Monday, April 18, 2005

Interview with Ken Bethea, Old 97s


Ken Bethea, lead guitarist of the Old 97s, lives the life musicians aspire to: he doesn’t have a day job, can make a call and get his band on a Starbucks compilation, and not play SxSW because they can get better gigs. Life’s good these days for the “97s.” Even with half the band split between the coasts with bassist Murry Hammond now living in LA and lead Rhett Miller recording an album in NYC, the Old 97s are doing just fine. Solo projects and touring haven’t changed the band, though kids and wives may have. In a candid conversation with DMG, Bethea looks back on where they have been and gives some practical advice to new bands just cutting their teeth on the DFW scene.

DMG: You guys just had a DVD come out, right?

KB: I haven’t seen it, I don’t own a copy; it wasn’t something that we had a lot to do with. What I did have a lot to do with, is we have a song on the Valentine’s 2005 Starbucks compilation, Sweethearts. I was at the Casa Linda Starbucks last summer, and it was raining, I stopped in to get a cup of coffee. We’ve been on a couple compilations, but none in five years. I always liked those Starbucks compilations; I always picked them up and looked at them, to see who’s on. I picked one up and I saw all the usual suspects, but us, that are in this whole thing. You know; Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, and I’m like, ‘Why are we not on this? It’s stupid.’ It’s because our former management didn’t push. I went home that day, immediately sent an email to our current management and said, ‘We need to be back in the Starbucks loop.’ Of all the little one-of things you do, it gets noticed; people buy those things. By the end of that day, we were on that compilation. It took four hours and two months later, we’re over on lower Greenville and recording that song. And I was happy: you know what? Got something done!

DMG: Just from walking into the Starbucks at Casa Linda?

KB: Just from saying I want to get this done.

DMG: So how is that now? Does that feel nice that you can make a couple phone calls and get what you want to happen?

KB: (blows raspberry) Yes, of course! Compared to the beginning, when you didn’t have anything? The whole thing in the Old 97s has been amazingly cool. Every single stop along the way, from the days that we played for tips, to the days when we paid our own, did what we could do to go on tour, and just humped it and lived on people’s floors, to these days where we make money -we’re not rich, but we’re not poor- and we can live in a decent neighborhood and we don’t have jobs. I don’t have a boss. (under his breath) Well, my wife. (laughs) But I don’t have any other kind of boss. I haven’t had a boss since 1993. Feb 26th, 1993, as a matter of fact. My anniversary’s coming up! It’s amazing to be part of the national music community, where you make two phone calls and you make something happen and not have to pander. When you’re in a band that ultimately can’t make somebody else some money, you always have to go, ‘Come on… Come on….’ You feel like you’re always asking for a favor. But when you can carry your own weight, even if it’s not the weight of Paul McCartney, it’s still weight. You don’t have to go, (dejectedly) ‘We’re having a hard time getting a gig in Austin…’ It sucks being in that position. We were in it for about four or five years. I’ve got buddies, like the Deathray Davies, and while they’re a great band and all, they’ve still never quite crested into that world where they’ve been able to have their own elbow room and just call somebody and bam, it’s done. It sucks. ‘Cause I know those guys pretty good. Phillip’s also the drummer in I Love Math, John (Dufilho’s) other band and I play guitar with them sometime, actually. But it’s nice to know where you stand.

DMG: What’s your advice to young bands?

KB: Promote your shows when you play ‘em. Make posters. Play as often as possible and if you can play for free, that’s good. Because when you play for free, you can invite all your friends, your friends can invite their friends, and you can actually have a scene. You can have forty-five people show and you won’t have to feel guilty, and you won’t have to deal with the guest list, and they can come. Everybody can come. And at that point, if your music is any good, they will become fans. If your music’s not good, you’re screwed anyway, doesn’t matter. But if it’s good enough… That’s how we got fans. We played at (ticking them off on his fingers) Chumley’s, the Barley House, Bar of Soap -constantly- for a year and a half, and became everyone’s favorite neighborhood band that was not a big band, just a little band. But the fact that all these people could come see us for free, instead of going, ‘well, you know, they’re playing at Trees, and that’s $6…’ That’s not good, because you have to realize you ain’t worth six bucks in the beginning. You’re just not. You’re worth free; you’re worth fifty cents or a dime. You’re worth the tip bucket. And then, promote your shows. ‘Cause songwriting and all that, the creative process is what is reality with you. You gotta deal with that yourself. You can’t do anything … if your songwriting sucks, it just sucks. I mean, you can go to songwriting class, or something (chuckles), work on that. But you can always make posters, book the gigs.

DMG: What’s the future of the Old 97s?

KB: Record every two years, touring every summer. Then a lot when records are out, occasional things like Starbucks. Right now the immediate future is a Christmas album to come out this Christmas and a live album to come out either in the fall or next winter. I just had a call on that Friday, so the wheels are in motion. I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas album, so hopefully we won’t screw it up, because I love Christmas music. We’re trying to do the live album recording in April or May. There’s a place called Green Hall, which is down in New Braunfels. It looks like Sons of Hermann, but it’s in a little town called Green. It’s very cool. If we could get two nights there, that’s where we want to do it. It would be spectacular. “Old 97s, Live at Green Hall”; that means something. That’s something to show your grandkids. Not “Live at some bar,” I mean, that’s OK…

DMG: You mentioned that Sons of Hermann Hall is your favorite venue in Dallas.

KB: That’s one of them. I like the Granada and Gypsy. And I like Sons. It depends; I liked the Barley House when we were playing there. I liked Bar of Soap. I don’t really have a favorite one here. I liked Barley House because it’s old, it is what it is. I’m sad that it’s moved. It was a great place, it’s always free. Lot of great bands play there. It’s always been kind of a hole in the wall, but we just have a lot of memories at the Barley House. We had three or four of our stickers on the wall, and they were old ones from ’94, ’95.

DMG: What’s your best memory from there?

KB: The night we played with John Doe from X and all the power went off. Us four and John Doe on stage, playing an X song and the power went off. It was great, I mean it was cool, it was so much fun.

DMG: So, what’d you guys do?

KB: Stood there, just like we always do. It happened four months ago in L.A., too, at a big place, 1500 people there: power went off for 20 minutes. And so we just dealt with it and Rhett and Murry sang a couple of songs with acoustic guitars and I sat down and entertained all the people in front of me. We got an email from our management via the promoter of the place and it was the nicest email saying “You guys totally handled it.” Stuff like that doesn’t bug us, but in the world of music you have people who, hey, they’d have left. They’d have went, got their shit on the bus, said (imitating a British accent very proficiently) “Fuck this place, we’re outta here, can’t get your lights on, you fucking pieces of shit, voom... Johnny is gone!” What else are you going to do? I felt stupider leaving, plus at least there was some light, it was all our sound that went out. But at the Barley House with John Doe, it was dark. Everything went out. It happens. It’s happened at least ten times in twelve years.

