So, I know it’s been quite some time since I written about the Damnwells on this blog. But – despite the fact that I still haven’t got my copy of the “Golden Days” dvd Alex, ahem ahem – I still can’t shake my love for the guys. Especially when they post things like this; Werewolves, from their upcoming album, “No One Listens to the Band Anymore”.
“No One Listens to the Band Anymore” is out March 2011, from PledgeMusic Recrodings / Poor Man’s Records (Redeye Distribution). What that means is that you can “pledge” towards the album here: www.pledgemusic.com/projects/thedamnwells. There’s still plenty of good spots left… I just pledged $25 to get a signed copy of the CD and a t shirt.
There are some bands you just come back to. And I guess, for me, The Damnwells will always be one of them.
Alex Dezen has always had that special knack. A kind of effortless personality that connects with the listener, in a very personal way. And I think that this album, finally, is opening that up to a wider audience.
Well, no… the reason I’m revisiting the topic is that today, Alex sent me the “exclusive track” that I’ve heard whispered. The b-side title track of the album, “One Last Century”. And I can’t stop listening to the damn thing.
Rarely a song comes along that, for some reason, I can’t write about. But this is one of them. It simply knocks me over. I’m the feather, and Alex’s voice the breeze. I’m not sure where it’s taking me, but I can’t wait to find out.
So of course I had to share it with all of you. In keeping with Alex’s vision for this album… spread it around. Tell your friends. This song needs to be heard.
Over the last month or so, I’ve been involved in building up The Damnwells official site again, which had somewhat fallen into disuse (apart from the forums, which unfortunately were lost in the changeover). Anyway, over that time I’ve gotten to know Alex from the band, and listened to his visions for this new record, “One Last Century“. After being dropped by their label (not once, but twice), they decided it was time to do this their way. To get the music heard, finally. When the guy talks about this album, it’s like there’s a light shining on you, you know? Like the world could be this way, if we just hope.
I want to see that hope justified today.
Spread the word, in whatever form you can. Call your friend up and tell them. Send an email to people you know who like kick-ass music. Send an email to people you know who like crappy music, and need to be educated. Send an SMS to random numbers. Drop flyers where you can, and then run away. If you have a blog, then blog about it. Use your social media profiles to mention it. For those of you on twitter, tweet it. Whatever you can do, let people know about this record.
I want to see The Damnwells succeed. I want to see this model succeed. Artists are waking up to the fact that they need to embrace new ways of marketing their material, but it’s ultimately up to us, the consumer, to control the way that market goes.
I’m not going to review the record today. Suffice to say I’ve been spinning it again and again the last week or so, so that tells you how much I’m enjoying it. But today I’d like you to listen to it, without any of those damn “music blogger preconceptions” floating around in your head. Maybe in the next week or so, I’ll manage to grab a few moments of Alex’s time, and ask him to put down a few words about this record, from the recording process to the final release. But for now, I just want you to listen to it. So go here and get it now.
Get ready. Spread the word. It’s going to be awesome.
Side note: even though it says that I was the author of that announcement on thedamnwells.com post, it was actually Alex who posted that himself, with no help from me. He’s picking up WordPress really quickly, from a standing start. So go comment over there and make him all proud and shit.
So today I was surfing the ‘Tube, and I decided to relive the joy that is “The Damnwells” by surfing some of their videos. First, I watched this video, uploaded way back in 2006, promoting the album “Air Stereo”.
… and I was filled with this sense of wonder. I mean, no matter how many times I hear these songs, it hits me like the first time. Watching that EPK, you can just tell… these guys were special. These guys could change the world. Ok, now remember… that clip was uploaded over two years ago. And the brilliant “Bastards of the Beat” was released 3 years before that, even.
Next, I watched the “Golden Days” trailer, which was uploaded to the ‘Tube at the beginning of 2007. I originally wrote about the Golden Days DVD back here, but for those of you who haven’t kept up with it, the documentary basically details the Damnwells’ struggles; particularly following the period of their parting ways with Epic Records. Watch it below… and again, remember this is a 2007 release.
Killer, yeah? But then, finally, I came across this video… which is an in-store performance from the Damnwells at the Virgin record store in Tempe, AZ for promotion of the “Golden Days” documentary (which was playing at the Phoenix film festival that weekend).
Now, I realise that this took place in 2007, even though it was uploaded to Youtube only this year. But, the dismal attendance in that video struck something within me. It simply killed me that, here was without a doubt my FAVOURITE band… and they are still struggling to get the recognition they deserve.
So… why have I just rambled on for a page? Simply this… watching that last clip today spurred me into action. I can’t sit here and wonder, “Why are more people not killing themselves to see these guys? Why aren’t they one of the biggest bands in the world?“. Asking these questions isn’t doing enough. And, as much as I’d like to think this blog is helping spread the word, it can’t dedicate every post to the Damnwells. This blog is far too eclectic for that, and I don’t want to change that.
