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The lost art of rock n' roll
The Dead Records
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Fort Wayne by way of North Manchester indie rock band The Dead Records play music that owes a debt to both 90s alternative and classic punk rock. There really isn't a label that would describe them to the fullest. They aren't afraid to write an all out rocker, a country-tinged strummer, or a down tempo ballad number. They write those kinds of songs that seem instantly familiar at first, yet have something unique about them you can't put your finger on. They have put out two albums over the last three years, starting with 2010s Proud. An album full of youthful vigor and drenched in sweat and beer.
Then in November of 2012 the band released Rabbitsfoot, a decidedly different turn. It showed a band that had grown not only as musicians, but as songwriters. More nuanced and focused, it turned out to be yet another stellar local release that this guy(yeah, me..the guy writing) never got to hear until recently. I recently got a chance to talk to drummer Sean Richardson about the band and their music.
"Chad Briner, Aaron Taylor and myself all went to North Manchester High School", says Richardson when I ask him about how the band came to be. "They were three years above me and played in a punk rock band called Punk Department. After high school Chad moved to Chicago for about 5 years and Aaron and I started playing music together in a band called The Hanging Eight. That went on for maybe a year while I was a senior in high school. When I graduated I moved to Fort Wayne to start going to school at IPFW. He(Aaron) moved up here with me and we lived in the same house for awhile while writing songs in what would become The Dead Records first album.
We booked our first show locally at The Brass Rail in 2009 and we didn't have a bass player. I was in Michigan working at a camp and I told Aaron I had booked the show and that we should probably get a bass player to play it with us. Will Magley was a friend of mine from another high school. He played in a couple different bands and our bands would play together every now and then. I knew he had moved up to Fort Wayne and asked him to play bass with us for the show. After he played we went ahead and made him official and we were a three piece for probably a year and a half. Through that time Aaron had kept in contact with Chad and we were able to lure him to Fort Wayne to play with us, because we REALLY needed another guitar player. And that made The Dead Records what we are today except for the rotating bass player we have had, which has not been intentional by any means. We have had about 4 different people play with us before James (Holm), who is playing with us currently and seems like he will be a permanent fixture."
With a name like The Dead Records, the sound could vary significantly. How would the band describe their sound? "Whenever people ask me who we sound like I don't really know what to say. I am not claiming that we have a completely original sound, but when we start writing songs we never say, ‘lets make this song sound like this.’ However, we have tons of influences all over the board. The 90's rock thing is just natural because for Aaron and I the 90's produced some of our favorite songs. But I love new music. I absolutely love Andy Hall and The Manchester Orchestra. That guy is writing some fantastic things. I know that Aaron does like country music and 'Lincoln'(off 2012s Rabbitsfoot) was kind of our attempt to try something like that out. Actually a lot of my ideas and influence come from bands that we play with on the road. We played a show in Lexington, KY with this alternative country band who I can not remember the name of right now. I remember after we got home from that tour we were messing around with the chord progressions in ‘Lincoln.’ I stopped everyone and asked if they remembered that band we played with in Lexington and everyone did and we kind of used that as an influence to write that song. I know that I have trailed on here so I will answer the question. I describe our sound as aggressive indie rock and roll. I can’t speak for everyone but recently my influences have been coming from bands like Cold War Kids, Manchester Orchestra and Death Cab For Cutie (not in the sense of the music they play, but more in the mood they are able to put you in with the music they play)."
I asked Sean if they were influenced at all by punk rock. "We all grew up listening to bands like NOFX and Propaghandhi. As I mentioned before Chad and Aaron's band, Punk Department, was a straight forward punk rock and roll band, so those roots are in us for sure."
There's a definite shift in the songwriting from 2010 to 2012. I asked Sean if that shift to more nuanced songwriting was intentional or just a natural progression. " I am glad that you were able to pick up on that. This was something that was kind of intentional but also very natural. We just wanted to write better, more musical songs. I love ‘Proud’ I think that we got a great response from that album and I am still shocked to see how many people sing those songs in town as well as out of town. However, when we started writing the new songs Chad had a way bigger part in the writing process. "Proud" was pretty much written as a three piece and then Chad joined and made the songs better. Since Chad has joined him and I have really connected on a song writing level. He understands what I am saying and I understand what he is saying. Rarely do any of us disagree when writing songs. I am just constantly amazed at the parts Chad writes. A lot of this could stem from the fact that I wish I could play guitar(laughs), but really I just love the way he plays and the notes he puts together. But we did want to write a better album and at that point "better" for us meant to maybe tone back the rock a little bit and explore parts that we had never explored before."
Rabbitsfoot is a great sounding record. Me being the nosey guy I am, I asked where they recorded it at and the process of songwriting with the band. "Rabbitsfoot was recorded in the basement of one of our friends houses in North Manchester. Writing new songs is approached pretty relaxed. We practice in a small bedroom, we drink beers and we figure out songs. They almost always start off with a short guitar riff and then it is pretty much free game as to what that riff becomes. Our philosophy towards writing songs is to not stress about every single thing that is played. Naturally I think songs will kind of write themselves if everyone is in the right mood and can feel where the song should go next. We usually just write wherever that feel is taking a song and then we may decide to record it if we think it is good enough. Recording is usually pretty stressful for us, but from what I have heard it is pretty stressful for everyone."
Where does The Dead Records fit into the Fort Wayne music scene? " I have no idea where we are in the scheme of things. Honestly until about a year ago I don't know if anyone really knew who we were locally. Our local draw and/or attraction has never really bothered me because we play out of town so often. I do like the music scene in Fort Wayne. When we started we didn't know anyone in the scene in Fort Wayne. We might as well have been from Wichita when we first started. We would bring people out to shows who we grew up with and they had never been to some of the Fort Wayne bars we were playing at. But everyone has been really nice and I think accepted us and the music we are playing, which is the most important part."
Where does The Dead Records see themselves in ten years? " If I could honestly answer this question it would save me lots of stressful conversations with band members, family members, girlfriends, etc. We want to be playing to huge crowds in 10 years. Every time I go to big shows and see bands who I know were driving around in mini-vans five or ten years ago and are now playing to huge crowds I get more and more determined. In ten years we want to be able to turn The Dead Records into a household name among people who care about music. We want to be in conversations with great bands. We want to be the reason why other people start playing music. We want to be able to support families by playing rock and roll music. We want to be able to make the people who were at some of our first shows and bought our first albums and threw beer all over us and sang just as loud as we were feel like they were invested into something that became bigger than what we could have imagined."
If Proud and Rabbitsfoot are any indication, I think these are doable goals.
Check The Dead Records out on March 23rd at O'Sullivans in Fort Wayne. And if you feel like hitting the road, you could follow the band on a month long tour in April that takes them to the East Coast, Florida, then back up to Indiana. For more info, go to thedeadrecords.com