My co-blogger Larry and I go way back with this band. We saw The Damnwells in 2004 just after they released their first full length album Bastards of the Beat. We were both immediately enthralled with them. For days we talked about how great they were and what an astonishing show we had witnessed. Alex Dezen’s songwriting was the best we had heard in a long time and the passion he brought to his songs with his vocal quality was inspiring. I have just had the privilege of working the merch table on a few dates for them and I want to assure you that the songwriting and passion continue despite personnel changes and having been knocked around a bit. It is a tribute to Alex for all he has gone through all and yet continues to write deeply personal and inspiring music. I still think he is one of the best songwriters out there, period.
The story of the Damnwells is one that could be made for a movie. Oh wait, it was!! Check out the amazing documentary titled Golden Days. It is one of the best movies about the rise and difficulties of a new band being signed to a major label. The rise shows this band being so committed to making music, that they recorded their first EP in 2002 in a Manhattan Mini Storage unit. It created a lot of buzz so they then recorded, on their own, their first full length Bastards of the Beat. Before they could put it out themselves, they were signed to Epic Records on the strength of the new songs they had laid down. The short story is it did well and Epic asked them to record a new album which became Air Stereo. The date of releasing the new album was continuously pushed back because the label wanted to give its full attention to two new bands The Fray and Augustana that they had also just signed and felt more commitment to. After a long delay they were dropped from the label and released the album with the help of Rounder Records, who then also later dropped them. The original Damnwells broke up and went their separate ways and Alex went back to the prestigious University of Iowa Writing Program to get his Masters degree.
You would think that all of this would have killed the band. Alex and the original bass player Ted Hudson recorded (with others) the new album that was recently released titled No One Listens to the Band Anymore. The album definitely refers to their dealings with a major label. It speaks to the perseverance of Alex in that these may be the best Damnwells songs yet. To make sure he could put his music out independently, Alex raised the money for the new album through his fans with the group Pledgemusic. This organization claims on their web site to: involve your fans-keep your rights-fund your music and raise money for charity. It is truly wonderful to hear these personal new songs. Please enjoy video of the song "Werewolves" from the new album. Great lyrics, voice, and tune. This should make you a fan.
In the realm of being a small world, the current touring edition of The Damnwells is Harper Blynn as Alex’s Damnwells. They open the show with their own Harper Blynn songs and then come back as The Damnwells with Alex fronting the band. It is a great version of what has become The Damnwells musical collective. Alex continues to write songs for other artists including some major players in the business. Both Larry and I encourage you to pick up the brilliant new album. You won’t be sorry. It will show you the story of resolve and determination in the ability to get music out to the world because it is great, not to be determined by a record labels analysis of profit margins only. Music should be heard because it is amazing and The Damnwells produce incredible and meaningful music.
Larry adds... As Fletcher mentioned I am also a huge fan of the Damnwells. Last October I caught an amazing live show that Alex put on at Cactus Records in Houston. Alex kindly gave me permission to film the show. Here is Alex and his sister performing "Golden Days".
Update: One of my favorite bands Portugal the Man has just released an excellent new album titled In the Mountain In the Cloud. They have been touring it and will continue to tour this Fall. It is a very strong album from this band. Pick it up!!!