THEY NAMED themselves after a Japanese car. They play rock’n’roll, but also new wave and psychedelica. They’re from New Zealand but strangely don’t follow rugby. They are The Datsuns.
The Datsuns make their Galway debut at Strange Brew in the Róisín Dubh on Thursday February 5 at 8pm and singer/bassist Dolf de Borst says audiences can expect some high voltage rock’n’roll on the night.
“We’re quite loud and pretty noisy, sweaty rock’n’roll,” Dolf tells me over the phone from Sweden. “We’re pretty animated on stage, so expect a lot of movement.”
Given that The Datsuns have drawn comparison to Cheap Trick and AC/DC, that’s not surprising. Indeed Dolf admits The Datsuns are one of those bands that gets more of a buzz from being on-stage than in the studio.
“We feel most at home on stage,” he says. “It’s the immediacy of seeing an audience appreciate what you do on stage right away. In the studio you’re more cerebral and recording can be a very analytical process, but a live show is raw and direct.”
However the band’s most recent album, Head Stunts, released late last year, has become their most acclaimed work to date. “The riffs are thunderous,” declared Classic Rock; “Full of class A shredding,” said The Stool Pigeon; “A storming album from the finest rockers around,” said Artrocker.
Critics felt The Datsuns were displaying more ambition and confidence than ever before. During the recording of the album, did the band feel it had stepped up a gear?
“We have got more confident in the studio,” says Dolf. “We look towards different kinds of music and take some past ideas and expand on it. Maybe this time we were more successful.
“I think this is the first album that we all like. Previous ones were ‘I like that song, but not this one’. We recorded the album a year ago and now we are listening back to it and think we’ve done something good.”
Head Stunts was recorded in Sweden, which has become a second home to Dolf, who divides his time between there and his native New Zealand.
“I’ve been living here for about a year,” he says. “I live in Stockholm. My Swedish is terrible and people here are so eloquent and good with English but I love it. The weather is completely different than in New Zealand, but I’ve always sort of liked the cold. I’m just looking out the window now and everywhere is covered with snow. It’s very picturesque.
“There are loads of bands we have developed an affinity with and are of a like minded view with. We know The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and they have a studio in Gothenburg in the south of Sweden, so we recorded it there.”
Despite its somewhat isolated location and small population, New Zealand has punched above its weight musically and given us Crowded House, The Black Seeds, musical satirists Flight Of The Conchords, and The Datsuns.
However Dolf and his fellow Datsuns - Christian Livingstone (guitar/keyboards ), Phil Buscke (guitar ), and Ben Cole (drums ) - spend a lot of time outside of New Zealand. That is not surprising. Like Irish bands, if you want to make it on a bigger stage, you have to eventually go abroad.
“The Irish comparison is bang on,” says Dolf. “You can have a career within your own country if you are a certain kind of act but there are very few people who can do that. If you’re something less accessible or more niche you have to look elsewhere.
“If you’re the kind of person who wants to see the world, being in a band is a great way to do it. I’ve been doing this since I was 22, for the past six, seven years, and I’ve seen so many different countries, and I couldn’t have done that if I wasn’t in a band.”
The Datsuns were formed in Cambridge, on the northwest of the North Island of New Zealand. Is there much rivalry between the nation’s north and south island?
“Not really. It’s just Auckland versus the rest of the country,” says Dolf. “We would say we’re from Cambridge. It’s a small town, about 15,000 people but we went to university in Hamilton which is a large city. We never said we were from Hamilton, as in Auckland they hate people from Hamilton.”
Rugby is to New Zealand what football is to Brazil, yet surprisingly, Dolf admits to being one of the few Kiwis not taken with the sport.
“I must say that I don’t,” he says, his tone betraying perhaps a slight embarrassment. “I ‘m not super into sport, but if everybody is getting together to watch a match and it’s done as a communal thing I can get into it, but it’s not something I go out of my way to see.
“One thing I do know is that the All Blacks win everything when it’s not the Rugby World Cup. When it comes to the world cup they freak out and lose. Any other time they are the best in the world and win everything.”
Finally, why did the band name themselves after the car manufactures who were the forerunners of Nissan?
“At the time me and Phil had our first apartment together and we used to make these big collages,” recalls Dolf. “We used to buy these old editions of Life, Time, and National Geographic and we kept coming across these full page adverts for late 1960s and 1970s Datsun cars. There was something quite cool looking about them with their bright oranges and greens.”
Are any of the band car enthusiasts?
“Not really,” says Dolf. “My father is really into cars. He races classic Volvos - there’s the Swedish connection there - and races them with my brother.”
Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.