New York garage rockers Dead Stars set the tone for the day this past Saturday, as they were the first band to take one of the two stages at 4Knots Festival at South Street Seaport. The three-piece band made up of cousins Jeff Moore (who may or may not be Ben Folds’ doppelganger) and Jaye Moore on guitar and drums along with John Watterberg on bass powered through an early afternoon set that gave those who came out early a chance to see an exciting band that build their sound on loud fuzz and thunderous percussion.
I had been listening to their first full length album Slumber all week, but was really blown away from how much stronger the band sounded live. The album, which was released last month via Old Flame Records, gives the band an alternative 90s post-grunge kind of sound. Not like that’s a bad thing by any means. When I saw them live however they came across like a more modern sounding rock and jam band rather than the Sponge/Dinosaur Jr./Soundgarden sound I had been expecting. The trio powered through their set with confidence and musical punctuality that some three-pieces fail to produce due to their lack of members. Not these guys though, their rock roots grow deep and their musical instincts seemed to come natural and right out from their fingers to your rattling head.
As any truly great band should, the stage is where the band comes alive, so when we sat down with the guys later on to talk music and enjoy the impressive artist lounge food spread, I really wanted to dig into them (and the food) and find out where their sound and all-around awesome garage band feel came from. What made their album have a different personality than the band I saw up on stage? Jeff quickly sounded off on how their album and live show differ.
“That’s the thing about this record, we always try to get a close to our live sound as possible, and I think we’re going to try and do that on the next record which we’re already writing for. We want to keep it very minimal as far as overdubs and going to try and get into the studio and just do it. I mean we always play the songs live but to do as little extra as possible and make it as close to what we sound like live, that’s something we really want to shoot for. One guitar, bass, drums, vocals. Most of the songs were one or two takes with a few guitar overdubs and some extra vocals, but it’s definitely a challenge and kinda cool in its own way. If you want to hear the album then you listen to the album, and if you want to see the live show, which is a little bit different, then come out and experience that… It’s the attitude as well, the studio is you going in thinking ‘alright we have to nail this!’ but playing like sometimes it’s just like ‘fuck it who cares’”
“That’s one thing that’s really tough to do, to really capture that live sound and energy from the crowd and the nervousness of playing in front of people ya know?” drummer Jaye Moore added.
So here you have a band who knows how to become a different animal entirely in front of an audience than they would be in the cold, dark studio, but how does this Jeckyll/Hyde keep fans guessing with each show. As any rock fan will tell you, the really impressive live bands are able to keep the songs they’ve played over and over fresh and exciting for not only the fans, but for the themselves in the band as well.
“When we’re writing I want to come up with drums parts that challenge me” says Jaye. “If we’re two songs in and I’m sweating my ass off already, and I know songs are coming up where I have to nail it, I play that much harder. You always want to bring you’re a-game, especially when playing a festival like this and you have a lot of people watching you. By bringing that it keeps me from thinking ‘oh we’re playing one of our songs again blah blah’ and just going through the motions I just want to rock as hard as I can and make sure people are feeling what I’m feeling.”
The band definitely has an idea of how to just let the music do the talking, and letting their abilities take over and do the rest. Throughout their set it didn’t seemed like they were trying to do anything or be someone that they’re not. They love rock and roll and they love being up there and having fun, and why not? What could be cooler than being a local band kicking off the day in a popular festival in your own backyard?
“Today was awesome. Playing outside is always fun, it just reminds me of watching videos of festivals in the 70s and 80s. It always feels like some really big show regardless of what event it is.” Said Jeff, who seemed to have a quiet, relaxed demeanor about his personality. Not usually found in frontmen, but his confidence and ability took over once he went on stage. As the leader of the group, the band made it clear he’s the one pushing each other to really get the most out of each performance, finishing writing so they can get back in the studio, and really being the best band they know they can be.
“My favorite thing about Jeff’s songwriting process with Jaye is that they’ve known each other since they were kids.” John pointed point, “If we’re writing a song that’s not working, one of them won’t be afraid to call it with ‘this song sucks’, so every song we’ve laid down I know they’re perspective is totally supportive.. it’s thrilling to behold.”
Their love for guitar rock and musical influences are some of music’s more respected acts that have powered the airwaves throughout the 80s and 90s. When asked who has influenced them and their sound the most it was a pretty quick response, followed by a simultaneous point to Dinosaur Jr.’s dressing room door.
“Definitely those guys haha, but a lot of late 80s and early 90s stuff like Hüsker Dü, Nirvana, and The Replacements. For me anyways it’s all about good songwriting. I always respond to those bands that have great songs and really loud guitars too. So any time you couple those two things together it’s a great thing.”
I should also note that while interviewing the guys in the hallway J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. stepped over me a few times (as I was sitting on the floor like a 5 year old) going back and forth from his dressing room. It brings you back to reality of bands like Dead Stars are reaching a point where it’s fair to compare young bands like this to more established, veteran acts and hang out in the same hallways. If you’re on the same bill why not? Dead Stars has that mature, aged rock sound to their music, which mixes perfectly with their modern style songwriting. Their model is simple, “Simplicity is key” as Jeff pointed out when talking about what makes a good song. The band is meat and potatoes rock and roll. Jeans a t-shirt rock and roll. They’re carrying great alternative rock from the 90s and throwing it into the faces of new generations of music fans.
Article by: Tom Shackleford