S/T

DENALI’S self-titled debut is dreamy art pop and plaintive melancholy built on a brilliant architecture of glacial hooks, angelic, sultry vocals and dark-hued electro-touches. Complimented by the lush production skills of Sparklehorse member Alan Weatherhead (with fellow bandmate Mark Linkous) the atmospheric result captures the solid chemistry of a band on the rise.

Denali is Cam Dinunzio, Keeley Davis, Maura Davis, Jonathan Fuller.

Recorded at Sound of Music, Richmond VA Dec.01 with the engineering work of Alan Weatherhead and the production hand of Mark Linkous on Tracks 6 and 7.

Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side, NJ.

1. French Mistake
2. You File
3. Lose Me
4. Everybody Knows
5. Prozak
6. Relief
7. Time Away
8. Gunner
9. Function
10. Where I Landed

The Instinct

During preparations for the recording of this record, DENALI experienced a variety of emotional extremes from which came contrast and introspection, and translated into shorter songs, quicker tempos, and seemingly new eyes on the world. Gone are the cold, reserved, atmospheres of the first album, as Denali is reborn through more evolved, immediate, impassioned, and enveloping compositions.

Maura Davis – vocals, guitars, keyboards, piano, vibraphone
Keeley Davis – bass, bariton, synth, samples
Cam DiNunzio – guitars, piano, melodica, programmed synth, noises
Jonathan Fuller – drums, percussion, sequencer
Recorded and mixed by Peter Katis
Produced by Peter Katis and Denali at Tarquin Studios, Bridgeport, CT June 2003
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music

1. Hold Your Breath
2. Surface
3. Run Through
4. The Instinct
5. Do Something
6. Real Heat
7. Nullaby
8. Normal Days
9. Welcome

Denali’s "Relief" Featured in MTV’s My Super Psycho Sweet 16


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When MTV’s premiers tonight, October 23rd, at 10pm, viewers will be treated to the use of Denali’s song in the reality series turned slasher film. We can’t wait for this one.

From IMDB: The film follows a girl named Madison Penrose, spoiled throughout her life to the extent that she convinces her parents to re-open Rollerdome for her Sweet 16. Obviously, the Rollerdome once closed because a series of brutal murders took place at the locale, and, of course, the killer comes back to wreak havoc during her party.

Denali’s self-titled debut is available for purchase from fine record shops and online:

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Denali Shows This Weekend in Philly and DC


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This is a friendly reminder that DENALI will be playing two shows this weekend. First, the band will play Philadelphia and then DC. Most likely, it’s been awhile since you’ve had a chance to see them, if you have seen them at all. So, make sure to come out if you can.

June 5, 2009 Philadelphia, PA First Unitarian Church
June 6, 2009 Washington, DC The Black Cat

is available from the as well as and and most digital retailers.

To stay abreast of any news regarding the show or the band, check out the or the . And, hey, while you’re at at, check out the

DENALI PLANS NYC SHOW


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DENALI recently played their first show in years and they apparently had so much fun that they’ve gone ahead and set up another show in New York. The details are below. Tickets are available now.

DENALI

66 North Sixth St.
Brooklyn, NY
Friday, September 26
Ages 18+
Doors 8pm.
Tickets $15 advance/$17 day-of

Openers TBA

is available from the as well as and and most digital retailers.

To stay abreast of any news regarding the show or the band, check out the or the . And, hey, while you’re at at, check out the

Denali reunites at The National

It’s been a few years since the breakup of Denali, a Richmond band pegged by many as the city’s next great breakout hope. Two albums for the Jade Tree label presented their well-developed identity: a dynamic, restless rhythm section and compelling guitars roiling under Maura Davis’s soaring vocals. But while they disappeared from the music scene, the members have otherwise been closer than you think.

Part of Denali, including guitarist Cam DiNunzio, makes a living these days writing music for commercials. “It’s mostly indie music that we do, and we basically compete against licensed tracks for the hipper commercials out there,” explained DiNunzio, speaking from the company’s Richmond office. “We do Cadillac, we do Gatorade, we do Sharp, and Discover Card.

“Maura is actually the voice of the new Cotton campaign. We did the new music for that, and then Maura ended up singing the vocals on that. You see it every once in a while. So, if you hear a really light, angelic voice (singing) ?°»The touch, the feel of cotton’, that’s Maura.”

After forming in 2000, Denali signed a deal with Jade Tree Records the following year. 2002’s self-titled debut album and the next year’s follow-up, “Instinct”, both received national attention. Richmonders kept close tabs on them as well, though DiNunzio feels that the band was probably somewhat overexposed after a while. “People were excited to hear, I guess, something slightly different out of Richmond, and we kind of fit that bill.

“I think most of the bands that come out of here and do well are harder rock bands. Lamb of God is obviously metal, and the Strike Anywheres of the world, and the Avails, which are excellent guys, and were kind of like big brothers to us, actually, when we first started out, but they’re much harder. So, to hear something like Denali that sounds probably more like it should have come from England than Richmond, or New York, even, I think was exciting to a lot of people.

“We got a lot of (local) support early on. Then I think there was a point of oversaturation, where people were just kind of tired of seeing our name. But coming back into it, it feels really great and special and feels like we’re pulling into Hug Harbor.”

Throughout the life of Denali, bassist Keeley Davis (Maura’s brother) and drummer Jonathan Fuller also fronted the band Engine Down. The pressures of that simultaneous activity led the multi-band members to depart Denali, and a restructured Denali continued with DiNunzio and Maura Davis until their breakup in 2004.

Over the next few years, Keeley Davis joined Sparta, while Maura formed Ambulette (known initially as Bella Lea). Fuller was the first to gravitate toward working on music for commercials, and after DiNunzio spent some time working with major labels on a corporate level he eventually joined Fuller at the company Black Iris.

The rebirth of Denali came naturally enough, after all four original members found themselves back in Richmond. Over the past few months they’ve been getting reacquainted with their repertoire and have even begun working on new music, with one new song under their belts. As far as what direction their music may take from this point, longtime fans can rest assured that Denali don’t appear poised to succumb to anything along the lines of long-suppressed free-jazz instincts anytime soon.

“It’s a little bit early to say, but the one song that we have written definitely still sounds like a Denali song,” said DiNunzio. “Just based on the stuff that we’ve been listening to over the past few years, I would say it would take a slightly more organic approach. We’d like to work more with real instruments instead of synthesizers and guitar pedals and stuff like that.”

They’re happy allowing things to progress slowly, with their show at The National to be followed by a few others, including an appearance at the F Yeah Festival in Los Angeles. During a period where bands are reevaluating their places within the music industry, there’s no reason why a reemerging band like Denali can’t succeed at their own newly prescribed pace.

“As long as it’s on our terms and as long as it fits into the lives that we’ve constructed for ourselves, then, yes, I think we would love to continue on into the future as far as we can see,” said DiNunzio. And this time there’ll be no personnel changes. “I’m not saying that we are a one-of-a-kind band, but for what we do, we just realized that it has to be either all or nothing. It’s got to be the four of us or the band just doesn’t work.”

DENALI REUNITE THIS WEEKEND


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Before taking off for the holiday weekend, we wanted to remind you that the DENALI reunion show is upon us.

Check out some recent articles about the event:

DENALI REUNION SHOW
Saturday July 5th, 2008 @ The National
704 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA
Doors 7pm.
Tickets $10 advance/$12 day of show
for tickets.

is available from the as well as and and most digital retailers.

To stay abreast of any news regarding the show or the band, check out the or the . And, hey, while you’re at at, check out the

Down From the Mountain

Denali broke up during the last election year and returns in this time of change.
by Hilary Langford

Richmond is cursed. Anyone who has lived here long enough will tell you that everyone who leaves it inexplicably returns at some point. This now holds true of indie rockers Denali. Four years after parting ways to pursue individual endeavors, its four members are all living here again. They now find themselves holed up in Black Iris Studios preparing for one of the most anticipated reunion shows in recent memory. Their unassuming rehearsal space is tucked away in Scott’s Addition amidst a host of industrial supply stores whose occupants might ask what a Denali is. After four years, what’s the big deal about these kids anyway?

