Deadhorse, Calgary's psych-country caravan, stampedes from coast to coast
From an opening salvo of echoed psychedelia through to glammy garage stompers, Neil Youngian ditch rock and spooky roots music of all stripes, the debut album from Calgary’s Deadhorse proves this troupe is no one-trick pony. Formed from the ashes of orchestral-folk collective The Consonant C, the last few years found the band of outsiders clip-clopping along until local label Saved by Vinyl leapt on board to release its gloriously raw self-titled LP.
"Forming this band had a bit to do with my desire to play music that felt more natural – to myself at least," explains frontman and founding member Danny Vescarelli. "You know how it usually goes with bands – you can sense a tide of change coming. By the time we started to question the future of The Consonant C, I had already started writing material, geeking out at the record store and telling our drummer he should listen to Nuggets."
With hands-on help from Calgary luminary Jay Crocker, the eight songs of Deadhorse were tracked straight to a vintage reel-to-reel, utilizing an all-analogue process perfectly befitting the band’s timeless tunes. For two weeks, Crocker set up shop in the home of Vescarelli and his musical/romantic partner Jennifer Crighton. The tape machine and mixing board were installed in the basement, while the band set up shop in the living room for a series of ragged live takes. Finally, minimal overdubs were completed in Crocker’s Sea Legs recording shack, and, in the case of standout rocker Glam Central, in a bathtub.
"For that tune, I was singing in my lower voice before screaming the final chorus," says Vescarelli. "Jay said, ‘That’s the song right there! Get into that!’ He kind of pushed me, so when the band was taking a break, I set up in the bathroom and started hollering. I used to sing like that more often, but it was usually when I was covering Nirvana alone in my basement during college [laughs]. But that voice was there the whole time, and now it’s even more fun to play live."
Following the amicable departure of its original rhythm section, Deadhorse’s ranks are now rounded out by fellow Saved by Radio signee Ryan Bourne on bass and The Bitterweed Draw’s Melissa McWilliams on drums. Alongside Crighton’s gorgeous up-front vocals and goose-pimpling harmonica, The Psychic Alliance’s Marie Sulkowski completes a trifecta of talented females with her own contributions of vocals, songwriting and organ (that’s her wailing away on opener Interstellar Remedies). As hard as it would be to imagine the band without these elements, Vescarelli explains that the current incarnation wasn’t always set in stone.
"Believe it or not, it was a bit unclear at first even what Jen’s involvement would be," he says. "As soon as she tried singing with Deadhorse, we realized that was what would set us apart from being a typical rock ‘n’ roll band with some dudes in it. It really clicked, and we realized this was some special sauce we’d have to keep."
w/ Expo 67 and Ledges, Blast
At Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent)