On June 24th, The Dead Ships released CITYCIDE via Nevado Music. The album is the band’s first on Nevado after signing with the label late last March. CITYCIDE’s release is the culmination of four years’ hard work. The album is shot through with catchy melodies and a propulsive energy that evokes the power of the live show The Dead Ships was originally known for. We are pleased to say that frontman Devlin McCluskey obliged us by answering a few questions about the band’s last year, performing live, and the somber themes that weave through their melodies.
Q: CITYCIDE covers a lot of dark subject matter, even when its songs feel light. Can you talk about how the record came about? Was there a specific impetus responsible for its themes or sound?
A: The name came out of hearing that the vast majority of people that jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge do so off the side facing the city. There’s something so heartbreaking about taking one last look, and there’s something equally horrific in having the city take one final look at you. Two years ago my best friend Flynn killed himself. How surroundings feed into isolation and the idea of death by city kind of stuck in my head. That feeling of loneliness even when you’re surrounded by millions of people tied in to a bunch of songs.
Q: The big story around the band and CITYCIDE is how you were personally invited by Paul Tollett to perform at Coachella and were signed to Nevado Music from there. How has life changed since those events? Would you say that one has had a bigger impact than the other?
A: The call was a complete surprise and tipped a lot of things in our favor. We wanted these songs to be on one album, so it’s a dream come true to have Nevado putting it out. It’s hard to compare the two as far as impact because they feel like a cause and effect. I think the the biggest change has been more people paying attention to us. We’d be playing everyday regardless, but it’s nice to keep have things on the calendar to look forward to.
Q: Is there anything important, from your perspective, that you find gets overshadowed by that story?
A: It was pretty wild to get asked out of nowhere, I’m just glad writers keep mentioning that we’ve been working as hard as anyone for the last four years, that our album’s banging, and that our live show is worth seeing. I kinda wish we could have built a tall tale around us but we’re shitty liars.
Q: Who are some of your major musical influences? How do you feel their comes through in The Dead Ships?
A: Chris loves metal, Al grew up listening to country with his Dad who played on the grand ole opry, and I grew up playing classical piano and jazz standards, so we are all kinds of scatter-brained. But we all like 90’s hip-hop. I think the main thing, whether it’s Dylan, television, the Pixies or any rock band of the last sixty years is that it’s worth your time when the vocal makes the words sound honest and (like Steve Albini says) if you can hear the mania in the music. I think those attributes would be the best thing we could take from any of our influences.
Q: You played a couple of shows with The Cult earlier this month. What was that experience like?
A: The venues were probably the most beautiful places we’ll ever play. Friedrich Engels nightmare beautiful, and I mean that as a compliment. So many great stage crews and everyone with the Cult were so incredibly nice. We weren’t sure what to expect but those shows couldn’t have been better. One guy came up to us and said the last time he saw the Cult the opener was Guns N’ Roses, I think he was spinning that as a good omen.
Q: Do you have a preference between performing live and in a studio environment?
A: I feel like you have to love both or else you probably shouldn’t be doing either. I don’t drink so playing live is the only time I can let loose. Writing and recording are daily compulsions.
Q: What has been the strangest thing you’ve witnessed during a performance?
A: On our first tour we played to four people in a piano bar in the midwest. As soon as we walked in a fight broke out and a townie got arrested. Also, worth mentioning that we went on after karaoke night. So there we are, playing only to my brother one one end of the bar, and two girls drinking very heavily and heckling us from the table right in front of the stage. One of them gets a little overzealous, gets up and starts dancing on the table and screaming at us that it’s her birthday. She dives and tackles her aunt, upending their table and spilling about twenty half-full drinks all over both of them. They’re crying and screaming and hitting each other, and a bouncer had to pick them up and take them to the door. As they’re being pushed out one of them turns around and screams at us “jam out with your clam out!” And they stumbled out into the world.
Q: Last question, what is your favorite popular song and what’s your least favorite?
A: We toured with Le Butcherettes and they were doing a badass cover of Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball”. I’ll admit that if the original comes on now, I will not turn it off. I don’t think I’ve heard a Drake song I like, but anyone who wears turtle necks like that probably has some good ones.