does not often enter into the creative process of L.A.-based band Year Long Disaster. Time and again when questioned about the band’s work on their eponymous debut album, guitarist and frontman Daniel Davies deferred to various forms of the answer “It just happened.”
When asked why he was drawn to the 1960s and ’70s-style influences that guide Davies’s guitarwork and vocals on the album, he replied: “I don’t know what it is.”
When asked if the band’s sound was something they were specifically targeting when they formed up, he said: “It just kind of happened.”
When asked why the band only spent five hours in the studio recording the much-acclaimed album, he said: “We didn’t think about it too much. We just kinda did it.”
Whatever the approach, you can’t argue with its effectiveness. Rolling Stone named the group one 2008’s best new bands in their “10 to Watch” feature. Listeners voted en masse to hand the band the crown of the Yahoo! Music Who’s Next: User’s Choice Contest. For fans of Led Zeppelin, early 1990s grunge and Jeff Buckley’s rowdier arrangements, explaining away Year Long Disaster’s sound to sonic kismet will work just fine so long as they keep crafting songs like those found on their debut album.
The music, like the approach, is instinctive. From Davies’s (the son of The Kinks’ Dave Davies) riffs to the robust boom provided by bassist Rich Mullins (formerly of hard-rock instrumental ensemble Karma to Burn) and former Third Eye Blind drummer Brad Hargreaves, the sound is replete with a visceral quality that soars from the band’s soul and smacks you in your ear hole like a two-ton hammer. And like those aforementioned, celebrated musicians, they somehow make the experience an overwhelmingly enjoyable one, particularly on “Galea Aponeurotica,” the album’s most raging rocker.
As alluded to by similarly colorful track titles, there is a measure of irony to Year Long Disaster’s emotional, rather than intellectual, approach. The name of the opening track, “Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu,” is an Italian iteration of a movie title. Their band bio quotes Salvador Dali. In interviews, Mullins has stated he reads French realist writer Honore de Balzac, while Davies delves into Friedrich Nietzsche. So how exactly do these high-brow influences work their way into music that “just kind of happened?”
“You get up to a certain point, where you know what’s going on and you formulate a certain thing. Then you can just lose yourself in it,” Davies says.
The reading has some non-musical applications as well. Davies says when reads Nietzsche he thanks God that isn’t him. Davies’ life has already been dark enough.
When Davies and Mullins first met in a Los Angeles grocery store, Davies was already in trouble with drugs and alcohol. After that first encounter, it only got worse.
“It was kinda fuzzy when we met, pretty fuzzy,” Davies says, admitting that music didn’t figure prominently into their friendship at the time. “When we first met we were kind of just partying, doing drugs and what not.”
Davies and Mullins sucked down about two-fifths of vodka a day and smoked crack whenever they could. Finally, when a drug-buy went bad and Mullins had to flee from a brawl after fighting for his life, the two realized they needed help and entered rehab.
“We went pretty deep down there together, went pretty low, as low as you can get,” Davies says, noting that their friendship during those days has brought them closer now. “When we met, we were instant friends, but it’s rare that you meet someone on the way down. I mean, when you’re on the way down, you know?”
Today, roughly five years removed from that first encounter, Davies and Mullins are sober and, along with Hargreaves, are certainly on their way up. As their opening album suggests, they are ready to carry rock and roll’s banner into the next decade.
Year Long Disaster plays June 27 at The Black Cat in Washington, D.C. Tickets are $12. For more information on Year Long Disaster, visit www.yearlongdisaster.com.