Alex Dezen (of The Damnwells) and His Band

Alex Dezen (of The Damnwells) and His Band

Mike Dunn, Tory sounds, Sleepy Zuhoski

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

The Prophet Bar

Dallas, TX

$10.00 - $12.00

This event is all ages

Alex Dezen
On February 12, 2016, Alex Dezen (founder, frontman and main songwriter for the Brooklyn-bred four-piece The Damnwells) will embark on his next musical phase by issuing his first full-length solo set, an appropriately eponymous, deeply personal, 10-track self-portrait of a man now ready to lay the foundation for his own identity as a solo artist.

"When words alone are not enough, you need to say it in a song," says Dezen, when asked why he felt now was the right time to write and record his inaugural full-fledged solo album. "And so when I made this record, it was because it had to be made. It was already coming out; I just needed to find some place to put it." Historically stingy with his use of multiple musical tones, on Alex Dezen, the album's namesake songsmith manages to marry his sometimes somber, sometimes pithy prose with, for him, a precedent-setting deeper well of rich chords. "Every time that I discover a new chord, I'm kind of like a kid in a candy store. I just kind of go nuts and I want to put it in every song. I definitely expanded the chord vernacular on this record."

As Dezen describes, a creative burst during a stint in Ohio over New Year's 2015 sowed the seeds for tracks that would be recorded in Los Angeles during January and February. "I didn't write like 30 songs and just kind of pick the 10 best. These are 10 songs that I had to write." The first tune on Alex Dezen that flowed from the skillful songsmith's prolific pen was the McCartney/Beatlesque "Blackbird"-inspired "Elephant," which Dezen points out is not quite as focused biographically as the bulk of the other nine sonic slices served up straight from past personal, and often painful, experiences. "The good thing about writing these songs is that when I have to talk about them I can just say, literally all you have to do is read the lyrics. Because it's not like its coached in some kind of flowery metaphor."

Dezen's prowess for writing celebrated songs of every ilk is undeniable. In 2010, he earned his master's degree from the University of Iowa after completing two years at the institution's Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 2014, Dezen released a series of four solo EPs. In March 2015, following a seven-year split, the original Damnwells lineup reunited and released their fifth studio album, a self-titled collection featuring 11 tracks. In addition to his contribution to The Damnwells' vast canon of songs over the 15 years the band has been recording, Dezen has written for others and worked with a variety of superstars, including Dave Grohl, The Dixie Chicks, Justin Bieber and Kelly Clarkson, among many others. Earlier this year, he collaborated with the American dance company Pilobolus Dance Theater, composing the music for the dance piece "Wednesday Morning, 11:45 (2015)," which was performed at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

The lyrical focus on family and friends, politics and pop culture portrayed in songs such as "Ode To Ex-Girlfriends" (a tender tribute to a series of exes and their moms), "If You Can Say I Love You On A Greeting Card How Can It Be True" (a tale of domestic drama), "Into the Hands of Hazelton" (a sonic equivalent of a buddy road picture), "Leonardo" (a tip of the cap to his girlfriend's fantasy celebrity freebie, Leonardo DiCaprio) and the intensely personal "I Don't Want To Be Alone When I Die," led to Dezen's decision not to collaborate with other writers on any of the songs on the record. "These are all me. This is me saying I needed to say a couple things, and put a couple things to music that did not require the sort of witticism of a clever line that I could only get from someone else, or a better melody here. It didn't require those things. It just required me."

In addition, Dezen completely turned upside down his career-long songwriting methodology of melody coming before lyrics and his preference for not using too many chords in past compositions. "For this record I thought that melody was important, just like chords and lyrics and everything, but I did feel that the melody had to serve the lyrics and the music had to serve the lyrics and the production had to serve the lyrics; that the lyrics were the focal point of this record. And I think that for me, it definitely changed. The lyrics come first. In the way in which I approached this record, I'm not writing pretty lyrics, I'm just writing what I think is the truth."

