Denver Dalley is shopping for a van.
Seems the guitarist for Saddle Creek band Desaparecidos and now singer/songwriter for one-man show, Statistics, will need one sooner than he thought. With a new 5-song EP to be released on respectable indie label Jade Tree Records, Dalley plans on hitting the road with a new band and at the same time, take his career in a new direction.
“In just about every way, this release is a feat of independence,” Dalley said from his parents’ home in Nashville — his personal writer’s getaway — while he begins working on his full-length follow-up to his EP debut.
“I’m trying to break from the pattern,” he said. “I did the EP mostly by myself and then took it to Jade Tree instead of Saddle Creek Records. All the way around, it was a ‘getting out on my own’ sort of thing.”
Dalley follows a familiar practice developed by other Saddle Creek Records artists — work in multiple bands. Cursive lead singer Tim Kasher also fronts the kinder, gentler The Good Life; The Faint’s Joel Petersen released a solo project on Tiger Style Records last year as Broken Spindles; Cursive guitarist Ted Stevens fronts post-folk ensemble Mayday; and most notably Bright Eyes’ singer/songwriter Conor Oberst also stands alongside Dalley as the leader of blistering emo-punk band Desaparecidos.
Dalley said the schizoid existence is both a creative outlet and a way to fill the gaps when Oberst is busy with Bright Eyes. “Desa (short for Desaparecidos) was definitely one of the most rewarding and fun things I’ve done. It’s also one of the most frustrating,” Dalley said. “We had a real strong debut and were generating a great fan base. Things were going forward, but it screeched to a halt when Bright Eyes started up again. That was fine — I can’t imagine it going any other way — but it’s hard to have to wait for the opportunity to play again.”
Enter Statistics, a one-man recording project that Dalley began last year, recording the initial demos on 8-track before booking time last winter with Saddle Creek veteran producer Mike Mogis at Presto! Studios in Lincoln.
Mogis and Dalley rerecorded the demos with drummer Mike Sweeney (Split Second) contributing on three songs. The resulting self-titled EP is a departure from anything Dalley has done with his other band.
The differences are obvious right off the bat. Opening track, “Another Day,” starts with a stew of buzzing electronic noises, a sharp kick drum, synths and Pixies-style tonal guitar. Enter Dalley’s restrained, low, breathy vocals, singing “Another day / Where everything’s the same / Nothing ever changes / At all.” A little over two minutes into the song, the pop fades to radio-dial static before transitioning into electronic, Notwist-style instrumental “(A Memory).” It all leads up to the EP’s big moment, “Hours Seemed Like Days,” a laid-back rocker with shades of J Mascis. After another brief instrumental portrait (the spacey “(A Flashback)”), the EP closes with the serene electronic pop number “Cure Me,” that feels like low-octane Depeche Mode or New Order.
Shortly after finishing the final mix, Dalley sent the CD to Wilmington, Delaware, label Jade Tree Records, whose roster includes Cap’n Jazz, Jets to Brazil, Milemarker, Pedro the Lion and Texas is the Reason. “I grew up with Saddle Creek and Jade Tree,” Dalley said. “With Desa, it was automatic that we would be on Saddle Creek. But when I finished this one, the first people I thought of was Jade Tree. I mailed it to them and a week later they were flying me up to their offices. To me, it was a huge deal having someone as excited about the project as much as I am. Being on both labels, I have the best of both worlds, and hopefully there will be some good crossover possibilities.”
Though the CD isn’t slated for release until June 17 (though preorders are being taken at Jade Tree’s website starting next week), Dalley is already putting together a touring band that will include members of Omaha’s 1989 Chicago Cubs as well as some friends from Nashville. “Basically, the Cubs are going to be my backup band,” Dalley said. “If they have something recorded, both bands will be able to tour together.”
Dalley said Statistics will feature drums, bass, guitar and keyboards, with the Cubs’ Ryan Fox switching between guitar and keys. Dalley’s Nashville friends will fill in when Fox is out touring with his third band, The Good Life.
He’s already talked with Ground Control, the national agent who books a number of Saddle Creek bands, to help him book a tour, perhaps as an opening act. Plans call for a couple two- or three-week road stints this summer, followed by a lengthy national tour after the release of the Statistics full-length debut early next year. “That’s an idealistic plan, but I’m pretty determined,” Dalley said.
The only thing that stands in his way is the next Desaparecidos project, which doesn’t look to be happening anytime in the near future. “I know that everyone in Desa wants to get back together again, and we will at some point,” Dalley said, “but not anytime soon. Conor’s going on his next Bright Eyes tour and then to New York. It’s hard to imagine when we’re all going to be in the same place for any amount of time to really work on it.
“Both bands are top priorities for me, so I’ll do whatever it takes to make them both work. I’d rather have too much going on than too little.”