It’s official. The Damnwells are done. “It was an amazing run,” says Alex Dezen of the band for which he was the lead singer. “But it’s time to move on.” Sixteen years, five albums, and countless miles later, Dezen is finally stepping out on his own with his second solo album in two years. Truth be told, the tenuous formation which has carried the Damnwells moniker over the last decade and a half has always featured Dezen’s voice and songs front and center. In many ways, II, the second solo album from Damnwells frontman, is just a continuation of what Dezen
has been doing his entire career. Only it isn’t that at all.
From the fuzzed-out refrains of “When You Give Up” to the lush harmonies of “Everything’s Great (Everything’s Terrible)” to the acoustic folkie life lessons of “The Boys of Bummer,” ‘II’ showcases the creative spark of an artist coming into his prime — a songwriter who has been able to deftly thread the needle between his past, present, and future. ‘II,’ which is being released on February 3, 2017 on Poor Man Records, remains undaunted, pushing artistic boundaries like never before.
“In many ways,” says Dezen, “the job of an artist is to re-examine what came before. That informs what we do next.” Taken as a whole, ‘II’ displays a penchant for blending both retro and modern sounds to forge something new, yet still creating something catchy enough to hook the listener on the very first spin. “My intention when I made this record was not to make an ’80s record,” Dezen clarifies. “But as soon as I got the guitar in my hands and started messing around with chords and getting further along into the production and the writing, it just went that way — and it felt very natural to me.”
Dezen, who wrote, performed, produced, and mixed this record almost entirely on his own, thoroughly enjoyed the time he spent in a band. “The beauty of being in a band,” Dezen explains, “is you’ve got all these different influences coming in. But when you’re making a record by yourself and you’re producing it by yourself, you can chase down any and every idea to its most perfect conclusion. You can really explore all the things and ideas you want.”
Dezen knows what lane he’s in as an artist — and he’s totally cool with it. “I’m not trying to rewrite the history of music. I’m not Radiohead, and I’m not trying to do something that has never been heard before,” he says. “I do very much like familiarity in my music. It’s whatever originality you bring to it that ultimately makes your music special.”
Innocent Words is pleased to premiere Alex Dezen’s first single off the new album – “Boys of Bummer.”
Innocent Words: Tell us about the inspiration for “Boys of Bummer.” Is there a particular story behind it?
Alex Dezen: My father died in 2016. I hadn’t been very close with him since I was a kid, but as he got older and sicker, I started to remember some of the good times we had together. The little moments of adoration I had for him. He was a great singer. I loved to hear his voice.
Innocent Words: What was it like working on this song in the studio? How was the recording process?
Alex Dezen: I recorded the voice and guitar live and in one take, overdubbing the cello and bass. It was quick. I think it had to be. It just had to be done. This was a pretty somber recording process. I think it turned out pretty much how I wanted it. It’s a “solo” song, so there really wasn’t much to the process.
Innocent Words: How do you think this song represents you as an artist, sonically speaking? What do you hope listeners take away from having listened to it?
Alex Dezen: This is me. A part of me, I suppose. It’s all just little parts. This is one of them. I hope that people who knew my father remember the good parts about him, and I suppose I hope other people who are estranged from a member of their family will find some comfort in this, if that’s possible. Estrangement is hard, but it is a big part of the human, familial experience.