Interview: Desaparecidos (at The Showbox 8/25!)Posted by Adam Barnett
To the outside world, Omaha’s niche in the independent music scene is defined by Saddle Creek Records, home to the multiple projects involving Cursive’s Tim Kasher and more notably Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst. Most people you’ll meet seem to know Oberst as that angsty teen who came out with folk-ish album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and never looked back. Once you start writing songs about the “First Day of Your Life,” how can you ever go back to screaming about babies drowning in bathtubs or if winter is ever going to end? This assertion seemed accurate as we saw Oberst pursue what he referred to as “rootsy Americana sh*t” with Cassadaga and projects with his Mystic Valley Band and supergroup Monsters of Folk.
Back when Oberst was between Fevers and Mirrors and Lifted, though, a politically charged post-hardcore project brewed among Saddle Creek personnel and friends Landon Hedges, Matt Baum, Ian McElroy and Denver Dalley. Providing an outlet for Oberst to finally scream his lungs out over the pile of sh*t that is the state of sociopolitical affairs in Omaha and the United States, Desaparecidos released EPs What’s New for Fall and The Happiest Place on Earth in 2001, followed up by debut and only LP Read Music/Speak Spanish in 2002 via Saddle Creek. They toured for a little bit, and that was pretty much it.
Members went back to their respective projects, and Read Music maintained some kind of cult status.
As it’s far from an accessible pop album, I didn’t pick up Read Music until my sophomore year of high school (2006-2007). When I would hear a lot of my peers complain about their inability to ever see bands like Nirvana take the stage, I was fixed on the fact that Desaparecidos was a one-off Oberst clearly forgot about as he focused on other projects.
But even if that was the case, that one album slowly gained more and more popularity as years went on, partially because of its hidden gem status among the more active Saddle Creek catalog, and partially because it’s a very relevant, political, and overall fantastic emo record that acts as much more than just another Oberst creation.
But in 2009, seemingly out of nowhere, Oberst got the rest of the band to perform at the Concert for Equality in Omaha. Since then, according to various interviews, Desaparecidos has just been hanging out and writing new material, which eventually resulted in the release of 7” single “MariKKKopa/Backsell,” the first glimpse of new material in a decade. This, accompanied by a short calendar of tour dates was enough to prove that Desaparecidos aren’t finished with everything they had to say about the state of affairs in our country or about rocking your freaking socks off.
Surprisingly, after ten years without new music, the new songs don’t dissent too far from their predecessors. According to guitarist and co-songwriter Denver Dalley in a recently conducted interview, “it was kind of weird how [they] picked up where [they] left off…”
“When we all get in the band room,” he said, “it all seems to kind of happen.”
Dalley admitted that some of this natural cohesion could lend itself to maturity or lack thereof. Despite growing older, they’re still a bunch of “young punks.”
“I’ve been joking around a lot about how it’s ten years later now, and we should all be so much wiser,” he said. “But really, in a lot of ways, I don’t think we’ve matured very much at all… Once we get around each other, it’s all fun and games.”
And even though personal politics tend to change as time goes on, this hasn’t really affected the dynamics of Desaparecidos. Members of the band pretty much agree about most of the topics covered in its their music, but Dalley pointed out that Read Music is still a “strangely relevant record back then and now.”
“Obviously things have changed quite a bit,” he said. “But at the same time, a lot of things haven’t… A lot of people I talk to have said that it’s a very specific record that reminds them of a very specific time in their lives, like a summer or something. And so there’s that aspect that’s really cool. And I think there are some songs like ‘Damaged Goods‘ where people are always gonna be going through that, and it’s always gonna happen no matter what the political climate is. I think it’s interesting because it was an album about larger issues but sung from the perspective of our own backyards. And I think people can really relate to that. I met kids in England that are like, ‘Oh, it reminds me exactly of where I grew up in this neighborhood and the way things are being built now…’ And I thought that was kind of fascinating.”
Desaparecidos stops in Seattle on Saturday, August 25 to kick off their string of West Coast dates. Whether the show gets political or not, Dalley explained, is pretty much up to what Oberst feels like talking about in-between songs. But no matter what, this reunion is mostly about having a good times and fun. High-fives will most likely be involved as well as much missed interaction with fans who have been waiting a long time for this day.
Based on setlists found on Setlist.fm, Desaparecidos has been pulling from its already established arsenal of music, including the two songs off the new 7″. But it looks like a couple unreleased tunes have found their way into the mix. Though, Dalley admitted that there aren’t any plans to release any sort of full-length in the near future, and that right now the band is “just kind of throwing out ideas.”
“If there’s enough songs for an album, maybe we’ll record again,” he said. “But there are no plans, no expectations. We’re just all having fun with it.”
However, more tour dates may be announced within the next few weeks.
“We’re waiting for schedules to align,” Dalley said. “Soon. Even if I don’t know the specific dates… It’s happening during this month, more details soon. You can rely on that.”
While future musical endeavors are up in the air, Dalley mentioned that the new Desaparecidos website will start featuring band and fan-uploaded photos and videos from across the band’s career. This includes photos you can hear being taken by Dalley (if you listen very closely) during the introduction preceding “Greater Omaha” on Read Music.
As far as other mysteries of the album are concerned, I finally learned who does the vocals on “Give Me the Pen.” ”That’s Landon who’s doing the most [vocals],” he said. “He starts the song. I think Conor just screams on the chorus, if I remember the chorus. And I talk at the end… Talkin’ about going back to school or getting a job or something.” Also, the conversations that accompany “Greater Omaha” and “Manana:” ”That’s just Conor and Landon talking outside the studio.”
Desaparecidos will play Showbox at The Market on Saturday with support from Seattle post-punks Virgin Islands. Sh*t’s about to get rowdy.