So, I decided to go out and do something about it. I’ve owned the domain “Thedamnwellsmusic.com” for quite some time now, but haven’t got anything up and running. That last clip was enough to change that. Today, I finally started uploading the skeleton to what I hope will become a definitive “Damnwells Music Site“. While there’s pretty much nothing there yet (ok, plain old nothing… except for some pretty pictures), I’m linking there now to spread the word. If anyone wants to get involved in contributing to the site, drop a comment, send me an email… get in touch. Honestly, this is an open call to any of the Damnwells’ fans. If you want to push this site, let me know (and Gilly, I’m looking at you here!). Whether it’s photos, news, facts and figures… heck, even if you want to lend a hand with the design – as you can see, I’ve tried my best, but I’m no design guru – then get in touch. Do it.
Anyway. That’s enough out of this out of me. Hope to hear from you all soon. Because I know you’re out there.
Welcome back to another Live Music Friday here at Burgo’s Blog. Thanks to all the regular readers who were patient while I took my week off from posting… it was much needed, and I think it did me a world of good. For this week’s Live Music Friday, I decided to post a show from 2005, when Alex Dezen and Dave Chernis of The Damnwells played on World Cafe Live.
There are a few reasons that I chose to post an Alex Dezen post today. The first is that I’ve noticed a lot of you are finding my blog searching for Alex Dezen, and in particular the song “Tonight and Forever”… I’m guessing this is as a result of The Damnwells getting a lot of exposure lately, thanks to no less than five of their songs – “Tonight and Forever” included – appearing on the new Ryan Reynolds flick, “Chaos Theory“. That’s really encouraging for a supporter to see, and, in a weird way, I’m really proud and happy for the band. So if you’re one of those people just getting turned onto the group, then I’d really suggest you check out some of my past posts on the band: particularly my post about The Damnwells documentary, Golden Days, which shows the movie’s trailer; my post The Damnwells – A new release and some old love; and a previous Live Music Friday, showcasing Alex Dezen and Angela Dezen performing live at the Hotel Cafe. And finally, there is of course this post, which features a live version of the song, “Tonight and Forever”.
The second reason is that, during my week off from posting, I returned to my roots somewhat, in order to recharge my batteries. This included copious amounts of Ryan Adams listening, and… you guessed it… Alex Dezen and The Damnwells.
The third reason? It’s, quite frankly, a freakishly beautiful set, featuring both Alex and Dave Chernis, with Dave playing some of the most atmospheric lap steel that I’ve ever heard from him. There’s a bit of nostalgia for me there as well, as in recent times, there have been questions about who exactly The Damnwells are. Whereas it used to have all the band members listed on the group’s Myspace as permanent members, eagle-eyed fans noticed that earlier this year the band’s members section changed to “Alex Dezen – vocal/guitar… often with…“. And going by Alex’s myspace blog, it seems to be that their much rumoured new release might be more of a solo project. As he wrote:
“Back to the record. People have been asking, “Is this a Damnwells record or an Alex solo record?” The answer is: I’m not sure. The Damnwells has always been about my songs with extremely talented musicians and producers collaborating. The personnel have changed, but the essence—one of this week’s vocabulary words for the 7th graders I teach—remains the same. That was always the idea Ted and I had for this band, that it would be a kind of collective, a collaborative vehicle for artists and friends. Dave, Ted, and Steve were the in the shit with me for 7 years. Now they’ve got other things going on, more important things. Are we still friends? Some of us. Will we ever play together again? Does the pope wear a funny hat? Even if some of us aren’t in communication right now, I know we wish we were. So are the Damnwells finished? I think I just answered that question. If you’re still unsure, come down to the Double-Decker fest in Oxford, Mississippi on the 26th, or the Workplay Theater in Birmingham, Alabama on the 27th and see for yourself. Just remember to bring some earplugs and a broken heart. On the stage for this limited engagement will be Ole Dick Dick, Ratty, Jay, and myself. There are some plans in the works for more shows this summer, though who knows if that will happen.”
And really, a large part of my love for this set is that it features both Alex and Dave. Don’t get me wrong; I know that The Damnwells is more than just certain members. As Alex has always said, The Damnwells is more of a collective. But, to me… I’ll always look at the musical connection that Alex and Dave have with much fondness, regardless of whether they play together again or not.
Alex Dezen in 2000, before forming The Damnwells (image credit: Heather Conley)
Apart from questions about the band line-up, if we add onto that the fact that Alex has another dream – writing – and it becomes clear that he has a lot going on in his life right now. Back in the above post, he wrote:
“Trekking back in time now just to confuse you, while in Oxford I got a phone call from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. I had driven myself crazy for the past six months applying to grad schools for fiction writing. I took the GRE, filled out 15 applications, and worked day and night polishing my writing samples. A couple nervous breakdowns later, it was all done, all applications were submitted, albeit a few with missing transcripts.