DMG: You write, on your website, that “Drag It Up” is your most personal album.

KB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I would definitely think it’s more introspective. Different albums have a tendency to take on a little bit of a life or a personality. We’ve had some albums where we’ve worked on energy and lifestyle, like drinking and chasing girls and partying and all that kind of stuff, and we’ve had some albums where we worked on song technique and how to actually make cool songs, like good-sounding songs. It doesn’t actually make the fans like it any better, but from a musician’s point of view, we wanted to get to that. Which is what we did with “Fight Songs” and “Satellite Rides.” We tried to get some emotional depth recorded on this album. We let some vocal sections spill out a little longer, whereas we had to lop that off on “Fight Songs” and “Satellite Rides.” We had to tighten those songs down to three minutes, on purpose. Because that’s what pop songs are, like classic Beatles pop songs are, bam, 2 minutes 45 seconds, or whatever. We let the songs on the album exist, and tried not to cram them, either pump them full of energy and speed, or tighten them into pop. Just put more acoustic, strummy stuff on it, so it’s good. I enjoy it. I was real happy with it.

DMG: Do you feel like your songwriting style has changed since you’ve had a family?

KB: I think more than anything, our lives are so different. A lot has to do with family. Yeah, it has changed a lot. In the beginning you really are playing in your band, drinking, and chasing girls. I mean, that’s what you’re doing. We were all single, and it’s representative. You listen to our first three albums and that’s what every single song’s about. I don’t know if we’ll ever be musicians that are gonna write songs directly about our children, but the fact that your life is stable and you have a nice neighborhood… it comes out, you know. You’re not writing about hoping you can cover rent.

DMG: I work with a lot of bands that are just starting. In fact, I’ve been asked why I want to cover local bands. You guys are a little more popular than I’m used to.

KB: You know, most people equate a band they’ve never heard of with ‘music must not be good,’ or that local bands must not be good. That’s totally, totally wrong. I went to college at UT and got into that world of little indie local bands that it was a big deal if they sold 500 records. And when I got over that hurdle that they could still be good, that they were just as good as these [major label bands], it was totally liberating. You’re like, ‘Hey, it’s good music.’ It’s just better than Phil Collins or whatever was popular at that time, or Prince. Dallas has a good music scene. Most people don’t realize it who live here. Even a lot of the other musicians don’t. Most cities have non-existent, not crappy, but non-existent music scenes. I mean look at Houston. That’s just not a music town. There’s always going to be little, small, micro-scenes anywhere; like Tyler has a micro-scene. Dallas is definitely top ten; it’s close to top five. Chicago and New York, San Francisco. Seattle. Austin. But you know, you go to Cincinnati and I’ve never had any feeling there’s a local music scene that was producing, say, ten good bands. Like Deathray and Chomsky and us, Polyphonic Spree and pAper chAse; good bands. Bands that have a chance, you know. It may not happen, but they have an opportunity, it could happen.

DMG: Do you think that the music scene in Dallas has changed recently?

KB: Not recently. It changed in the 90s; it went from non-existent in the 70s, or very dinky in the 70s, to the burgeoning Deep Ellum community that started in about ’85, to mainstream in the 90s. But not any different between now and what it was ten years ago, I don’t think.

DMG: I get the feeling from other bands that there’s a little bit more of a momentum, just recently, just in the past year.

KB: Well, I think that maybe at the micro-level, you know, maybe if you’re down there and you’re sweating it out at the level of Deathray and Chomsky or whatever, or maybe a little lower than that, you’re much more in contact then with the ebb and flow. But from -for lack of a better term- from the top of the heap looking down, it’s still... it’s healthy. I think that maybe they probably thought it might have been worse three years ago, ‘cause in their mind maybe their band wasn’t doing as well. Whereas, now “Hey, man, a little more momentum...” and really it’s more personal. Most of the time when you’re measuring anything in life, it’s real personal. I talk to fans who tell me, “Your set’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen” and you talk to the next one and they say, “You guys were a little bit off tonight” and if you really get down to it, one of them had a double espresso on the way in and the other one drank four beers and ate a giant burger and dude, you’re worn out, you’re done before you even got here!

DMG: So it’s hard to judge how you’re doing?

KB: In the beginning, you suck. There’s just no way around it, all bands suck. I sucked, I was horrible. My first band with Phil, it was beyond horrible. Just terrible. Rhett sucked when he was 15. That’s just part of it, you get better, and the difference between a good live band, like Deathray Davies, and Eisley is miles apart. Everybody does studio tricks. It’s not like somebody’s more legit than somebody else. It’s what you do in there. Everybody’s been cheating for years in the studio. But Eisley has potential to be a great studio band, ‘cause their songs are cool-sounding. They look great, so the potential for them to be big is bigger than Deathray. I don’t think they have any tour base at all.

DMG: Well, they toured with Snow Patrol…

KB: Doesn’t matter. That’s zero. If you’re opening for anybody, that normally is zero. No, it’s not zero, it’s point five. I mean, so what, so you’re opening up for some band, you go up and play there and five thousand people come? You go back a month later, you play your own band, your own gig, you’ve got two hundred people there. If they have fun, the next time you come, you’ll have four hundred people there. But if they don’t have fun, the next time you come, you’ll have 75. If that. It’s point five. Opening is completely nothing. We opened for big bands and not once has it ever made any real difference in anything. We sold an extra thousand records. It doesn’t change your life, normally. It’s rough, in the beginning. Like Dylan Silvers and [DARYL]; I’ll think well, they’re just getting started. They’re not. They’ve made four or five albums and been at it, and know what a tuner is. In the beginning, most bands are all like, ‘I don’t know what a PA is.’ It’s like one time, this band was opening for us at Sons of Hermann... normally, now we take control of who opens for us, but for whatever reason we didn’t, and the band that was opening up literally was a brother-in-law of somebody at Sons. We’d never heard of them, but what was very -in the band world- in poor taste for them, was that they’d never heard of us. That doesn’t get you anywhere with the headliners, to kind of walk in and go “You guys are from here?” and you’re like, OK, so you’re not really part of the Dallas music scene because hell, if you were, you’d at least know who the hell our band name was. Come on, I’ve heard of every band in this town, I may not know them but I’ve at least heard of them, of the ones that sell a few tickets. And then these guys were up there looking around, and the drummer asked Phillip something about his drums, and Phillip said “No, you’re going to have to set up over there, ‘cause I don’t want to strike” and then he goes “Strike?” and Phillip goes, “Move your shit after you get through.” We only strike if we’re playing with somebody we like, like Deathray we’ll strike, or Chomsky we’ll strike. But we ain’t gonna strike after the no-name Addison band, and it was just funny. They were so green and so…. You’re just like, “Guys, enjoy it. ‘Cause it’s going to be a while before you get to play for this many people again.”

