Hailing from London, deathcrash are a post-rock band comprised of vocalist and guitarist Tiernan Banks, bassist Patrick Fitzgerald, guitarist Matthew Weinberger, and drummer Noah Bennett. After forming in 2019, the group released two EPs and a 7″ that saw them developing a heavy slowcore sound, moving away from the post-punk-adjacent Speedy Wunderground scene they were associated with early on. Speaking with The Quietus, Tyler Hyde of Black Country, New Road, who they have toured nationally with, explained how deathcrash’s grasp of dynamics helped them make more “impactful” music: “It seemed so obvious, but the simple technique of using extremely quiet parts alongside extremely loud sections helped to produce progressions and narrative-like structures within the tracks.”
With help from their friend and producer Ric James, deathcrash have mastered this approach on their debut full-lenghth, Return, their most collaborative and immersive effort to date. There are echoes of Slint, American Football, Sparklehorse, and Low in the band’s fusion of slow-burning, melodic instrumentals, spoken word passages, and intimate songwriting, but it’s better to hear them tell that story: the album subtly traces their relationship with the music they love as well as their personal journeys, taking us through dark, intense places as much as it lingers on breathtaking moments of hope and beauty.
We caught up with deathcrash’s Tiernan Banks and Noah Bennett for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about their dynamic as a band, the story behind their debut album, and more.
How are you finding the response to the album so far?
Noah Bennett: It’s been really nice. Everything we’ve heard has been above and beyond what we would even say about ourselves. It’s been pretty affirming of what we do.
Tiernan Banks: We definitely didn’t have major expectations. I think it establishes a self-defense mechanism where we’re like, “People won’t think much of this. No one’s really going to listen to it.” And then it just turned out that wasn’t true. We know we’re not a famous, hype-y band, you know, we’re never going to be as big as black midi or whatever. We don’t really expect that. But there’s been way more talk about it than we expected, and the people who have been talking about it seem to have really connected with it. We couldn’t really have asked for more than that.
I know you’re on tour at the moment, and one thing that caught my attention about the album was the interview that you’ve included with Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse on the track ‘What To Do’. He’s talking about how depression affected his ability to write and record, but he’s also so optimistic about touring. Could you talk about what his music means to you and what made you want to include that bit of conversation?
TB: That’s a big question. Sparklehorse became a big thing in my life – I think with any musician, they’re there so you can sort of project things onto them, in a way. I think at various points in my life, I was projecting a lot onto Mark Linkous and his life, and probably identifying with a bit too much of it. I just find him a really powerful figure. I love the way he talks about his songs, and I love his attitude to making music. And there’s always that worrying aspect to those kinds of performers because he was obviously an incredibly troubled, sad man, and I don’t want to romanticize that aspect of him at all. But then sometimes when you’re at your lowest, you kind of slightly do that a bit. And that was what I liked about the quote that we use, because it was actually this incredibly life-affirming message from him, from somebody that is famously not life-affirming in the end. I thought it was really beautiful.
And then also, in terms of touring and being a musician, something that is very true in this project and definitely for me personally is that music is a hard thing as well as a beautiful thing that can come from hard moments in your life. I think that quote really gets that across. Music, he’s not been able to do it, he’s not been able to play it, but it’s also the thing that gives him his energy and his life. Similarly for us, touring is really fun and really amazing but it’s also exhausting and weird and stressful and slightly overwhelming. I just thought it has both sides to that in a really beautiful way. And then the fact that it was Mark Linkous – in some ways, I would argue that we’re more inspired by people like that than we are typical post-rock bands that we would get compared to. I’m glad that we found that quote.
How did you find it?
TB: I used to spend a lot of time on the internet finding things that I felt might be relevant to our songs. [laughs] Every sample came out of a six-month period where I was on Archive.org a lot of the time.
Do you remember what the rest of the interview was like?
TB: It’s only like 8 or 10 minutes long. It’s by an interviewer called Toazted in Holland. They just talk more about the record and touring, but there’s this funny bit that I love so much where the interviewer’s like, you know, “This must be the most amazing thing ever, you’re on stage and everyone’s singing your songs…” And Mark Linkous is kind of like, “Eh, yeah.” And the guy’s like, “You’re living the dream.” He’s like, “Yeah, maybe.” That’s always the perception, but not always the reality.
When you have that kind of personal connection with a band, is it hard for you to draw a line between the art and the artist?
NB: I feel like with solo artists you lead people to make that connection a bit more. With him, even though he was doing it under a name, Sparklehorse, it’s clearly just him. Whereas with bands, I would perceive it as, the music kind of stands alone and takes pieces from everyone and you can’t draw direct connections. I think there’s something about various solo artists that maybe point slightly more to connect it to the person.
