I caught up with David and Wylie of The Dead Exs after their set on Tuesday at Kung Fu Necktie. I wasn’t able to make it to the show, but they were cool with sticking around side stage and chatting for a bit. Both have been to Philadelphia before,
Wylie having played numerous shows in Olde and Center City, and David as a producer and with other artists, but it was The Dead Exs’ first visit. As friends of Ruby The Hatchet, they (and Ruby’s front-woman Jillian) were pumped to be playing in Fishtown, and albeit on a Tuesday, we were all amazed at the crowd. “It reminds me of Allston in Boston;” “it feels like Bushwick [Brooklyn],” they agreed.
It was really great to catch up with a band, talk about the scene, the music, the life. Sometimes it feels we get so caught up in the music, an album, the “what’s coming next”, we forget there are musicians on stage.
We forget there are people behind the songs we love and dance to, the songs we use to emulate our day or week through status updates or blaring music in the car on the drive home. Which is just what I did. Some music is meant to be play loud, the volume to ten, clearing all your senses. And that, my friends, is The Dead Exs’ Resurrection album.
It’s live, it’s real, and it’s played and recorded with that passion of what music really is. You can imagine David sprawling on the stage, unified with his guitar; Wylie’s hair mirroring his flying drum sticks; driving each other through that downbeat, that next strike. But it’s not delta blues , R&B, as you’d imagine – sure, there’s stuff about girls and love and all that jazz. “There’s lots of jumping and flying around, bloody knuckles and sore knees. I’m in it, and that’s where the music comes from.” It’s not constructed, not orchestrated – good music rarely is. It’s written in the moment, on the stage, as it comes.
Two people in a blues band? Yeah. And it really works. I think the musical connection between David and Wylie wouldn’t be bettered by adding anyone to the band, which is what struck me by this duo – not only are they really tight on stage and connect like a band that’s been together forever, but they even finish each other’s sentences.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re adding energy to it. [It’s] an extension of post modern rock; 80s New York feel, the Talking Heads; Blondie; the Ramones. But we came from the punk, the DIY system. We’re out of the gutter and doing our thing,” they told me. “It’s Howlin’ Wolf, it’s delta, Chicago-blues. It’s 1/4/5 [blues], but with talk of over-consumption and misuse and all. You’ve gotta respect it.”
Wylie added, “You don’t know where it comes from, but its there. We love to do this.”
Give it a listen. I’m one for trying to find similarities or recommendations of similar music – you know, a “you’ll like this if you like” kind of deal. The best I can do here is The Dead Weather meets SeaSick Steve and the Level Devils, with a dose of Black Keys.
But honestly, it’s one of those shows and albums you have to do for yourself. It’s one of those albums you can have on repeat and it compels you to listen again. Ruby the Hatchet’s lead singer, Jillian, described The Dead Exs as “the best sex you’ve ever had, doubled and split between a drummer and a guitarist.” So I’d say it’s pretty good.
“Generally with this combo,” David said, “we’ve never had a bad show, or rehearsal. Definitely have had those moments of not so great, but not with us.” It’s the energy, they said, that keeps it going, keeps it strong – it’s fresh, its recorded in a basic way, but its rich. I love walking into a club in NYC, and the DJ’s got some Little Richard, some Howling Wolf, ZZ Top on the ‘table, and its just raw; so good. Its basic, and [I] love it. It’s our style, our ethic, a very simple way.”
“We just go. You don’t plan, tour, and record. You work it out, and record – it just is,” David said. “Zeppelin would be on stage, writing the tunes, and then record it. Hendrix would lay down the tunes, and just go. Its realistic; don’t rerecord – it’s the music, it’s what happens while you’re playing that makes it.”
With Wylie’s heavy foot yet subtle knows-the-right-thing-to-do drumming, equated by David with the likes of Keith Moon and Mitch Mitchell, David’s funk, soul, and R&B guitar work influenced by his life in the south and Seattle, they’ve got that feeling of greatness and control that could just go wild at any minute. It’s an album where you won’t skip a track, any of the hundred ‘first listens’ you give it.
For only being a year old, The Dead Exs have that sound, that feeling, that… connection you see in bands that have been playing together for years. And they’ve got the cojones, the passion, and the love of music to keep going.
The Dead EXS play BANG THIS at the Bowery Electric this Wednesday during the CMJ Music Marathon.