NEARLY A DECADE AND A HALF AFTER THEIR LAST RECORD, CONOR OBERST AND CO. ARE BRINGING THEIR TOUGH-TO-PRONOUNCE PUNK PROJECT BACK TO THE MASSES.
WORDS: SARAH JAMIESON.
If Desaparecidos were to offer up any motto for life, it would be to live on your own terms. That much is evident from their own life story; having first emerged all the way back in 2001, the band were just a group of friends who decided to give making music a go. With their first record, they showcased their explosive sound, managed to both impress – and piss off – an array of listeners and then, when other projects came into their lives and took over, decided to put the band on the back burner. Some might call them defiant; they’re just doing things in their own way.
“There aren’t really any rules,” assures the band’s Denver Dalley, ahead of the release of their long-awaited second album, ‘Payola’, which comes over a decade after their debut. “I mean, there are people who are constantly trying to build a formula to have success but we’ve never paid attention to that. I mean,” he laughs, “even our band name is one of the hardest things to pronounce. The rule with us has always been that, as long as we’re having fun and we’re doing everything on our terms – there’s no expectations or obligations – then we’re gonna keep doing it. So that’s just the way the album came about. It felt like the most natural, organic way for it have happened.”
After the release of the band’s first full-length, ‘Read Music/ Speak Spanish’ caused quite a stir, the band began touring with the likes of Jimmy Eat World and The Promise Ring. Soon, however, frontman Conor Oberst’s other project – the little known band, Bright Eyes – began to gain traction, and so the Nebraska group decided to slow things down. It was only in 2010, almost a decade later, that the fivesome began playing together again, after reforming for Omaha’s Concert For Equality.
“We would never do anything that we weren’t all completely excited about,” Denver goes on, referencing what sparked the band to give things another go. “[At the start] the timing just wasn’t right and we all just wanted to pursue our own things. Then, when it came to 2010, I think we were all surprised at just how natural it felt and how we picked up right where we left off. I think we played better than we had ever played before, because we were quite a bit younger back in the early 2000s. So, we just started to get back together just to play shows and hang out, with no intentions of writing a new album,” Then, the ball started to roll. “As we spent more time with the band, we started working on some songs and then released them as a 7” and then, the next tour came around and we realised we were working towards a new album at that point. We just decided to keep going.”
Now, thirteen years on from the release of their debut, the band will be releasing its follow-up ‘Payola’. Despite the age gap, their new effort is no less potent or angry than its predecessor, but Denver is confident that is does showcase a more refined side of their unhingedness.
“You know, it’s such a funny thing to talk about,” he laughs, “to say that you’re a lot better sounds like a big headed thing, but I think we have truly grown as musicians. When you compare the albums, there’s that same loud energy, but it sounds more refined to me and a little more precise.”
One element that doesn’t seem to have changed is their motivation. Desaparecidos had something to say back at the turn of the millennium and now is no different. While ‘Read Music/ Speak Spanish’ was a record born into the turmoil of a post-9/11 world, ‘Payola’ will arrive into a world just as fraught with violence and turmoil. That’s something the band – again, unafraid of doing things their own way – don’t shy away from.
“I think there’s always gonna be struggles and there are always gonna be wars and there are gonna be issues with each government,” Denver offers. “I think there’s always going to be a time to release an album like this; no matter how great things are, there’s always room for improvement and I think that’s the wonderful thing about so many countries. You have that freedom to speak out and appreciate the great things about your country, but also call out the things that need a lot of attention and a lot of improvement.
“I think we’ve always wanted to really say something with our music and not kinda be like the stuff you hear on the radio that’s all bubblegum and pop,” he agrees. “You can listen to an entire song and realise ‘I don’t know any of those lyrics and I don’t know what’s happening in the song.’ It just takes you out of the moment and that’s great, there’s a time and a place for that. But the idea that you can inspire someone to look into something that they don’t know about, or hear about an issue or term that they’re not familiar with, that they look up online and – in an ideal world – could become active with these issues, is an amazing thing; to be able to use the music medium as a way of getting a message across. It’s such an amazing thing, the idea of making people feel passionate in either way. Whether they love a song, or hate it, it’s an honour that you can inspire someone to feel something.”
Taken from the August 2015 issue of Upset. Desaparecidos’ album ‘Payola’ is out now.