Desaparecidos wrote Read Music/Speak Spanish in 2001 at a time when patriotism was at an incredibly infectious high and when violence and consumerism saturated the nation’s collective consciousness. Combining unbelievably catchy and heavy guitar riffs with lead singer Conor Oberst’s (of Commander Venus and Bright Eyes fame) blisteringly emotional vocals, the midwest natives’ first and only album was a powerful response to the changing American culture, encapsulating the rage and angst of watching an all-consuming deterioration and recognizing your own role in the matter.
Reunited for the first time since 2010, Desaparecidos are currently on tour and recently released two new tracks “MariKKKopa” and “Backsell,” their first new music in over a decade. The songs, available for purchase in a limited edition 7″, demonstrate that the band hasn’t gone soft with age with a sound that’s just as powerful and poignant as ever with the new songs addressing the notorious brutality of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the backwards nature of the music industry. Desaparecidos are playing live in Seattle Saturday night at the Showbox with openers Virgin Islands in what is sure to be an unforgettable show.
We caught up with Desaparecidos guitarist Denver Dalley via email recently to discuss the reunion and the new single. Check out the full interview below:
How did this Desaparecidos reunion come about? I know you guys have reunited in the past for benefit shows but this time you have a tour and even new material. Was this something you had been planning for a while?
We had talked about it for ages – joked about it being old men now, etc… Then the Concert for Equality show was being planned and Conor thought that would be the perfect show for us to play (and it really was). I think we were all blown away by how much fun it was to play music together again and how much it felt like we picked up where we left off- so we were determined to play together again for more than the one show. Conor released a Bright Eyes record and did a world tour and then the schedules aligned and here we are.
I, personally, wouldn’t consider us strictly political. Like you said, much of it is very politically charged, but I think that there are many things to address beyond politics. There’s a lot out there that needs to be talked about and its an amazing thing to possibly spark a conversation or educate someone of a situation they knew nothing (or very little) about.
Read Music/Speak Spanish seems to have been written largely in response to the post 9/11 culture in America. Do you think the themes and messages in the album are still relevant in 2012?
I think so. While there is a nostalgia to the time and place you were at when the album came out, I think that it’s still very much relevant today. In some ways, maybe even more relevant.
How does the band’s songwriting process work? Do you usually write the music and Conor writes the lyrics?
It varies – there are times when [Conor Oberst] will tell me about subject matter he wants to write about and try to create that feel, there are times when he will feel the song out and write lyrics around the song… And the songwriting itself varies too. Sometimes we both contribute with the other members, sometimes we come in with a pretty structured idea… It just depends.
Are there any plans to record another album in the near future or are “Backsell” and “MariKKKopa” going to stand alone as a single?
We released the single on our own. It’s available for order until early September and then it stops- we are only making the 7 inches to order. We aren’t sure about the plans for future recordings. We all want to, but there are no plans to- as of now. Hopefully it will happen though!
We certainly got a lot of interest and requests. I don’t think I’d say that we were heavily “courted”, because we never entertained them- or more to the point, let them entertain us. Never accepted gifts or drinks/dinners or anything like that. We sort of “got asked out a lot, but never went on any dates.” That is a pretty accurate picture though. And the other issue- of bands/labels paying for airplay and name repetition is just… fascinating to me.
How has tour been going so far? Was it hard to jump back into songs written over a decade ago with the same enthusiasm?
It’s been going really well- I think we were all shocked at how we picked up where we left off. Both at the Concert for Equality two years ago and now. Those songs are just as much fun, if not more fun, to play now. And I couldn’t be more excited and pleased with the new material- it has that same feel and energy as the older stuff, but a little more refined. Tougher. If I can use that word.
Do you have a favorite Desaparecidos song?
Oh wow- thats a tough one… I like them all for different reasons. Right now, I think Backsell is my favorite to play live. I think Mañana is still my favorite to listen to… But Greater Omaha is really fun live too… Hmm. That’s a tough one. Can I choose “D- All of the above?”
We are all really excited to come back to Seattle- see our friends and family, and play again- almost a decade later! We all truly love and appreciate KEXP. Thank you so much for talking with me. You guys and The Current are inspiration to us all. Very grateful for you.
Seriously, you don’t want to miss this show. Buy your tickets here.