TB: It ends up being so much more wrapped up in their personal stories often. I think for me and Mark Linkous, I only knew about him since I knew he was dead. I was never into Mark Linkous as a kid, so that personal story is much more important. Whereas there’s so many bands that we love, that we’re just as emotionally connected to, that we literally know nothing about the people involved.
TB: And I quite like that aspect of bands. Sometimes I find it a bit much, like band promos, it’s so much directed around the people in the band, which isn’t always necessary and can sometimes detract from your ability to get what you want from the music, if you’re told too much about the people behind it.
Something I noticed is that for the first couple of singles, the press photos, if you can call them that, they’re not of the band – they were part of the artwork by Kaye Song. And then with the final one, ‘Doomcrash’, you could actually see everyone. Was that part of the reasoning behind it?
TB: What was the reasoning behind it? [laughs]
NB: I guess our egos don’t necessarily line up with wanting to have pictures of our faces associated with our music. What we’re focused on is the music itself. And also, we hate photos.
TB: We just hate it. [laughs] It’s horrible. There’s been a few times when we’ve been made to take photos, and it just gets really awkward – for the photographer, for the people who’ve asked us to do it. It’s become a sore point between, like, us, our manager, our label, the PR team. Eventually we gave in because they said that we have to have one, so we said, “You can have one, but our really close friend Kaye has to take it.” Which is what the photo is for ‘Doomcrash’.
Was it different, the fact that your friend took that photo, or was it still awkward?
NB: Oh no, it was still awkward. But it was much better. Kaye is our very close friend, she’s done all of our artwork since ‘Slumber’. She would be the person we would trust the most.
TB: We were in our rehearsal room as well. I think that was also important for us, we didn’t really want a photo shoot where you go on location and create this artificial thing. It just didn’t really seem to make sense for what we care about.
Can you talk about the artwork specifically for this album? How do you feel it ties into the aesthetic of the band?
NB: We’ve been doing the landscapes for such a long time. All those photos have been taken by Kaye. And then for the album, we wanted to tie that together, so all of those photos for the singles – and if you buy a copy of the record, there’s a huge photo on the inner sleeve and on the back – they’re all taken from Hatfield Moors in South Yorkshire.
TB: She’s really thoughtful and talented in what she does. It was this moor that had a peat fire a couple of years ago, and then she went there and took photos. It’s like a place slowly fixing itself again after a pretty devastating fire, and I guess that is relevant to our album in some way. It was really nice as well for the cover to get some of her artwork that wasn’t just a landscape photo, because she does do so much more than photos as well.
NB: We didn’t want a landscape specifically for the front cover. We kind of wanted one thing you could focus on rather than something sprawling and open.
To go back to the research you did, you’ve also included some samples of what sounds like conversations in the background on ‘Matt’s Song’, and ‘Metro 1’ includes a voice recording from someone called DJ Bennett. If you don’t want to talk about where those are from so as to not break the mystery of it, that’s fine, but I was wondering if there’s something in particular that appeals to you about using other people’s voices on the record. Is it a way, again, of separating your voices from the work?
NB: The DJ Bennett sample was another Archive.org find from hours on the internet. We think he has the best voice ever. He runs a little radio show, and similar to the Mark Linkous interview in a way, you can really hear his joy of music in those few sentences. It makes you happy to listen to.
TB: It’s so joyful. And I think that something that’s super important to us in talking about the album and the way the album comes across – it’s pretty obvious, the sad stuff or the dark stuff or the brooding stuff on the record, what we wanted to make clear is how much we all really fucking love music. And that sample really gets that across.
The other thing you said that was just making me think about separating our personal voices from the record, I think it’s a really interesting question because we’re so torn between those two things. I would say our music is really personal and intimate and everything’s very separate, like you can hear Matt, you can hear me, you can hear Noah, you can hear Pat. It’s really just the four of us playing live in a room together, and that’s personal. But then we really do this thing where we’ll step back from it and try and not put too much of ourselves in it. I don’t actually know where we come down on that line, and I don’t think we necessarily know. [laughs] But we really do have that push and pull.
NB: I think it also allows us to have instrumental sections that are longer than you would usually have on modern rock records, which we love. Just from a music point of view, they work incredibly well. And our musical influences, at least for me, like post-rock and emo music has always used samples. It’s tried and tested. And we sit somewhere in the rough sphere of those worlds.
TB: And similarly, ‘Matt’s Song’ is recordings just from your house.