The truth is exactly what Dezen tackles on one of the album's most powerful performances, "A Little Less Like Hell." The song is replete with references to 9/11, Osama bin Laden and hateful and caustic YouTube comments aimed at President Obama, among other recent newsworthy events, all of which are fodder for the pundits, and includes the conversation sparking line: "But what I'll never understand is why / Regardless of how hard we try / We need somebody on the cross / Just to make up for the things we lost." As Dezen explains, "To make ourselves feel better about things that have happened which are inexplicable, things that happen which we cannot control, we have to find a guilty party; we have to find someone to hang up on the cross. And I feel like after 9/11 we had to find an enemy, we had to find one fast, and we found the wrong one. We live in an eye for an eye culture. We have to have someone on the cross, we have to have a target because we live in a culture that has our crosshairs up at all times."

By contrast, Dezen deals with a completely different type of truth in the nearly word-for-word true story he tells of having to sell a now ex-axe in the aptly titled "This Is The Last Song (I'll Ever Write On This Guitar)." "I had this Martin D-35 guitar forever. It was a guitar that I often used and would often write on. But I fell on hard times and I needed the cash. So I took to the internet and posted this guitar…and this guy who I mention in the song chimed in and said, 'hey I wanna buy it.' So I sold it to him. And at the time I was writing for this record, and it was all very autobiographical, and I thought, I can't sell this guitar during the writing of this record and not write about the selling of this guitar. So I literally sat down with that guitar and I wrote the last song that I would ever write on that guitar."

An unabashed and self-professed sentimentalist, Alex Dezen proudly wears his heart on his sleeve on his forthcoming full-length solo debut, while also fearlessly putting his heartbreak on display as well. Living on both ends of the emotional spectrum has served him well, whether writing for his band The Damnwells or now for his own collection of confessional cuts. "I'm very sentimental. Sentimentality is my bread and butter. I'm very nostalgic. I think to be a songwriter – at least to be a songwriter of confessional songs – you have to be pretty sentimental. But being that you're a sentimental person, it does wind up confusing the motion of the narrative of your life. We should be going forward."

Make no mistake, on his stellar solo set, Dezen does look back on his life, perhaps as far back as age 12 when he purchased his first guitar, a knockoff Stratocaster. But without question, he continues to move forward in his never-ending pursuit of professional perfection of crafting quality songs, while continuing to search for the seemingly equally unobtainable goal of personal bliss few of us will ever obtain. In other words, as only the finest songwriters can do, Dezen's songs simply mirror the lives of so many of us who understand that the most personal songs are actually the most universal as well.
Mike Dunn
In the fall of 2013, several years had passed since Mike Dunn released an album with his band Mike Dunn & the Kings of New England. He had taken time off from music and touring to "grow up." You know, get a job and get married. And though he never stopped writing songs, nothing felt worth its weight in vinyl. With a dark cloud of self-doubt looming like an afternoon storm in summer, Dunn knew it was time for a new chapter. So he picked himself up by his bootstraps, rented a cabin in the woods and set out to write a record.

He rigged up a little studio in the two-bedroom shack on a lake. He read Flannery O'Connor, ate rare steak, drank good whiskey, took naps and, lo and behold, wrote a song. When the week was up, so was his song count; he left with five songs and the roots of what would become the sprawling Hard Luck Soft Rock. The ten song album shows Dunn as a veteran of the music scene, a songwriter enjoying his art without worrying about success. Instead of chasing an ever-moving finish line, his heartfelt lyrics and rock melodies prove he is finally enjoying the run.

In describing the album, it's best to lean on one of Dunn's favorite quotes from Paul Westerberg: "We weren't invited to the party, so we threw our own." Reuniting with producer Louis DeFabrizio (Gasoline Heart), who produced Dunn's first record in 2007, made it easy to pave this new musical path. And fortunately for the rest of us, this is a rock 'n roll party with Americana grit and power pop hooks we're all welcome to attend.
Venue Information:
The Prophet Bar
2548 Elm Street
Dallas, TX, 75226
http://theprophetbar.com/home