When three shaggy-haired teenagers bonded over their Iron Maiden t-shirts and their shared love for all things rock ’n’ roll, they decided to do the only logical thing: They formed a band.
The Dirty Nil started in 2006 among three high school friends. But things didn’t really pick up until they recorded an EP in 2009. And it was after recording their Fuckin’ Up Young EP in 2010 when guitarist and vocalist Luke Bentham could really say “this was the real beginning” of the Dirty Nil.
These high schoolers in an isolated small town in Ontario felt free to do whatever they wanted. Their original exposure to music was in the form of magazines and photos, which solidified the mythology of rock ’n’ roll into their impressionable young minds. While they initially spent their leisure time by blowing things up in their neighborhood’s forest, they swapped firecrackers for something less destructive but equally explosive.
As Bentham picked up guitar, his friends Dave Nardi learned the bass and Kyle Fisher hopped on drums. The Dirty Nil started as a band to learn their instruments while channelling their idols — anyone from MC5 to Nirvana or Fugazi to Guided by Voices — all without becoming a cover band.
In the last year, they played the Warped Tour, released a 7” on Fat Wreck Chords, played at this year’s SXSW, and spent the last few months across the U.S. and Europe. They released their debut record Higher Power last February via Dine Alone Records, and they poured out a litany of singles and EPs in the years prior.
Maybe the Warped Tour and their record with Fat Wreck Chord gives you the impression that they play pop punk. But don’t be fooled: The Dirty Nil is a full-fledged rock ’n’ roll band.
Higher Power slams the listener into a wall sound. Kicking off the album, “No Weaknesses” mixes big rock hooks with dire conviction. Other songs like “Wrestle Yü to Hüsker Dü” and “Zombie Eyed” feature funny, clever lyrics about sex and drugs, respectively. When you listen to Higher Power, you feel like you’re invincible; you might feel like you’re a 14 or 15-year-old discovering rock music for the first time again.
Whereas their shorter records gave them the energy to bang out something in two days, Bentham said that recording an album allowed them to “stretch our legs sonically and thematically” and it gave them more space to explore the possibilities of a music studio. Given how they’ve been so prolific in the past few years, it’s no surprise that Bentham said The Dirty Nil will be sharing new announcements later this year.
Bentham said over the phone before leaving for Berlin and Hamburg, “I’m staring at a courtyard right now. It’s crazy how playing riffs in my mom’s house brought us to Germany.”
They play as if their lives depend on it. In the years since they formed, they’ve swapped adolescent angst for existential anguish. But for either ailment, rock ‘n’ roll seems to cure them of bad spirits. They’ll be banging out noise at the Beat Kitchen this Saturday, May 21 along with the So So Glos and the Symposium. Tickets, which cost $12.00, can be bought here.