Things have fallen together quite quickly for the L.A.-based duo the Dead Ships. In less than two years since members Devlin McCluskey and Chris Spindelilus met, each has learned a new instrument (electric guitar and drums respectively), they have recorded an EP and 7” vinyl, played tons of shows across the country including the 2011 CMJ Music Marathon, and most recently, the bluesy-rock/pop pair have released their debut full-length album, Electric Ahab.
It was a “perfect storm of resourcefulness and poverty” that brought the Dead Ships together in 2010, after both guys skewed from their original career paths (social work for Spindelilus and film for McCluskey) to find themselves doing grunt work at a reality TV show just to make ends meet. “By then Chris was done killing himself trying to better a world that wouldn’t let him help,” says McCluskey, “and I was done trying to be Carol Reed.” After overhearing a conversation Spindelilus was having about a new drum kit he had been given, McCluskey jumped in and “forced” Spindelilus into listening to some songs he had written. The two immediately began playing together, and things just clicked. “I personally was astonished at how quickly we could throw a song together,” says Spindelilus.
Fast-forward a few months and the Dead Ships had made their mark on the L.A. live music scene, garnering praise as a “bluesy wrecking ball.” “There is a certain kind of raw dirtiness and excitement to our playing, and I think that comes through 100 percent in our live shows,” says Spindelilus. “It’s all very new to us.”
In an attempt to remain true to their live shows, the Dead Ships recorded Electric Ahab on vintage analog gear on 2”-tape. “You can’t hide anything,” says Spindelilus. “It’s the only real way to have people hear your music exactly how it sounds at a show.” After playing the amount of shows that they had, the pair “hit the studio running,” and over one weekend in San Francisco, they recorded the whole album, nailing almost every song on the second take.
The songs themselves are full of soul and edge, with McCluskey’s gruff vocals sailing over the snappy drum lines provided by Spindelilus, creating what sounds like the lovechild between Alabama Shakes and the Black Keys. “All the work we’ve done on these songs has been about stripping them down to disposition, melody, rhythm and intensity,” says McCluskey. Though the two musicians draw inspiration from very different genres, it seems to be working out just fine, as they rework each song until it sounds right to both pairs of discerning ears. “What can we say” says McCluskey. “We like big choruses, and we hate each other’s record collections.”
As for the lyrics? “A year ago I would have said something like the songs come out of my anxieties, mainly loss or the fleeting nature of truth and experience,” says McCluskey. “Now I’d say they’re about girls.”
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