August 11, 2003
S/T EP 2003
Desaparecidos - Read Music, Speak Spanish CD 2002
Desa, Stats. Desa, Stats. Desa, Stats. You may know Denver Dally as the musical force behind Desaparecidos. You may know him Jade Tree’s nostalgic-dreamer Statistician. Though early in his career this interview may show he won’t be shaking either tag any time soon.
Without much to do musically because of Desaparecidos band-mate Conor Oberst maintaining his day job with Bright Eyes, Denver Dalley stepped out of the shadow of said indie star and started his own project, Statistics. He promptly found label support outside of Omaha on one of his two “favorite record labels of all time,” Jade Tree, and released a five-song EP, which introduced us to this prolific solo artist. Not a bad arrangement for a kid who previously had no experience fronting a band. Not bad at all.
As Dalley claims, Statistics is most definitely a solo project. It is a project that combines a fruitful combination of lush instrumentals with two-and-a-half-minute pop gems, gaining the interest of fans from a wide variety of backgrounds. With two full-lengths on the horizon (both Statistics and Desaparecidos) expect to see and hear from Dalley in more ways than one in the coming months. It promises to be an interesting ride.
30: Before you started your new project, Statistics, you were involved with Desaparecidos. This was your first band, correct?
Denver Dalley: Yeah, pretty much. I had played guitar in other bands, but just as kind of a like a sub. Desaparecidos was like my first real band.
30: How did that band come together?
Dalley: We all grew up together and have been friends for years. We all talked about playing together in different combinations and then finally we all just got together and that’s basically how we started.
30: You are kind of the main songwriter in Desaparecidos, correct?
Dalley: Yeah, I came up with most of the musical ideas and Conor [Oberst] would come up with all the lyrics. We’re working on a new album that we’re going to record in December and that has been more of a collaborative effort. The majority of the songs were written more as a band.
30: Are you more into the lyric writing on the new stuff then?
Dalley: No, the lyrics are always going to be Conor’s department. Just musically we were all involved a little more. It’s not just me being like, “Here’s a new song” you know.
30: Would you consider it to be as political as Read Music, Speak Spanish tends to lead on to be?
Dalley: I don’t know. I think that the whole thing with that album is that we were trying to do something that is more social than political. But given like the timing and everything it became more political. I guess certain people would argue that social is political or whatever, but I don’t know. I definitely feel strongly about all the things that we sing about, and definitely support getting the message out there.
30: Let’s talk a little about your new project, Statistics. What exactly do you consider it to be? How would you sum it up?
Dalley: Basically I had a downtime from Desaparecidos. I’m trying to really stay busy and music is really the only thing that I’m doing. Just to let you know I’m not working any jobs. Not to say I’m doing this because I needed something to do. Obviously, I was planning on just doing Desa and pursuing that. But with Conor having Bright Eyes - and obviously they’re doing quite well right now - I just had a lot of downtime. I was just coming up with more stuff that I liked and that was a little more synth’ier. And maybe a little more pop that wouldn’t quite fit as a Desa song. At the same time I was also trying out vocals because I’d never lead a band before. I mean in Desa I sing backups. I don’t know really. I guess it’s just kind of a side-project that has benefited me as a songwriter.
30: Would you consider it to be exclusively a solo project?
Dalley: Yeah. â€˜Cause the EP I recorded pretty much exclusively by myself. Well, I did have a drummer sit in on a few tracks. I basically did it on my own. I’m gonna record the full-length in August and my live band is actually going to play on a few songs. But for the most part it’s just me in the studio.
30: Do you plan to work with Mike Mogis on the full-length as well?
Dalley: Actually I’m going to work with AJ Mogis on that one - try something different. I love [Presto!] and I love both the Mogis’, but I’ve wanted to work with AJ for a while and I’m pretty sure we’re going to do the new Desa record with Mike.
30: It seems to me like the Saddle Creek family is pretty close. I was just wondering why you decided to venture outside of Saddle Creek and have Jade Tree put out the Stats EP and upcoming full-length.
Dalley: Well, Jade Tree and Saddle Creek are definitely my two favorite labels of all time. I’ve just grown up with both of them. I was just kinda further getting the point out there that this is me on my own. You know, obviously with Desaparaecidos we got a lot of attention right off the bat because Conor was in the band. I definitely want people who listen to Desaparecidos to know that this is out there but I don't want them thinking I'm depending on that. Basically I just thought it’d be good to try something different and try working with more people. Before I could only say I was label-mates with the bands that are on Saddle Creek, which is amazing as it is, but now I can say I’ve also got a different family - like two different families now. I can keep things constantly going with both projects and both labels, just kinda keep going back and forth.