The Old 97s are gassing up the blue van and heading out on tour again. Check their website for details on the summer schedule and more ‘97s site updates as soon as Ken finishes up doing his taxes.

www.old97s.com

© Dallas Music Guide 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

WALL OF SOUND #1 by Spune Productions

WALL OF SOUND

@ Hailey’s - April 9, 2005

WALL OF SOUND, Spune Production’s 27 band amalgamation of the best area musicians took over Hailey’s for a 14-hour endurance run. Billed as “a music and arts festival dedicated to the genres commonly known as shoegaze, dream pop, experimental/avant garde, no-wave, neu-wave, lo-fi & noise pop,” the Wall of Sound was exactly that. It began at noon and ran without interruption until 2AM. Two stages were set up across the room from each other, facing each other. Immediately after one band finished, the drummer from the other hit the kick drum, and the whole crowd pivoted 180 degrees. Too funny. There was no silence, all day. Not kidding- two minutes between sets and the whole thing ran on time, all day. Lance Yocum, Spune’s mastermind, is one driven man, managing this thing late into the night and giving the bands something to think about. I heard more than one band say, “No, no, we can’t right now! We’ve got to load in/load out/get moving or Lance’ll be pissed!” This was a dream bill, with some of the best of our regional acts. Bands from Austin, Denton, and DFW filled the lineup. It was relaxed, but loud. It was, well, a wall of sound that didn’t stop. Here’s the list, in order of appearance:

Fra Pandolf
Until They Arrive
Shiny Around the Edges
The Black Lodge

OK, I’ll fess up, I wasn’t there for every band, just most of them. I missed the above, so I’ll leave it to others to comment on the breakfast crowd.

AM Syndicate (Austin)

I hate to begin with a bad review, but AMS did nothing for me. Dreamy, rock-y pop with a cute Asian girl on keys, I wished they wouldn’t be quite so loud. So far, not enough bodies in the crowd to break up the wattage.

The Chapters (Austin)

Up from A-town, they rated a ‘doesn’t suck’ with me. Maybe it was the early time, but I couldn’t yet get into the music. Grooving in the bright light of day is a bit intimidating. Not too exciting, not too bad, they played to a mostly industry crowd, but put on a solid show.

Red Monroe (Dallas)

I love this band. Despite a few technical glitches, these guys do know how to groove in daylight. Jazzy, dark, tonal melodies with hot riffs and all-out rocking songs, they brought people out of the woodwork. Any venue that introduces these guys to a new audience is alright with me. Snap up their ‘Sin City Serenade’ on CMJ’s New Music Monthly comp CD this month.

Bellaparker (Austin)

I had heard about Bellaparker from all my Austin connections and this was the #1 ‘Can’t Miss’ band on my list. They were exactly what I had heard; dance-y, fun, swinging rock that drew and kept the crowd. Granted, the crowd all seemed to be related to them somehow, but this was 3:30 in the afternoon, remember. Now I really, really want to see them at a dancing hour. ‘Cause I’m gonna.

What Made Milwaukee Famous (Austin)

Another of my favs since I caught them at the Double Wide. This is the most schizoid band I know. I looked away for a moment and thought there had been a stage switch, but then I saw that John had taken over from Michael as lead singer. They change styles radically. Punk? Gotta be John. Pretty ballad? Must be Michael. And you know what? They rock them all. Excellent live band. Don’t miss them.

Student Film is from Norman, but they didn’t show, car problems, I heard.

The Golden Falcons (Dallas)

What do you get when you combine a 7-foot-tall lead singer, a bald guitarist, and the strangest group of misfits to ever grace a stage? Peeling guitar tunes. Golden Falcons must freak people out the first time they see them and then they blast that power rock they do and blow everyone away. Disco balls are not safe with Rob around. I’m sure it took all his willpower not to boot that thing off the stage.

The Hourly Radio (Dallas)

Ever since The Lord Henry left, THR has taken over the title of ‘Most Beautiful DFW Band.’ These guys should have been billed immediately prior to Black Tie, and then the pretty crowd could have stuck around between sets. The club had some mixing issues, with Aaron Closson’s vocals a bit too out there, but it was fun hearing them, as always. They played new songs, and the thirty minute set for once seemed too short.

The Danes (Dallas)

This was a reunion gig for The Danes with Brandon Carr coming back from England and The Earlies for the festival. They made excellent tempo changes from free-floating melodies to hard-hitting tunes proving that no talent has been lost in the interim. A treat for everyone there to catch it.

Black Lights (Dallas) & The Southern Sea (Dallas)

Sorry guys, but it was time for a break from amp feedback and kick drums. If you’re ever at Hailey’s, the shrimp-bacon-cheese sandwich from the little grill around the corner is amazingly good. Add a little guac, and you’ve got every cholesterol group covered.

Black Tie Dynasty (Dallas)

With tunes so infectious they invade my brain every time I even think ‘Black Tie’, this band has the scene going on. Actual dancing occurred. “Crime Scene,” their foundation song, is one part 80’s retro, one part pop pleaser, and all excellent. These guys are what dancing in the dark is all about. Set to release a split EP with [DARYL], their labelmates and musical older brothers, the two bands will perform at least one song together- all eleven members of both on stage at the same time. Sign me up; that I just gotta see.

Snowdonnas (Dallas)

Beginning with the ever-popular “Edison” just so people would go, ‘Oh, this is that band…’ (Tim White’s words, not mine) Snowdonnas moved on into new songs from their about-to-be released self-produced sophomore CD. More biting, more angular, still a shoegazer’s dream, I can’t wait to hear the polished-up version.

The Silver Arrows (Denton)

The word “Bubblegum” just sticks in my head. It’s part of their lyrics and describes their sound. They were a new band for me, the first I had heard or heard of them. Fun, loud, fast, but not yet a headliner. Especially an interesting pairing because they were followed by…

Pilotdrift (Texarkana)

No interviewing during Pilotdrift! The edict came from TexasGigs that no way could we talk over this band because people would be tuning in just to hear them. That says it all. I’ve seen these guys do their stuff many times, and they never fail to be great. Their winding, elliptical art rock weaves musical landscapes and cinematic grandeur in your head. Let go and listen, and let it take you places. Escape from Texarkana.

Experimental Aircraft (Austin)

Soft, dreamy pop, they would have fit nicely in the morning. Right after Bellaparker, I think. Or with Snowdonnas. Rachel Staggs’ subdued voice is lovely for shoegazing.

Comet (Dallas)

I was interviewing during their whole set.

