As a music journalist for several decades I do my best to avoid using genre’s to describe bands—and yet, it’s tough road to get readers to hinge onto a band unless there’s a reference point. That said, Dead Winter Carpenter’s peg themselves as americana/folk/roots with some old fashioned ragtime thrown in for good measure. Years ago when bands began shucking the metal/punk rock/bluegrass labels, and began stripping down to bare essentials and plucking songs out of the Great American Songbook they were referred to as No Depression and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) seemed to be the epicenter. Years have rolled by like the great Mississippi and there is an ever increasing up tic in this so-called americana resurgence.
I believe that it is no small correlation that as our economy tanks, and business’s fold, homes are foreclosed and banks our greatest enemy that the Depression era music and dust bowl ditties are fodder for legions of kids rediscovering mandolins, banjos, acoustic guitars and fiddles. While these numerous bands including Hot Buttered Rum and Devil Makes Three use the latest Marshall (RIP) Amps, americana music is insured against power outages, economic collapse and national divide—they simply unplug and keep playing in the parking lot in the tradition of outdoor old time mountain hillbilly festivals.
From the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, Tahoe and Truckee, Dead Winter Carpenters carries on a long standing tradition of mountain people bringing high lonesome (but somehow peppy and chipper) sounds to the low lying folks.
I got to talk with Jesse Dunn (guitar/vocals) of the Dead Winter Carpenters as the tour van made its way through the winding roads of Northern California.
DNA: Hey Jesse—where you guys coming from?
Jesse: We just played after the Yonder Mountain String Band show in South Lake, Tahoe.
Yonder Mountain blew up early and stayed that way. I understand there is community amongst musicians, but there is also friendly competition. One of your managements other bands, Greensky Bluegrass is certainly a contender.
Yes. We feel confident, finally, with our management and the people we are working with. There was a lot of trial and error.
I’m sure that’s true with every band. Dead Winter Carpenters is a Tahoe band?
I live in Tahoe City. Jenni Charles (fiddle/vocals), Jesse Dunn (guitar/vocals) live on West Shore and Ryan Davis (drums) lives in Truckee. We formed this band out of personal connections. I know bands now find members through Craigslist but we did it the old fashioned way.
What’s the deal behind the name of the band?
There are a few different stories. Our drummer really likes the fact it’s a Fibonacci sequence. There’s also an old story about a bunch of guys working on a railroad trestle in the middle of winter that all froze to death. (laughter)
For a band that has some really optimistic sounds, that’s a grim story! One thing I’ve noticed is that as the economy gets worse, more and more bands are picking up the music of the Depression and the Dust Bowl.
We are really excited about how things are going and that more and more people are coming out to see us. There was a movement in the 1990s where people started listening to Bluegrass again on a more wide scale. At the same time there is a movement in bands like Bass Nectar and DJs in general. What’s funny is there is a lot of crossover between the dubstep and electronic shows and bands like us that are more stripped down—old timey, or American or more songwriter based music hits people souls more.
Dead Winter Carpenters seem to strive for the silver lining more than some other bands in their lyrics—do you agree that you paint a hopeful picture?
We also sing about drinking too much—but we sing about accepting those dark clouds in life and loving every part of it, it’s bittersweet. Old timey music tends to talk about things that are really sad but sing about it in major chords with beautiful harmonies so it sounds happy. We don’t do that, but we acknowledge how hard life is and offer some optimism.
Dead Winter Carpenters are opening for the Infamous Stringdusters at Moe’s Alley on Thursday April 19th at 8:30 pm. For more info check out their website at www.deadwintercarpenters.com