UTG INTERVIEW: The Damnwells Discuss First New Record With Original Lineup Since 2006

the damnwells

For the first time in about eight years, Brooklyn-based indie rock outfit The Damnwells are once again comprised of the original members that it consisted of during its inception in 2001. The four-piece’s brand new self-titled record, which is due out next week, epitomizes the high points of all the efforts poured into this much-anticipated reunion. UTG was fortunate to be able to speak with lead vocalist Alex Dezen about the band, the new record, and his songwriting.

To be able to bring The Damnwells to life this year, the band started a successful and fully funded PledgeMusic campaign to begin recording their fifth LP. On it, they share: “100 years ago, in a tiny Manhattan Mini Storage space on the corner of Varick and Vandam in lower Manhattan, four grown-ass men decided to do something incredibly stupid: start a band. Actually, it was 13 years ago, and I wasn’t that stupid because we had some amazing times playing and traveling together.

We made a lot of friends, a few enemies (especially on I-80), and hopefully broke more hearts than got our own ones broken. By 2007, with no real label support, and the economics of being grown-ass man weighing down on us, we decided to fracture the core of our brotherhood and rebuild without Steven Terry and David Chernis. It was hard, nothing short of impossible, but Ted and I soldered on, knowing in our hearts that what we were, an unsinkable, glorious band of itinerant miscreants, would never be forgotten. Six years, two LPs, and numerous fantastic line-ups and tours later, we four, the original Bastards of the Beat, have decided to ride again.”

UTG: Hey, Alex! Thanks so much for taking time to chat with us. We could start with a quick introduction. Can you introduce The Damnwells to those who may not have heard about you before? What could your sound be associated with most?

Alex Dezen: Rock and roll, folk and soul. Sometimes loud. Sometimes quiet. Never very fast. A few jokes.

UTG: Who is the band comprised of?

AD: David Chernis (guitar, lap steel), Alex Dezen (guitars, piano, vocals), Ted Hudson (bass), Steven Terry (drums, percussion, vocals).

UTG: It seems a lot are still pretty hazy on 2008. Can you talk about what led you to the decision of going separate ways with the other members?

AD: Exhaustion. Frustration. Being on the road for 10+ years.

UTG: Fast forward to the beginning of this recording cycle, is there anything in particular that sparked the reunion?

AD: We missed playing together! We had some years apart, and we felt that now was a good time to get back in the ring. Or a band of brothers. It was only a matter of time before we started playing together again.

UTG: Did that reunion have anything to do with the fact that this new record is self-titled?

AD: Probably. Truth is we’re just out of record titles.

thedamnwells

UTG: On The Damnwells, what would say sets it apart the most among all your previous records? Did making music feel any different this time around?

AD: I don’t really know how to answer those questions, probably because I’m not a very good salesman. I’ve been making records with The Damnwells for 15 years. The only thing that I can think that sets them apart is time.

UTG: What was the most memorable part of making the record?

AD: The hang! We hadn’t all hung out for so long, it felt really nice to play and laugh together, which is something we were always pretty good at.

UTG: Is there a difference in your mindset when writing for this record and writing for your solo material? Like, is there an “on/off” switch for when you are solo or working on material with the whole band?

AD: For sure. When I’m writing songs that feel more like The Damnwells, I immediately hear Steve’s backbeat, Dave’s guitar, and Ted’s bass in my head. I give them room in the composition to develop and create their parts. When most Damnwells songs leave the cutting room, they are more skeletal than my solo stuff. Just frames of songs, really. It’s important that I keep my hands off the demos as much as possible when they’re intended for the band. If I fuck around with them too much, they turn into solo songs. Of course, some solo songs just come out that way: me doing everything from inception. But even some of those become Damnwells songs, too.

UTG: Your writing is clever and comes off very natural and organic. Do you usually have full concepts laid out when you write or do you write as things come to you?

Both. Sometimes I’ll come up with a song title and write a song around it. Sometimes I’ll just start writing and it comes together. Sometimes I’ll start writing and nothing happens! Having a title can sometimes make it easier. At least then you have a target to throw shit at. Sometimes songs appear in the middle of writing them, too. That’s always exciting. Being a passenger is much easier.

UTG: Which tracks on this record do you guys think will mean the most to the band in a few years?

AD: Hmm, good question. I have no idea. Once we get out on the road and start playing the songs, will know much better which songs will stick with us.

UTG: To end, if there was anyone in the entire world (and I mean anyone) who you’d like to have listen to your record, who would it be and how would you introduce the record to them?

AD: Shit. I don’t know. Maybe Tom Petty? Why not. Maybe he could lend me a guitar and smoke Steve up.

Written and conducted by Dana Reandelar
‘The Damnwells’ is officially out on April 14. You can pre-order a copy over at iTunes today.

Dana Reandelar

If not hunched over her desk writing about music, Dana can be found binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls or condensing long rants to 140 characters. She also writes for Idobi Radio, and is an Off The Record podcast contributor.
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