Jetscreamer (Denton)

Whenever a name so aptly describes a band’s sound it’s serendipity. Screaming guitars and a new drummer who wasn’t quite as intense as the axes required, Jetscreamer blasts guitar rock away. Or should I say rawk? I love taking photos of Will Kapinos; not a boring one in the bunch as he becomes one with his instrument. He and Samantha Moss work it well.

Radiant* (Dallas)

Oh, Radiant*. They come with their own (very polite) groupies, lightshow, and lovely sound. Give me ‘That Girl’ any day over whatever you’ve got and I’m happy. Trippy, melodic rock with that Southern sensibility that just oozes gentility, Radiant* takes a pop song and makes it live deeply. Watch for good things from them soon as their new CD takes shape.

Super Love Attack (Dallas)

Out interviewing, again.

Record Hop (Denton)

I said I didn’t get them. Sam Machkovech made me watch them. Sam was right. Ashley Cromeens is DOMA nominated for Best Female vocalist and she showed us why tonight. A bit angry, a bit animated, she pumped out a good show. Freaked out, manic guitar and a pissed-off girl; what could be better?

The Angelus (Denton)

They enter, walking, with bells. Not little jingly bells; big, ominous bells. Haunting, universal, sprawling, The Angelus is not to be taken lightly. I didn’t see Emil Rapstine smile, not once, the whole day. Maybe he did, I’m just saying, I didn’t see it.

Midlake (Denton)

It’s a tribute to Lance Yocum that this band, the last of 26 in a day of continuous music began their set at 1:06AM. Folks, that’s SIX minutes late. This is rock-n-roll, where normally the opener begins with fifteen minutes, half an hour leeway. Not a Spune production. Even the Oscars don’t run this tight a ship.

The last time I saw Midlake, they were climbing over themselves on a teeny, tiny stage at SxSW. Tonight, they had room to spread, and they took it, literally and figuratively. Whispers flew all night about ‘the best band here’ and Midlake set up their video and let it roll. Movies about babies in presents in the woods, a monocled man in a futuristic bubble-mobile, and searching, searching, searching, accompanied their expansive technical rock. Lovely melodies with meaning bubbling up occasionally, Midlake ended the night grandiosely.

Fourteen hours of indie rock, an excellent club, and much good company, the Wall of Sound was an amazing festival. It was what SxSW should still be; a day to hang out with your friends and hear the best of musical artistry in your area. Cheers to next year! Lance, I owe you a beer.

Ian Moore Live at the Granada Theatre

Ian Moore / Radiant*

@ Granada Theater

December 2, 2004

Ian Moore’s “Society” could be a blueprint for the revision of the Granada Theater from second-run movie house into a beating heart of the Dallas music scene. The red-lit stage surrounded by violet candles is the perfect Ian Moore venue. The nearly gothic art deco interior infuses a luminescent counterpoint to the western feel of Moore’s music, evocative of the wide-open spaces of the human heart. This was a night of mellow rock by candlelight, opening with the spiritual melodic pop of Radiant* and culminating a long Ian Moore blues virtuosity.

In all fairness to Radiant*, it just wasn’t singer Levi Smith’s night. Babying his voice because of illness, Smith’s usual passion was only approximated. But with new strobes and a helpful soundtech, plus an especially heavy hand on the smoke effects, the show was as theatrical as ever. More low-key than usual, Radiant* set the laid-back mood for the night. Dragan Jakovljevic and Daniel Hopkins were intense throughout and Smith’s voice finally caught up with him on “Do Not Delay,” which they ended like a musical prayer.

Ian Moore’s obligatory black blazer, striped mod shirt, shaggy mop top, and vintage Levi’s jeans mark him as an indie rocker, but beneath the understated trappings, his heart is that of a bluesman. Still producing records on vinyl, Moore also admits to being a Bee Gees fan, who were better songwriters than their ‘70s silk shirts allowed them credit. Luminaria was produced in an alternative universe where music is the thread between friends. Moore brought a little piece of that world with him to Dallas. In “Ordinary People” -where ‘friendships are like fanzines’- Moore lamented the falseness of the underground with deep thumps on the kick drum that resonated in the audience’s heart and gut. Moore introduced “New Day” as a “simple song with a complex bridge, just like me.” His grimacing, tongue-thrusting vocals and punctuating drum added depth to the poignant lyrics. Moore promised “one more, and then I’ll get my friends up to do bass and drums.” The cool, higher vocal range of Paul Hiraga provided counterpoint to Ian’s warm resonant voice. They are, by their own admission, opposite images of each other. Moore is the light, Hiraga is the dark. Where Ian’s edges are rounded and mellow, Paul’s are more angular and strung out. Backed by Fernando Braxton blasting soulful horns, Lauren Fogle on bass (also an Austin-Seattle transplant who hung out with Ian as friends before being asked to join the tour), and Travis Garaffa (formerly with The Picket Line Coyotes) on drums, Moore relied on the band’s accompaniment for only about a third of the set. Musicians came and went from the stage as if at a jam session. It was all very relaxed.

Not going for the buck, but rather the pure glory of songcraft for an appreciative and responsive crowd, Moore was true to his muse. His songs are sung with mature emotion, an energy tinged with sadness. His progression from rock into folk is not a departure but rather an evolution of his music. The feel of Luminaria most closely resembles the longing of “Blue Sky” from Moore’s 1993 self-titled album. He played for an hour and half, a set not derailed by a broken string, and filled with the ability to evoke intense aching; songs about a mother’s death, friends who didn’t show, and many beautiful women. Moore’s genius is shepherding us into a mood that encourages putting your head on a lover’s shoulder and sinking into the depth of the songs. Moore creates a place you don’t want to leave. The minimal but cool light effects bled up the walls, and spots ran over the audience and amplified the brilliant, dreamy atmosphere. “It’s gothy- god damn, I left my mascara at home,” joked Moore, “This is a beautiful place; I wish we had something like this in Austin. It’s a wonderful spot, I’m grateful to play here.” The saying goes that you should never meet your heroes, as they will turn out to be just people. With Ian Moore, that is a blessing, not a curse.

-- Kate Mackley

Ian Moore is returning to Dallas on Dec 30th at Bend Studios to promote Luminaria, his latest release on YepRoc. Paul Hiraga can be found in Downpilot.

www.ianmoore.com

www.downpilot.com

www.yeproc.com

Set list:

What I’ve Done

Caroline

Kangaroo Lake

Blue Sky

April

Waterloo

New Day

Abilene

Ordinary People

Everyday Dream

Cinnamon

Today

New Orleans

Closer

Porpoise

Originally published ©2004 Dallas Music Guide

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Ian Moore at Bend Studio


Ian Moore at 36 has mellowed. Still unique, far from ordinary, he’s leading his passionate pursuit of music around the country. Thinking back on Dallas and Austin, wondering when he’d make that one great album, he joined DMG for an evening of candlelight and quiet conversation at Bend Yoga.