NB: Yeah, that’s just me, Matt, and my friend Amy having a conversation in our living room. Obviously we had to record it in the studio, but that song has come out of Matt’s bedroom and playing it in the living room while we’re cooking dinner or staying around. We were trying to have it recorded very well but put it in its home, I guess.
There’s definitely a precedent for using samples in those genres that you’re pulling from, but what struck is me is how there’s this joyful quality to them that almost contrasts the music. I think another way that your love of music comes through is the references that you’ve interspersed throughout the record. I have to assume that ‘Wrestle With Jimmy’ is a Weezer reference, and then on ‘American Metal’ there’s a Taking Back Sunday reference with ‘My Blue Heaven’. And maybe the final track, ‘The Low Anthem’, is a reference to Low?
TB: There is actually a band called The Low Anthem. It’s a much more blatant reference. The Low Anthem are just a massively important band in my life. Our manager, Joe [Taylor], who runs Warm Laundry Records with me as well, and our other mate Theo [Cooper] who runs Warm Laundry as well, it was like our favourite band when we were 14. And it was basically what brought us together as friends. They are really good, but no one’s heard of them anymore. [laughs] They’re like a slowcore-y folk band. I hadn’t even really listened to Low when we wrote that song, and now everyone’s saying it sounds a lot like Low.
Are those references a way of paying tribute to your influences?
TB: Yeah, there’s loads, right? ‘Unwind’ is a reference, ‘Horses’ is arguably a reference. ‘American Metal’ is a reference to a guitar pedal and American Football.
NB: I guess the way we see it is, we’re making music that’s quite different to other bands that are on “the scene” right now. People will constantly be referring us to other bands in the genre, and I guess there’s something nice about taking ownership of that.
TB: There’s no point hiding it either. We are influenced by a lot of music, and as you say, we really actively try to take ownership of it. There’s no point pretending otherwise. It’s one of the reasons why the album’s called Return as well, these connections that you have with these past people, you’re like in dialogue with them. There’s no point pretending you haven’t had that conversation or that thought about them, and now we’re putting our own spin on it. It’s a continuation of, not a total separation from – it would be unrealistic to presume otherwise.
I read that part of what brought you together in the first place was your love of krautrock. Is that right?
NB: It’s more something we could get in a room and start playing together in a fun way. It was a slightly different group of people at the time. We wanted to play music but maybe didn’t quite know what, and that definitely lent itself to just going into a room, playing for an hour and having a good time.
TB: It wasn’t very songwriter-y. We were quite new as friends as well, we only met at university and wanted people to play music with, so it made sense to play that kind of music. I wouldn’t say we did it very well, but it was fun.
NB: We had our moments.
TB: But it was great doing all that stuff, we played shows with that kind of music and they were quite inconsequential ultimately. We weren’t really pigeonholed in any way, because there wasn’t really much of a scene in uni. That was a great space for us to do that, get a couple of years in playing music together and then slowly form our own identity.
Do you feel like your evolution as a band came partly from just becoming closer friends?
NB: Definitely. We didn’t start off sharing that many ideas. When Matt, our guitarist, joined the band, and as we became close friends, our rehearsals became places to share ideas.
TB: The friendship thing definitely helped because everyone starts to feel more relaxed in themselves. None of us were really suited to making krautrock music, like what the hell were we thinking? Now, I feel like we’re at a point where all four of us are really getting ourselves across in the music. It just slowly worked out that as we got closer together, we also put more of ourselves into it. I do think a lot of it came from Matt, when he started writing like, ‘Bones’ and ‘Bind’, and we were like, “This actually makes much more sense to us.”
It’s natural that as you relax into your dynamic as a group, you’re more comfortable slowing down and drawing out the songs and having that space. I assume it also allows the personal element of the songs to become more pronounced.
TB: That’s taken so long. We’ve all changed as musicians so much, and that is a confidence and relaxedness thing. We used to shout loads in our music.
NB: We used to fill out all the space.
TB: I don’t think any of us were naturally confident in what we did. I don’t know why though.
NB: I think it’s a mix of getting better at what we do and more confident in why we do it. But yeah, I do think it’s about leaving space in the music in between the instruments, in between the beats, rather than frantically filling 3 minutes with sound. Everything is very deliberate.
TB: That confidence as well is really fucking fragile. [laughs] It wouldn’t take much for that to crash down. I think it’s why it kind of has to be this quite insular thing. We enjoy it so much, and we really need as much as possible to tap into that because if you worry too much about what other people are gonna think about it, you know, it’s hard.
