adding deft melodic moments like the single Crystal.
Sitting on dusty couches in a dimly lit room in the haunted house at Spookers, with screams echoing around the building, Wilson admits Die! Die! Die! effectively broke up after making their ironically titled 2012 album Harmony.
They weren't even going to release what turned out to be one of the best albums of their career - let alone find a way through to make Swim.
Photo / Brett Phibbs
TimeOut: After the tough time you had making Harmony, how does Swim feel in comparison?
Wilson: This one is the total opposite. There's a functioning band around it ... there wasn't before. Harmony was hard to make, this one was easy, so it's yin and yang. As soon as (former Mint Chicks' bassist Michael) Logie joined the band we properly started writing songs and it felt good and different and fun. It's all changed.
What was causing all the problems around that time - why did you call it quits?
Wilson: We'd just come off a gruelling three-month tour.
We'd done three weeks in China - that was intense and we'd just done a massive tour in Europe [as well as] the [contract] debacle with Flying Nun. There was just a lot of negative energy in the band. We needed to stop, and we did.
So what turned things around?
Wilson: Me and Mikey [Prain] went over to Tasmania and mixed Harmony. When we did the interviews we were trying not to let people know that we'd broken up. We finished it, released it and it's all flowed on from there. The reaction was amazing. All the other records were kind of polarising. I think we didn't ram it down people's throats as much.
How did you approach the making of Swim?
Prain: Right from the get-go we all had our own ideas of what we wanted it to be. We were really excited about making a new record, there were lots of ideas.
Wilson: We wanted to come in and do it like Radiohead's Kid A. We wanted it to be extremely different to previous albums so people were like, "Woah, they changed". But it didn't quite work out that way.
How would you describe the results?
Wilson: It's our most effortless album, writing-wise, I'm really proud of it, it's got a lot of energy around it. It's fun, it seems positive.
I'd like to think we've evolved, it's still abrasive but it's still melodic, but with Die! Die! Die! we try to make it not predictable. If people said we sound like a wiry, nasty, post-punk band, we'd go, "F*** that, let's go and sound like a really multi-textured, layered band" just to be contrary. This one we didn't try so hard, it just happened.
Andrew, you're known for venturing into the crowd during shows. Has it ever gone horribly wrong?
Wilson: It goes wrong a lot. The worst one was when we played the main stage at Homebake festival in Australia. They zoomed in on me in the crowd and there was this man pretending to have his way with me with giant beer hands on and a giant hat and he came up on the giant festival screens while he was going "woooo!" That was the most humiliating moment ... for my soul.
Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sipping on soda, Wilson is a measure of calmness at odds with his on-stage persona. But that soon evaporates when TimeOut, the band and girlfriends venture into the first attraction at Spookers - the freaky forest. One of the ghouls from the band's photoshoot earlier is among the first to spot us. "It's you," he says eagerly as nervous laughter echoes through the trees. "I could smell you coming ... you smell good."
As the band creeps past, Prain looks stoney faced, Logie giggles nervously, and Wilson appears to be gripping his girlfriend's hand tighter than he'd like to admit. Then the ghoul gestures with his machete, slides it into his belt and says: "I won't be needing this."
The sound of a chainsaw starting up makes everyone scream and start legging it through the trees. Demons? No one needs them hanging around.
Who: Die! Die! Die!
What: New album Swim, out August 15
Also: Die! Die! Die! (2006); Promises, Promises (2008); Form (2010); Harmony (2012).
On tour: August 15, Galatos, Auckland; August 16, The Yacht Club, Raglan; August 17, Major Toms, Tauranga; August 22, San Francisco Bath House, Wellington; August 27, Barrytown Hall, Barrytown; August 28, Pulse Bar, Wanaka; August 29, Port Chalmers, Dunedin; August 30, Wunderbar, Christchurch.
Spookers open: Friday and Saturday nights, from 8pm.