Surrounded by the aroma of patchouli, candlelight, and the simple Zen d├ęcor of Bend Yoga Studio, barefoot and stretched out on my back at his feet, I’m absolutely sure I’ve never experienced an Ian Moore concert like this before. The website promised an ‘intimate evening.’ They weren’t kidding. Reclining on serapes and soft pillows, sipping BYOB spirits, the lucky admirers on the studio floor gazed on the blues-rock guitarist lovingly and he responded in kind to the evening’s increasing affection. But before my slow slide into wine-soaked adoration, I managed to sequester Mr. Moore for some pleasant conversation about Dallas, Austin, ordinary people, and the pursuit of creativity.

Dallas Music Guide: How is it being back in Texas?

Ian Moore: I have a harder time in Texas than anywhere else; it’s a little like going home to your family, like high school. You have a history. I’m not complaining, I’m very happy and feel lucky that I haven’t lost my fan base with the changes (in musical style). People stuck with me, but it’s hardest to get press in Texas. It’s interesting; the Dallas Observer is probably the only major weekly that hasn’t reviewed my record. At least of the towns that I play. I’m sure that there’s some I’m not aware of, but you know… Maybe they’ve reviewed it, and I didn’t see it, but I don’t think they have.

DMG: I don’t think they have.

IM: Well, in Austin -which is my home town- The Chronicle was late, too. I think a big part of it is that I left Texas. Texas is a very very provincial state. It has an idea, almost more than any other state in the country, of what it is and what it is to be a Texan. A lot of that is pretty cartoony, and I think anybody grows past that, hopefully pretty quickly, and into themselves as an individual, but I think people take it personally when people move out of Texas.

DMG: Yeah, I can definitely see that. You mentioned in conversation, at your show in December at the Granada, that there used to be a conduit between the Dallas and Austin music scenes that you don’t think exists any more.

IM: Well, I don’t know. It doesn’t exist within the community that I’m aware of. There may be. I’m sure there are always new groups of bands. But I don’t see a lot of interplay between Dallas bands and Austin bands right now. I’m not aware of it. That also came out when we were talking to (Billy Potts) in The Lord Henry. He was talking about not really knowing many Austin bands and I was like, ‘that’s strange’ because when I was growing up, I knew pretty much every Dallas band, even at 19 years old. I did shows with them when I came up here and they did shows with me when they came down (to Austin).

DMG: I hope that’s changing. But it would have to start again, and it doesn’t exist right now. I think there’s a little bit (of interchange) but I don’t think there’s much.

IM: Well, they’re very different communities. People that live in Austin are often very different from people that live in Dallas. Dallas is pretty conservative.

DMG: When you were playing before, you knew a lot of bands in Dallas?

IM: Yeah, tons. I did shows with Ten Hands, To The New Bohemians, Mike Dane who was in a couple of bands. We used to play with and stay with them, all hang out and it was just a very tight community. I notice there’s a very tight community in Dallas.

DMG: Right now or previously?

IM: I really don’t know because most of the bands that I’m aware of from North Texas are from Denton. I know Deathray Davies, I know the Kadane brothers –I don’t know them, but I know their music- I know Brent, the Slobberbone guys.

DMG: Yeah, they just broke up.

IM: Yeah, I saw that. That’s the world that I’m aware of. Most of these bands are from Denton and I don’t really know many Dallas bands, at all. I knew those guys in Mur moved to L.A.; they opened up for Centro, they were really good.

DMG: You also mentioned that when you were starting out in Austin, you felt like you were ten years either too late or too early with your music and you were trying to do more experimental things.

IM: Well, no, just my influences and where music’s at now, it’s much cooler. The kind of stuff I was into then is considered much cooler now. It wasn’t cool to be arty back in those days. (The Austin music scene) was going through a bit of a thing like that a few years before me, but then it was really back to this macho kind of stuff. It was a short-lived thing, but definitely it was most of the people I was aware of. It was a pretty macho town back then. I kind of fell into that a little bit; I think I definitely simplified the stuff I was into. When I first started playing, I was taking sitar at UT and I’ve always loved ‘50s music a lot.

DMG: What’s your favorite ‘50s band?

IM: Well, my favorite musician in modern music is probably Buddy Holly. Just love him. He’s the basis of everything. So much of the Beatles is Buddy Holly. Especially the stuff that I think eventually morphed into their experimental side. He was so experimental; people don’t realize that. They think of the ‘50s and they look at him and he’s just like Elvis. But he did things like playing drum parts on his knee. People didn’t do stuff like that. Especially to think that he was recording in Clovis, New Mexico. If you’ve ever driven through Clovis, you get an idea. That guy was a real vanguard and he was really amazing. Nothing happens on a timeline, but I’m just glad to be finding more people that I share stuff with these days.

DMG: Do you feel more at home in Seattle than in Austin?

IM: So much of my life has been traveling that I really don’t feel home in a place, I feel home amongst different groups of people. It’s not so much a material place. I really like where I live, and I spent a lot of time in Texas, so I don’t really feel like I’ve necessarily moved, because I’m really not gone any more than I was back then.

DMG: What was growing up like for you? You had a pretty cool childhood, didn’t you?

IM: Well, yeah. Definitely did some cool things. Folks were cool, got to travel a lot, surrounded by a lot of really interesting people. But also, it was really hard because growing up in the ‘70s in Austin with parents that were counterculture, was not… you know, everyone gets teased a lot, but man. Outside of the typical teasing that kids get just for being alive, which happens to all of us, having your parents… my mom didn’t wear a bra and she wore toe rings, and my dad smoked weed and was very intellectual and very much his own person. I got a lot of shit growing up because of that. I alternated between trying to tone down who I was and saying ‘fuck it’ and being really outspoken with my beliefs. It’s very similar to who I am as an adult. My mom taught me to be a bit more demur about things. She was from an old money family so she understood the nature of gentle protest. My dad’s from a second generation Jewish family, all his ancestors were annihilated, so he had no need to be gentle about anything. Shouldn’t have. So I’m the by-product of the two of them.

DMG: Like polar opposites coming together.

IM: They were. That was the beauty of the ‘60s; so many cultures that really hadn’t meshed that often were intertwined. My mom came to Texas, I’d say, on the magic carpet of Joan Baez, ‘We will overcome, let’s help the poor minority people’ thing. Typical late ‘60s liberal -rich liberal- mentality and my dad came looking for beatniks to Austin because that was the closest to El Paso. So they met in Austin. She was probably attracted to him because he had elements of the things she was looking for, and probably to my dad, she was a good foundation and seemed pretty solid.