One song that stands out for that reason is ‘Wrestle With Jimmy’, because it’s the rare occasion where you do condense all that noise into a two-minute track. There are those screams towards the end of the song, too, although they’re drowned out by the wall of sound and the drums. Why was this the moment that needed to be intense in that way?
TB: Do we answer that truthfully? [laughs]
NB: Well, Matt wrote that song, he wrote in an afternoon in his bedroom.
TB: It was the quickest song we’ve ever written, and Matt wrote all of the parts.
NB: Except the talking.
TB: Yeah, Patt did the vocals on that. We basically got a really terrible review. And it really upset – definitely me, I don’t know how it affected everyone else.
NB: And Matt.
TB: Me and Matt got hit really hard by it. It just said that we were shit, basically.
NB: Yeah, the song was in response to that review. A bit of a middle finger, I guess. And then it turned out to be a song that we thought was awesome.
TB: But Patt’s vocals came after. Matt wrote the instrumental, and we knew that it needed more. We really like Patt’s voice and it’s one of the songs that obviously lends itself well to the talking thing, so we thought it would be nice to have a different voice on the record and to get Patt to tell a bit more of his story. And I think that worked really well with the uncertainty and anger in Matt’s instrumental. And then it was actually Ric [James], our producer, that did the screaming on it. I think the emotions of it tie in really well within the track and within the album as a whole.
I love that one of the best tracks on the album came out of a negative review, and I hope that whatever the review was talking about, that’s exactly what you did more of on the song.
TB: One hundred percent. [all laugh]
You were talking about the things that helped you come into your identity as a band, and you’ve been open about how touring with Black Country, New Road had a significant effect on you as well. Could you elaborate on that?
NB: Black Country were incredibly kind to us just over two years ago, they offered to take us on touring based on very little.
TB: Based on nothing. Well, we played with them in Cambridge, we used to play some shows with them when they were Nervous Conditions, but they didn’t know us personally.
NB: We were very, very new in what we were doing and very nervous.
TB: A lot of things came together, it’s kind of weird. Blank Editions who released their 7”, they told Blank Editions about us and to do a cassette for our EP, which is also the same month that untitlled (recs) asked us to sign a record deal. Which was also the same month our drummer decided he didn’t want to be in the band anymore, and then Noah took over as the drummer. So we’d only played two gigs with Noah before we went on tour with Black Country.
NB: And then we went straight into playing the biggest venues we’ve ever played.
TB: We weren’t ready for it.
NB: But we didn’t collapse at any point. We kind of made it through. I feel like we proved to ourselves that we could we could do it.
TB: What Matt says about that tour which I think is really true, is we were still in this halfway house of not quite knowing what our identity was. And seeing them, we were like, “Wow, they’re so good at what they do.” There was part of us at the time trying to do similar things. Back then, we used to get compared with Black Country way more, we don’t anymore at all. And I think that tour made us realize what we were really good at and what we felt comfortable doing, and what other things actually were just for other bands. After that month, a few things came together and made the project feel a bit more real.
Does it feel strange looking back, especially now that you’re on tour and that both of your records came out so close to each other?
TB: I love that the records came out so close together.
NB: It was so nice. We could listen to their record while we were in the back of the van.
TB: Their record came out on Friday, and then Taylor played with us on Sunday. We have been peripherally involved in each other’s journeys. And I feel quite nice this year with the things that have come out, like the caroline record comes out soon. I like this iteration of the London scene quite a lot.
What do you like about it?
TB: There’s no competitiveness. I’m just interested in what these bands are doing. Particularly with Black Country, we just seem to have a nice relationship. I think we respect each other quite highly.
I was wondering if you could share something that recently made you feel proud, either of yourself, of each other, or just the band and what you’ve been through.
TB: That’s such a nice question. You’ve caught us at a particularly relevant moment for that because the album’s just come out, we’re on this album for, and that is what we’re proud of. Like, two years ago, when we signed that record deal, literally none of this was possible. Not like we’re headlining Wembley or something [laughs], but all of us, all we’ve ever wanted to do is record an album and tour it. And being able to have done that, and we’re not on a big label, one of our best friends is our manager, Kaye lives with Matt and Noah, she’s been involved in the whole process the whole time. Ric is now a super close friend of ours. Everyone involved is a friend of ours. This isn’t like a high-end, business, corporate thing. I don’t think we’ve sacrificed on any principles at any point. We’re just connecting and making music that we genuinely love and are proud of. And whilst all that was going on, everyone’s struggling at various points and so much else is going on, and the music can track that. It’s brought us all together, and it’s been a nice story for everyone that we’re close to.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
deathcrash’s Return is out now via untitled (recs).