Interviewer: "How do you make the bass sound like an electric guitar?"
"You've obviously never heard a bass played properly." -- DFA1979, 01/12/05¹
This Canadian duet of Jesse F. Keeler (bass and synth) and Sebastien Grainger (vocals and drums) met in prison and currently live in a funeral parlor in Toronto. The genre of this project is essentially noise rock tailored for the dance floor. Recently making appearances on MTV2 with their single "Romantic Rights" during the course of off-primetime programs exploring "indie" music, this band represents yet another induction of the "two man wrecking crew" philosophy into the limelight. Other recent examples include the likes of the Black Keys and the White Stripes.
My attempt at describing the sound might be a signature distorted electric bass tone rough enough to peel the stucco off a wall syncopated over a cymbal heavy garage rock rhythm line, but the only way to truly know is to hear them for yourself. Lyrics explore typical rock and roll subject matter (viz. relationships), but with incendiary vocal delivery and whimsical poetic abstraction. The production is also important; vintage noise and audio compression suggests their albums were recorded via tape reel. The same interview the leading quote came from confirms this;
"It was recorded in Toronto at Chemical Sound Studios. We recorded it over a five month period last year between touring."
Many bands, including the one in question, have been using retro 1970s recording equipment for some years now. The reason for this is bands want to achieve the warm sound not achieved by digital recording.
Before knowing this I asked Jesse if they recorded onto tape or did it digitally:
"If you can't tell then we did a good job."
The flamboyant, hook laden sound of this band has drawn in much of the blog writing indie "new school" and is believed by many older indie rock fans to be something far less sincere and more commercially viable than that of their contemporaries. It is not uncommon to hear them being ridiculed in a conversation between people who believe themselves an authority on the matter. Influences often cited in these discussions are the bands godheadSilo, Ruins, Thrones, and Lightning Bolt. Having heard godheadSilo, I can say that the idea is vaguely similar, but the approach and presentation are far different. I personally don't see it as much of a fair comparison, but everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion.
Their controversy amongst indie afficionados is partially indebted to electroclash producer James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem and Death From Above records) approaching the band about a name change backed by a threat of civil litigation. The band's response was to add the legal minimum of numbers to the end of their name† followed by a posting on their webpage reading, "FUCK DFA RECORDS FUCK JAMES MURPHY WE DECLARE JIHAD ON THEM HOLY WAR ENDING IN THIER² DEATH AND DISMEMBERMENT... james murphy is a selfish piece of fuck that will burn in the flames of a specially dedicated rock and roll jihad. if i had the resources i would fly a plane into his skull." Cute, huh?
2005 - Black History Month (679 Recordings)
2004 - You're A Woman, I'm a Machine (Last Gang Records)
2004 - Blood On Our Hands (679 Recordings)
2004 - Romantic Rights Single (Sound Virus Records, Los Angeles, CA)
2002 - Heads Up (Ache Records, Vancouver B.C.)
† In the words of Sebastien Grainger, "1979 is the year of my birth, 1979 is the year of off the wall, 1979 is the year of pleasure principle, 1979 is the last year of the last cool decade, 1979 is scratched into my arm." -- http://www.umusic.ca/deathfromabove1979/
² (sic) preserved from http://pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/d/death-from-above-1979/youre-a-woman-im-a-machine.shtml. Oddly, their lyrics have no profanity.
³ Entire tracks of their music may be heard without downloading anything at http://deathfromabove1979.com