DMG: In your music, it seems as if there are two groups of people in your world. One, the ordinary souls, the rest of us that lead lives of quiet desperation, and the others…

IM: (interrupting) I’m making fun of myself, by the way. It’s a jab at feeling like you’re different, actually. It’s the Randy Newman school of thought; you put out something ridiculous enough that makes you look like a real asshole, like ‘Short people got no reason to live.’ That song’s obviously an irony. Put it out for other people to grab. I’m not that pretentious to think I would write a song like that. Well, I mean, I can’t… (shakes head).

DMG: What?

IM: Well, it’s just funny. I remember fans of mine mailing, ‘What does Ian have against fat people?’

DMG: Why? (laughs) Because all your ‘friends are pretty and thin?’

IM: My friends aren’t like that. I live on an island, I’ve got two kids, I garden and cut wood. I don’t hang out with a bunch of fuckin’… you know, those are not my friends. I actually don’t hang out with people like that. A lot of my friends are like Borkowski characters and the rest are Mormons; I’m a little bit somewhere between. Really, it’s not… I don’t have that many rock-n-roll friends.

DMG: Here in Dallas, people think I’m nuts; I’m going down to Deep Ellum and I’m a woman. I tell them, ‘It’s not like that.’ Musicians are normal people and who are just making music.

IM: Dallas is a very conservative town. I mean, it really is one of the most conservative towns in the United States. It really is. You wouldn’t think it. I’ve spent a lot of time in this town, outside of Austin and Houston, I’ve probably been here more than any other town in the country. It’s ironic, even the crazy people I’ve toured with are more mellow than the average normal person. I’m always amazed, when I stay with people that are more traditional, beer-drinking, typical people in their twenties, at how wild they are.

DMG: Do you think they are still rebelling against how wild their parents aren’t?

IM: I don’t know. I don’t know, but I don’t understand it. I don’t like staying in places like that because I like to sleep at night. I don’t want to live in a frat party. I know when I was young and I would date girls, their parents would always be really wigged out at first and I was always like, ‘Judge me as a human being, see what I’m like.’

DMG: Yeah, everyone is bummed you cut your long hair.

IM: (shakes head, laughing) Isn’t that sad?

DMG: Well, you had good hair.

IM: I mean, think about that for a second.

DMG: It’s like your hair defined you.

IM: (sarcastically) Yeah. That is… that is ridiculous. I mean, it would have been one thing if I had grown up in Teen Beat magazine and I’d ascribed to that. That the length of my hair has anything, in any way, to do with the music that I’m doing is something that I can’t even conceptualize.

DMG: It’s the outward appearance, the easy Cliff Notes to ‘this is what he must be like on the inside.’

IM: People need to work on their imaginations.

DMG: What image do you think you’re broadcasting these days?

IM: I have no idea. I don’t know. I have no idea. I like Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council) a lot. I’d like to look like him, but I don’t. So, I have no idea.

DMG: I have to ask you about a lyric: “I live a life, that’s what it is.” There two meanings to that lyric.

IM: Yeah.

DMG: How did you mean that?

IM: Both ways. Too many people go through life and they just get by. But I know the truth.

DMG: Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

IM: My life is a life that I live. So many people talk about the nature of life: ‘So how was your tour?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ Those kind of things that you already know what the answer is going to be before you ask it, most of the time. Probably some good stuff happened, some bad stuff happened; I was tired, I had a few good gigs, some bad gigs. People are either enthralled by my life and totally romanticize it or, and this happened the last time I was here, this girl came up after the show, because I was talking about my kids from the stage, she said, ‘I think it’s really arrogant of you to be on the road and to be away from your family and to be playing music. You need to put your children first, before anything.’ I said, ‘I agree with you, and I do, and you don’t know anything about my life.’ So she was coming from the opposite space of her perspective of what I don’t have, instead of the fact that every path that you take is a series of pluses and minuses and you make choices to change the path you’re on, depending on what you want to do in your life.

DMG: You’ve said that if you’re home, you sometimes get frustrated and want to get back out on the road.

IM: I don’t so much want to get back on the road, I just want to… You know, I’m thirty-six years old, and I still feel like I haven’t really made a great record, the record that I want to make. I try not to get into the thing of being in a race with time, but I do know that it gets harder and harder in some ways. The great irony of acquiring wisdom is that there are less and less people to share it with because wisdom is an individual pursuit. And you gain your thing and it separates you from people. I’m on my own path and I don’t have a lot in common with a lot of people the older I get, whereas when I was younger and I had less life experience, it was easier for me to be part of a group.

DMG: But thirty-six? That’s young, that’s just starting.

IM: Well, I know. I don’t feel old that way, I feel old in the fact that most people in their thirties have completely given up on a creative life. They’ve just accepted it, through having kids. I see the struggles; it’s hard, it really is difficult. I’m a chef, I love to cook, but when I’m not home, my wife very rarely cooks because the kids aren’t gonna want to eat it. Who’re you going to cook for? And do you really have the time to spend the time to cook? Then at the end of the day, you’re psychically so tired, it’s much easier to sit in front of the television and watch a sitcom which deadens your brain and your soul, than it is to write or sew or create. But you can’t shut people down, the energy inside comes out some way. You need to feel fulfilled as a soul. Some people fool themselves and have a nervous breakdown at forty-five or fifty, shut down by societal interaction. So, when I’m home for a while, I get the urge to dive in and use my time to do something that I’m hoping is going to be great. Which I know is the carrot I’m never going to catch. That’s the pursuit of art.

Ian Moore returns to the new location of Poor David’s Pub by South Side Lamar on Sunday, January 23rd for an evening that may be a little less intimate, but just as creative. His latest album, Luminaria, is a beautiful, folksy ride thorough his gothic world. Just the perfect listening material for a Sunday.

www.bendstudio.com

www.ianmoore.com

Originally published © 2005 Dallas Music Guide

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Wednesday Nights at Sons of Hermann Hall

Wednesday nights at Sons of Hermann Hall, swing dancers pair off in the upstairs ballroom, but downstairs at the long bar a secret society quietly meets. Or not so quietly, as the night goes on. “I love this place,” grins Spammie Lamm, drummer for indie band [DARYL], “there’s always some sort of drama.” Tonight the drama is a partnerless blonde girl from upstairs who’s invaded the bar and has taken to slobbering on and with Aaron Silvers, Spammie’ s good friend, and brother of Dylan Silvers. Dylan is the reason we happen to be hanging out here on an otherwise drama-free weeknight.

