Officially a band for just under two years (and a significant part of that time was spent finishing school up in Greeley), Denver’s The Don’ts and Be Carefuls are quickly racking up a live history that many local bands would die for. In that short time, they’ve shared the stage with bands like Hot IQs, Tapes ‘N Tapes, Mumiy Troll and HEALTH, to name a few, and they’re already throwing an EP Release party Friday night, December 4, at Meadowlark.
Not to say they sound alike – well, maybe a little (I wouldn’t be surprised to find that their sheet music shared similar coffee stains) – but Hot IQs corpse has barely quit steaming, and with The DBCs, Denver’s already faced with a suitor more than capable of helping us to move out of mourning, and back on to the dance floor. This band’s catchy thrash-while-you-stomp-and-giggle style is bound to prick up more than a few dozen ears after Friday night, and should be well on its way into the local scene’s psyche by the time the weekend’s over.
The new EP titled “Risk Assessment” – the band’s first official release – is a six-song block of accessible yet complex danceable plastique with a grit reminiscent of Pixies from “Come On Pilgrim” (there are times you can’t help but imagine a young Steve Albini in the studio, showing guitarist Casey Banker JUST the RIGHT way to pound a fist on the guitar neck to get JUST the right reverb screech). It’s also full of some very missed melodic, punky guitar virtuosity a la Television, and gives a definitive nod to the Elephant Six Collective, particularly Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel.
This aspect of DBC’s sound isn’t by chance, as drummer Luke Hunter James-Erickson explained during a recent interview with DenverThread:
“Despite the fact there are so many other amazing bands in the collective, when you talk E6, you can’t help but think of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Areoplane Over the Sea.” We all love that record, so there’s no doubt that its sound has, if even slightly, seeped into our sound. We don’t, however, draw direct and specific influence from that or other E6 records, despite the admiration we hold for bands like Dressy Bessy and Of Montreal. ”
The Pixies influence also comes as very secondary, says James-Erickson: “Initially we were really interested in the infectious nature of bands like LCD Soundsystem, Death From Above 1979, and the Rapture, but also really interested in the compositions brought forth by bands like Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown.”
Ultimately, the band’s sonic interest is in pure, energetic, danceable fun. “We want to play music that is crazy fun, but also has some substance to it. We want people to have so much fun they shake where they stand,” said James-Erickson.
And that’s just about what happens after only a cursory listening to a few of the six tracks on “Risk Assessment.” A perfect example – and perhaps the highlight of the record – is “You’ve Been Warned,” and a more head-banging and waist-snapping pop piece of weighty treacle you’re not likely to find anywhere else. Casey Banker’s passionate “. . . whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-warrrrned!” pounds furiously with the precise weight of a doctor’s reflex mallet, directly on your own spine’s earthquake button, and the non-stop quiver spreads quickly over the entire body from there. Just try not to stop and wag your jaw along after your first listen, I dare you.
“Simple Miracles,” the record opener, starts off with a mini-feedback symphony, and builds into a mix of hardcore and indy distortion that recalls as much Duran Duran and Devo as MGMT. And talk about infectious. This beat is liable to cause seizures . . . .
I’ll stop here and save the rest of the surprise for you to get for yourself, at the show Friday night, or at Wax Trax or iTunes.
Besides James-Erickson on drums and Banker on lead vocals and guitar, the group includes Cody Witskin on bass and Tom Wallingford on keyboards, and DenverThread asked a few more questions in an email interview in anticipation of the show this weekend:
DenverThread: What’s the story behind the name? lovely and catchy, if grammatically quixotic . . .?
The Don’ts and Be Carefuls: “When Luke and Casey started the band in early 2008, they were looking for a name that would be both inviting and unique, but also very playful. Being a bit of a film buff, Luke suggested taking the street name for an old standards and practices code, a list known as “The Don’ts and Be Carefuls.” Casey liked the ring to it, so the name was set.”
“We want to play music that is crazy fun, but also has some substance to it. We want people to have so much fun they shake where they stand.”
– The Don’ts and Be Carefuls
DT: with The DBCs, Vitamins, The Outfit (with whom Baker also plays) & more all recently coming from Greeley, and sporting an essentially similar (though by no means alike) sound, how would you classify the scene up there? Is the reason you’re all moving to Denver proof that Greeley can’t, or doesn’t, support the locals as much? Or are there other reasons?
