Dinosaur Pile-Up, ‘Celebrity Mansions,’ and re-configuring success

Dinosaur Pile-Up

When we spoke with singer/guitarist of Dinosaur Pile-Up, Matt Bigland, there was a sense of excitement and newfound freedom. Being in a band for more than ten years will test every sense of resolve you have. Sometimes your dreams don’t quite unfold the way you would expect them to. From there, you have to pivot and reconfigure what you think triumph looks like.

Celebrity Mansions, the band’s fourth full length record, beckons you to play it at maximum volume. Perhaps in a dangerous runaway car with the windows down. The band set out to make a rock record their way and ended up falling into one of the most fulfilling experiences of their career thus far.

My first question getting into Celebrity Mansions, you talked about the toxicity of celebrity culture. With being a band for 11+ years, there’s a definite shift in how music is perceived. What has changed for you personally on this musical journey with the ups and downs of being in this band? 

Getting to that point on looking at the whole celebrity culture thing and on us as a band, objectively and us on the outside amongst all of that. How we felt that we didn’t fit or whatever. It sort of took a long time for us to get to that point, which is kind of interesting. I guess it’s the fact that we’re out there killing ourselves on the road. When you believe in something as much as we believe in the band and the songs and you have the genuine belief that it’s worth something and has value, you go on social media and you see the content that is popularized.

You see celebrities and I don’t want to name anyone or mess with anybody’s vibe, but celebrities who are incredibly famous and you wonder what are they offering. What is the value here? I guess when you’re looking in on that and you look back at what you’re doing on the road and it kind of not growing, we were like, it there a place for this anymore? Does anyone care about this anymore? Are we literally the only people that give a shit about what we’re doing? It was a weird journey for us to reach that point.

What changed personally for us to go back to the heart of the question is the switch about us being bummed out about that realization. The change was us going like, “fuck it.” We got these songs that no one has heard. We think they are great. Not that we really cared about what other people wanted us to do, but going into this record, there was a sense of fuck it. This could be the last thing we do.

It’s so hard to perpetuate a band both financially and personally. We were like let’s go out and make this killer record. try to get it released anyway we can. If that’s the last thing we do, at least we made this record that we’re totally stoked on. It’s funny going into recording the album with that mindset with absolutely no options from labels, no plans, tours, nothing, it was a freeing experience. We literally did whatever we wanted. We kind of excepted that we were never going to make it and we were ok with that.

This record in particular weaves in and out of many types of rock. The band has been in the game for a while where you’ve seen a shift in rock music as a whole. Other musicians have hinted at it losing its teeth a bit. This record is not seeking that number one hit. It’s a complete experience. Is that the heart of Celebrity Mansions

I tell you what, we wanted to have fun making a record. We wanted it to be fun. When we were writing it, we were out on the road in the states living in an RV. It was fucking gnarly. It was hard, but it was awesome. I wanted that type of danger and energy to be in the record and for people to feel that. Us sleeping on shitty camping mattresses in this banged-up, stinky hot RV we were using. We were living in that reality. I wanted this record to feel that way.

I wanted it to be dangerous, fun, and not to take itself too seriously. When we started thinking about it, we were like, nobody really makes rock records like that. The rock records that if you’re going to a house party, you’re like, “I want to put that record on.” A rock record that kicked ass, but not super serious and all in black. Not super heavy screamo or aggressive shit. Just a fun record like Weezer’s Blue or Pinkerton or Foo Fighters’ The Colour and The Shape. They kind of feel heavy, but they’re still fun.

If rock music is surviving at all, where we were watching on many levels that it wasn’t. It’s kind of marginalized now. It’s not the most fashionable music. What’s left of rock music is super serious. It’s rad, but it’s not fun. We just wanted to make a record that you slam in your car or put on at a party. Songs like “Trash Metal Cassette” just solidified that energy. Then “Backfoot” is a big, bouncy rock song. “Stupid Heavy Metal” is a crazy punk song that came out of nowhere with a massive pop chorus, then a heavy metal breakdown in the middle.

“Thrash Metal Cassette” is a perfect gateway into this new record. It’s almost like you’re going down the highway at 90 mph. Was it important to make that the first song? 