Sons of Hermann Hall is the farthest outpost of the Elm Street scene, so far removed from the flash and trash of Deep Ellum it should be properly called Exposition area instead. It has its own charm. Sons is a lodge house, not a former lodge house, but an actual ‘we’re the brethren and this is our place’ working fraternal order. Since the 1930’s, the good German brothers thought it would be cool to open their house to bands. Once a dancehall and bowling alley, the floor of which can still be seen in the downstairs venue, Sons is now host to music and ghosts. It’s a creaky old place and the volunteers who have been alone in the hall tell spine-tingling stories about voices in empty rooms and noisy doors. But the ballroom upstairs has great sound, the booking agent has an uncanny ear for quality musicianship, and the beer is cheap. It’s a secret hideout for the real Dallas indie music scene; serious musicians who are also serious drinkers. At the carved wooden bar that stretches half the length of the peachy red Budweiser-emblazoned front room, members of the metroplex’s best indie bands come and go and the members of [DARYL] just stay. Next to the dusty 1970’s bowling trophies and under the American Idol logo, songwriter Dylan Silvers carries on his misspent youth into misspent adulthood, tending bar with his brother and keeping his friends happily sloshed. That his buddies are also his band is a happy accident, as the song goes. After years of searching for the proper combination of personalities and musicianship, [DARYL] the band has finally settled down into a bunch of guys that think the best way to spend a Wednesday night is drinking together.

Silvers has found a perfect six in the current members of his band of merry men. The rebirth of pop rock band [DARYL] with a new concept album, Ohio, and a new sound, stripped of discordant synthesizers and deepened with mellotrons and reverb, has brought an end to the changes in membership. Michael ‘Spammie’ Lamm is the only original member of [DARYL] to have survived every iteration. Guitarist Dave Christiansen was in the original incarnation of four musicians and returned after a hiatus, as did Jeff Parker, on bass, who confirms, “If we weren’t playing music together, we’d all be sitting up here at the bar drinking together and having fun. That’s where the positivity comes from.” Life is better with friends. Hanging at Sons out on a Wednesday night is much like getting together in your best pal’s place, if it had a fully-stocked bar, instead of a six-pack in the fridge. Discussion ranges from who’s playing where this weekend, to the relative musical value of Zooropa. The bar is passionately split between those who appreciate new U2 and the purists who prefer their Irish pre-Achtung Baby.

“We decided to combine everything together; drinking beer, having fun, and playing music. With each other,” says Lamm.

Christensen goes on, “It’s rare that six guys work this well together.”

“Or drink as much,” finishes Lamm.

The revolving door of [DARYL] membership seems to have ended. Even Beau Wagener and Justen Andrews, both on keyboards, aren’t new to the band, only new to the liner notes. Wagener was a friend who had had cameo spots on the stage with the band before. “[DARYL] was a saving grace (for me because I was) in a bad spot, musically, the entire time that I was in my old band and everything just kinda sucked, but these guys were there for me. Then Dave (Christianson)’s band broke up and he joined [DARYL], and a little bit later, my band broke up. When they asked me to join, it was like, ‘fuckin’ hell yeah, whatever you want me to do,’ and now I want to do that better than whatever.”

Andrews remembers the down period, but confirms the band has moved beyond it. “As a fan, I was just sitting around waiting for [DARYL] to break up. A lot of people thought the band was over. Dave, Beau, and I used to be frontmen of our own bands. It sounds weird that we all took a step down, but yet I feel more a part of this band playing keyboards on the sides, singing backup vocals than being front and center stage.”

In terms of [DARYL] history, this line-up is rock solid. The band began touring in March, with a trip to Los Angeles, and relish the fun of playing live now that the seclusion of recording Ohio, their latest release, is behind them. [DARYL] has survived creatively intact, the old material ready for a new audience, and a band that is positive and ready to tour. “That whole thing about the adversity is that this is a good time for the band, we just got the CD out, we’re touring, and this is the time when we can relax,” says Andrews, “This is the getting out and doing what we love to do. We have the work done, we have the finished product, and now we get to have fun with it.”

Dylan Silvers is the image of an archetypical artist; a troubled youth, a quiet personality, and a creative drive to perfection. His voice is rough, utterly distinctive, and reflective of the painful childhood that he left behind to move to Texas. You know it’s him from the first clipped syllable. Every word sounds painful, as if ripped from memory. The deep male background vocals are a more appropriate reflection of his raw energy, which had seemed restrained when paired awkwardly with the pixie voice of former [DARYL] vocalist, Angie Comley. Silver’s lyrics never quite say what he means, leaving off the key words that would make the meaning crystalline, as if balancing a craving for attention with the fear of public display. He croons, he yells, and it’s all as it should be.

Why didn’t they just scrap the awkward brackets and 1980’s retro band name when they had the chance? Lamm is concise about his opinion: “No, it was our name.” Silvers explained in a bit more depth, “I wanted to see where the album and the songs could take us instead of throwing away the material. I don’t necessarily say we were breaking this amazing new ground, but I felt really deep about the lyrics and for me it’s hard to write lyrics. I wanted that to come out and say, OK, what’s gonna happen next? And that’s where we are now.” The material required that they keep the name [DARYL] and all that went with it. “The record is what we are,” says Silvers, but Andrews elaborates, “We wanted to play the old songs, the songs that they, we, always played. We’ve added material, more instruments. The EP was recorded before, and it was added to, not taken away from. Dylan’s always been the key songwriter.” So the brackets stay and the old songs never sounded better.

Girls and apologies are the theme of many of Silver’s lyrics; “I don’t wanna really hate you now, I’m sorry,” from “Jenny,” “It was an accident, don’t you go,” from “Natalie.” But Silvers makes no apologies for his band. “When all the line up changes were happening, [DARYL] was a musically defeated band and we had all these songs but they weren’t coming out the way we really wanted them to come out. We didn’t even know how that was going to happen. (After setting the new line-up) everything started to blossom again. That whole period was probably the darkest period of the band, and for me, musically. I won’t say Spammie and I were holding on by threads… I couldn’t have done that now, but back then we were gung-ho to just keep the ship floating.” Silvers has a knack for bringing together musicians and he only needed to reach out to the talented friends already around him. The down time for [DARYL] didn’t last long. “I wanted to start the band and it wasn’t about people,” grouses Silvers. “It was about songs we were playing but that’s impossible to do because all the people were involved and all the emotions involved. A band’s a friendship. (When a musician leaves the band), it’s like going out with a girl and then having a relationship and them breaking up with you.” Maybe that’s why [DARYL] has gone through so many iterations; in all relationships, it takes a while to find just the right combination.

Back at Sons, Silvers leans across the bar and laughs with a few acquaintances over a private joke. Down at the other end, a patron needing a new Shiner catches his attention and he’s off with a smile, sailing from one group to another. He wouldn’t rather be anywhere else, except maybe with his guitar. Silvers is a man in demand these days, by friends and thirsty strangers needing alcohol and a musical fix. He’s happy. Settled in this spot, he’s where he wants to be, his music is made, and the real fun of touring with his buddies is happening.

