The past year has been jam-packed for the Dead 27s, and it just keeps getting busier. Readers voted them Rock Band of the Year in last year's Charleston City Paper Music Awards. Dead 27s were a headlining act at Spring Jam back in March, and the guys are now releasing their first album, Chase Your Devils Down, with a record release show set for May 25 at the Pour House.
The album title, Chase Your Devils Down, comes from the chorus of their track "Jasper County Blues." Guitarist Wallace Mullinax says, "It speaks for itself. It's about looking at your adversity in the face and trying not to run away from it."
The bandmates went into the studio with tunes they've played live but had never sat down to record. "We definitely changed some stuff, like I added bridges, rearranged parts, and even today, we don't play those songs necessarily just like the album," Mullinax says.
The first song, "Don't Comfort Me," may remind you of a Rolling Stones song that you've never heard of. Mullinax admits it's a fair comparison. "That's a straight-up Keith Richard's lick. Everyone wants to play those Keith Richards guitar licks. They're so much fun, and they sound so good. You know, he pulled them all from Chuck Berry — it's fair game," Mullinax says.
Mullinax, along with vocalist Trey Francis, drummer Daniel Crider, guitarist Will Evans, and bassist Oliver Goldstein, had just one week to record the first record. "I knew that with everyone's personalities being the way they are in the band that we were not going to half-ass anything," lead singer Francis says. "We were going to stay in the studio and tweak stuff and redo stuff until we got everything exactly how we wanted it."
The mellow and soulful "Let Your Mind Go" lists irritating situations from everyday life (asshole boss, anyone?) with the assurance that "it ain't always fun, but just know it's the same for everyone." Surprisingly, it took only 10 minutes for Francis to write the track. "It's weird," he says. "When I don't overthink it, I tend to come out with lyrics that I can either use for the band or that I can just be proud of as a songwriter. Whenever I get into a rut with my songwriting, I think it's really because I'm overthinking things." Francis and Mullinax agree that sometimes just getting down a feeling is an important part of their songwriting process. "I personally am much more interested in conveying the proper feeling versus conveying the proper story. I'd rather you feel it than understand it," Mullinax adds.
Chase Your Devils Down is an easygoing, energetic, and fun record from beginning to end, and its assorted range of styles is an element the Dead 27s were looking for. "We were just playing what we had. Luckily in the writing process, we had been mindful about diversity, balance, and making sure that a show doesn't just have one particular sound or feeling. We definitely want these shows to be dynamic. We're lucky that philosophy applied to an album as well," Mullinax says.
Dead 27s credit modern influences, too, but it's the older stuff that really shines through their music. "The Allman Brothers have always been my favorite band of all time," Francis says. "Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Al Greene, and Marvin Gaye — a lot of those old soul singers, I just love to listen to them," Francis says.
Mullinax adds that the band's songwriting and riffs differ from their production and sound. He listened to T-Bone Burnett productions and the layered sounds of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes before adding the finishing touches to the album. "I wouldn't associate our sound with either one of those two styles, but we definitely learned a lot as far as what you can do with your sound after you've played it, after you've captured it — how you can manipulate it to really get it to be what you want it to be," Mullinax says.
After hearing the final version of the album for the first time, everyone was satisfied. Francis says, "I think it's something that's a really good reflection on our band, on our influences, and on our band's journey that we've been on since the beginning. I'm excited for everyone to hear and to keep getting it out there as much as possible."