Rock Candy Interview: Denver Dalley of Desaparecidos

Desaparecidos is, from left, Conor Oberst, Matt Baum, Denver Dalley, Landon Hedges and Ian McElroy.

Ten years ago, Desaparecidos disbanded. Frontman Conor Oberst went on and did some Bright Eyes albums and tours. Other members focused on projects including Statistics and Little Brazil.

Then two years ago, band members got a call from Oberst: “Would you be interested in getting the band back together?”

Almost immediately, everyone was onboard. The band played a raucous set of all of material from its only album, “Read Music/Speak Spanish.”

Everyone I talked to asked, “Will we get more?”

That was answered earlier this year when the band – Oberst, Denver Dalley, Matt Baum, Landon Hedges and Ian McElroy – was announced as Maha Music Festival’s headliner and took the stage for a surprise show that made national news.

They debuted two new songs there and, last week, made two songs available for download.

“MariKKKopa” takes on the infamous Sherriff Joe Arpaio and “Backsell,” my favorite of the new bunch, rips on major labels and the music industry in general.

Listen to “Backsell”

As the band prepared to head out on tour – its first show is tonight in at Minneapolis’ tiny 400 Bar – I called guitarist Denver Dalley to talk about the band. He was meeting with Des Moines’ Bilt Guitars (they do guitars for Nels Cline, Buzz Osborne and other cool dudes) and talked happily about the reunion, downloading Desa’s songs from iTunes and if he’s bringing back Statistics.

Q. You guys must be rehearsing right now. How has that been going?

A. It’s been going really well. It really feels like we picked up where we left off. We’re excited and we have a lot of energy even in just the band room.

Q. I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot, but do you think you’ll do more tour dates?

A. I think so. There are no plans to at this point, but we’re all kinda planning on it. We just kinda want to see how these go and see how schedules work out. There’s nothing booked, but I think we’re all looking forward to it.

Q. I remember that Conor Oberst called you guys for the Concert For Equality and everyone jumped onboard. How did the band get back together this time?

A. I think a lot of it was because of that Concert for Equality. We were suprised at how it felt like how much fun we were having. We all talked about it and joked about it for years. It came and went and was a really brief thing. We had a whirlwind practice and the show seemed liked it lasted five minutes to us.

After that, we were like, ‘We really need to do this.’ We had a lot of fun goofing off in the band room and playing together. That further motivated us to make sure that it happened.

Q. Was it schedules lining up or what?

A. That’s a huge part of it. Obviously, after the Concert for Equality, Conor spent a solid year doing the huge Bright Eyes world tour. After that was over, it was one of those things where we were just talking: ‘Now would be a good time.’ And it was. It is.

Q. Does it seem like the right time to get this band together? The band’s songs are very political and some of the themes before are relevant now.

A. Yeah. Before and now, we were talking about it on a local scale. I think it’s still relevant now. There was plenty to talk about back then and there’s plenty to talk about now.

Q. Did you always intend to write new songs?

A. It just kinda came about. There were a couple songs ideas or themes that we had for awhile. We wrote “MariKKKopa” and it came together. Conor’s so close to that recording studio (he and Mike Mogis are neighbors) that we could just go. And Mike was available to record those songs.

Q. Desaparecidos seemed only to get more popular while it was gone. Why does that happen, do you think, with not just your band, but a lot of bands?

A. We were kind of gone before we were here. We kind of disappeared, no pun intended. I think the record has had a lot of time to kind of build a cult following. Obviously, Conor has a cult following as well. People had time to pass it along and download it and it’s been talked about.

And we were such a brief thing that there’s been people that have been interested in seeing us play for a long time now.

Q. Was it hard picking up those songs again? I imagine you hadn’t played them during the off time.

A. It was kinda funny. A couple of us had to actually download the records from iTunes. At one point, we even double-checked with one of those sites – like, lyric websites – just to kinda cross reference and have them printed out because it was so much easier than typing them up.

Q. Not everyone in the band has been as active as everyone else. Has anyone had a hard time readjusting?

A. Not really. Not yet, anyway. We’ve joked about being so much older now. ‘We’re not 19-year-old kids anymore.’ I keep joking about how we haven’t matured much in a lot of ways. (laughs) You know, ‘Maybe we’ll have to book days off in between shows to recover. We’re a bunch of old men up there.’

If anything, Matt was so notorious for smashing on his drums and he still does, but he’s been able to fine tune it a bit and figure out a way to do it that’s not so damaging or harmful to his body. There would be times after shows that he couldn’t grip his stickshift. He’s gotten a lot mroe control over it.

For the most part, it’s been shockingly easy getting back in the saddle and picking up where we left off. ‘This seems almost too easy. It seems like a trap.’

Honestly, and I feel like such a jerk for saying this, but when we get int he same room, it just seems to happen. Everything comes so easy. A lot of it is that kind of chemistry. I guess we’re all excited on our end that we feel like we haven’t lost it and it doesn’t sound like some adult contemporary jam.

Q. The couple shows that you guys have played (Concert for Equality in 2010 and the band’s surprise show back in April) have all been one-offs and in Omaha. Are you excited to actually go on the road?

A. Yeah. I’m super excited. I’m as excited to have band practice as I am to play shows. It’s really a lot of fun, which is kinda funny. It’s an angry, louder band and there’s a lot of serious subjects, but we’re all like kids in the hall. I have a lot of fun with them and I’m excited to play these songs.

In the back of our minds, we’ve all wanted to these songs because they’re so fun. A lot of people, ourselves included, want to hear them.

Q. People are really excited to see you guys. I keep getting asked if I know what’s next.

A. We’re an interesting thing. People are curious about what’s gonna happen next and if there’s gonna be more tours or an album, but we’re in the same boat. We’re kinda curious, too. We’re watching and we’re excited, too.

Q. I know you’ve played with different bands in the last several years. Tell me what you’ve been up to. Will we hear more Statistics music any time?

A. I’ve had a few different recording and solo projects. I had a project called Statistics and I haven’t done one of those records in a long time. I just finished up one of those, and hopefully that will be done later this year.

I also scored my second feature film, a documentary about the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo.

Q. People ask me about Statistics a lot.

A. I kind of walked away from it for awhile. I kinda needed to take a step back and kinda play for other people and not have to deal with all the responsibility. I kinda had a falling out with the label that I was on, and we went our separate ways. Enough time had passed that I was ready to do that again.

Q. Do you have any expectation as to when that will be out?

A. I think what I’m gonna do is master it here once we finish this west coast run and then release videos for the songs. Then I’ll see what happens. I might even put the whole thing up online.

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