The Damnwells

11 Oct

“Just music for music sake.”

The Damnwells are an indie rock band originally from Brooklyn, New York. They have released three full-length albums since forming in 2001 and are in the process of recording their latest. Core members of the band are Alex Dezen (lead vocals) and Ted Hudson (bass guitar), but they often have other members on tour with them.  The first time I heard this band, my ears fell in love. The Damnwells are one of those bands that only come around every few years and you can never get their songs out of your head. I had the privilege of interviewing one of my favorite musicians, Alex Dezen, and found out a few interesting things about the band, their albums, and a great charity they are collaborating with.

Q. The Damnwells formed in 2001 and since then have released three full-length albums. Out of Bastards of the Beat, Air Stereo, and One Last Century, what has been your personal favorite?

A. That’s a hard question to answer. They all have different things about them that make them “favorites.” Bastards of the Beat was this very raw and unaffected record made out of the dust and slag of our twenties. Air Stereo was our big budget record. Making that record was like going to work everyday at the greatest job on earth. We sat around together in this beautiful studio in Brooklyn for weeks at a time exploring ideas, tracking parts. It was a really big and often tedious endeavor, but I thought the result was second to none. One Last Century is probably the most important record we’ll ever make. That one was a life raft. Steve and Dave had left the band. Ted was working in New York. I was bumming around in LA. The band was pretty much going to break up. Then this friend of mine and my wife suggested I go make a record. No expectations. No label people knocking on the door. Just music for music sake. That record kept the band on life support.

Q. You and Ted Hudson are the core members of the band. If you could pick any artist to fill in at one of your live shows, who would be it and why?

A. I would pick all the amazing people we’ve had the privilege to play with over the years.

Q. You guys decided to release “One Last Century” as a free download from Paste Magazine, which not a lot of artists would ever do. What was your reasoning behind doing this?

A. I didn’t want to have to deal with the whole label world of music at that time. I was all set to go to grad school. I just wanted to give the fans something directly from the band. Really, we weren’t sure if there were any Damnwells fans out there anymore. We didn’t think it would be as big of a deal as it was.

Q. For your next record, you guys decided to start a pledge site to raise funds for the record along with donating to The Global Fund – United Against Malaria. So far, you have raised over $34,000. Has it been a surprise seeing your fans step up and pledge over $1,000 to have you play a show at their house?

A. Pleasantly surprising. Damnwells fans are hardcore. We though we might raise a few grand. Never would we have thought we’d raise as much as we
have. If you keep your expectations low, you’ll always be rewarded.

Q. One of the offers on the pledge site is to have The Damnwells record a song that is one of their fans have written. Have there been any pledges for this particular one?

A. No. It’s a rip off.

Q. The Damnwells have opened for big names such as The Dixie Chicks, Augustana, and The Fray. What has been one of your most memorable shows since forming in 2001?

A. Playing arenas with the Dixie Chicks was pretty cool. I look back most fondly at the tours where we made great friends and got to see great bands. So many. Old 97s, Twilight Singers, The Fray. Yeah. Good times.

Q. Golden Days is my favorite song of yours. What songs get the most response at shows?

A. That one is always a crowd pleaser. Soundtrack from OLC is a sing-along these days.

Q. On a few of your YouTube videos, your wife Angela Dezen is seen singing with you. A lot of people have said that you and Angela remind them of the Paul and Linda McCartney duo. How does this comparison make you feel?

A. Hmm. I’ve never heard that comparison before, but I’ll take it.

Q. The Damnwells were signed to major record label, Epic Records, which you released Bastards of the Beat on. Three years later, you released Air Stereo, but were no longer with Epic Records. Do you feel that The Damnwells are better off being an underground band?

A. Underground band? I think we’re better off doing what we do without someone telling us to make it sound like something we’re not. I don’t think that means we’re an underground band. It’s not like we’re doing anything terribly subversive that keeps us from getting played on Top 40. It’s hard to get your music out there to people. As listeners, we’ve become passive. There’s so much shit coming at you 24/7. How could anyone have time to fish through it all to find something they like?

Q. Final question. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would
it be and why?

A. Good question. Probably Louisville from Air Stereo. I’ve always really liked that song, probably because it’s totally pulled from real life. (We’d been on tour for months, finally ready to go home, when we got this call from our label that we have to drive 300 miles out of the way to play at this radio convention. Thus: all I wanted was going home, all they gave me was Louisville.)

Speaking of “Louisville”, here is the song off of their album, “Air Stereo.”

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