Denali formed in 2000, when Maura Davis asked her older brother Keeley, then lead vocalist for Engine Down, if he wanted to start a band. They recruited Cam DiNunzio (formerly of Lazy Cain) and Engine Down’s other vocalist/guitarist, Jonathan Fuller, to join the venture and eventually went on to become one of Richmond’s most impressive bands, drawing comparisons to everyone from Radiohead to Björk. They toured relentlessly and signed with a label, Jade Tree, a year later. Maura’s pristine voice, cradled by haunting melodies and cinematic arrangements, intoxicated audiences worldwide and established a massive fan base. Their pouts ended up in Rolling Stone, Spin and CMJ.

Hearts sank in 2004 when the foursome broke up and the great Denali diaspora occurred. “I guess that when Keeley and Jonathan left to focus on Engine Down, it just didn’t feel the same,” says DiNunzio by e-mail. “When the band first started, it really felt different and special in so many ways, and I think we all feel that it’s just as special now that we’re back together again. It just became obvious that for what we do specifically as Denali, it’s got to be all or nothing.”

Only Fuller remained in Richmond, “holding it down,” he says. DiNunzio moved to New York and worked for RCA Records, while Keeley and Maura found themselves involved other projects, including bands Glos, Ambulette and Sparta.

A whopping eight years since their inception, they’ve set the indie-loving hearts atwitter by reconnecting.

“We all live in the same city again,” explains bassist Keeley during a break from rehearsal.

“We just decided to play music together and see how it feels,” drummer Fuller adds. “We played together a few times and said, ?°»This is really awesome. ?°¦ let’s do it.’” And so they did.

The reunion is not the kind of elaborate affair that will take Denali’s members across the country and stall their lives with enforced creativity. “We’re trying to keep it from feeling like a job or a chore,” Fuller says. “We’re trying to foster creativity and not ever have it feel like an obligation. It’s easy to fit what we do around this.”

As of now, the plan is fairly simple. “More new songs. A show here and there,” says Fuller. Later this summer, Denali will hit the West Coast, playing a festival in Los Angeles on Labor Day weekend and then likely playing a New York gig in the fall. Post-tour, the group plans to write more songs and flesh out its arsenal of new material.

“I’m very excited to write,” says Keeley. “I’m anxious to see what we come up with. ?°¦ if it’s crap or not.”

“Well, it’s going to be one of the two,” adds DiNunzio. “We have a 50/50 chance.”

Maura chimes in, saying she’s been listening to a lot of Al Green lately and jokingly suggesting a soulful new direction for the band. The idea is immediately rejected by Keeley, who says he’s not “that good of a bass player.”

Denali’s return to the Richmond scene finds the band relaxed and confident, displaying a sense of maturity that has assuredly been ushered in by marriages, births and day jobs. Maura has begun a career in nursing, Fuller beams about his baby at home and DiNunzio marvels at the fact that he has a wife now, blogger Susan Howson. When Keeley reminds him of this fact, he still seems to be in disbelief. “I know,” says DiNunzio. “It’s only been a month, so I’m still getting used to it.”

The band is also quick to dote on Richmond’s developing scene. Not surprisingly, the band sees the advent of The National and Toad’s Place as a benchmark, a sea change from their last incarnation, when Alley Katz was as big as it got and musicians in other cities would scold Denali for having such an unfriendly scene.

As the elder statesmen of that scene, the members of Denali admit that finding openers for The National show was a bit difficult. “We didn’t know who to talk to or who had a draw,” says DiNunzio. “Tulsa Drone was the only band that we were mildly familiar with. It was fun to listen to all the new stuff that’s going on in the city.”

“It’s kind of fun to be the grandpas,” adds Keeley.

In the studio, the vibe is casual. DiNunzio is throwing out a few recognizable Weezer riffs, while Keeley works out what seems to be a technical difficulty with the pedals beneath his feet and Maura is in search of lip gloss. Fuller summons them all to attention with a few drum kicks, and they launch into “French Mistake” as if they had never stopped playing. The next-to-last rehearsal before the big night proves that the 18 other rehearsals or so have paid off, but it sounds like it didn’t take them long to find themselves again. S

Denali plays The National Saturday, July 5, with Tulsa Drone, Prabir and The Substitutes and The Great White Jenkins. Doors are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10-$13. Call 612-1900 or visit www.thenationalva.com.

DENALI TO PLAY REUNION SHOW


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DENALI have surprised us with some exciting news. Five years since releasing () () and touring together, the band has once again found themselves together in Richmond, VA. Early this year, rehearsals began and a reunion show in Richmond was planned. There is no word on whether or not the band’s plans extend beyond the single reunion show, but we suggest buying tickets and making it to this show.

DENALI REUNION SHOW
Saturday July 5th, 2008 @ The National
704 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA
Doors 7pm.
Tickets $10 advance/$12 day of show
for tickets.
Avoid a service charge by buying them at the National’s box office (M-F 10am-3pm).

Opening acts will be announced at a future date. To stay abreast of any news regarding the show or the band, check out the or the . And, hey, while you’re at at, check out the

DENALI DEMO NOW DOWNLOADABLE


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After many such requests we’ve decided to post the DENALI demo for free download via our . The tracks went on to get rerecorded for the band’s , but have a charm and rawness more akin to their live sets. It’s a must have for any collector and it’s free!

BREAKING NEWS: DENALI MOVE ON

After two records and countless hours on the road, Richmond Virginia’s DENALI have decided to move on. The band will not be playing their scheduled dates on the Plea For Peace tour and have headed home after finishing their recent tour with Brand New. While we are very sad to hear this, we do want to wish both Cam and Maura the best of luck in their future endeavors. Above all else DENALI were an incredible live band and after seeing them recently, with new members Stephen Howard and Ryan Rapsys, at both SXSW and Skate and Surf we will have fond memories of their electrifying stage show as well as the last few years working together.

An official statement from the band:

Hey everyone.

We would like to start this by thanking all the fans who have supported us, listened to our music, and come out to our shows. Without you, Denali would not have existed. Unfortunately, due to differences in the band Denali cannot continue in the current state. This was an amazing experience for all of us, but it’s time to move on and try something new. Please keep checking Denalimusic.com for updates, future announcements, and to pick up the remaining merchandise. We hope Denali has meant as much to our fans as our fans have meant to us.

Thank you all so much.

We also want to offer our sincerest apologies to Cursive, Darkest Hour, Mike Park, and everyone involved with the Plea for Peace tour for being unable to participate in something we believe in and felt extremely lucky to be doing.

With deepest gratitude, apologies, and appreciation,

DENALI

From Arias to Rock ‘n’ Roll

From Arias to Rock ?°»n’ Roll
Denali’s Maura Daivs bids opera adieu

Denali’s first two albums showcase Maura Davis’ aching falsetto, which ranges from a plaintive whisper to an all-out wail. Davis studied opera for many years, so it’s a good bet her ability to hit the high notes owes something to this training.

The 23-year-old stuck with classical music through her freshman year at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. She dropped out of college after her junior year to go on the road with the newly formed Denali, which takes its name from a desolate mountain range in Alaska.

Reached by phone en route to Atlanta after performing several shows in Texas, Davis discusses her ambivalence about becoming a diva. “I just decided it wasn’t the route that I really wanted to take,” the Lynchburg, Va., native says. “I didn’t really like the fact that I was being taught to sing a certain way. I couldn’t really add my own ideas about how I should sound. I just wanted to have complete control over my voice; so yeah, I decided to do the rock thing.”

Davis’ taste in music is quite varied, though. While citing the indie-rock trinity of Radiohead, Bjork and Jeff Buckley, the singer expresses admiration for Ella Fitzgerald, who she listened to while performing in a jazz band during college. “She’s a humongous influence on me [and] on my voice,” Davis says.

Davis also lists Portishead among her influences, so she has no reservations about comparisons the press has made between Denali and the British trip-hop band. “It’s really flattering,” she says. “I think that’s probably the closest thing that we can be compared to just because it’s dark music [with] female vocals. I don’t really think we sound like them a lot, but it’s totally awesome that people compare us to them. How often do you get to be compared to one of your favorite bands? It doesn’t ever get old.”

