I say this, but they'll still clarify to me, after suggesting that, that they certainly weren't considered "cool" in the hallways of their high school in Grosse Pointe. Still, this sibling-like friend duo have been playing music together for almost 15 years now, and they were, by Alex's account, already a couple o' "been-around's" amid the local music scene before they were even old enough to drink.
"We actually weren't cool in high school," Maria says.
And then Alex follows up immediately to reiterate it, just with altered wording but with deeper drama in his delivery: "In our high school, we were not cool!"
And Maria clarifies: "It was not cool..."
And she trails off, but the suggestion, the 'it' in her response, referred to being as ardently enthusiastic about local music, or about music in general, as they were at the age of 15.
What I'm trying to do is get to the point where Alex Glendenning and Maria Nuccilli tell me about how they met garage-pop guru Matthew Smith, who would become an early champion of their post-high-school band The Decks, and then later engineer/mix/produce their first full length as Deadbeat Beat....
...But they're pretty sure that that goes back to 2004, when Alex and DBB's bassist Zak Frieling were front and center at the Motor City Rocks festival, hosted outdoors behind the Magic Stick, to see groups like Outrageous Cherry (led by Smith), as well as the Dirtbombs, Detroit Cobras, Witches, Sights, The Go, Human Eye and just about every other local face on the turn-of-the-century's Mt Rushmore of garage-rock.
"When we recorded (When I Talk To You) with Matt Smith, he said it sounded like Wire mixed with Jan & Dean," said Alex. "Like, Wire musically, but with Jan & Dean fronting it... But I had this weird obsession with Jan & Dean at the time we recorded it..." (2010)
This song, "Body Shakes," not only glows with that Wire-meets-Jan/Dean vibe that Smith referenced, but it is demonstrative of DBB's knack for the sweet and the bitter. A lot of their songs let in this effervescent pop-sunshine that backlights darker hues splashed by the reverb-heavy guitar, rustling drums and disarmingly contemplative, even darkly existential lyrics. Glendenning's vocals may weave and surf like the saccharine melodic spreads of Jan & Dean, and Nuccilli's drums might recall the propulsive pipelines of The Ventures, but there's a lot of compelling tension and poetic angst pinballed into what would otherwise be some sweet summertime pop slides.
"When I was writing these songs," Glendenning said, "I was going through a lot of changes in my personal life. And... one of those changes was that I was trying to write a new batch of material that, maybe cuz we were starting to be billed more with out-of-town punk acts touring in at that point, that I thought we needed to write shorter and faster songs! And I didn't feel like we were being pushed toward punk, I was like: yeah! I was almost trying to pander (to the punk side)."
"That was more the kind of music that we listened to..." said Nuccilli.
"But it didn't end up sounding like a lot of those records, though..." Glendenning follows up.
But a song like "The Kids At My School" is a perfect example, here.
Glendenning was going through a lot of change in his life at this point and you can hear that poignant pulling towards a hoped-for catharsis with that song's lyrics of self-deprecation, social anxiety, and even some coldly scuffed cynicism. It feels like an excellent fist-through-a-window kind of song, where preconceptions about him can be shattered... And, that's perfect for punk. But it's still pop...!
"Yeah, I'd say we're a pop band," Glendenning said. "That's what I tell people when they ask about our band."
"And early on, we weren't too focused on really getting a record out," Nuccilli said, recalling the band's first full year together, with bassist Josh Gillis.
"And I was always just concerned with the songs!" said Glendenning.
"So," said Frieling, who joined in early 2015, "when I came in there was this whole back-log of songs where they had just been writing so much, so we had to catch up before we wrote any new stuff."
After the band recorded When I Talk To You's follow up, (Only Time Will Tell,), they went on a year-plus hiatus. And Glendenning said it was "nice to have that break..."
"Yeah, because at that point we were coming out of a time where we'd put a lot of pressure on ourselves," said Nuccilli. "Before (Gillis) moved down to Nashville, we had to get into the studio and basically book time so that we could record everything that we played live, everything that we had, that hadn't been laid down yet."
"And we really squeezed it dry," said Glendenning. "It was a tense time! (At this point in the DBB story, musician/artist Neal Laperriere was on bass). "And after that, I started writing songs that I would describe as more... sprawling....longer, jammier, writing in alternate tunings."
But here we are, this weekend, with Gillis releasing When I Talk To You on vinyl (Glad Fact Records), where it became about finally closing that door on this period of the band's musical creations. Over seven years, notable evolution has occurred, and they've gone from surf-punk to something more jangly and melodic. Nevertheless, they wanted these songs to get one last formal celebration.
"I think we always carried ourselves with more anxiety back then," said Nuccilli looking back. "In terms of being a band now...? I mean, I don't get anxious about stuff anymore. I think at this point we know how to do it all a little better, or even a lot better than before,..!"
"...And that just comes from the wisdom of half a lifetime..." And as she finishes this, Nuccilli looks at Glendenning and they share a laugh...
That's half of a lifetime of already being hip to the benefits of being obsessed with quirky/awkward/fun/fast music. They got into the scene early. Their ears were wide open. Their hearts got full and they found their way, however gracefully or gracelessly, through their socially tumultuous twenties, to now... Now, only time will tell........
The band is currently tying things up for their next album! Expect twice as much melody and mellifluous textures. The group ticks off likely influencers of the next record, like Heavenly, The Bats, a lotta stuff from Australia-pop bands on the Flying Nun label...and also some Krautrock from CAN and La Düsseldorf... So we'll see where that goes. Stay tuned, sometime by the end of the year, if not right into 2018!
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