ABOUT THE BAND
“No information can be given about the Deathray Davies – listen to the music and decide for yourselves.”
So said the note that John Dufilho attached to a cassette of solo records he speculatively submitted to the South By Southwest Music conference in 1999. “I just didn’t have a band and was trying to cover that up,” Dufilho recalls. “I was shocked to hear that ‘the Deathray Davies’ had been accepted and had to put a band together quickly, so I stole friends away from other bands.”
The SXSW show was a success and the Deathray Davies gradually shifted from side-project to front-and-center, from casual collective to tight touring act. Instantly embraced in their native dallas, soon the DRD were spreading tentacles through road-treks with the likes of the Breeders, Old 97s, Pete Yorn, and Superchunk. By the time the band’s fourth album, 2003’s Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory, appeared, they were earning write-ups in Esquire and people, and video-play on MTV2.
So the Deathray Davies are perfectly poised for the release of The Kick And The Snare (due in April ’05), an album so drenched in pop intuition and savvy arrangements that, if only radio still played rock ‘n roll, it could be a generation soundtrack.
The Deathrays absorb influences from the ‘British invasion’ staples the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Zombies, to Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys, to the Ramones and the Replacements. They’re about songs, songs, and more songs, Dufilho’s oft-understated expressions blooming within charmingly eccentric arrangements and bouncing progressions mottled with showers of guitar and keys.
The Kick And The Snare underlines the DRD’s ability to sound at once wistful and optimistic, delicate and driving. “Release the Squid” sets an insistent guitar refrain and tom-propelled groove against Dufilho’s plaintive verse melody, before the beat straightens out into a harmony-heavy chorus cooled with late-’60s breeze. “Plan to Stay Awake” turns a frantically taught, almost new-wave verse (not to mention record-breaking wordiness) into a panoramic hook. “They Stuck Me In A Box In The Ground (Part 7)” – an ongoing epic throughout DRD recordings – juxtaposes a Casio groove and contemplative vocal with loitering, textured guitar and noodling keys. IT’s the DRD at their kaleidoscopic best, slipping 3D spex onto Dufilho’s succinct songwriting template.
Lyrically, Dufilho trimmed the fat: “This album’s more to the point. Death seems to come up quite a bit, but far more for the purposes of remember that we’re not around for long and to make the most of it.”
“The songwriting is not as dark or moody as the last album,” adds Garner. “We made more of a conscious effort towards simplistic melody, with counter-melody on top of it, and simple riffs.”
Whereas previous DRD albums found Dufilho and Garner playing most of the instruments, The Kick And The Snare features a full live line-up. “Some of the songs are quite layered, with horns and such,” explains Garner.
The Deathray live experience puts an energized, slightly psychedelic spin on their studio proclamations: the stage aglow with rope lights; flailing locks and frenetic delivery; the crazy-haired Kevin Ingle cheerleading with eyes-clenched abandon.
Furiously prolific – five albums, one single, countless compilations and 500 shows in 5 years – the Deathray Davies have built the credibility and fanbase to launch The Kick And The Snare into mainstream orbit.
Hopes? “That people will love it, buy it, and buy it for their friends,” mulls Dufilho.
And fears? “No thank you – we’re a rock ‘n roll band.”