Pronouncements of the death of the record industry have been de rigueur since the birth of MP3s and Napster-style filesharing towards the end of the last century, and the name of the band The Dead Records is reflective of that. The band’s content, however, hits a little bit closer to home, as their songs tend to be about common human trials and tribulations revolving around interpersonal relationships.Forged around a trio of friends who grew up in North Manchester, The Dead Records have been bringing their brand of loud and aggressive, punk-based, indie-rock stylings since the summer of 2008. They’ve recorded and released two full-length LPs and one EP to date, have played frequent regional shows and have embarked on two extended tours that have taken them to far-flung locales such as Florida and Wyoming.
Their debut album And Now We Dance, which landed in 2009, centered thematically around a broken relationship that vocalist Aaron Taylor was experiencing at the time. The six-song Proud EP followed a year later and found the band refocusing and re-purposing themselves. Last year’s Rabbitsfoot centered around themes of family, relationships and the trials and triumphs that go along with everyday life.
The North Manchester trio who make up the core of the band are drummer Sean Richardson, guitarist and vocalist Aaron Taylor and guitarist Chad Briner. Bassist James Holm currently rounds out the lineup. The three Manchesterers went to school together, with Taylor and Briner playing in a punk rock band in junior high school. Briner eventually moved to Chicago; Taylor and Richardson stayed in North Manchester and started playing in a band in high school. They later moved to Fort Wayne to pursue music as adults.
The three kept in touch sporadically; during the summer of 2008 Richardson and Taylor were discussing the possibility of starting another band when a discussion about an article in Alternative Press magazine gave them the idea for the name of the band.
“I read in an article ... about the same old death of music industry type deal and how digital music is killing the music industry and all that ... and that’s basically where all that came from,” says Richardson. “I grew up in the CD era ... when you’d go to the store and buy the CD, open it up and pop out the CD out, and it’s got that crisp pop and you read all the lyrics. You look at the picture it’s like a whole experience of buying a CD. And with digital music you don’t get that. But it’s also kind of ironic because we use digital music a lot to promote and market ourselves and all that.”
In the meantime, Briner had moved back to Fort Wayne, and Taylor and Richardson talked him into joining their then-nascent band. The group has had several bassists over the years, with Holm, who was the frontman for Close Only Counts, recently joining The Dead Records to fill the bass slot.
Irony, revolving bass players and surprisingly family-affirming values aside, The Dead Records may best be experienced live, where their energy and aggressiveness can be experienced first-hand, according to Richardson.
“We’re definitely a live band,” he says. “If you don’t see us live, then you’re not gonna get it, I don’t think.”
What you also get to experience at a live show is their volume, which is something that actually led them to run afoul of a venue owner in South Dakota. In the middle of their set at a venue in Rapid City, the owner of the venue unplugged their equipment after the band ignored a request to turn down their volume.
“People were complaining about it being too loud, but we just played loud anyway, and then she unplugged everything and we ... just left,” says Richardson. “It was a weird place.”
In addition to their occasionally offensive loudness, the band also has an apparent abundance of self-confidence and belief in the genuineness of themselves as musicians and of their message, something that is reflected in their performances, demeanor, and the title of their Proud EP.
“I kind of feel like we are offering music and a live show that not very many other bands locally are doing. It’s kind of arrogant, but I do feel like that,” says Richardson. “I’ve watched bands when I don’t believe in what they’re doing, and I think when people watch us play – the songs we play and the way we’re playing them – they see that it’s exactly what we want to be doing. There’s a passion that you can bring to live shows and I think some people try to do that and I don’t think we have to try because it’s [already] there.”
As for the future of the band, they intend to keep going and hope to expand and grow as time goes on. Even though their most recent album just came out last year, they’ve already begun writing new material. Whether forthcoming recordings will be in the form of another EP or a full-length album has yet to be determined, but the band does hope to continue to grow as live musicians and recording artists and to expose their music to new people in far-flung locales.
“I want to be able to go on tours and show up to cities thousands of miles away, and I want people to know our music and sing along to our music,” says Richardson. “That’s my nearest goal.”
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