Come to think of it, we’re all pretty much spelled exactly how we sound. Danny strikes me as introspective and thoughtful, much like the melodies he floats over each song, although he’s much quieter in person, with less reverb. Everybody loves Matty the best (though to be fair, we’re all pretty swell guys), and just as he gives exactly as much or as little to the low end as best suits whatever we’re trying to create, you can count on Matthew Forbes Clark to be exactly the person you need when you need it. It’s a rare gift. Andy, both sonically and personally, is the engine that drives us, sometimes even getting us interviewed by Dutch podcasts. If you were curious, his drumming is also completely vegan. And then there’s me (Josh), bemused at having been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by such talent to bring life to the songs in my head, yet perhaps, like the vocals, somewhat deeper than expected.
The origins of this current band stretch back to Matty’s birthday party in the spring of the storied year of 2019, which might as well have taken place in a different universe at this point. I had written a few songs that wouldn’t fit with my other band, which skews more towards post-hardcore, and so I approached Matty about playing together again, as it had been literally ten years since our previous band together had broken up. It was, as they say, just like riding a bike, and our musical chemistry hadn’t suffered a bit in the intervening time. We adjourned to the basement of the world-famous Hi-Dive (“Shit bar, shit people” – some guy on Yelp) and began crafting the sound that we would eventually capture on our debut album. Soon enough, we asked Andy to drum for us. He said no. Then he said yes. Danny was the last piece of the puzzle, and as his previous band with Matty was reaching the end of its lifespan, it was a natural choice to bring him in. The lineup complete, our sound having developed, and a few songs having been written, we moved out of the corner of the basement affectionately known as the “dab dungeon”, and began to contemplate debuting our music in front of other people. And then, 2020. With live music no longer a current possibility, we channeled our efforts into rehearsing and eventually recording our first album, Before Your Wings Gave Out.
As a collective, our band runs mostly on friendship and hard seltzer. The friendship part has lasted much longer than the 12 packs of wild berry “mom waters” in the practice space mini-fridge. We’ve all been in and out of bands with each other since 2006 or so, and most of us have made records and toured with each other long before we came together as despAIR Jordan. I initially got the band together as a way to spend more time with people I wasn’t getting to see enough- the fact that the sound clicked and we started writing some of the best music we’ve ever done was a bit of an afterthought.
Currently our energy has been focused on writing songs for our second record and polishing up our Ned’s Atomic Dustbin cover (just you wait). We’re at the point where the majority of ideas are there, but it’s been hard to actually get together and get the songs to their finished form, since practicing has been intermittent (you may have heard that the US has not been handling the current pandemic particularly well) and we’ve decided to play it safe and not practice when cases are surging here in Colorado, although we’ve had a lot more opportunities to get together and play than a lot of bands, and for that I’m thankful. It also takes me an outrageously long time to write lyrics, as what I send out to the lads is usually the second or third go-round, the initial version more often than not having been judged and found wanting and banished to the nether regions of musical abominations, to dwell in eternity where the song One Week, by the Barenaked Ladies, plays on endless repeat.
2020 was an absolute dystopian nightmare. Matty has a theory that sometime in 2016 there was some sort of cosmic event or error in the space-time continuum and that ever since then, we’ve all been living in a Donnie Darko-esque splinter universe where everything kind of sucks. Like the best theories, this one gets progressively less crazy every time you think about it, and these days I occasionally look to the sky, casting about for errant jet engines in free fall. These things have a tendency to self-correct, you know. The loss of live music, both to see and perform, has been devastating to all of us. Not only has it robbed us of our main form of creative expression and release, but also of our community. Most of my friends are either musicians, or connected to the music industry in some way (or at least, are very bad tour managers), and without those events to come together around, many people have felt increasingly isolated. On top of all that, Matty and Andy both work running live music venues, so it’s really hit us on all fronts. Throughout the pandemic, the band has been a lifeline to all of us. We’re all lucky enough to be married to amazing women, so all of us have been able to lean on our partners and families (I have two young kids) to help us deal with the continual onslaught of this past year. For me at least, having been able to practice and write semi-regularly (at least in the summer and early fall) has really been my way of staying connected to the part of me which I so adamantly defend. I’ve seen too much art smothered by the demands of adulthood, and I’m terrified of that happening to me. Plus, the despAIR jordan text thread is legendary. At the risk of losing our membership in the Distinguished (Yet Mired In Crippling Self-Doubt) Society of Goth Bands, 2021 seems like a time where things might be looking up. Practice is back on, and things are slowly opening back up. We recorded even a “live” show a couple weeks ago that we are planning on releasing soon, and even though the room was basically empty other than the sound and video people, the catharsis of live performance was still there.