“We’re gonna be accepting you to the program,” Connie Brothers said, “and you left the box that indicates your preference for assistantship blank. I need to fill it in so you’ll be considered for funding.”
After assuring me this was not a practical joke, I thanked her and called my wife, who subsequently cried with equal parts joy and fear at the prospect of living in Iowa City for the next two years. It was one degree there a few weeks ago. Just one. So, if there are any Damnwells fans in Iowa City, drop me a line. I’ll be teaching Rhetoric (whatever the hell that is) to freshmen and writing the great American novel.”
All in all… Alex Dezen is – to put it mildly – a multifaceted person; husband, writer, teacher, musician. But that’s the way I like ’em.
And perhaps, for all of those Damnwells fans who are worried that this much feted new album will never come out, or worry about the future of the band itself, I might quote one more passage from Alex’s blog (really, this is just an excuse for me to post more of his writings.. I just love his way with words):
“It’s been a long time, he said. She didn’t answer but looked right back at him unflinching, even though she desperately wanted to turn away. Sorry I haven’t been in touch, he said. She was mad, but that was okay because it was better than being sad. It’s okay now, she said. There was so much more to say. It was tied in a knot somewhere inside her, refusing to unfurl. I’ve been making a record, he explained. There’s been some complications, as always, he said, laughing quietly. But it’s almost done. She laughed with him, pretending to understand. It sounds really great, he said. I think this is the best one I’ve ever made. That’s great, she said. When will I get to hear it? I’d love to play it for you. He was always saying that. Another promise unfulfilled. She heard another language, though—a language of broken promises to her. When can I hear it? she asked. Soon. It’s that good, huh? she said, turning her head to the side and smiling with licked lips.
Yeah, he said, and kissed her.”
The fact is, that in the last few years, Alex Dezen has become one of my favourite artists. Without a doubt. And this set on World Cafe Live perfectly showcases that. Alex’s achingly beautiful way with words, his tales of love and heartbreak… and hope; and his voice that completely sucks you in. Add in the perfect complements of Dave Chernis, and you’re in for one of my favourite sets of The Damnwells.
Anyway, I’ve jabbered on enough about the band. If you’ve stuck with me this long, then you really deserve this set. So let’s just get to the show, shall we?
Listen. Love. Support.
Alex Dezen and Dave Chernis of The Damnwells, live on World Cafe Live, 22 November, 2005
Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a large collection of live shows of my favourite artists… thank god for all those tapers out there who share their wealth with those of us who can’t make it to the show! When I was living in South Africa, those tapers pretty much managed to get through the many winters when large acts simply wouldn’t visit our shores. So I thought it was time that I shared the wealth. And that leads us to this, the inaugeral “Live Music Friday“. When time allows, Friday posts here will become a regular live music post. Now, I’m not going to lie… the likes of Ryan Adams, Howie Day and Bob Schneider will probably be popping up more than once in this series of posts. But for today, I thought we’d start with…
Alex & Angela Dezen at the Hotel Cafe, 2007
Alex Dezen of The Damnwells & Angela Dezen.
It’s official. Following Damnwells posts here and here, I’m obsessed. And I’m ok with that. The music of The Damnwells really is that rare breed, where I find that — even years after initially hearing them — my love of their music hasn’t waned in the slightest. And that’s a rare form of staying power. There are quite a few live recordings of Alex and The Damnwells around, and some with better sound quality than this one. But this is possibly my favourite, simply because of the dynamic that Alex Dezen shares with his wife, Angela… who is not only an actress, but an amazing singer. Side note – how jealous can one guy make me? There is a real tenderness in these songs that simply hits you like a steam-train.
I stumbled across a recent video that they posted on Youtube, of them performing the song, “Like It Is”, in front of a glowing Christmas tree, where that exact tenderness is so immediately apparent…
Alex and Angela Dezen performing “Like It Is” live.
From the moment Alex opens his voice in that video, my heart absolutely breaks. And when Angela comes in? Man… I know this is an awful thing for a music blogger to write, but I simply don’t have words for it. It awakens a yearning in me that I never knew existed.
And that’s how it is with this live show. Alex Dezen, with Angela, creates beauty. If nothing else, make sure you listen to their version of “Bastard of Midnight“. If it doesn’t stop you in your tracks, then I’m not sure we have much more to talk about.
Anyway… here’s the set-list. I’ve included individual files below, and then a handy .zip of the entire show below that.
Alex and Angela Dezen Live at the Hotel Cafe, 14 October 2007
Those who have read this blog for a while might have noticed subtle hints of my slightobsession with the band, “The Damnwells“. And when lead singer Alex Dezen dropped a new song on their myspace page, it became clear to me that yet another post was needed. But before we get to the new tune (yes, it’s down at the bottom, along with some others), some background.
It’s hard to describe how much the music of The Damnwells excites me. It’s much like the first time I heard Dispatch, or Ryan Adams, or Ben Harper… and that’s no small compliment from me. There’s a strong alt.country vibe to their stuff (not surprising, considering drummer Steven Terry was a member of the oh-so-missed Whiskeytown), but it also hearkens back – for me, at least – to the times of the Gin Blossoms. And there’s just something about Alex Dezen’s voice and lyrics; it’s like he knows where you’re coming from, and meets up with you on the journey.
The Damnwells (2006) Photo by Heather Conley
I’ve previously pointed you towards the “Golden Days” trailer, but I’m including it here again. It’s a documentary that chronicles the band’s rise to the brink of stardom, and then how it was all taken away from them… after all, The Damnwells have played with The Fray many times, but while The Fray have been catapaulted into the public eye, The Damnwells still remain largely unknown (in terms of mainstream acceptance, anyway). As the film release says:
“In 2001, a photo assistant named Alex Dezen asked a couple friends to record a few songs with him. Shortly thereafter they would form the Brooklyn based rock band THE DAMNWELLS. Two years later they had toured the country, opened for rock legends, and had a song featured in a major motion picture. By 2004, they had signed a major record deal with EPIC Records (Sony/BMG).
In March of 2005, THE DAMNWELLS went into the studio to record their first professional album. For six months, THE DAMNWELLS immersed themselves in preproduction, recording, and mixing. But as months passed, their release date was moved further and further away. In January of 2006, lead singer Alex Dezen received a call they never expected. The band was being released from their contract and the fate of the album was unknown. For the moment, it would sit on a shelf at EPIC Records and collect dust.”
Watch the trailer, and tell me it doesn’t excite you.
Word from Chris (Suchorsky, the film’s director), is that the DVD should be made available in the US by Spring. And I’m freaking out. Up until now, I’ve only seen segments of the film, but not the whole thing.
More reason to freak out, is that Alex has written on the band’s blog that they should back in studio to record a follow up to the 2006 release, “Air Stereo“, in February. As he’s said:
“Really, when you consider all the pressure and nonsense—both existential and metaphoric—we always had to deal with every time we went into the studio, this will be the first Damnwells record we will ever be able to just make. ‘No pressure,’ Paul, our A&R guy at Rounder says. ‘Make the record you want to make.’ What a crazy idea! Not like we were ever making anyone else’s records, but there was always compromise.
Where art and commerce meet, there has to be. Your mixed-medium, six foot canvas doesn’t fit in the six by three inch display case at Wal-Mart, and no amount of dieting or exercise is ever gonna fit your square peg in that round hole. Compromise is a part of life—at least the kind that includes a roof over your head and food on the table. So now that we’re supposed to make this record, the one we want to make, without the pressure and nonsense, I think I may be feeling a little Stockholm syndrome coming on. How the hell am I supposed to do that?
Guess we’ll find out.”
The guy just has this amazing way with words, and if there was one person I could sit down and have a beer with, Alex Dezen would definitely be one of my frontrunners.
Anyway, on to the tunes below.
Alex Dezen before forming The Damnwells (2000) Photo by Heather Conley
The first track is the new release on their myspace page, entitled “Down With The Ship“. Dezen has this talent of crafting these incredibly powerful songs, accompanied simply by his acoustic guitar and pure heart (as anyone who has heard his “Live Performance at the Hotel Cafe 10/14/07” can attest to. It’s floating around the net, so take a look for it. If you’re really struggling, drop me a line, as I have the whole show in a zip file). This song is no different. The guy’s voice absolutely wrecks me.
The Damnwells on tour (2006) Photo by Heather Conley
I’ve included some of their other singles below, simply because you should be listening to this. The first is a cracker of a tune (and the first of theirs I heard actually), from their 2003 release, “Bastards of the Beat“, called “Kiss Catastrophe“. It’s undeniably catchy. Try not to get into it. I dare ya.
The next track is their tune, “I Am A Leaver“. This is off their last album, “Air Stereo”, and is probably the song that has garnered The Damnwells the most mainstream attention. Again… if you don’t find yourself singing along with the chorus, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
The final track is the theme song for the “Golden Days” trailer, Golden Days. It’s a comforting tune, with wonderful backing vocals and lyrics like: “I can’t hear much but the melody coming from you / Baby please don’t rush, keep the tempo slow and blue, let me hear the words you say / Let’s go and get tangled in chains of golden days.”