Hundreds of miles from home, Lance Linderman's having his hair straightened while a buxom makeup girl dusts his nose with powder. Linderman, the lead singer for Desole, Phoenix's rising indie act, is standing in a smoky warehouse sandwiched between sweat shops in Los Angeles' seedy garment district, where his band is working on its debut music video. The set is spilling over with cables and camera rigging, and a video crew prepares for what feels like the 20th take of the shoot for the song "Gossip." Correction: It's the 60th.
Exhausted, the other band members are strewn about the warehouse like wet clothes someone laid out to dry. Screw step-aerobics and spinning -- try head-banging and writhing with all the energy of a live performance for nine hours straight. The director yells out for marks and the band members step back into position. The audio rolls and the band pulls off the take like it's the first of the day.
The shoot ends up lasting 12 hours, but Desole (pronounced day-so-lay) takes it in stride. After all, ragged schedules, long cross-country drives, and chiropractic-inducing video shoots are a blessing for a band that spent the past six years plying its trade at backyard parties and local art houses. As the rest of the world catches on to the local indie fave, Desole gets increasingly primed for success, with a freshly inked record deal and a debut full-length, A Story to Tell (Abacus Records), in stores nationwide. Not bad for six guys who are all under the legal drinking age except one. Friday night's show at Modified Arts kicks off a mammoth set of tours that will keep Desole on the road until early fall.
What a difference six years makes.
"We started playing small shows in 2000," says Desole bassist Gavin Linderman of forming the band with his twin brother Lance. "The current lineup was finally solidified in summer '04 after going through a bunch of different members."
Somehow, "a bunch" seems like an understatement, considering Desole went through 13 musicians to establish the current lineup. Its ex-members list reads like a who's who of the Phoenix scene, and includes players from Hiller, Goodbye Tomorrow, and Micah Bentley.
"When you play in a young band, things change a lot," explains guitarist Jason Stromberg. "We looked at it as a chance to evolve. Now most of the guys have gone on to play in a bunch of great bands, so we all play together in the same scene."
A lot of bands would have crumbled or lost direction with so much behind-the-scenes flux, but Desole thrived because of friendship, a commitment to never quit. The chemistry of the current lineup -- consisting of the two Linderman brothers on vocals and bass; Stromberg, Eric Ryan Chapman I, and Josh Johnson on guitars; and Jason "Moon" Milhan on drums -- comes shining through during the band's caustic performances and on CD. And yes, you read that right: Desole has three guitar players, which could very well be the ace up its sleeve.
Desole's triple six-string attack means guitars are gushing from every nook and cranny on A Story to Tell with so much melody, conviction and musicianship you'll want to destroy every The Used and Hawthorne Heights CD you own. The band builds a complex mosaic of sound as ornamental as Sigur Rós, but with cranked-up, echoing guitars that hark back to how The Edge used to play before he started writing songs for iPod commercials. Desole's layered wall of guitars is the perfect match for Lance Linderman's vocals, which soar and crackle with the kind of urgency and clarity that Robert Smith hasn't sung with in decades.
The CD opener, "Personal," tears out of the gate with a huge chorus and builds to a series of swelling crescendos. With blood in its mouth, the band works through songs drenched in sexy, sleek, angular rock, like "Opposites Attract" and "Familiar Pills," which sound infused with nothing short of studio magic. But that's the beauty of it.
While it's commonplace for producers to use overdubs in the studio to fill out a band's sound, Desole actually pulls off everything that it records in a live setting. In fact, Desole garnered the attention of record labels because of its walloping live performances. After a series of offers, Desole settled on Abacus Records (Sick of It All, The Juliana Theory, Stavesacre) largely because of the hard work of Abacus A&R rep Ray Harkins.
"We played a show with Ray's band, and he contacted us soon after," says Gavin Linderman. "We felt like they really supported us and our sound, and we respected the bands on their roster, so we signed."
When it came time to record A Story to Tell, Desole tapped Phoenix producer Cory Spotts (Greeley Estates, The Format), who had also recorded the band's 2004 Melody in Transit EP. Recorded between August and September of 2005 at Spotts' studio Blue Light Audio Media, the lush CD captures the band's huge live sound perfectly.
Despite all of the hard work, Desole makes plenty of time for fun, identity theft and nudity.
"I gotta be free, man -- pants just hold a brother back," says Chapman of his penchant for dropping trou during rehearsals, at restaurants, and pretty much any other time he feels moved to do so. Chapman also explains in a hush-hush sort of way that some big-name celebrities have played in Desole, like Kevin Bacon and Wesley Snipes.
"When I activated my cell phone service, I signed up as Bacon Kevin," explains Chapman. "You know how cell phones read last name first? I reversed it, so when people look at their caller ID, they'll be like, 'Shit, man, it's Kevin Bacon!' I recently switched my name to Snipes Wesley, which has been very liberating."
By the people and for the people, Desole is the quintessential Phoenix indie rock band, and its CD release party will be one of those shows you'll remember years from now and think, "I knew about Desole before they were big."
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