Dt: September 1, 2105
DEAD ROCK WEST
‘IT’S EVERLY TIME!’
The new album IT’S EVERLY TIME! (Angel Flight Recording Co, July 2015) showcases a track listing of lesser known Everly Brothers songs and also highlights some of the Everlys’ well-known songs. What inspired DEAD ROCK WEST to dig deep into the Everly Brothers’ catalog for this 13-song tribute album, opposed to selecting just hits?
Frank Lee Drennen: We want to sing songs that are meaningful to us. Our producer Mark Linett [Brian Wilson, Los Lobos, Rickie Lee Jones and Randy Newman] guided us through dozens of albums with excellent suggestions, but it mostly came down to how the songs made us feel and how and how much we liked the melodies and how the songs came across with a man and a woman singing.
Cindy Wasserman: We met weekly with our producer Mark Linett and listened and listened and listened. We loved so many songs both known and lesser known so it was extremely hard to choose. The original idea was to record one of the lesser known albums in its entirety called “In Our Image.” We used many songs from that album but decided it would be fun to pick at least one that people really knew well which is how “Cathy’s Clown” was chosen. But in general we like picking outside of the box!
DEAD ROCK WEST is able to bring a male and female voice to these songs. By having a male and female harmony, what do you feel that dynamic has brought to these songs?
Frank: I think having a male and female voice on the songs changes the songs to a conversation within the song itself, not just a man singing out to a woman.
Cindy: It was a treat to infuse these songs with a male/female dynamic. The songs are so emotive with the brothers singing them but with a man and woman it is a different animal.
Don Everly typically sang the melody and Phil Everly would accompany with a higher harmony which defined the duo’s trademark sound. What was the process like decoding the Everly Brothers’ vocal style, learning it and applying it to this new album?
Frank: It was difficult and intimidating. The Everly Brothers are masters of harmony. Cindy and I ended up learning both harmony parts to the songs, then decided who sang what part once we got to the recording session. It was scary, because we both knew we were in deep waters.
Cindy: Figuring out the harmonies was a challenge! But a lot of fun as well. Often times they are singing in unison and you can’t tell them apart for a minute. Similar to our friends in X, John Doe & Exene Cervenka. The Everlys of punk rock! Frank and I practiced on our own then came together for the first time in the studio and it was pure magic. We recorded and tracked all the vocals live. We usually work together to come up with parts. This is the first time due to the nature of the project we tried it this way.
Quickly looking down at the titles on this album—songs like “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad),” “I Used To Love You” and “It’s All Over”—it seems they zero in on the darker side of romance. What attracted you to songs like these?
Frank: Truth and life. The Everlys sang truthfully from the heart about their lives. Besides, everybody knows that singing the blues makes a man’s heart feel better. Music is an opportunity to sing about the things we can’t talk about in real life sometimes.
Cindy: I suppose we won’t be asked to play too many weddings which is a good thing! I have always been attracted to darker songs. For me singing in general helps heal any darkness I have going on inside and make me feel light again. I think it is the same for Frank. I’ve often had audience members say a certain dark lyric really helped them to process something they were going through. But in the end we pick the tunes that touch us. These really resonated with us which is why we picked them.
You can hear California country and Americana in DEAD ROCK WEST’s music. What do you feel about the current state of those genres, noting there are havens for such music at venues like Pappy and Harriet’s outside of Joshua Tree?
Frank: Cindy and I are both California natives, so it’s kind of hard for us to not sound Californian or American :-). Plus, we each love the blues, folk music, rock and roll, jazz, soul and rhythm and blues–all of which are forms of American music. California country is alive and well! We have a very rich history of country music in this state, dating all the way back to the Sons of the Pioneers in the 1920s who invented Western music (Tumbling Tumbleweeds being the first acknowledged western song, written by Bob Nolan), to Merle Haggard, the Byrds, and all the way up to brand new artist Sam Outlaw who is hands down my favorite new country artist.
Cindy: I feel that there is a resurgence of California Country music happening in the younger generation right now which is wonderful as California county is simply Rock & Roll. Tom Petty is “California Country” in my book and he’s just a rock & roller. Stevie Nicks is as well. Rock & Roll at its finest.
DEAD ROCK WEST has been touring for a few years…so we had to ask…
Can you describe your worst night on tour?
Frank: Tingwick Village Hall, somewhere in England. It was a bug or food poisoning or something. Midway through the third song I dropped my Telecaster on the floor and barely made it backstage before I violently vomited all over the place (it wasn’t pretty). I ended up in the hospital several times on the tour, and everybody in the band got sick to some degree as well. That was a tough one.
Cindy: Worst night on tour is probably the same as Frank, at Tingewick Village Hall in England at the beginning of one of our UK tours. We eat dinner at the only restaurant there was to eat at in the area. Then Frank turned green on stage in the middle of the show and left the stage to vomit. Then one by one over the course of the tour…the whole band gets this horrible food poisoning. Terrible night. Really difficult tour. Frank ended up in the emergency room four times and I had to do many of the shows without him. Funny now, awful at the time.
What about your best night on tour?
Frank: I’d say our best show ever was the last one at the Hotel Café, singing Everly Brothers songs. Hearing those songs come alive with our expert band was an absolute thrill. Plus, Dave Alvin came and played a song with us!
Cindy: Best night? Well Every night since that night! We love being onstage and connecting with people through music. We love the audience. We love getting to do what we love!
One last question…which famous historical event would you like to have witnessed?
Frank: I would like to have seen the Carter Family cutting their first single, or Miles Davis and company creating the masterpiece Kind of Blue or perhaps hanging out the day Chris Hillman met Roger McGuinn or maybe witnessing the Everly Brothers transforming Bye Bye Love into a Bo Diddly riff- inspired rock and roll beast with country harmonies to die for; it was a game changer.
Cindy: The Million Dollar Quartet at Sun Studios in Memphis, or the Beatles at the Cavern Club.
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