Exclusive Interview: Alex Dezen of The Damnwells on Reunions, Writing, and Zippity Do Da Nonsense


Image courtesy of Patrice Fehlen

The rise and fall of the under the radar, americana ridden rock band The Damnwells; what’s their story, and how did they trudge through musical downfall only to revert back to their distinguished origins? You can get the perspective of the man behind the curtain himself. The Brooklyn based rock band have seen a stormy past since their formation in 2001. The original lineup consisting of Alex Dezen, Ted Hudson, former Whiskeytown drummer Steven Terry, and David Chernis, the group made their full emergence in 2003 with their debut full length Bastards Of The Beat. However, a dispute with Epic records where the label dropped the band before they could release their sophomore album Air Stereo, the band was  forced into a battle without the odds in their favor to release the record. In spite of this, The Damnwells maintained their composure and stayed true to their roots – Air Stereo was later released under a new label. This struggle was captured on Chris Suchorsky’s documentary “Golden Days”. Nonetheless, the complete disbanding of the lineup by 2008 followed the dispute.

While back in school, Dezen along with a refined lineup released One Last Century in 2009 as a free download to fans – A record you can still download on the band’s official website. Subsequent to this lone writing endeavor, a reunion between Dezen and the original bassist Ted Hudson was announced in 2010, and together the duo along with a rotating lineup released No One Listens To The Band Anymore in 2011 with support from PledgeMusic, a site where fans can pledge money in exchange for exclusive album release privileges and band memorabilia.

The question remains – Where are The Damnwells now? What planet have they retreated to? Well, the earth bound answer is cities around the United States putting the finishing touches on their fifth album with their fully reunited original lineup – An endeavor which wouldn’t have been possible without the band’s second completed PledgeMusic campaign. In addition, Dezen has plans to release a quartet of solo EPs titled “The Bedhead Series” – The first of the four already released last month.  The split past has seemed to have no effect on these down to Earth Brooklyn rockers; they’re back in their original form, on their feet, and have found old time unison and creative bliss in an all too clouded music industry. Get an inside angle regarding The Damnwells’ past, present, and future plans in an exclusive interview with Alex Dezen below.

Would you introduce yourself, your role in The Damnwells, and a notable fact about yourself to anyone who may not know you or the band?

My name is Alex Dezen. I’m the lead singer of a band called The Damnwells. I write some of the songs. Notable fact: Our drummer owns a Llama.

How does it feel to have completed the PledgeMusic goal for LP #5 following the previous success with the site to release “No One Listens to the Band Anymore”?

It’s pretty great. We’ve got some seriously kind and dedicated fans. It’s a good place to be, that’s for sure.

Do you feel that PledgeMusic is an ideal platform for aspiring bands and musicians looking to gain support and funding?

Absolutely not. Aspiring bands and musicians need to make fans first. If you don’t have fans, it’s gonna be pretty hard to ask them to help you fund a record.

How has the writing and recording process on LP #5 and “No One Listens to the Band Anymore” differed, having the original lineup back on board?

It was really exciting. Whenever I write a Damnwells song, I still imagine what Dave and Steve and Ted would do. Now I don’t have to imagine it anymore! It felt really good. Like a homecoming of sorts. I felt energized.

Do you feel the musical output with the unity of the original lineup is different from Air Stereo and One Last Century where their influence wasn’t  present?

Well, Air Stereo was with the original 4 guys, but this record feels nothing like that. We made Air Stereo when we were on Epic [Records], and there was a lot of pressure being on a major label to make “hits,” which we kind of just gave the big middle finger to. We made the record we wanted to make, for sure, but almost despite Epic. This just feels like the record we want to make despite no one. The two records I made without the original line up were great fun, and I’m super proud of those records, but this just feels like… I don’t know. Home.

What do you have to say about LP #5 compared to The Damnwells’ previous releases? What can fans and possible new listeners expect?

An American rock and roll band that makes American rock and roll. Drawing on influences new and old and holding up a big, nubby middle finger to auto-tuners and drum machines and zippity do da nonsense that rounds the edges and sands down the beautiful burrs.

You recently announced a series of four solo EPs set to release this year, one of which came out recently – How has the individual creative freedom and recording process of these been different from the band’s endeavors?

These EPs are basically the songs that I’ve written over the last three years that just don’t have a place on the new Damnwells record, but need to see the light of day. It’s another side of the songs. Another side of me. It’s a bit more personal. A bit more simple.

Any touring plans made thus far to support this solo work on it’s own?

Absolutely. We’re putting together some midwestern solo dates for April/May right now!

Aside from the release of LP #5, what are The Damnwells’ plans for 2014?

We’re returning to Brooklyn, where it all began, for a little sold out show at Rough Trade on March 15. That will be the first time the original guys have played together in 7 years. Kind of practice run to see if we can all get back on stage without killing each other.

Thanks for your time! Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for listening!


To pledge on LP #5, you can visit The Damnwells’ PledgeMusic campaign here.

Check out The Howler’s review of Dezen’s first solo EP “1/4”. 

For updates on the band,  you can follow Alex’s Twitter and the band’s website or YouTube channel.  

In the meantime, make your ears happy with some of The Damnwells’ tunes below.