Davis’ biggest inspiration, however, is less heralded and certainly closer to home. Keeley Davis, Maura’s brother, formed the band Engine Down in 1996, and he helped the singer get Denali off the ground four years later. “We’re really, really close,” Davis says, “so it was so much fun to be in a band with him. I hope we get to do it again someday.”

In spite of the differences between their bands, Davis says she has much in common with Keeley, who is four years older. “I think Keeley and I have a similar style of writing lyrics,” she says, “just because I’ve listened to him [and] all his bands through high school and college. I basically studied the way that he did music. Not that I was trying to copy him, but just being surrounded by his music all the time definitely had an effect on me.”

These days, Davis’ confessional songs and unorthodox style make her very much a diva, but one who has little in common with, say, a mezzo-soprano. The Instinct (2003)—the band’s cathartic second album on the Wilmington-based Jade Tree label—is inspired, in part, by some relationship woes. Yet Davis says the turmoil helped her compose the album’s nine songs.

“It’s hard to write, I think, when you don’t have problems or drama in your life,” Davis says. “Writing about it is a really good outlet for it. I’m so lucky that I get to write about it in music and have people listen to it.”

How does The Instinct differ from Denali’s 2002 self-titled debut? Davis says the band simply had more confidence the second time around. “Everyone was more [secure] about their place in Denali, and what they were bringing to the band,” she says. “I definitely got more personal in the lyrics, and I conjured up the courage to put myself out there a little bit more. [On] the first record?°¦I was really scared?°¦to let people know my feelings and stuff like that.”

Tim Owen, one of Jade Tree’s owners, decided to check out Denali several years ago in Philadelphia after hearing a demo. Impressed, he brought his business partner Darren Walters the next time the band passed through town. The label signed Denali within a few months.

“They just put on an amazing show [and] had a great crowd reaction,” recalls Owen, 32. “They had a four-song CD demo that they had made, and that night I think they sold like 150 copies and there was [only] like 300 people there. Those kinds of numbers are pretty impressive, even if it’s a band that has multiple albums out.

“There was this fervor about them. There was this underground kind of hype even though they weren’t signed. They can hit the younger kids as well as the older. I think they have a lot of potential.”

— Denali, Brand New and Piebold perform Apr. 17 at the Baycenter, 13 Dickenson St., Dewey Beach. Tickets run $12.50, and doors open 6 p.m. (227-3888, www.dewwybeachlife.com)

DENALI [I]The Instinct[/I] Review

After sucessfully listening to "The Instinct" record five times, I think I’m ready to give my opinion. Honestly, I don’t think words can really describe how great this band really is, so this review won’t really do it justice, you’ll have to listen to it to base your own opinion.

Denali, which features half of the members of one of my favorite bands of all time, ENGINE DOWN, and Maura Davis, Keeley of ENGINE DOWN’s sister on vocals, keyboards, and guitar have released one of the best releases of the year. This music is honest, original, and beautiful and every song is amazingly flawless and perfect. Maura Davis delivers a performance so scrumtrallescent, I can barely move. Listening to this record is like looking into the face of God, and seeing him smiling back at you and saying "You are my most wonderous creation".

But seriously, to cut down on the bullshit, every song on The Instinct is my favorite. Not a lot of records can contain songs that all rule equally. One of my favorite parts the guitarist does, for the intro of the song "Surface" he plays this dark sounding guitar riff with delay on it, and it sounds rad. Maura’s vocals can be very haunting, which can resemble Bjork, and the singer of The Cardigans. Her voice is beautiful. This record is flawless. If you don’t own it, you’re not that tight of a person. Buy it now!

DENALI KEEP CLIMBING

DENALI — still hot on the heels of their recent rock-tastic release, The Instinct[/I] CD/LP (JT1089) — are planning on putting in some serious road time in the coming months. First up they’re going to play as main support on the forthcoming tour before heading out again as part of the with Omaha super-stars . If you haven’t had a chance to see the band yet with new members, Stephen Howard () and Ryan Rapsys (Euphone, Owls), do yourself a favor and catch one of the best shows on the block.

Please consult the Denali for current dates.

DENALI [I]The Instinct[/I] Review

So many bands have release their first albums to nothing but fanfare only to dissapoint with their sophmore release. I was certain Denali would not fit that mold and release another gem. Unfortunately, they proved me wrong.

First things first, this is not a bad record by any means. It’s just incredibly average. The record starts off very solid. Opener, "Hold Your Breath," is a great song. Much darker than any of their previous material, Denali proves they can rock out. Well as much as you can imagine a band such as Denali rocking out. The album’s second song, "Surface," keeps it rolling with good use of drum machines, Cam noodling some intricate delay filled guitar licks and a drum beat that is incredibly tight. The chorus falls apart in a rather awkward way but the transition out is good.

The rest of the first half of the record is rather good and keeps you interested. "Run Through," albeit fairly formulaic, doesn’t dissapoint. What baffles me is how much they use drum programming when they have the drummer they do. "The Instinct" holds itself afloat until that "chorus falling apart" bug hits them again.

The scond half of the record starts off with "Do Something." Although dark, as most of this record is, it tends to drone on a little too much. "Real Heat" starts off with a fairly fresh approach but ends up going right back into the "Denali sound" they are have developed and nearly beat into the ground already. Keeley’s bass line showcases his talents by being one of the foremost things you hear throughout and making this song worth listening to from time to time.

The rest of the record closes itself out in typical Denali fashion. "Nullaby" is your slow and intimate Maura moment. "Normal Days" has an almost Castlevania type feel which is fresh but feels out of place. If they could write more stuff like this, I’d be very pleased.

All in all, if you like Denali, it won’t hurt to check this out. They still put on a great live show and Maura isn’t anything bad to look at herself.

6.8/10
Shane

DENALI NOMINATED…

Fingers crossed and thumbs up for DENALI, who after stunning the indie-rock world with the release of The Instinct have been nominated for the Virginia Music Awards. The band (who have always ruled live) is up for not only Best Live Band award, but also Best Album and Best Alternative Pop Band. The award show is Sunday, February 22 at the Beach House in Virginia Beach – in the meantime you can get out yourself to catch Richmond’s finest, as they are playing non-stop thru March.

Please consult the Denali for current dates.

DENALI [I]The Instinct[/I] Review 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Washington, D.C. band Denali improves on its debut with album No. 2, “The Instinct.” The first half is filled with a fairly new sound for Denali — more aggressive, but not exactly harsh, rock. (Emo fans would like “Hold Your Breath.”) The band is driven by a complex rhythm section and the whisper-to-yell vocals of Maura Davis, who still peppers her parts with straightforward pop and jazz influences. The rest is much like the best moments of the debut: slower, warmer, darker songs — like the sumptuous “Run Through” and the forboding “Nullaby” — that recall trip-hop with its keyboards and darker chord runs. If you see Evanescence as the epitome of dramatic, female-vocal rock, you should give Denali a fair shake and see what you’re missing.

DENALI [I]The Instinct[/I] Review

Another tip of the cap to the folks at Jade Tree for looking beyond the current trends and finding this rough little gem of a band and letting it shine brightly on this record. Motivated by influences too numerous and far-reaching to list, Denali is a band of the purest kind. Completely untainted by dreams of commercial success, Denali’s music is a wholesome journey through self-discovery that will leave your spine tingling with anticipation from song to song. Comprised of an array of eclectic instruments, both electronic and not, the melodies are well developed yet subtle enough to let the lead female vocals guide the songs with the honest observations on life in general. It is the very sincerity that makes Denali such an enjoyable listen that will in fact see this record attain a high level of success without compromising its integrity.

DENALI [I]The Instinct[/I] Review

Since Richmond band Denali played Fridays at Five in August, they have set out on two whirlwind tours of the United States, the most recent of which involved sharing the stage with hardcore band Poison the Well, and metal favorite the Deftones. They have announced the loss of two founding members of the band, and released their second album, The Instinct. I talked with guitarist Cam DiNunzio over the phone about his band’s tumultuous autumn.

