How the Leeds band clawed their way to the top of the pile
Tyler Damara Kelly
17:37 19th July 2019

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Two weeks after releasing their thunderous fourth album Celebrity Mansions, we caught up with Dinosaur Pile-Up to discuss how much has changed in the music industry since they first became a band, the lack of money in the industry and how detrimental social media can be to your mental health. 

Celebrity Mansions had the potential to be the final album from Dinosaur Pile-Up. Despite the slow process that it took to get to release day, the trio have nothing but light-hearted sarcasm and smiles when relaying everything they have gone through in the recording process. In their own words, the album sums up the last few touring years of their lives and they have steadily become the band that dominate whatever stage they walk upon. Despite the showers that doused their set at Download Festival, the performance was as gritty and punchy as you could ever expect. Given that it was 12pm on a Sunday afternoon, they really did knock the sleep out of the eyes of those who had gathered to see them. Could you think of a better alarm clock?  

Gigwise: Congratulations on the new album. How were the recent in-store performances?

Mike Sheils: We really didn’t know what to expect and I don’t think the audience knew either. It was a surprise for everyone.

Matt Bigland: It was sick and people’s reactions to the new songs have been killer.

GW: When you compare playing the songs at a tiny gig and then you go to a festival it’s a completely different sound. Do you prefer festivals or small sweaty shows? 

MS: They’re both real different. I like both of them.

MB: I like the danger of a festival because everyone’s really fucked up and a bit crazy. I like that energy because the crowd is up for more fun the band give less fucks. I kinda like that vibe. Like Mike said – both because a show is the other side of that. They’re both fun.

GW: The name Dinosaur Pile-Up is in reference to the King Kong film and I’ve read that you have mixed feelings about it now. Would you ever change it? 

MS: We’re in too deep. We won’t change it. I would love to call the band just ‘Dinosaur’. Some people refer to us as ‘Dinosaur’ which is sick. I kinda wish that was the name. 

MB: We were talking about this earlier because I’ve seen some people online being like ‘I’ve put off listening to this band for so long because they’re called Dinosaur Pile-Up and I listened to them and they’re quite cool.’

GW: Do you find that when you play shows people are more receptive to it?

MB: Definitely. With these new songs, they’ve only been out a week and people are waiting for them at shows which is kinda crazy for us.

MS: We’ve been doing these in-stores and people were singing the lyrics when the album has only been out a couple of days.

GW: Can you tell me about the album cover. Was that a shoot?

Jim Cratchley: Oh god, if that was an actual shoot! What were we doing… We were too pissed.

MB: It was post show, we were just talking about it; in a place called St Petersburg in Florida and we just played a show at an outdoor venue in Florida tropical rain. It was shitting it down with rain, like shitty rain, so humid and we had to do a night drive to the next show, so me and Jim went out and got some pizza, ran back to the RV in the rain – we had no tops on cause It was so fucking hot and Jim grabbed my camera, took a selfie and that’s literally it.

JC: Because it’s on a film camera, it’s only afterwards when you get it developed and you’re looking through it and you’re like that’s actually amazing!

MB: That moment looks like how the last few years of touring looked like. We didn’t have a cover so we’re like, ‘we’re gonna use this’. The label were like, ‘we hate this’.

MS: But we were like, ‘we’re going with it’.

GW: You released your debut album in 2010. What changes have you seen in the music industry since then?

MB: It’s wild to think about. All of that is before social media existed, you know?

MS: It’s kind of just when Instagram was going.

JC: It’s like when MySpace started. 

MB: I remember when Dinosaur started, I was reading the news and someone was like ‘Apple are releasing a phone that only has one button’ and I was like “that’s fucking crazy”. A lot has changed, and how that has affected the industry and being in a band and all of that, I’d probably say for me anyway, is the biggest change. Social fucking media. What is Twitter? What is Instagram? Now it’s like almost everything is about that

MS: There’s still no money. Wasn’t money then, isn’t any now.

MB: [shouts] When is there gonna be money!?

GW: Since you mentioned MySpace, what song did you have on your homepage?

JC: I had Dinosaur Pile-Up on my personal one! We met on the next tour you would’ve done after that single came out. I was playing in another band and that’s how we know each other. I was a mega-fan, I saw there was a picture of you guys and you had a broom held up to a camera and I was like, ‘Dude these guys seem really fucking cool. What am I gonna do!?’ And now I’m in it and it’s really cool. I’m just a fan by the way. I don’t work here [laughs].

GW: How did signing with Parlophone come about?