30: Are you still based in Omaha?
Dalley: Actually, I just bounce between Nashville and Omaha. My family lives down in Nashville and the two guys that are my live band for Statistics live down in Nashville. But for the most part I’m based out of Omaha. Since I’ve been touring so much I really haven’t had a place anywhere for the last year or so. This winter I’m gonna finally get a place in Omaha and just kinda keep going back and forth.
30: Which band between Stats and Desa would you say you have enjoyed more?
Dalley: Um, that’s a tough call because Statistics is such a new thing. I’ve had a lot of great times out on the road with Desa and this is like our first tour with Statistics. I guess it’s different because I feel like Statistics is kind of more like I’m putting more of myself into the material. So, it’s kind of interesting to see what the response is to it whereas Desa is like a band band, this is more like a solo thing. I guess it’s honestly too early to tell. I’ve had a lot of great times with Desa and this is just the start of Statistics.
30: Fair enough. How has being a member of the very successful Desaparecidos carried over into Statistics?
Dalley: I’ve done tours with Desa, so I know what that’s like - I’ve gained a lot experience. I’m a little more savvy on like the business side of things. There’s a lot of people that obviously know Desa and are finding out about this, so that helps. I feel like everyone in this independent music circuit has at least two bands. I guess it’s a good reference point.
30: Have you had any shocking reactions from people that have heard Statistics?
Dalley: Well, not yet. The other night we were in Memphis and I was standing outside the club; all of a sudden I heard this car wreck and I walked up to see if everyone was alright - see if they needed to use my cell phone or anything. And this kid jumps out of the car and he’s wearing a Desaparecidos shirt and he was like, “Yeah, we were hurrying to come out to see the show.” I felt awful, so I gave him all this free merch. And luckily no one was hurt. I’m definitely seeing a lot of the same fans at the Desa shows.
So far I’ve had nothing but good things said about the project. Like no one has come up and said, “Man this sucks!” But that’d be cool too. I’d almost like that more. I’m always about hearing constructive criticism.
30: What would you say your outlook or goal was going into recording the debut EP?
Dalley: Well with Desa I kind of know what the other guys like, so I kinda know what type of stuff to come up with for them. Like when we first started that band I was coming up with all this weirder, slower stuff and the sound kind of morphed into what it is now. Now, with Statistics I’m the only person I have to satisfy, so there’s no limitations. And that’s why there’s the two instrumental songs on the EP. I love instrumental music and I’ve always wanted to find a way to present it in a way that it doesn’t get boring. I like to keep songs short too. I kind of have an attention problem when it comes to songs and shows. Keep it short and sweet and keep people interested. I was just making whatever sounded the best to me, so that was the fun thing about it.
30: Do you plan on doing more instrumental on the full-length?
Dalley: It’ll probably be like 2 or 3 instrumentals, but for the most part they’ll have vocals. I plan to mix it up with more rocking songs and then have ambient songs and such. A good mix between both.
30: Could you explain the inspiration behind the lyrical concept on “Hours Seemed Like Days” from the EP?
Dalley: I guess I though about all these bands that are trying to get this vintage-y kind of sound like the Strokes. Even like the new White Stripes album - like how a lot of these bands have these hotshot producers with the big Pro Tools rigs and they’re trying to get these sounds that were attainable years ago. And at the same time these producers years ago were trying to come up with this futuristic sound. I just thought it was a kind of interesting situation. Even though with all the technology we have today sometimes the analog is still the best sounding or best looking option. I guess it’s just about change and reminiscing about simpler times.
30: Is it hard to recreate live what you do in the studio?
Dalley: It was tough at first. I wasn’t sure how we were going to pull it off. We have a sampler that plays backing tracks, so that definitely helps; they’ll be just little atmospheric stuff that helps it sound like the recording. So, I guess we kinda cheat.
30: What were you listening to at age 17?
Dalley: I’ve always listened to the bands in Omaha, Cursive especially. Well before they were Cursive they were called Slow Down Virginia. I was still pretty heavy into Nirvana then. Who else? Archers of Loaf, the Pixies. That’s probably about it.
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