That was the first demo where I was like, “this is rad. This is the beginning of a new record.” It just had an energy. I wrote it on tour in the states. I wrote the riff in a soundcheck. Wrote the rest of the song in an RV probably going 80 mph. It had that kind of danger about it. The vocal delivery in the verses, I love because it’s both slacker and punk, maybe Slayer without the energy. I don’t know, it was just something really cool about it from writing it on the road.

You know, we weren’t actually going to put it as the first record. Paul Baines who works with us at Parlophone, he was like “dude, you got an opening record with that one.” When we thought about it, that song began everything in terms of the writing anyway. Why I am stoked about that song is because it kind of caught a moment where we just didn’t care. The fact that the first thing you hear on the whole record is me coughing on the mic. We just kept it because we thought it was killer.

I remember when we were recording it and in the middle of the session, I was talking to our manager and said “in the middle where nothing happens, I want to put this big cheerleader breakdown in.” They were like “what?” The fact that we had the freedom to put that in was awesome. I imagined we would get a huge gang of cheerleaders, but we couldn’t afford it because we made the record for peanuts.

I just got two of my friends, Meg and Jess to come down. Jess could sing, but she had an English accent. Meg couldn’t sing, but she had a Canadian accent. I was like if we throw them together and record them like a 100 times, it’ll probably sound like an American cheer leading gang.

You talked about some of your favorite records like The Colour and The Shape earlier. One of the songs on this record that is reminiscent of that is “Black Limousine.” It’s a hopeful song. I feel like the song is a metaphor because you mentioned the band traveling in an RV for tour. It’s a very “come on our journey, we’ll be alright together” song to me. No matter what background you come from. 

“Celebrity Mansions” the song touches on that as well very acutely. Just that we’re not famous. We’re not a big famous rock band. We’re in the band watching this world of influencers be so successful and have these perfect lives. Then, we’re on the flip side of that. It goes into the chorus when we say, “my time is coming around.” It’s a really euphoric moment for me on the record.

“Black Limousine” is hopeful for sure. I was just thinking especially nowadays with social media that we are apart of. I don’t think social media is a particularly healthy thing. It’s kind of like a necessary evil now. It can be super positive because it connects people and you can encourage people through it. I also think on the other side of that, people can be massively discouraged. They can look into themselves and say “why aren’t I like that?” It’s a really weird and murky area.

For me with the song, social media promotes this perfect and beautiful life.  I often think about how that makes people feel. The people that don’t feel that way and aren’t those with these “curated” lives. That kind of cuts me up sometimes because I feel like one of those people who aren’t in that perfect gang. Everybody should have that validation of being wanted, having value, and all this stuff. “Black Limousine” was weirdly about that. That chorus is about being inclusive of everybody.

With the journey from your first record to Celebrity Mansions and how the band has progressed and stayed together, are you more hopeful about the band’s outlook? Everybody wants the recognition and money, but you also noted that this record was freeing. That you put out the record that you wanted to make and freedom is wealth as well. 

We feel hopeful, man. We love this record. We love this band and none of us wants this band to end. It was just the reality of where we were after our third record. We were touring ourselves into the ground and it’s hard to do that when you’re not a successful band. When you’re not making loads of money.

We’re stoked. We’re really stoked because we made a record that we love. We made a record that a lot of people seem to love. The reaction has been so incredibly positive. It’s giving us the opportunity to keep going. Yea, it would be great to be successful and have a lot of money. Not because we want to be rich and have loads of cars or whatever. We want to be successful so we can keep on doing this and keep on making music.

Success for me is just the freedom to do whatever you want. The freedom to make music how we want all the time. You can’t do that for free. That’s what we’re aiming for. We just want to do this for the rest of our lives. It was cool because the freedom of making this record when nobody was watching showed us where we are at our best. If we get the chance to make another record, we’ll probably do it in a similar way.

We’re super hopeful and super happy. We’re going to tour this record as much as we can and give it as chance as much as we can give it. I hope it keeps connecting like it has been and more people discover it and the band. We’re also real about our lifestyle. We know that all of this could end. Us signing to Parlophone was literally the most mind blowing experience of all our lives. We know that bands are tough. We know that this could end, so we’re doing the best with what we got while we have the door open.