MB: How did that come up? We came back from touring and were like we have these killer songs, we have no label, no deal in place or anything. We were kinda fucked.

MS: Our management was also like ‘well….’

MB: ‘Got any songs that are cool!?’ We were pretty much out. 12 years deep like that’s a good run. We’ve had fun, no-one really gives a fuck so let’s see what happens. We went to make this record that we were super proud of, and in our minds we were gonna make this record and try to put it out with anyone that would take it.

MS: Kind of like a last ‘fuck it!’ and just put it out there.

MB: Like a last ditch.

GW: Wow, really?

MB: Yeah… It’s hard to do this, and we were gutted. It was kinda heart-breaking,

MS:  Yeah, we were like: ‘it’s sick, I just hope someone latches onto it’. Then we didn’t hear anything – we organised a tour and were gonna put a single out but Matt fucked his back which was an absolute godsend, so we cancelled the tour. Then we heard from Parlophone who were like ‘have you toured yet?’ And we were like ‘nah we just cancelled it’ and they were like ‘yeah we wanna release that’ and we were like ‘what?!’ 

MB: It was fucking wild and we believed in the songs so much that we were going to do it but the fact that they heard it and were like ‘this is fucking money’ – not that we made any money [laughs] but it’s cool that we got to release it. Money was the wrong word. 

GW: How long did it take to record Celebrity Mansions and where did you do it?

MS: We recorded it in Brixton with our friend.

JC: We had a lot of spare time actually so it was quite cheap.

MS: We did it really cheaply – but it took ages because we were doing it between shifts at work and it took kinda months because no one was waiting for it. We didn’t care, so we just kinda did it over three or four months. 

MB: It was only at the very end that Parlophone got in touch, so we kinda had all the time we needed with no pressure or outside influence of ‘you should do this, you should do that’. We were like ‘we’re gonna make exactly what the fuck we want; how the fuck we want’ and we made that and then here we are.

GW: Were there any songs that were difficult to record or any stumbling blocks in the process?

MB: ‘Pouring Gasoline’. Mike was fucking drunk, so that was quite difficult. It sounds great though.

MS: We did it in reverse really. We recorded an album that we were struggling to get out.

MB: ‘Stupid Heavy Metal Broken Hearted Loser Punk’ is one of our favourite songs.

MS: But when we were recording, we were just like ‘Add shit! Add more. Super-fast! Make it faster!’

GW: Tell us about ‘Round the Bend’ and ‘Black Limousine’…

MB: ‘Round The Bend’ I wrote when I was fucking depressed as fuck about where we were and what we were doing and where that meant we were in our lives. The same thing with the whole record signing thing. When we put all of this work and energy and belief into something, after 12 years you’re like ‘I’m not sure if anyone gives a fuck about this’. It kinda makes you look back on everything and think ‘have I just made a massive, huge, magnificent mistake that no-one else has, maybe you should quit?’ and looking back on that being like ‘have I fucked this?’ can put you in quite a deep hole. Looking outside, you’re constantly looking at social media and being like ‘oh my god I’m a fucking huge failure; everyone else somehow is an amazing success in about 10 minutes’. That’s hard to deal with and I feel like a lot of people in 2019 have that same experience because social media paints everything in such a perfect light.

JC: Wait until our next album You Thought You’d Made It. 

MB: ‘Round The Bend’ was largely about that… ‘Black Limousine’, similar things. More about relationships, I guess, people feeling unloved. When I wrote that I was thinking about people that aren’t necessarily ‘instagrammable’ of which we feel part of those people. Sometimes I think about social media and the people that are successful on it are people that are naturally born beautiful. I was like ‘what about the people who aren’t that’ and how shit do they feel? That kinda gets me thinking a lot. When you’re not part of that group I think it’s kind of a shitty thing. ‘Black Limousine’ was including us in people that aren’t a part of that.

GW: What’s with the references to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson?

MB: He’s just a legend.

MS: He’s just the most obvious celebrity who is in that world. He’s huge around the world, if you wanna encapsulate someone who is about that whole thing.

MB: It’s really interesting how he’s an enormous celebrity anyway and now social media has been created, he has become this almost like super-celebrity.

MS: It’s not in a bad way to reference him. 

GW: Yeah, he’s like one of the nicest celebrities out there. If there’s one message that you want people to take from Celebrity Mansions, what would it be?

MB: Never fucking give up!

MS: If you’re doing something you believe in, don’t fucking quit.  

GW: Thanks guys!

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