Tyler Despres of Science Partner on how a really good melody should be like a nursery rhyme
Science Partner had its origins as a solo side project of Tyler Despres of Dualistics. When that band split up due to half the band moving out of state for work and the like, Science Partner became Despres main creative focus. The early shows may have been more acoustic affairs, but last year, by the time the act released its debut full-length, Rocky Mountain News, Science Partner had become a full-fledged pop-rock band, one that didn't shed the experimentalism present in Despres's songwriting in Dualistics. We recently spoke with Despres about the trajectory of his creative endeavors and how the economic downturn presented him with the time and opportunity to focus on his creative life and his songwriting.
Westword: You've talked about being into the Counting Crows, which might surprise some people. What is it about them that you like?
Tyler Despres: Oh, I love their melodies, the musicianship, the production on August and Everything After, kind of the complete package. People give them a lot of flak. It takes me back every time I listen to it. Their new stuff, I could take it or leave it. But that album and Recovering the Satellites, I played the crap out of those albums when I was younger.
When did you start playing music of your own?
I started playing piano when I was ten or so. Then I picked up the guitar around eleven or twelve. I got all the theory for piano down and picked up the guitar and finished learning my theory on the guitar. But I'm self-taught, though. I didn't take lessons for more than a month after I started playing guitar. I started writing my own music and playing the guitar at around the same time.
That first year, the songs I wrote were horrible. A lot of them were about girls, and I hadn't even kissed a girl at that point. It's always funny when child stars sing songs about romance. They don't know what they're talking about. They have no platform from which to speak. The songs were pretty awful for the first five years, I would say. I wouldn't want to play any of the music I wrote before I was eighteen and nineteen.
Did you record that stuff?
Yeah, experimenting with multi-tracking. What I would do is record it on to a tape and play it through some speakers and record with another microphone and layer it like that. I have a lot of strange recordings from that era. You're making me all nostalgic. I want to go back and listen to some of those. Maybe get a new idea out of it or write a new song.
What was the turning point for you, then?
I'd had a little more life experience at eighteen or nineteen. I dropped out of high school when I was seventeen. I was living on my own at eighteen or nineteen and had a legitimate recording device with a Boss BR-8 with the zip drive. When I got that, I started developing my own style and experimenting with effects and playing with phasers and stuff on my voice. I got into an experimental phase for a few years and maybe finding my sound a little bit more and developing my guitar skills.
Unless you're some sort of child phenom, you don't really develop your own sound until you're a little older and you've been playing your instrument for three or four years. Otherwise, maybe it's just me, but it's going to sound derivative. Everyone's derivative of something these days to some extent, I suppose. But you find out what you can sing, what you can't sing, what your range is, the style of music your body will allow you to play. For instance, I would never be able to thrash some crazy guitar solo, but I can play a melodic guitar solo. You hash out what you can and can't do, learn your confines and then you can go from there and develop as an artist.
Why did you drop out of high school?
I was just a horrible student. I'm a much better student now. I was naive, and I didn't think school was important. But I have a completely new viewpoint about it now, and I want to become a teacher. It's funny to look back on those days, but I figured I could read and learn whatever I wanted. I wasn't going to any of my classes and ditching school all the time, and one day my mom just asked me, "Do you just want to drop out and get your GED? Take a year off and go to college?"
When you moved out on your own, did you move immediately to Denver?
No, I moved into an apartment in Thornton with a couple of friends, and it really sucked. But it was also great because I had my own place where I could drink and do all that stuff. But in hindsight, I definitely wish I would have moved into the city and got more into the scene and met musicians and gotten started playing around town more sooner.
I was probably 23 or 24 before I really started playing shows around Denver. That was in the band called Mr. Coyote, and then we changed our name to The Mimetics. That was me and Charlie Hine, who was also the guitarist in Dualistics. I wish I'd been playing at eighteen, but I was fucking around up in the suburbs getting drunk. Some of my friends got into the scene as soon as they could, and they're so much better for it. It is what it is, and I feel pretty entrenched in it now.
Where was your first show?
If you don't count school band stuff, I guess it would have been in one of my first bands called Gasoline Choir at this place called the Loft in Broomfield. It was this kind of youth center where kids could stay the night if their parents signed the waiver. I would have been maybe fourteen or fifteen. I played a couple of shows there, actually.
What was the first Dualistics show?
Well Jimmy Stofer and Scott Russell had already recorded an album, so Charlie and I learned the song and played them at Leela's European Café. But we were not playing anything we had written, we were just there to help Jimmy promote. We did a couple more shows like that, and then Charlie and I started writing songs, and we took a different direction.
How did you meet Jimmy and Scott?
Charlie met Jimmy at CU Boulder. They were in a band with Crosby Loggins, Kenny Loggins's son. I met Charlie and Jimmy at a battle of the bands at CU Boulder. I was in a band called the Kildren. It was sort of a really progressive band. Not a lot of singing, just a lot of crazy guitar riffs. I got Charlie's number and we started Mr. Coyote not long after that. We got third, they got second and this crazy metal band called Anomy got first.