What can you tell me about touring with the Deftones? How did that come about?

Cam DiNunzio: When the Deftones were setting up this U.S. tour and they were deciding on bands, their label kind of gave them a list of bands that were selling lots of records and drawing lots of people, and stuff like that, and they kind of looked over it and said that they didn’t really like many of these bands. So they just decided to take out bands that they liked listening to. Somebody had given Chino a copy of our album, and I guess he really liked it.

How have the audience responses been – obviously the Deftones have a somewhat different fan base than Denali – have they been receptive?

C: It’s been interesting – for the most part the crowds have been great, they clap and they cheer and do all the things that crowds are supposed to do. I feel like in those size venues, people clap and cheer whenever the lights go out, but most people have been giving us the benefit of the doubt, which has been really cool. We’ve gotten some really amazing emails though from people who are Deftones fans that say that we’ve really made a fan of them.

How does this compare to the other tours that you have done?

C: There are very few similarities whatsoever to anything else that we’ve done – it’s like the most fun camp you’ve ever been too – kind of like rock and roll camp. To go back to the camp analogy, the road crew is kind of like the camp counselors. They’re really cool to hang out with, but sometimes they just kind of put you in line: “Hey, don’t do that,” or “Hey get the f— out of the way.” They have their own PA system that they bring to every show, so we’re dealing with the same people and the same systems every night. We don’t have to do anything except load our own gear. This tour is almost like your birthday every day; you get almost everything you want. I can definitely see how people can get spoiled on this and get reluctant to going back to playing clubs or whatever – being in a major label band and coming down from whatever you peak is has to be the hardest thing in the world.

Will it be hard for you to go back to the club level after this tour is finished?

C: That’s a really good question. It’ll take a little bit of getting used to, but we haven’t been doing this long enough to forget what its like to be playing in clubs. We don’t really have delusions of grandeur, and we’ve been doing off night shows in clubs and stuff, to keep us on some base with reality. But it also is nice to reconnect with our fans again. It’s weird though, you don’t really have to do anything on this size tour – the fans kind of get you when you go on stage, and nobody can get to you unless you put them on the list, so there are no incidental meetings with fans and stuff, which we really like.

In listening to the new record, The Instinct, it has much more upbeat tempos and a lot more of guitar work – how did this come about?

C: Well, I know that when Maura was starting to write songs for the new record, she wanted to write a more rocking record. As we toured more on the first record, we realized that there was a lot more energy in the songs that we had written. We just kind of went into the studio and recorded our first record without touring on it. Once we got on the road, we realized we were more of a rock band, and we wanted to capitalize on that. We just kind of followed the music and where it led us. As far as the guitar work, I just did what I thought the song called for – if that meant more cowbell then I gave it more cowbell. It’s funny, because I’ve received more than one comment about there being guitar solos on this record. I never intended it to be that noticeable. I think one thing that I’ve learned at least as far as production is concerned is that there always needs to be something for the untrained ear to focus in on. I think when we were doing preproduction, which I was recording, I always wanted something to be in the front, and if nothing was going on, I just added another guitar part to make things interesting. And I think that perhaps why there is some more prominent guitar work in the front.

How did you bring Peter Katis (producer of albums such as Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights) in to work on the album, and what did he contribute?

C: He just does an awesome job. It was weird, because he was kind of a last minute decision because all of our other options ran out. It ended up being the perfect option – I wish we had thought of him sooner. We wanted the record to sound more like the last one, but we also wanted it to kind of be right in the front of the speakers. The last record has a great ambiance to it, but it doesn’t suit the way that we are live. Peter did a great job of putting the record right in front of your face – the quiet stuff is quiet because it is slow close, not because it is distant or just low volume. It’s a great headphones album.

Any more word on the “Hold Your Breath” music video?

C: The video gets pitched to MTV2 today, so I’m kind of nervous. It was finished I guess a few weeks ago. We get to see it for the first time this afternoon, so I’m excited to see it, but I’m totally nervous. I think it will be cool. The people who made it have an amazing eye – it’s their first video, so even if it comes up short in the editing aspects, it still has this beautiful visual concept. It’s kind of by default that we’re in it, because we didn’t have the money to really hire actors, so we did it all ourselves. There is footage of us playing and stuff like that. We made it in this bird sanctuary in the Long Island Sound, and it was just the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. So even if it doesn’t work out, it was an awesome experience.

Have your impressions of the album changed as time has gone by?

C: I think that I’ve listened to it less as time has gone on, so I still have a favorable impression of it. I still think of it as I did when I first got done with. Maybe I’m blissfully ignoring it, but I have this weird kick whenever I know that the album is going out to somebody – like a programming director or a radio station or something – I listen to the record again, and I listen to it in a quasi-objective manner. It kind of helps me to listen to it again without getting sick of it – I try and kind of imagine it in their shoes, thinking, “Okay, what would I think of it if I was hearing it for the first time?” And it depends on the mood I’m in – sometimes I’m really into it, and sometimes I’m disappointed. Take Tom Petty, who apparently doesn’t listen to any of the stuff that he’s recorded once it’s done. I mean, he obviously plays it every night on tour, but he never listens to the album. For me, I don’t know how I feel about creating something and then just walking away from it forever. I think that I need the reflection in order to move forward as an artist.

What can you tell me about the future of the band, what with Keeley Davis (synthesizers and bass) and Jonathan Fuller (drums) leaving to return to their other band, Engine Down?

C: We have no plans to change any course, we’re just going to keep playing and doing everything that we can. There was actually no way for both bands to continue sharing members with the schedules that we keep now. I think we’re pretty much set about the replacements – both guys are from Chicago, and I’m excited to be playing with them. We’re already looking towards next year – we don’t really have any plans to stop, and everything will kind of continue as it is. It will be sad, and it will definitely be an adjustment period, but everybody is much less stressed and getting to do what they want to do. I’m excited about it and looking forward to the future.

DENALI [I]The Instinct[/I] Review Rating: 7.2

Denali wisely journeyed beyond the dusted Southern geography of their home state when choosing an appellation. By referencing the Alaskan hinterland, the Richmond, Virginia quartet connects itself to 6,000,000+ acres of Denali National Park, a sub-arctic ecosystem that includes Mount McKinley along with a bunch of frostbitten grizzly bears. Like listening to the earliest Codeine while mired in a snowstorm, this vast chunk of ice, mountains, and large mammals is the apt environmental backdrop for the nine dramatically sweeping songs on The Instinct, Denali’s follow-up to their self-titled debut.

In spite of these references to cold things, Denali are most addictive when gritting their collective teeth and churning out a tapestry of jarring guitars, heavy bass, complex percussion rhythms, and synthesizer harmonics. The lynchpin operatic ballast of guitarist and keyboardist Maura Davis remains the critical focus, but her band solidly provides an ideal cushion for a vocal style that could grow obnoxious within a more staid or less fitting context. Evoking a cleaner PJ Harvey with zero Galas bluster (is that a female Thom Yorke? A 4AD diva?), Davis hits the high notes and tackles her vocal lines with aplomb. While her voice is impressive, she doesn’t have much of a story to tell. This works well enough if she’s taken as another instrument in the dense sonic squall, but once the lyric sheet comes out of hiding, well, uh, um.

Including a fair share of these revved-up glacial formations, The Instinct shows a promising turn towards heavier, denser slices of chamber-rock. Davis’s older brother, bassist/keyboardist Keeley Davis, is in Engine Down with drummer Jonathan Fuller, who earlier played in old-school chaos makers Sleepytime Trio. Rounding out the lineup is journeyman guitarist Cam DiNunzio of Four Walls Falling and a dozen other east coast floor-punching acts. With these guys in tow, a certain heaviness lurks within the trip-hop: tracks like "Hold Your Breath" and "Surface" initiate insouciant percussive breaks and rock-up dynamics similar to the work of Girls Against Boys or old timey London-based Touch & Go heavies, Silverfish ("Hips Tits Lips Power!").