Signed in 2002 to Idol Records, [DARYL] has what a label needs. “They’re in it for the right reasons. They just like playing music,” says Erv Karwelis, owner of Idol. “They have fun on the road and actually look forward to going on tour, so many bands don’t. They love to play, and everywhere they go it’s an adventure. Their egos are in check and they’re realistic and know that being in a band’s hard work and they’re willing to do that work. [DARYL] gets in the van and they’ll go play Detroit for $100 and split it six ways, after $60 goes in the tank.”

Heading out on the road isn’t a posh affair for this band. It’s slogging around packed in a van, every seat taken, pulling a U-haul with their equipment, and hoping that everyone agrees to what’s on the tape player. “I was playing Cocteau Twins coming home from Odessa,” remembers Silvers, “I had put it in there and turned it up real loud in the back and they were like ‘It’s funny’ and they popped it out and I was like, ‘No, I was listening to that. That wasn’t a joke.’” Wagener shakes his head, “I woke up out of a nap, and was like, ‘what are we listening to?’”

Jeff Parker sums up the mood. “Sure, when you’re in a van with six dudes for two weeks, there’s gonna be little nitpicky shit that you argue about, but it’s nothing major and there used to be major stuff that we would fight about and it was just ridiculous. I’m sure down the road, there probably will be something major that we will fight about, but as far as right now goes, everything is superpositive.” That something major may be the lack of input the newer members of the band have into the creative process of songwriting. Both Wagener and Andrews joked about having a say in the creative process, which Silvers was quick to good-naturedly quash. In the euphoria of the year ahead, that may not matter at all. This year is about getting Ohio heard and solidifying the foundation they have begun to build. Silvers’ quips about a million dollars and a few sessions players went largely ignored. After all, he was pouring tonight.

Karwelis is optimistic, too. “It’s a slow process, but every year that goes by, they keep building on what they have. They’ve been charted in stations in England and Germany and Spain, and so on. They’re not expecting unrealistic things; they know that they’ll keep working for it. Making it bigger.”

The hard work is beginning to pay off and the guys are ready to jump over a few more forbidden gates. Touring to California this spring with fellow label-mates, Black Tie Dynasty, [DARYL] plans on rocking L.A. and bringing what Texas already loves to the wider market of the West Coast. They’re optimistic this could be the turning point for the band. Wagener is pumped for the trip. “In three months, we put out a record and everyone likes it for the most part and that’s cool. We got voted (The 2004 Dallas Observer’s) Reader’s Pick for best album and Ohio had been out a week, and now we’re nominated again, a year later.” The other guys shrug their shoulders and look uncomfortable with the boasting, but Beau rallies them. “Fuck it. It’s true. It’s good times. We’re getting it put out in Japan, we’re doing tours. Fuck it, that’s awesome. Are the Feds doing that!?”

He’s right, too. Idol signed a deal with Tridentstyle Records in Tokyo. So how do six guys from Dallas singing about Akron, Ohio get signed half-way around the world? They played their label’s showcase at SxSW last year and got the proverbial break; the guys from Japan liked what they heard and remembered it when Ohio made it onto their desks half a world away. “[DARYL] has always been infatuated with the whole Japanese thing, too,” cites Karwelis as the reason for the mutual attraction. “The Technology had Japanese writing all over it, songs about Japanese girls, stuff like that. Of all the other things that Tridentstyle picked up on Idol, this was the first one from Dallas.” Soon fans around the globe will also wonder what a giant furry animal at a Dairy Queen has to do with ghosts and lost girls.

[DARYL] is a huge ensemble group with seven members to fill every available inch of stage at any given moment. Bass, three guitars, two keyboards, drums, four vocalists, plus a horn player. Did you count more than seven instruments? Each band member does double duty. No slacking if you’re part of these audiophiles. Silvers is hesitant to define the heart of their music. “We are definitely a melodic rock band and we like to add a lot of stuff to recordings but, live? The problem is we don’t have a sound guy and even as a six piece it’s a pain in the ass to make everything sound good. At the Lakewood (Theater), the sound guys didn’t even know what to do with us. Two guitars, four vocals; it’s practically impossible to make us sound good unless we have a personal sound guy, which we don’t.”

Karwelis is optimistic though, that the band will grow enough to afford those luxuries. “It’s not three guys playing guitar and bass and drums. To get a good soundguy on the road, that’s not cheap. You really have to get to a pretty big level before you can pull that off. But, yeah, I could see it happening.”

“It doesn’t mean we’re not gonna play as a six piece,” says Silvers, “but it does mean that we’re not always gonna sound the way we want to sound. We always oversaturated our recordings, like now with the Ohio record.”

Lamm is pretty clear on live vs. Memorex: “You couldn’t mimic the stuff that’s on the CD with a 4-piece.”

Parker laughs. “If you really wanted to play every song on the CD you’d have to have 11 guitars” and Christiansen joins in, “… and a backing band.”

“Yeah, that didn’t work out,” Silvers shakes his head slyly, “Kind of hindered the live show.”

“We just feel like we have to deliver in other ways by putting on a good show,” says Lamm, “I think if we concentrate on trying to play every note exactly right it would become stale. I think if we ask for too much, it wouldn’t work out.”

Silvers continues, “It’s a simplistic six piece, and no one exaggerates or overplays their instruments. It’s real simple, but combined you have a wall of sound.”

“If you take six different simple ideas and put them together it sounds way better, like a complex three piece,” says Lamm.

“We’re basically a power trio,” jokes Wagener, “with three extra dudes.”

With a big van that’s hitting the road, packed to the gills.

The old jukebox at the end of Son’s bar has a hip selection that leans more toward Merle Haggard and Dixie Chicks, but there’s a Slobberbone and the requisite [DARYL] in there, too. Wednesday nights, though, it’s quiet and the CD player behind the bar plays Silvers & Co.’s latest listens. Beatles, Beach Boys, Cocteau Twins when Dylan’s manning it, and a more avant garde selection when Wagener’s DJ-ing for the troops.

“What it all comes down to is that if we weren’t in a band together, we’d still be hanging out together, and we’re best friends and that’s the honest truth,” says Silvers. Nicht mit dem Wagenfurher Sprechen says the Bud advertisement over the bar -please don’t speak to the driver- but it certainly can’t mean don’t speak to the driver of [DARYL]’s wagon. Silvers’ distinct personality encourages mit sprechen: a good conversation and a good night at the bar or up on the stage. The honeymoon’s not over yet for this [DARYL] lineup, and there are enough rocks in the road ahead, but the friction hasn’t yet built. Maybe, like in solid marriages that last beyond the bloom of first love, when the tension flows Silvers will channel it into some new lyrics about good friends in Texas.

Originally published in Venues magazine April 2005