I cannot wait for the day that I can sing without a mask on. Don’t get me wrong, I know they are a necessity and we’ve all been behaving responsibly and all, but they fog up my glasses to the point that between that and having earplugs in to protect what remains of my hearing, it’s a bit like having a band fronted by Helen Keller. I’ve suggested that the rest of the band trace out the set list on my palm, but alas – no touching. Performing in front of an audience would also be nice. I suspect that after all of this is over, playing for a room of 30 people is going to feel like headlining Glastonbury.
Times change, people change. We’ve all been around for a while now in the Denver music scene and we’ve all seen our lives change and evolve as we’ve grown up. I think that all of us have had points in our musical careers where we thought, “This is it- I should get ready to quit my day job and hit the road full time.”, that music would be a full time thing for us, but for a million different reasons, that never happened. I think we used to all care a lot more about this amorphous idea of “making it”, and as we got older and more experienced, we realized that it’s not that simple. It’s ironic that the band that got together with absolutely zero expectations is the one that people seem to be connecting with more than anything we’ve done in years. Our tastes have evolved as well. Andy and I once had the misfortune of being in a pop-punk band with each other as we were both realizing that we were outgrowing that genre of music. Matty just confessed that he and his wife threw on Green Day’s Dookie in a fit of nostalgia, but couldn’t make it more than three songs in. I went through a phase where I really tried to like Animal Collective. That passed. I know Andy used to like Dream Theater, but I think he still does, so I’m not sure if that counts.
The Architect starts off our album for a reason. I think out of all the songs we recorded it encapsulates the totality of our sound the most. Not to mention that the best sad stories are the ones you can dance to. I think beyond that, if someone really listens to the song, they can get a sense of how I felt in the years following the disintegration of the most successful band I’d ever been in (Matty was in that one too) and the loss of one of my best friends (most of our’s, really) to alcoholism and disappointment. Obviously not everyone has had that same exact experience, but on a long enough time line, we lose- whether it’s the loss of relationships, possibilities, those we care about, all of the above. My hope is that people can connect what I went through with something in their own lives and help them through it in whatever small way it might. After all, that’s what music does, isn’t it?
We haven’t had the chance to play that particular song in a live setting, but my 4 year old son has it downloaded on his ipod and I caught him singing along to it in his room. While that was a moment of extreme parental pride, I realized that some of the lines in that song may require some contextual conversation when he gets a bit older (“Another needle through the skin” sounds disconcerting when coming out of the mouth of a preschooler). Also, he’s a bit off key, but I imagine he’ll improve.
I’m not sure any of our identities really count as “secret”. I think we all have far too many tattoos to ever blend in fully. As I mentioned before, Matty and Andy both work in the music industry, specifically operating live music venues. As you can imagine, that helps with getting shows. Danny works in sales but also makes and sells jewelry. I probably have the squarest gig out of everybody. I teach high school, which sounds like prime secret identity material, but sadly, it’s not really necessary. My students know that I’m in a band (I usually let them know the first day as we start getting to know each other), they just don’t care. They are vastly more impressed that I know who Lil’ Peep is. The recent documentary on him is excellent, by the way.
As to the end, who can say? As tempting as it is to predict a Thelma and Louise style exit as the tour van barrels off a canyon ledge with the police in hot pursuit, I suspect things won’t be quite so dramatic. Years ago I had a friend confess to me that he was nervous about turning 27, because of the infamous “27 Club”. I replied that membership in that club was limited to musicians that actually sold records, and so we were all obviously going to be fine. Eventually, I picture myself living in quiet semi-retirement, with time enough to finally start Rumpus Room, Colorado’s premier dad-rock band, which will perform a set composed exclusively of Huey Lewis and the News, Joe Walsh, and Steely Dan covers, and which will play only in bars with carpeted floors, preferably attached to bowling alleys. We’ll be glad to take your requests, as long as your requests are for “Ordinary Average Guys” and/or “Hip to be Square”. You’re welcome.
Or check out their debut album on Spotify: