It’s an age-old story: young-but-seasoned musicians flop in and out of bands hoping for one to stick, ’til eventually they discover what was right in front of them the whole time and set out afresh for stardom. Such is the tale behind Dead Country, the Silver Lake-based, S.B.-bred four-piece that is fast becoming California’s next big buzz band. Thanks to a little help from the folks at L.A.’s modern rock monolith KROQ, the group’s first single, “Euro Thrash,” has become somewhat of a breakout hit, complete with gritty guitars, punching drum work, and the kind of anthemic lyrics that beg to be blasted and screamed along to.
Without so much as a full-length album (they released their eponymous EP earlier this year), Dead Country has already toured with post-hardcore heavyweights like Far and Sunny Day Real Estate, scored some noteworthy blog love, and recorded in L.A.’s famed 606 Studios (otherwise known as the home base of the Foo Fighters). Still, it’s their Saturday-evening stint at our own Santa Barbara Bowl that has these four bubbling with anticipation.
“We were in Toledo, Ohio, on tour, and our manager called and was like, ‘Okay guys. I want to tell you something,” recalled lead singer Nick Long over coffee just last month.
The band, made up of former Santa Barbara High-ers Johnny Black (guitars) and Long (guitars, vocals), UCSB alum Patrick Solem (bass), and recent recruit Jarrod Alexander (drums), may be less than two years old, but the camaraderie among its members feels long-established. Their laid-back vibe and mutual respect for one another stems from a long collective history of instrument wielding. Black was once the guitarist for Santa Barbara band Them Terribles. Long has been playing in bands since he was 11. Solem recently left Easy Chief, and played in both Murderland and Silent Meow. And Alexander, a Berklee College of Music grad, has drummed with Death By Stereo, The Suicide File, and The Vandals, among many others. Despite their individual histories, the members of Dead Country don’t come off the least bit jaded by the biz. On the contrary, they each seem as invested as ever in pursuing their music on their terms.
“There’s no way to know what’s going to happen, but I feel like this is my best shot so far,” said Solem. “The music and this group of people is the best that I’ve been involved with.”
“I think I’ve learned to have conviction in the decisions that you make and to not always take every single opportunity that comes your way,” added Black. “It sounds really cheesy, but staying true to yourself and not making bad compromises here and there is always important, because it always comes back to you in the end.”
While much of the band’s energy is now invested in recording (the new album is slated for completion this summer), it is Dead Country’s live show that’s currently creating all the buzz. Just prior to our sit down, the guys had returned from a whirlwind tour of the East Coast with The Bronx. And right after that they were off on a series of West Coast dates with the newly reunited Far.
“We’re excited to record. We’re ready to just get this thing done,” said Solem. “That was the thing; when we were out with The Bronx, it was a great tour, but toward the end of it we were just realizing that as much as we want to be out on the road as much as possible, we needed to get home and finish a full-length. Touring is awesome, but we want to do it with a record.”
Record or no, the time on the road has undoubtedly bonded these four in a way that even they seem surprised by. “From my past experiences, I’ve learned to appreciate a really good dynamic with people,” said Black. “We all get along really well. We were just out for a month together, and we had no real issues or hiccups along the way. That definitely has a large value in terms of the longevity of the project.”
And for a bunch of guys who seem so driven to make a career out of music, it begs the question: Just how important is it to be friends with your bandmates?
“You hear about huge bands, like The Killers, who supposedly all have their own buses and don’t get along,” noted Long. “And that sucks on any level, but if you’re at the point where you can have your own bus and not have to deal with each other, then it’s feasible to have a life like that. But I think, at the point that we’re at, we’re all in a relationship with each other. That’s what you have to do when you’re living together in a van.” They all nod in unison. “It’s like four girlfriends,” laughed Solem.
On Saturday, the guys make their musical return to Santa Barbara, playing their first home-turf show since last October’s New Noise showcase with the Mad Caddies. They’re also proud to be representing the rock on a Summer Round-Up bill that’s heavy on the reggae. When asked to describe their sound to Dead Country newbies, the guys collectively hesitate, then agree: “It’s rock music. I don’t think there’s any big fancy title it really needs.”
Dead Country play the 2010 KJEE Summer Round-Up at the S.B. Bowl this Saturday, June 12, at 3 p.m. alongside Sublime, Iration, and Cage the Elephant. For tickets and info, call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.