Houston Calling

SXSW preview: The Damnwells

March 9th, 2010 · 3 Comments

A band that (mostly) survived the ups-and-downs of the major label music industry and continues to create quality music, The Damnwells thankfully hasn’t let the drama spoil its spirit. In 2009, the band asked its fans to help out on PledgeMusic to support the recording of its new record, and to date has raised more than $30,000. The band’s Golden Days documentary was also finally released last year, which you can purchase from IndiePix Films.

Here’s the trailer:

Lead Damnwell Alex Dezen recently answered some questions for Houston Calling.

Houston Calling: You’re in the process of recording a new album–are you excited about the project? How are the new songs coming along?

Alex Dezen: Every time I make a record, I feel like all the records I made before are rendered irrelevant. We’re evolving in really exciting ways, as all bands should. So I’m pumped about this record. It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to really dig in and think about arrangements, parts, lyrics, etc. Not that we weren’t thinking about those things before, but there was always this anxiety, this pressure, either from a record label breathing down our necks, time constraints, or money worries. Thanks to our generous fans, we’ve been able to raise enough money via Pledge Music to lock ourselves away from the world for a few days at a time and chase down ideas. It’s going to be the best Damnwells record yet, by far.

HC: You went a different route than normal for getting the budget for this album, soliciting pledges via the web from fans, and offering house parties, signed, CDs, etc. in exchange. How did the idea for that come about? Were you surprised at the response you received? At last count, I saw more than $30K has been pledged…

AD: We’re still totally shocked we were able to raise that much money. It’s incredible. Its an affirmation. I think this is really the future of music, which is ironic, considering the patron system, where people would pay an artist to create a painting or sculpture or a piece of music in advance, is how it used to work. I think that as a culture we’re gonna find that, in the end, with all the advances in technology, etc., we’re yearning for each other, for a human interaction, more than ever. And we need art. I do, anyway. Pledge Music and other direct to fan organizations, which enable the artist to connect directly to fans without the middle man, will win out over the shove-it-down-your-throat-play-the-song-on-every-radio-station-24hrs-a-day-7-days-a-week model in the end. That kind of strong-arm saturation would make me even hate Dylan. Art just can’t survive when it gets turned in to sports car.

HC: When do you expect the album to be released?

AD: Soonish.

HC: You’re playing in Austin during SXSW again this year–I think I saw you guys two or three times in one day last year. Will you be doing more than one show?

AD: So far we just have the one show at the Paradise Cafe on the Thursday the 18th. We’re looking for more shows, but we’re really just looking to have fun. We’re not going down there to find a label or a manager or any of that stuff. We’re just going to contribute to all that wonderful noise.

HC: What’s your favorite thing about playing during SXSW? Your least favorite thing?

AD: Favorite: Seeing bands that I love. Least favorite: Paying ten dollars for a bottle of water.

HC: The Golden Days documentary was finally released on DVD late last year. Looking back at that time, do you have any regrets about how it all played out with the major label? Some bands never get that far…

AD: I have no regrets. How could I? To say that “some bands never get that far” would infer that we were trying to reach some metaphysical promise, that there was something we were trying to reach. That’s the wrong way to thing about it, and when bands turn making art into a sport, they’ve already lost. We were just trying to make music and play it for people. The distance you travel just playing the chords, making music with other people, either in your basement on in an arena, is good enough for me. The journey is the victory. Someone much smarter than me said that once, and much more eloquently.

The documentary is the greatest gift anyone could have given me from that whole experience. It’s proof. [Filmmaker] Chris Suchorsky ensured my children will be able to see how cool or lame I am. I won’t have to try to convince them.

HC: I read once where you said you’ll always be making music, whether with a band or not (or something to that effect). Do you still feel this way? Obviously, you’re in school, married, and life goes on. Do you see yourself still releasing albums in 10 years? Why or why not?

AD: I’ll always be making music. That’s never gonna change. I don’t know any better.

HC: If you could perform on stage with any musician from the past 50 years, who would it be and why?

AD: I’ve had the great pleasure of being able to perform with such incredible people, I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.

HC: Are there any bands in particular you’re looking forward to seeing during SXSW this year?

AD: I haven’t even looked at the line-up, and I haven’t turned on a radio in five years. I think Cheap Trick is playing. We used to open for them. That will be a great show. Rick Nielsen’s amps are filled with lights. That’s awesome.

HC: Finally, what’s the current line-up of the band (or is it a rotating cast at this point)? Last time I saw you, Ted [Hudson, bassist] didn’t play–although I understand he’s recording with you for the album. Fellow Houstonian Matt Hammond was on drums, and your wife sang. Was it J on guitar? What can we expect at SXSW this year?

AD: J on guitar. No wife; she’s got her own shit going on. Sarab Singh on drums. Eric Quinlan on bass. Ted would have liked to go, but he has a real job.

Here’s a video of The Damnwells’ Alex Dezen playing an acoustic version of “Like It Is”:

Catch The Damnwells in Austin during SXSW on Thursday, 3.18.10, at The Paradise Cafe at 11pm.

Visit The Damnwells online at www.thedamnwells.com. Make a pledge to help support the recording of the band’s new album at www.pledgemusic.com.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings · SXSW

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeff // Mar 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I discovered the Damnwells a few years ago and really like their stuff. Ironically, I’ll be posting a story on the Chron blog tomorrow including an interview with the people from Pledge Music, so you can bet I’ll be linking to this story. :)

  • 2 David A. Cobb // Mar 9, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks Jeff.

  • 3 SXSW preview: The Damnwells // Mar 15, 2011 at 11:37 am

    [...] the interview with Dezen for Houston Calling‘s 2010 SXSW [...]

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