DBCs: “Our presence in Greeley was essentially happenstance. Greeley was just the place we all moved to and lived at for a time, due to school. Honestly, we never really felt completely at home calling ourselves a Greeley band before moving down to Denver, because we mostly played shows in Denver. We would play Greeley often enough, but we didn’t really have much of a market in Greeley, people weren’t really interested in the kind of music we were playing. The bands that do really well in that scene are reggae bands, modern rock bands, and metal bands, and, though we had a bit of a following, because of our sound we couldn’t really find a strong foothold among the community. That wasn’t for lack of support from one of the main venues up there though. Ely Corliss and Eric Riley of The Crew Presents were really supportive of our sound. They would book us as often as they could to play at the venues they run or for their music festivals, which we will always be thankful for. Despite their efforts though, we felt that a move to Denver would be best, so after Luke graduated the band officially moved down to Denver.”
DT: I’ve seen relations to Elephant Collective bands (Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel) in notes about your style. Any method to that? Just coincidence? Or is there/was there a similar song-trading “club” up in Greeley, maybe loosely based on the E6 Collective?
DBCs: “We’ve always wanted to be a part of a song-trading club/collective of some sort, being fans of the community atmosphere, but we were fairly singular up in Greeley, with only a few “friend bands” such as Lungs They Burn, Lil’ Slugger, and Ft. Collins’ Pep*Squad and now defunct Something Like Symmetry. Now that we’re in Denver, we’re definitely going to be looking to become a part of the community. Luckily we’ve already had a good start, befriending bands we love such as Josephine and the Mousepeople, 900 Ancestors, I Sank Molly Brown, the Kissing Party, and Alan Alda. We’re more “acquaintance bands” than “friend bands” with some, but the great thing is that everyone we play with is incredibly friendly, so it’s like we’ve always been around, having fun and playing shows. We really admire collectives like Hot Congress and the whole Rhinoceropolis crew, as well as the New Denver Folk kids. We’re just hoping to find our place.”
DT: I hear quite a bit of “Come On Pilgrim” Pixies in the EP – in timbre and vocal “ummph,” and a little “Surfer Rosa,” though you seem to have added a priority to dance beats & rythms – which I think makes a great, almost “This is the best remix EVER” feel to the EP. Kudos. What other influences could you throw in there?
DBCs: “Like with the E6 bands, there are just some things that you can help but be influenced by, and the Pixies are definitely one of those things for us. We love them, but don’t draw specifically from their sound. Initially we were really interested in the infectious nature of bands like LCD Soundsystem, Death From Above 1979, and The Rapture, but also really interested in the compositions brought forth by bands like Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown. Our goal is pretty simple: Serious Fun. We want to play music that is crazy fun, but also has some substance to it. We want people to have so much fun they shake where they stand.”
DT: How much did Bryan Feuchtinger help with the sound for the EP? I feel the relationship is strong – any rough spots? Or did Bryan swoop you off your feet and merely point you in the right direction? Or any of that?
DBCs: “Bryan was an asset from day one. Without his guidance and expertise our record would have been a very different thing indeed. Bryan was absolutely the best person to work with, even as things were dragging on. Starting in December of last year, we spent about 6 months off and on trying to get the record to sound just right, going in every other weekend or so, and Bryan really helped us realize what we were capable of, and want we wanted. We came in with the songs written, and Bryan helped us flesh them out. We’re just now releasing it because we finally got enough money together to do a first pressing – haha!”
DT: What’s your perception/vision of the Denver Scene, and your prediction over the next 3 – 5 years?
DBCs: “The Denver Scene seems like it’s been is a scattered group of collectives that, while they all have their intertwining members, have been pretty exclusive to their own groups. Over the past few years it seems like the groups have been mixing and becoming less scattered, which we think is fantastic. We think the Denver Scene will keep going this way, growing and gleaning influence from one another. There will still be shows that are exclusively folk or punk or noise, but there will be more shows that have bands playing amalgamations of every genre and style, which is something we’re incredibly excited for.”
DT: When considering your vote on next year’s DPUMS panel, what are your top 5 at this moment?
DBCs: in no order: Married in Berdichev!, Joesephine and the Mousepeople, Effector!, I Sank Molly Brown, BDRMPPL.
Catch The Don’ts and Be Carefuls this Friday, December 4th (TONIGHT) at Meadowlark, along with Josephine & the Mousepeople, I Sank Molly Brown and Lungs they Burn, starting at 8PM.
Catch a full review of the show on Denver Post Reverb in coming days!