Some band names are downright ridiculous: Butthole Surfers, Diarrhea Planet, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, for example. Dinosaur Pile-Up, a British three-piece rock band from Leeds, falls into this category. Frontman, founder, and lead vocalist Matt Bigland named the band, as a sort of joke, for a scene in Peter Jackson’s King Kong in which, you guessed it, a bunch of dinosaurs pile into each other.
A decade into the band’s existence, and after three albums, Bigland has some regrets about the name.
“To me,” he says laughing, “I still wish we would’ve thought of a really, really cool band name instead of that. But a lot of people say to me when I say that, 'No, I love your band name, and I only listened to you for the first time because of it.' That’s really cool, but to me I’m like, why the hell did I call it bloody... it’s so stupid. To me it’s very childish, and I’m kind of embarrassed."
However silly the name may be, the music is serious and seriously good. What’s more, it’s an apt moniker because the trio’s latest album, 11:11, is a cacophony of great, hulking beasts crashing into a fuzzy wall of hard-charging rock 'n' roll.
Dinosaur Pile-Up is touring with an equally muscular outfit, Chevelle. They'll stop at the Fillmore Miami Beach Tuesday, July 18. Oddly enough, as revered as Chevelle is by fans stateside, the American band is a minor mystery across the pond.
“You know what? If I’m honest, I’ve never really listened to Chevelle before this tour," Bigland says. "They had a big hit in the U.S., but that crossover didn’t reach us in the U.K."
In many reviews, Dinosaur Pile-Up is often labeled as “grunge revival.” The band found inspiration from the Deftones, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, and early Foo Fighters, so the shoe seems to fit. Nonetheless, as honored as Bigland is to hear his band named in the same breath as his heroes, he doesn’t feel the comparisons are entirely accurate.
“I mean, all those bands we love. I grew up on all those, and I still listen to them; they’re still my favorite records," he says. "But I think sometimes the terminology of ‘grunge revival’ band can be a bit weird. We’re not trying to revive anything; we’re just doing our thing... It also stokes me loads when people say to me, 'Oh, I heard you were like this, but now I’ve actually seen you and listened to your records, and I can see you taking all those bands in, mix it all up, and done something really fresh with it.'”
Nonetheless, there are plenty of pop elements, a softening of sorts, to the hard edges on all the heavy riffs and chunky rhythms. For instance, “Cross My Heart,” the album closer on 11:11, is a melodic and tender surprise. It’s seemingly out of place yet one of the record’s best songs, perhaps because it starkly diverges from the other material.
“I wrote it in the same kind of seed of all the other songs on the album. It’s very different sonically, you’re right, but I look at it like a lot of Billy Corgan’s writing for the Pumpkins," he says. "A lot of that is really contrasting. Some of it is superheavy, supergrungy, old-school-rockin’-out influences, but then there are these beautiful, starstruck ballads... ['Cross My Heart'] wasn’t going to be on the record, but [drummer] Mikey [Sheils] fought for it. He said, 'It’s got to be on. It’s a great tune; it’s relevant.'”
Trusting his bandmates and, perhaps more important, himself as to what should make the final cut on an album has been a growing and learning process for Bigland. A friend told him to “chill out” when it comes to being too anal-retentive, too selective rather than simply choosing the best material, regardless of mood or length.
One thing he isn’t shy about discussing is the music that shaped him. That includes '90s grunge and, well, everything else.
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“If we’re talking specifically about guilty pleasures, then Limp Bizkit would definitely be a guilty pleasure," he says. "The riffs in Limp Bizkit are just off-the-chain good, so fucking good. But if we’re talking about stuff people wouldn’t expect, you know, I’m a songwriter. A lot of the stuff my mum used to play when I was young [is] really important to me. So things like Whitney Houston — I’m a huge Whitney Houston fan. Things like Abba and '80s pop and '70s pop.”
When Bigland began making music at age 14, he would have been embarrassed to call himself a songwriter, he says. It wasn't yet a career. Now, as a mature songwriter — someone who makes a living and survives solely by writing music — Bigland finds himself appreciating everything that goes into crafting a track regardless of genre. That fact will surely color his work in the future. “Now, to me, it’s all the same thing. A Nirvana song is the same as a Whitney Houston song. It’s a song with a great top line.”