Interview: The Dirty Nil’s Luke Bentham Merges Extremes on New Album ‘Fuck Art’

“We’ve been on the road for the last six or seven years of our lives, particularly in the United States,” says Luke Bentham of Toronto rock trio The Dirty Nil. “And a lot of these places, both the brick and mortar and the staff that occupy them, are really special to us.”

The Dirty Nil’s live show is sight to behold. They can make a 200-cap club feel like a stadium with their larger than life brand of rock ’n’ roll that somehow manages to be both polished and gritty at the same time. One would think that a global pandemic that limits touring would be devastating to a band like The Dirty Nil. But instead of moping around, they’re looking for safe ways to re-create the Nil concert experience.

“We’ve been extremely busy, putting all our efforts into what we can do rather than what we can’t do,” Bentham says. “It’s pretty easy to sit around and lament the vacuum of live music right now, but it doesn’t really get you anywhere.”

The group recently filmed 14 unique sets, shot in front of a green screen, that are personalized to 14 different cities and venues. 

“We’ve got this wonderful thing called the Dancing 2 Thrash Tour, which is a bit of a love letter to the North American concert industry,” says Bentham. 

It’s on brand for The Dirty Nil to seek positivity in an unfortunate situation. Even the title of their forthcoming studio LP, Fuck Art, which is out today on Dine Alone Records, reflects this.

Bentham says of the album’s title: “On first glance it seems rather nihilistic and empty, but to me it’s the exact opposite. It’s a very jubilant and optimistic title. Through our lens, through our band’s brand of humor, it’s got a smirk. It’s got a certain sense of celebration to it.”

If the message of Fuck Art is lost on anyone, the album’s cover will help clarify. With blue skies in the background, it displays a dog with its tongue out, grinning in that stupid way that only a dog can.

“A really important part of even just the sonics of an album is how the cover’s gonna look, because it really contextualizes everything,” Bentham says. 

Fuck Art marks a sonic shift from The Dirty Nil’s previous album, Master Volume, something they’re not afraid to embrace. 

“I think we basically started with Master Volume, we declared to ourselves out loud, I remember having it around beers, that we can do whatever we want, and we shouldn’t feel constrained at all by what we’ve done in the past, and we should completely explore what comes naturally,” Bentham explains. “This is just a very natural next step for us. At the time, we were touring all the Master Volume stuff which, to me, has more of a classic rock kind of feel. Like a Queen, Aerosmith kind of thing in certain areas. When we were touring that stuff, we started just diving really deep into Cro-Mags, and we were listening to a lot of thrash, and learned how to play a bunch of Metallica and Slayer songs, ’cause that just felt like a lot of fun. And so, we were definitely listening to a lot of heavier music and a lot of throwback thrash stuff.” 

This tonal shift is clear from the opening notes of the first track, which sounds heavier than anything The Dirty Nil has done. But Fuck Art isn’t always aggressive—the band explored two different musical directions and wove them together onto the record in a way that flows nicely.

“We were also listening to a ton of Tom Petty and lighter stuff,” Bentham says. “And I think both those extremes made their way into our music on this record.” 

Pick up a copy here.

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