"Surface", meanwhile, fixates around a stealthy bassline, dual-channel percussion separations, and a multi-layered careening guitar: during the final distorted vocal exchange, Davis’ not especially interesting lyrics come off like holy writ because of where they’re placed in the mix. To his credit, Peter Katis, who recorded other frosted bands like Interpol and Mercury Rev, sustains this well-chosen lushness for the album’s duration, creating a site in which dappled arpeggios and aquatic notes pulse and flow three-dimensionally.

When forging ahead with pretty disjunctions, Denali offer a solid take on a less traversed genre; as the band nods-off to dumbed-down Portishead-styled atmospherics, the propulsion dissipates. Bits like "Run Through", "Nullaby", and "Welcome" could make for fair-to-decent background music, but each lacks the payoff of the other work. Despite the production and sonic sweep, this is a standard rock band working within an oft-stated, faux-experimental dream-pop realm. For actual extended grooves and smacked-out excursions, I’d rather tap the epic drones of the Kompakt roster, Ellen Allien, or maybe just record the wind at Mount McKinley and see if it sounds at all like I think it would.

October 30th, 2003

DENALI "THE INSTINCT" LP/CD (JT1089) RELEASED TODAY

DENALI The Instinct LP/CD (JT1089) is released today. The dense, yet approachable second album is a landmark leap forward that proves that the band has both the mind and the muscle to create engaging pop and otherworldly breathy gems. DENALI hits the road immediately following the release of The Instinct supporting the Deftones.

Please consult the DENALI for current dates.

Denali: Very Normal

We ask a lot from our rock and roll bands. In addition to the obvious (playing good music), we want them to blindside us with a socio-political agenda, draw us in as intimates, tell us about their every shattered relationship and mended wound, infuse their lyrics with a searching spiritual undertone and then, after all that, make us feel better about being alive. People want to feel like they’ve got a friend hiding underneath their speakers — that’s why folks cried when Jim Morrison, Ian Curtis and even Aaliyah died, despite the fact that they’d never met them.

Denali will certainly make you happy to be counted among the living — you would enjoy a 40 minute listening session with cozy pillows, lights low, and Maura Davis’s flittering, chilling voice lulling you into a coma, wouldn’t you? Indeed, it’s hard to find fault in the desolate Arctic desert soundscape invoked by their 2002 self-titled debut. Bassist Keely Davis and drummer Jonathan Fuller had already been exploring rock’s more somber edges since their post-hardcore band Engine Down’s second record, but the jilted edges still stuck out defiantly; it took a completely new environment and a woman’s touch to finally pull them into a world where might always succumbed to mood. And while the flock of listeners that whole-heartedly embraced Denali as one of Jade Tree’s finest releases didn’t think it felt like a freshman affair, there are songs on the band’s newest effort, The Instinct, that expand upon everything listeners have come to know and love; they actually expose weaknesses in the first batch of songs that would never have existed without a superior point of comparison.

When you sit down and talk with the band, you learn that their vision doesn’t expand far beyond their haunting, affecting din. They don’t want to change the world — they just want to make good make-out music and pay their health insurance bills! That’s when you realize that although they dress better than you and get to do cool things like tour with the Deftones and shoot music videos, the members of Denali are the sort of normal, understandable people that more musicians should admit to being. Why would someone who never knew the band weep when they eventually passed away? All they did was command their instruments well and pen quality songs, in the same way that the guy down the road landscapes like a champ, while his wife is highly efficient with clerical tasks. You wanted songs to enjoy; you have them, and what you take from them is up to you. The only reason that doesn’t feel like enough is because you’re spoiled by the Fugazis and U2s of the world.

I met up with Denali on the Atlanta stop of their tour with Rainer Maria, and this is what they had to say about their lives, their art and their place in the stream of commerce.· · · · · · ·

Splendid: I’m going to go ahead and start from the beginning. Most people who follow you guys are pretty familiar with the lineup — they know that you, Maura and Keely, are brother and sister, and you’ve got Jonathan from Engine Down also, and you’ve got Cam who played in a bunch of bands — I think Lazycain was one of ‘em? (Maura confirms this.) But how did it come together? Whose idea was it to form, and how did you go about recruiting the necessary people?

Maura David: I had written a bunch of songs, umm, starting in high school and stuff, and I’d always wanted to be in a band with my bro Keely, so I played the songs for him at one of our Christmas gatherings, and he took to them, I think. I think basically the guys wanted to be in a band that would divert from their rock bands… doing girl stuff! (She laughs.) So, yeah, it just developed, it kind of happened at a crazy time when no one was really doing anything.

Keely Davis: It was just for fun, really. For us it was like an excuse for…

(Guitarist Cam Dinunzio enters the room)

Maura Davis: Hey, you want to get in on an interview?

Cam Dinunzio: Sure…

Maura Davis: This is Cam.

Splendid: Cam? Hi. We were just talking about how the band got started. How did they get you involved?

Cam Dinunzio: I heard the four-track stuff that Maura had done, and I was really excited about it. It just worked out that I was able to play.

Splendid: Cool. So you guys are from Richmond, and that’s definitely more of a hardcore town — you’ve got guys like City of Caterpillar, stuff like that up there. How was this Denali stuff received, being a bit softer and a bit moodier?

Maura Davis: Yeah, everybody basically went nuts when we first started out. I guess maybe it was different from all the hardcore stuff that’s always represented Richmond, but yeah, that’s died down a little bit, and no one really comes to our shows anymore. (Laughter.) But yeah, everyone there was really supportive of us, and yeah, we got a really good reception from everybody in Richmond. Now they’re just sick of us.

Keely Davis: We got an overload of press.

Cam Dinunzio: I think people were a bit suspicious… "Well, you’re not signed or anything." And I’m like, "Is that supposed to qualify us as a worthy band to go see?" It’s not bad, it’s not like we’re playing for no one. It’s just the people — we’ve reached our true fans now.

Splendid: Right. So do you still feel like you’re playing a hometown show when you play there, or do you find a wider range of people coming now?

Maura Davis: Hmm…

Keely Davis: Playing Richmond is not really the most fun for me. Playing hometown things, I really don’t enjoy any aspect, just because music is kind of a release for me, the escape thing, and when your whole family’s there and all your friends, it’s like, "yeah, you know me," so I usually don’t enjoy it as much. But it’s nice, and it’s kind of a humbling thing too…

Maura Davis: I like doing it, because everyone in Richmond always asks, "What are you doing?" and I’m like, "I’ve got a band," and they don’t understand, and then we play for them, they realize what we’re working on, you know?

Splendid: Okay. So how does it work out with you two being brother and sister? Does that ever create any tension, or do you feel like it’s better…

Maura Davis: I like it. We get along really well. There’s not much tension at all. Would you say that too?

Keely Davis: Of course, yeah.

Maura Davis: We have really similar taste in music.

Keely Davis: Our personal lives are similar. If you took a default person and you made a female and male version, that’s kind of what it is. She has her female things, I have my male things every once in a while, and she likes being female and I like being male.

Splendid: And that’s a good way to be.

Keely Davis: Exactly. (Laughter.)

Splendid: So who got who into the good music growing up? Was it kind of a trade off, or did one of you discover –

Maura Davis: He did it, predominantly. I liked Paula Abdul and stuff. I think the first thing he ever gave me was a Cinderella tape.

Splendid: Wow.

Maura Davis: That started it all.

Splendid: How far apart are you two in age?

Maura Davis: Four years.

Splendid: And he’s older than you?

Keely Davis: Yeah.

Splendid: So when was it that you broke away from the Cinderella and discovered Nirvana or Minor Threat or whatever it was for you?

Keely Davis: I still love those bands to this day, but, umm, elementary school was when I was a metalhead. Then the skateboarding thing sort of took over my life, and that involved all the punk music. That’s when I went into that mode.

Splendid: (To Maura) And did you get dragged along with him into that?

Maura Davis: Sort of. We had a half pipe — two half pipes — in our back yard, so there were skateboard dudes there all the time and they were playing music all the time so I heard all the music they were into. And Keely started making me mix tapes all the time because I guess he saw how much of a dork I was and wanted to help me out. But yeah, I still have all those tapes that you made me, Keely!

