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Dinosaur Pile-Up: Turning it Up to 11

English alt rock act’s frontman Matt Bigland on
playing “dangerous and ramshackle” festivals, the
Taj Mahal and returning to India

Nabeela Shaikh Nov 04, 2016
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Dinosaur Pile-Up. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Dinosaur Pile-Up. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

While touring in 2014 to promote their sophomore record Nature Nurture, English alt rock band Dinosaur Pile-Up were simultaneously penning down material that would make its way to their third studio album Eleven Eleven. Vocalist-guitarist Matt Bigland found recurring patterns of the time stamp in almost all forms—times, departure gates, emails, platforms, room numbers and closer to home, even in the layout of the Taj Mahal. Says Bigland over the phone from Leeds, “When we stood at the entrance gate, our guide told us the history and stuff, and [that] when you walk under the first side of the gate, you’ll pass under 11 spires and when you exit the gate, you pass through another 11 spires. And we were like, ‘What?!’”

Dinosaur Pile-Up—also comprising drummer Michael Sheils and bassist Jim Cratchley— were in more or less equal awe throughout the rest of their debut India trip that year, which included performances at the Pune and New Delhi editions of Bacardi NH7 Weekender, and a recording session in Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studios. “It was a total culture shock in the best way,” recalls Bigland. “The crowd and energy and reaction was amazing; we were just totally blown away.” And although another trip to the heritage site isn’t on the cards this time, Dinosaur Pile-Up are equally stoked—or “super excited,” to quote Bigland—for their upcoming India visit, as they return this month to play the Hyderabad edition of Weekender and a show at Todi Mill Social, Mumbai.

Formed in 2007, Leeds-based Dinosaur Pile-Up has quickly grown from singer-songwriter Bigland’s home studio project (after he disbanded his former band Mother Vulpine) to a regularly touring trio. In between releasing a string of lesser-known EPs and their 2010 full-length debut Growing Pains, Bigland and co. soon found themselves touring with the likes of Boston surf rock old-timers the Pixies and Kentucky rock act Cage the Elephant. Both ideal fits, considering Dinosaur Pile-Up’s quintessentially American alt rock/grunge sound that recalls the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer (the latter being the band’s musical inspirations and most recent tour mates.) Says Bigland, “Playing with bands that inspired you as a kid or throughout your career… Being able to go on tour with those bands and suddenly your life has brought you into physical proximity with [Weezer vocalist-guitarist] Rivers Cuomo or [Pixies frontman] Frank Black— that’s amazing.”

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Dinosaur Pile-Up found themselves within earshot distance of their musical idols once more earlier this year, as when the bands’ mutual producer Tom Dalgety would call Bigland during recording sessions for the Pixies’ recently released album Head Carrier. “He kept ringing me or leaving me a voicemail from the studio while they were putting down the tracks and he’d be like, ‘Hey check this out’ and he’d play a little bit of them playing in the same room. And I’d be like, ‘What?!’” exclaims Bigland. Dalgety, who first worked on Nature Nurture, rejoined Bigland, Sheils and Cratchley in 2014 as they hit Wales’ renowned Rockfield Studios to record their sonic stomper Eleven Eleven. “There’s so much history there and you can feel that,” says Bigland of the residential recording facility (which also hosted Opeth for their heady new record Sorceress). “You’re recording in the same room as Freddie Mercury and stuff like that, it is mind-blowing.”


“I’ve always had a love for festivals and playing them.”


Apart from marking the first time Bigland was accompanied in the studio by Sheils and Cratchley—“making a record with your best mates is just so fun and way more rewarding,” he says—Eleven Eleven also sees the trio bring some of their heaviest material so far. (The title track is a good starting point of the undulating sonic adrenaline they bring on the 12-track release.) Touring for Nature Nurture the previous year made the band realize that they were picking out their loudest tracks for setlists almost night after night, and then turning up the energy even more on every song. “I was really conscious that I wanted to write a record where every song— in some form or the other was heavy and excited us,” says Bigland about writing for Eleven Eleven. “So whatever song we played off the album… we would still want to play it two years down the line.”

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Accordingly, Dinosaur Pile-Up are bringing some of their most raucous material to the country—a “whole bunch” off Eleven Eleven and Nature Nurture, and a “couple of” Growing Pains. And while club shows are second nature to the band, Bigland finds festivals just as inspiring. “I’ve kind of always had a love for festivals and playing them, there’s a real energy buzzing around the place… Like, it’s a bit more dangerous and a bit more ramshackle; I kind of like that energy.”

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