Q&A with d.biddle
hi-dive photo booth shots shamelessly pilfered from Lisa G's myspace.
d. biddle began as Duncan Barlow’s sad, quiet solo project – a reaction against all the metal and hardcore he’d played for most of his life, with bands like Endpoint, Guilt and By the Grace of God. The original incarnation of d. biddle included Ben Desoto on drums, guitarist Jamie Smith, horn player Erin Roberts of Porlolo and bassist Jeff Davenport.
Today, Barlow and Davenport are all that remain of the original lineup. When Smith departed, bassist Jonathan Till joined, moving Davenport to guitar, and drummer Rob Burleson rounded out the quartet. Rabbit in the Moon, the band’s new album, has been in the making for years, but will emerge on Friday the 13th at the hi-dive as a pensive, poignant and powerful document of the group’s edgier and just plain louder new identity.
We caught up with the whole band and talked about the new record, embracing their louder sound and how they balance membership in other bands. Read the full transcript, download "Laughter" and watch videos of the recording process after the jump.
Westword (Eryc Eyl): What’s the story behind the making of Rabbit in the Moon?
Duncan Barlow: We’ve recorded the record three times, and the third was the keeper.
Jonathan Till: One time, it was recorded weirdly. The second time, we recorded some new songs and we figured, after all our bad luck and bad shows, that whatever we released would probably be it for the band. That kind of forced us into thinking about whether this was the album we really wanted to make.
DB: At the last minute, I talked to the guys and said I wanted to start over, and we all agreed. I called Colin Bricker, who had recorded it, and said we wanted to start over for a third time.
Jeff Davenport: He was amazingly open to it after the third time. He didn’t hang up and start screaming. I record a lot of parts. I’ll mess around with my pedals forever. I get a sound in my head and won’t stop until I get it. Colin really understands it and gets it.
JT: You can’t say enough about how this record is indebted to him.
WW: And are you happy with the results?
DB: This might be my favorite record out of the 25 I’ve ever made. We realized when we were mixing the second time that the more we put on, the smaller it sounded. That’s the benefit of doing a record three times.
Rob Burleson: Jeff really had time to dial in his tones, and Jonathan and I had time to connect and lock in.
JD: I’m really proud of this record, and whether someone likes it or not doesn’t affect that. When we say we recorded this record three times, there’s only one song that’s stayed the same. We re-wrote a lot of stuff. It was about finding a voice that felt like a unified band.
WW: And how did the band unify during the making of this record?
DB: We were just coming together as a band, and around October of last year, we fell into a groove where we became a band and not just a solo project. People come up to me and say, “I hear your band’s good now.”
JT: We just started embracing a louder sound than what we were writing, and that created tension. We were really bad at pretending to be the old d.biddle.
JD: We got Duncan screaming again, and it was a hallelujah moment.
WW: What catalyzed that transformation?
JT: I think the thing that saved the band was makeup.
RB: Yeah, the Day of the Dead show saved us.
DB: Or it was the post-surgery freakout jams, when I was on those pain pills and started fucking with my delay pedal. I had three surgeries in my sinus area. I have these incapacitating migraines and this was an attempt to fix them. It didn’t work.
WW: So what will listeners hear on this record that’s different from the old d. biddle?
JT: It’s a new band with the same name. There was a point where we felt so restricted by trying to be who we were. Then, all of a sudden, we were writing epic songs and Brit dance rock. It stopped being about trying.
DB: This is a totally different band.
JD: After that first record, Duncan hadn’t been here from Louisville very long. The first record was more of a transplant record and carried over a lot from Kentucky. This record is about his experience in Denver and represents some sort of stability and growth.
WW: You also have other active musical projects. How do you balance them with something as emotionally demanding as d. biddle?
DB: When you’re not trying to make it with any of your bands, they all become fluid. I think a lot of musicians put too much focus on making it and not enough on enjoying the music in the moment. If you can’t enjoy that moment to its fullest, it’s really a disservice to yourself.
JD: As soon as we decided to do this band for ourselves, it changed everything. We come to practice not because we have deadlines, but because it’s a very cathartic band. I play guitar very differently in this band than I do in any other band. This band fulfills something I can’t get elsewhere. If we all felt like we had to be here, we wouldn’t.
RB: I make it a priority as a band and to my friends. I want to play with these guys. That’s the best thing about this band is that there’s no pressure. If it feels like a job, then you should probably stop doing it.
WW: What are your plans for promoting and distributing this record?
DB: We live in a time when nobody pays for music, so we’re trying to find ways to compete with that. Hence, doing a free record at the door. After that, we just want to make our money back from the costs.
JT: Even when we sell it, it’ll be five bucks.
JD: If we’d put this out a couple years ago, we would have considered a label, but it’s less of an issue now. The point is to get the record out and make the cost barrier not an issue. And we’ve tried to put something together so that people are stoked to have a physical copy. The general public is not a d. biddle fan, unless they’re on a lot of medication, so most people who come to our shows still want to buy records. We just want to make it affordable.
Download "Laughter" or stream the track below.
Rabbit and the Moon sessions Part One
Rabbit and the Moon sessions Part Two
Rabbit and the Moon sessions Part Three