Splendid: That’s cool. If I made a mix tape for my sister it’d probably end up in the trash. We were in the car a while back and I was listening to Murray Street and on every song she kept saying it wasn’t music, so you’re fortunate to sort of click like that. Did you also sort of hang around the same types of people and everything?

Keely Davis: Yeah, we had like a "gang" in our town. We come from a pretty small town, so the people — well, the "good people" were a select few, so we just all hung out.

AUDIO: Where I Landed

Splendid: You talked about your family a little bit. How do your parents feel about this band now? Are they happy to see their two kids working together toward something?

Maura Davis: Yeah, they’re very supportive. They come to all our shows in Richmond — all of them.

Splendid: (laughing) Does that sometimes get annoying?

Maura Davis: It’s really nice, and we’re really fortunate to have them, but you know… it’s your parents!

Cam Dinunzio: You can only say "fuck" once. (Much laughter.)

Maura Davis: We really appreciate it though. They help us out moneywise with the band; they helped us build a big practice space and all this stuff.

Splendid: That’s really good. So do they like the music?

Maura Davis: Yeah, they do.

Keely Davis: They have a lot of opinions. They actually met in a band. My dad is still in a band to this day. He has a lot of advice to give me, ways I wouldn’t normally think; a lot of times I’m like, "Dad, come on!" but every once in a while it’s like, "well, you know, I can understand."

Splendid: Did you grow up around music? Were your parents always playing records for you and stuff?

Keely Davis: Yeah, we had a band room that was full of instruments… playtime all the time.

Splendid: Did you start out playing your respective instruments pretty early?

Maura Davis: It was middle school for me, that I learned guitar, and I played piano when I was little — you know, your parents always make you play piano.

Keely Davis: Yeah, you were first a piano whiz. I didn’t even know you were picking up a guitar. I was like, "what?!"

SplendidI must admit, I’m kind of a big Engine Down fan myself –

Maura Davis: Me too!

Splendid: I never can decide which band I like better, but all the success that Denali’s encountered has me kind of worried. So, Keely, is Engine Down still going to be an all-out, full-time project — or at least as full-time as it can be — or do you see that kind of, uhh, on the downswing right now?

Keely Davis: It’s actually on the upswing. We never expected (things to go so well) for both bands. So yeah, Engine Down’s working on a new record at home — a lot of promising stuff, too.

Splendid: When you’re writing music, do you ever think, "gee, I like this riff… Should it go for Denali, or is it an Engine Down riff?" Do you kind of have to choose which band your ideas go with?

Keely Davis: Well, luckily it doesn’t happen often because I’m playing a different instrument in both bands. There have been times when I’m like, "Whoa, this bass line, I might throw it to Jason (Engine Down’s bassist)." But there’s been a couple of songs where I’ve been playing guitar that I thought were better suited for Denali and it actually kind of happened that way.

Splendid: (Jokingly) Do you ever think you’ll get away with trying to do the same thing for both bands and hoping nobody notices?

Keely Davis: I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep. I have a real problem with copycats. Once something sounds similar, we’re like…

Cam Dinunzio: It makes it easier too because Maura brings most of the ideas to the table, so a lot of our songwriting is reactionary to that, whereas Keely is the main songwriter for Engine Down, so most of the energy is split.

Splendid: For the new album, The Instinct, did you find yourselves writing more as a band this time, or was it still mostly stuff that you came up with, Maura?

Maura Davis: It’s still — I just came up with like the skeleton of the song… and everyone else would react to it.

A friend of the band walks by and is greeted by a chorus of "Hi!"s.

Maura Davis: That’ll sound funny on tape… What were we talking about?

Cam Dinunzio: The collaboration.

Maura Davis: Yeah, it was pretty much the same…

Cam Dinunzio: Process.

Maura Davis Process! The same process as the last record.

Cam Dinunzio: There were a couple of things, like Keely wrote a song for this record, and I wrote a song for this record, but it still had to go through Maura’s filter first before it was kind of given the final blessing.

Splendid: This one came together kind of quickly. Were the ideas just kind of jumping out of your head left and right? Because it’s only been a year and a half since the last one came out.

Maura Davis: True. Yeah, I guess I had a lot of stuff to write about, like a lot of drama in my life, so it’s easy to write songs when you have something to write about. So yeah, it’s weird, I can’t remember the process. When I was writing, I don’t remember how I would start writing a song. I think it would just come to me… "I’m going to write this song for my lost love." Yeah… what was I talking about? I’m on a sugar high right now, sorry.

Keely Davis: There was a lot going through your life. It’s surprising, in a small period of time — it’s almost like someone set it up. It seems too good, like our press people were like, "Let’s see, we’re gonna make this happen tomorrow!"

Splendid: Any specifics on what type of situations these were?

Maura Davis: Let’s see, you got your break-up with your boyfriend, you know, finding new love, having hypocritical friends — all the regular stuff.

Splendid: Basic things you deal with.

Maura Davis: Yeah, basic things, but they all happened to happen in the same little period.

Splendid: And what better way to get it out than the music.

Maura Davis: Yeah.

AUDIO: You File

Splendid: Did you find yourself with a lot of spare time to write while half the band was away on tour (with Engine Down)?

Maura Davis: Yeah, that’d be like my time period, when Engine Down’s gone, where I’m like, "Okay, I have to write four songs in a month," so I could have them before they got back.

Splendid: One thing I’ve noticed — I’ve only been able to hear three songs from the new record, unfortunately; it’s in the mail, but our mailroom is very slow at the dorms, so I don’t get things on time. But from the three songs I was able to hear, it sounds to me like with both the really guitar-driven parts and the more ambient, spacy type moments, there seems to be a very thick sound that I didn’t always hear on the self-titled. Everything just seems to be 110 percent — a little more passionate this time around. Do you think that’s because of what had happened to you?

Maura Davis: I also felt a lot more confident with this record. The last record, this being the first band I’d ever done, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I think Denali felt more confident as a band with how we wanted to go about this record and stuff.

Cam Dinunzio: I think with the last record we hadn’t figured out what we sounded like. We hadn’t toured yet. With this record, it’s like, "Ahhh, this is what we sound like live," so we tried to do a lot more of that in the studio, which is why it’s a little more aggressive maybe, a little more upfront. We wanted it to sound like the shows.

Splendid: I noticed, especially on the first record, though not so much on the new material I’ve heard, that there seems to be a bit of tension between wanting to be this complete rock band — guitars, loud drums — and then you’ll bring in the keys, and, I guess, a little more of a Portishead-type sound. How do you balance out your needs to rock and your needs to experiment a little bit?

The question elicits a few "oooh"s from the band, and then a moment’s pause

Maura Davis: Keely?

Keely Davis: It’s natural, really…

Maura Davis: We never, like, say, "This song needs more of a beatbox thing," or whatever… I don’t know…

Cam Dinunzio: The songs kind of dictate themselves, honestly. As you’re feeling them out, you kind of go, "This should have more ju-ju here, or this song should have a boy’s choir on it."

Jonathan Fuller joins the fray, and now all members are present for the rest of the interview.

Jonathan Fuller: How’s it going?

Splendid: Pretty good. We’re just talking about the new record a little bit.

Cam Dinunzio: Maybe you can answer this, Jonathan — how do we temper the balance between rock and ambient, how do we figure out what the song needs to do?

Jonathan Fuller: I think on the last record it just depended on how hot it was in the practice area. Whether we were so beat that we couldn’t play hard, or whether we had any energy to actually try and write songs.

Keely Davis: We tried, both, too. There’s this one song in particular — what’s that song called?

Jonathan Fuller: "Normal Days"?

Keely Davis: "Normal Days", which there were –

Jonathan Fuller: Many incarnations that it had?

Keely Davis: It started out really melodic — what’d we call it? "Spanish Ballad" or something? And then all of a sudden –

Jonathan Fuller: The noise thing, and then it was like a drum and bass thing, and then, it’s maybe the fastest and maybe the hardest rocking song on the record, so maybe it’s the hardest and fastest because we were so frustrated.

Splendid: In the future, do you feel like the band’s going to go one way or the other, or will it always be this combination of not quite being "out there" and electronic and not quite being completely balls-to-the-wall rock, either?

Maura Davis: I have no clue about that. I know on this record I wanted to rock more, personally. I just wanted to do that. But as far as the future, I have no idea what I would feel like doing.

Splendid: And that’s a good way to be. Just let it happen. So I hear you guys shot a video for one of the songs. Which song was it?

Maura Davis: "Hold Your Breath".

Splendid Okay, that’s one of the ones I have heard. What kind of theme is this video going to have? Is it just a performance or is there actually some type of storyline?

Cam Dinunzio: There’s both. We play in the woods, jump in the water…

Maura Davis: We have these little things chasing us or something.

Jonathan Fuller: We’re not entirely sure what it’s going to look like yet. We’ve shot it, we see it when we go to New York in a couple of days. The exciting thing I think is that it sort of combines organic and electronic, or digital, because the company that’s doing it is a digital animation company or whatever, and they specialize in sort of like live action with digital elements. That I think works well with what we’re doing; other than that…

Splendid: So these things chasing you, are they like little computer animated things?

Cam Dinunzio: Yeah, they’re computer generated. What is it, CG?

The band immediately goes into a state of mock excitement upon hearing the letters CG.

Splendid: What do these things look like?

Jonathan Fuller: We don’t know. It was, totally artificial — it’s like acting with Roger Rabbit.

Maura Davis: We used trash bags for where it was gonna be, so we reacted to the trash bag.

Splendid: So why are they chasing you?

Cam Dinunzio: We pissed them off…

Keely Davis: The whole thing is kind of like a growth thing. It’s supposed to be an island, and it’s like a disease-spreading organism, I don’t know…

Splendid: Was it the director that came up with a lot of this?

Keely Davis: Yeah, they really couldn’t give us much to work on, they were just like, "You’ll have to trust us." And as a band, we have our hands in every aspect, and this is like, "I have seen work you’ve done, and it looks good, so if it sucks, then I’m gonna kill you later." We always have this kind of thing, too, where we prefer to work with people we like, and they made us feel comfortable, they had good taste. Just looking at them, they wore good stuff. They didn’t scare us off right away, so we went along with it.

Splendid: Any chance of this going to MTV2 or any of the channels?

Maura Davis: We hope.

Splendid: Well good luck. You’ve got this album, and you’ve got this video, and in more news where the planets seem to be aligning for Denali, Hoobastank dropped off the Deftones tour and Chino asked you guys — hehand-picked you guys (to take their spot). How did that feel?

Maura Davis: Crazy.

Cam Dinunzio: A little terrifying at first.

Keely Davis: It was really weird, because I had heard their songs mainly through the popular music or whatever, and I was like, "This isn’t Limp Bizkit," and the guy has a good voice, and right before tour, two weeks before tour, I bought the new record, just because I wanted to see, and now we found out about (touring with them) and I’m like, "Okay, I kind of know who this is." We had our skepticism about size and our fanbase or whatever, but everyone decided that it would be fun and a nice change. But every time other people come from the outside world to talk to us about it they have this look on their face like, "Do you know what you’re — oh my God!"

Splendid: So did you know any of the Deftones guys beforehand, or was this –

Maura Davis: Totally out of the blue.

Splendid: Cool. That has to feel kind of special. One thing that will be in your favor is that they tend to have more of an intelligent fanbase than, say, Limp Bizkit or Disturbed or whatever. But at the same time, you’re also going to have plenty of people that, yeah, they heard that "Minerva" song on the radio, and they want to go out to the rock show, because it’s the rock show, and that’s what you do — you go there and bust people’s heads…

Jonathan Fuller: As long as they don’t bust us in the head. I’m always down with watching people beat each other up out there, but I’ll try not to be in the middle of it.

Keely Davis: (Pointing at a drawing on one of the ceiling tiles) Check out the unicorn on the ceiling, Maura.

Maura Davis: Where?

Keely Davis: (Reading the drawing’s caption) "Nobody knows I’m a unicorn."

Maura Davis: Awww!

Keely Davis: And it’s got your haircut! (Much laughter) I’m gonna make you a shirt: "Nobody knows I’m a unicorn".

Splendid: I would think people would know that it’s a unicorn… (The drawing was clearly and unambiguously a unicorn.)

Keely Davis: Yeah, it’s rather apparent.

Jonathan Fuller: It’s kind of easy to tell.

Maura Davis: Could you make me a shirt that says that?

Keely Davis: Sure thing.

Splendid: So, with this tour, this new album, all these things coming together, do you guys have a feeling that major rockstardom is on the horizon, or are you still just a little band from Richmond?

Maura Davis: I’m not gonna get my hopes up, even though I’d like to. Whenever I get my hopes up for something it doesn’t happen.

Cam Dinunzio: You just have to take something like that in stride. If you lie to yourself and get too worked up about it, you’re gonna get let down, so you just kind of take it for what it is and say, "Okay, it’s a bigger stage, more people… that’s cool…"

Keely Davis: I’ll just be excited to pay my health insurance.

Splendid: That’s always a good thing. Is it to the point where your bands are making you enough money to live off of?

Keely Davis: So far — well, for me and Jonathan, we’re doing double duty.

Maura Davis: Not really.

Keely Davis: Richmond’s got a — you can live at really low cost. I’m probably on the lowest scale possible, but, umm, yeah, it kind of works out. The good thing about Richmond is that you can do odd jobs. You can work for friends at home, production companies, or you can help build stages with people… the whole town, the whole crew of a workplace will be musicians sometimes.

Cam Dinunzio: We’re probably the oldest population, of like, a bunch of 30 year olds with summer jobs.

AUDIO: Hold Your Breath

Splendid: So are there a lot of people there who have made it to age 50 still kind of bumming around, working in the record store?

Cam Dinunzio: You don’t want to know about them.

Splendid: Okay, stay away from the old townies… So are the major labels knocking down your door yet?

Cam Dinunzio: They haven’t heard our new record yet.

Maura Davis: Yeah, but once they hear the new record…

Splendid: Is that a route you’re willing to take?

Maura Davis: Uhhh… if it happens.

Splendid: All of you guys have played in bands before. I guess for Maura this was the first thing, but the rest of you are veterans. What do you think made this Denali project, out of all the things you’ve gone into, get more exposure? Especially in terms of touring and the label you’re on?

Keely Davis: I think the very thing of having experience and knowing what to do and what not to do and starting from point blank of doing it — when a band grows, gets good, and sometimes people have a hard time of forgetting that first show that was just the worst thing of their lifetime, so we kind of started. It wasn’t really our goal to be this touring band all the time. Maura’s still in school and all. From day one, we knew how to do it, so I guess it came off like we knew what we were doing. So people latched on, and it’s good music, and good timing. It’s always timing. A lot of times it’s pure luck, definitely, but I think there’s something good there.

Splendid: Do you think any of Denali’s success is due to the novelty — and I hate to call it a novelty, but that’s how people look at it — of having the female lead singer? Do you think that made the band a little different?

Maura Davis: (Laughing) I’m not answering that question…

Keely Davis: There’s a lot of things that line up to make a good band. You know… entertainment. Everyone likes to look at people, everybody likes to see diversity, people like sexuality, people like females. There’s a lot of aspects that make for an easier time than others. Yeah, there’s a lot of crap — female vocalists who are huge, and I just can’t understand how they’ll beat out someone. Who knows where Jeff Buckley would have gone — he got bigger after he died, but I bet if he was still alive, things probably wouldn’t have gotten as big for him, comparing him to like a…

Splendid: Just because he’s a guy.

Keely Davis: Right, you know.

Splendid: Yeah, and I think you guys, just from everything I know about the band, the way you handle it is good. I don’t see you exploiting Maura and having scantily clad pictures of her everywhere.

Maura Davis: Not yet!

Splendid: Yeah, that’s after the Deftones tour. (Laughing)

Cam Dinunzio: You’re going to be on their next cover, like that one with the bathing suit girl.

Keely Davis: Of Maxim?

Jonathan Fuller: No, like the Deftones cover with the girl in the bathing suit on it.

Splendid: Is there any pressure on you to do something like that?

Cam Dinunzio: Yes. From Jade Tree, from Jessica Hopper.

Maura Davis: I think they want us to be a metal band or something.

Cam Dinunzio: They’re really, really, really image conscious. We don’t have to ask for a good photographer, we don’t have to ask for a make-up artist. We don’t have one yet, but they’re like, "Next time you guys do a shoot, we’re going to have people to iron your jeans. We don’t want you looking scruffy," you know. I think that for Jade Tree they see us as this kind of fashion flagship that they can sail for whatever reason. I guess we’re susceptible to it and we kind of fit into that mold. I mean, we’ve just kind of tried to look like we’re in the same band and we just happen to have similar fashion tastes.

Splendid: I would see it as more of a non-image with you guys, in that this is a band — they’re an indie rock band, they have a female singer, and yet, you’re certainly not The Strokes or anything in terms of how you dress and you’re certainly not putting Maura out as some kind of sex figure or anything. Do you almost feel like you could go that way, with your image being, "we’re very, very normal"?

Keely Davis: I had a guy yell at me about how Kurt Cobain was the ultimate in having no style. I can’t remember — I was wearing white pants and a black shirt, and he goes, "you guys and your fashion!" And I’m like, okay, two tone. And he just went on about Kurt Cobain and how he wasn’t in style and didn’t care, and I’m like, "You know, that’s great", but I think he knew that he didn’t care. Everything’s kind of a style.

Splendid: You get pigeonholed in that a lot.

Keely Davis: I just saw the Deftones video the other day and he had a backwards baseball cap in the video, and you know, people dig that.

Splendid: Think you guys will be whipping out the backwards baseball caps anytime soon?

Keely Davis: Oh yeah, Maura looks great in them.

Cam Dinunzio: I think that I always wanted there to be something about the band that separates us from the crowd we’re playing in front of. It doesn’t have to be leather jeans and studded belts, but I want there to be something that says, okay, we didn’t just walk up out of the crowd and start playing on stage. But I don’t want us to be so far removed that people feel alienated, and I think that whatever fashion sense we have, or don’t have, seems to work, kind of keeps people feeling connected to the band.

Splendid: When this is all over — after you guys have conquered the world, and the Deftones have opened for you, and you’ve put out ten albums, all that kind of thing — what do you want people to remember about Denali? What do you want people to have as the final thought on the band?

Jonathan Fuller: Keely’s shoes.

Splendid: Those are some nice shoes.

Maura Davis: Good makeout music.

Keely Davis: Which just happened on this tour. People were making out.

Cam Dinunzio: Yeah, I want to be the new Jane’s Addiction for the high school kids, like the violent makeout music. (Much laughter) That was like the daring thing to make out to when I was in school…

Splendid: So good makeout music, cool shoes, what more could you ask for? By the way, where did those shoes come from?

Keely Davis: Chicago.

Splendid: Thrift store?

Keely Davis: Umm, what’s it called? Ultra Savage Barn?

Cam Dinunzio: Strange Cargo?

Keely Davis: Yeah. They were twenty bucks. I was into it.

Splendid: Looks like the TV when the cable goes out.

Keely Davis: That would be awesome, having skulls on your TV.

Splendid: Oh, okay, those are skulls.

Jonathan Fuller: It’s magic eye, you’ve got to cross your eyes to check them out.

A little more pointless banter about the shoes follows.

Splendid: So aside from the music, what type of values or message or overall emotion do you want people to extract from the band and remember above and beyond just you guys sounding good, being good to make out to, or whatever?

Keely Davis: (After a long pause) That’s your answer, Maura.

Maura Davis: Ummmmm… I don’t think we’re trying to get across a message or anything like that. We just want people to be affected by it and, ummm, I guess with this record, immediately affected by it. That was our goal with this record. When you hear a song, we want you to be like, "Aw! Yes!"

Splendid: Before we wrap things up, any bands, people, anything you guys would like to shamelessly plug for a moment?

Jonathan Fuller: The new Death Cab For Cutie record is amazing.

Cam Dinunzio: There’s a band from Richmond that will never be heard just because, even from the name — the band’s called The Broken Hips, and the members are convinced that it’s going to self-destruct before it ever does anything.

Splendid: Are they the typical Richmond kind of –

Cam Dinunzio: No, they’re closer to like Calexico or Dirty Three, that kind of organic, airy, kind of back porch stuff.

Splendid: And, last but not least — have any of you guys actually been to the real Denali?

Maura Davis: No.

Jonathan Fuller: We’re shooting our next video there.

DENALI [I]The Instinct[/I] Review

Rating: 3.5/5

I have this formula for doing well in school that works off the premise that teachers are busy dudes. You take the first sizable assignment, the first chance to really show off, or whatever, and just go balls out with it — use unnecessarily big words, make everything complex, double the page requirement — and you’ll get an A in the class. The teacher will read that first paper, assume that you’re a "smart kid," and consequently skim every one of your papers from then on, assuming that you work that hard on every one. It’s yet to fail me.

Denali’s first album was the like the musical equivalent of the Great American Novel. You’d think this should get them a free pass, but music reviewers aren’t like that quick-to-assume teacher. We dissect every effort, resist existing reputations, and beat up on everyone every chance we get (it’s because we’re jealous). So when your band’s first record was ridiculously stupidly awesome and we called you saviors before you were even sure of what it was exactly you wanted to do, it’s doubly hard to keep your second record from being called a Sophomore Slump.

Hailing from Richmond, Va., Denali seemed to appear from out of the blue with the release of its self-titled record on Jade Tree in 2002. In reality, the hauntingly wonderful Denali was the product of some savvy indie-rock veterans and a startlingly talented newcomer, Maura Davis. Davis enlisted Jonathon Fuller and her brother Keely, both of Engine Down, and guitarist Cam DiNunzio of Lazy Cain fame to help bring some of her own ideas to fruition. It just so happened that said ideas ruled, and the self-titled album got everyone all giddy — we were all handing out Portishead comparisons like they were Prefix flyers at the Siren Festival.

And now we have The Instinct, Denali’s second offering, once again on Jade Tree. Certainly, this record is not a "failure" by any stretch. The only reason it could be mentioned in the same breath as the word "disappointment" is because of how breathtaking the first album was. Musically, there isn’t even a tangible fall off: Davis’s classically trained voice is present and quite beautiful, and the guys create what might be called a more straight-forward "rock record" in support of it. The Instinct is a fuller album, and, whereas the first album was distinctly Davis’s brainchild, it is more collaborative as well.

For the most part, the album even maintains most of the movement that dominated Denali’s debut: nine tracks on The Instinct are beautiful, dynamic creations in and of themselves, reaching a variety of emotional peaks and valleys through the course of their four-minute life spans. The songs are well thought out compositions; The Instinct is a strikingly deliberate album. This is a "press play and walk away" kind of record. There will be no skipping of songs, no repeating of the hot single, none of it. This is a solid album, from start to finish.

But the fall off is in the mood. The Instinct doesn’t make me want to dress up in a nice jacket and tie then loosen it, take off the jacket, ruffle up my shirt and undo the top button, and drink vodka martinis in an empty bar while staring menacingly at some anonymously gorgeous girl with overdone eyeliner. The first album created that; it transcended the musician/listener boundary and infiltrated your life. Denali was mood-altering, only to be listened to in certain mindsets.

It’s not that The Instinct is less atmospheric. It’s that the fullness of this album, in contrast to the sparseness of the earlier work, leaves something to be desired in the "hauntingly icy" arena. The Instinct is a bigger, very produced work, and overall it creates what is probably a much more accessible record. But it was the isolation of the first album that made it brilliant.

Nonetheless, The Instinct is a wonderful album. Whereas the last one was stunning from first listen onward, this record grows on you slowly, infectiously, like some kind of fucked-up musical tumor. Its "numerical score" went from a 2.0 to a 3.5 in the course of writing this review. It’s hard to give such a fully-realized record a 3.5 and throw around words like "slump," but when a band has shown the unique ability to jump off an album and change the course of your day, the bar is pretty fucking high.