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Jeremy Penick: Lead Vocals, Guitars
Dan Noonan: Guitars, Vocals
James Mills: Guitars,Vocals
Ryan Burchfield: Bass, Vocals
Gordon Heckaman: Drums, Samples
It was only some five years ago the Los Angeles-based Depswa was considered perhaps one of the heaviest burgeoning bands in California. At the time, such an accolade was one the group was proud to be associated with. But, more recently, as the hard-working young musicians searched to discover their true musical identity, the heavy expectations became a creative burden.
"After writing one way for a long time, we came to the realization that if we were trying to write songs to appease people with one particular kind of taste, then we weren't being true to ourselves," says guitarist Dan Noonan. "It got to the point where we were throwing away songs because we convinced ourselves that, 'Oh, people won't like this.' But it soon became clear that most of all; we needed to write the songs we liked. If other people liked them, too? great." "That decision turned everything around," says vocalist and founding member Jeremy Penick. "To do anything else, we knew, would have been totally plastic."
Their fateful determination spurred the band forward with a musical and performance output that eventually found them in the studio recording the forthcoming TWO ANGELS AND A DREAM, their Geffen Records and full-length debut. Sessions began in February 2002 with producer Howard Benson (P.O.D., Blindside, M?torhead) and engineer Mike Plotnikoff (Kiss, P.O.D., Cranberries) at a pair of Southern California studios, in both Valley Village and Calabasas. Recording continued on and off throughout that winter before acclaimed mixing agent Chris Lord- Alge was welcomed into the process.
Comprised of songs written primarily over the past two years, TWO ANGELS AND A DREAM thrives under a compelling and often convention-defying mix: raucous, ringing guitars; driving, frequently chomping rock rhythms; wide-ranging, sincerely shaped vocals; and engaging arrangements, all cast within a powerful melodic current. On this dramatic sonic canvas, songs shift from such explosive, dynamic numbers as "This Time" ? with backing vocals by Brad Kane (Disney's Aladdin & The King of Thieves) ?to such tracks as the stirring, unplugged "The Traveler's Song" ? with guest backing vocals by solo artist Sierra Swan (Cold, Black Eyed Peas). "The Prom Song," features added programming from former Yes contributing keyboardist Igor Khoroshev. Thematically, TWO ANGELS AND A DREAM explores the inner-workings of both self-doubt and self-confidence, relationships gone hopelessly wrong and wonderfully right, and the fragile balancing act that determines the course of so many lives. "All the songs are very close to the heart," says Jeremy, "but the motivations change all the time."
The story of Depswa traces back to Modesto, California in the mid-1990s when guitarist and music-obsessed college student Jeremy Penick launched the progressive instrumental trio, Carcinogen. After releasing a 4-song EP, CLEANSING, in 1995, the group saw its star steadily rise on the Northern California rock club scene. Early the following year, the group opened the door to new bassist and well-regarded local musician Ryan Burchfield, a move that coincided with Penick's decision to tackle vocal duties and shift focus from writing six-minute instrumental pieces to a more song-oriented approach.
1998 found Carcinogen earning new fans both through the release of a self-titled 6-song EP and an emerging reputation for blistering live shows on stages across Modesto, Sacramento, and San Francisco. After playing a series of highly successful gigs in Los Angeles late that year, the band permanently relocated to the City of Angels and in February 1999 recruited Penick's longtime friend and former bandmate Dan Noonan to take on guitar duties.
The move sparked a creative awakening for the band, one that centered on greater attention to song structure and arrangements along with Penick's fast-changing vocal style. "When we moved down to L.A. with Dan, we knew what we all wanted to do," says Penick. "It came to a point, maybe it was part of a maturity process, but I realized I didn't want to be like everyone else. For so long, I was trying to sing in a way that wasn't me ? trying to emulate other people. Eventually, I had to get real. That meant getting over my fear of singing, really singing. When that finally happened, it opened up our music overall and everything just started to feel really good." With that, Carcinogen became Depswa, a Swahili word meaning "deep behind the moon." It is also a South American term for tribal healer. The newly monikered group went on to record the 4-song EP, FAITHLESS, in early 2000, a year that saw extensive touring through California and Arizona, marked by notably packed-house concerts at L.A.'s Whiskey, Roxy, Viper Room, and Troubadour. The Depswa team reached fighting weight with the October, 2001 addition of drummer Gordon Heckaman and the Spring, 2002 enlistment of second guitarist and NoCal native James Mills (just in time for him to contribute to a pair of tracks during the TWO ANGELS? sessions).
To a band that prides itself on an overarching team spirit, adding new members required serious deliberation. "Above anything in Depswa, we're great friends," says Dan. " So when we got James and Gordon in the band, their playing wasn't as much an issue as how we got along with them. When people started getting interested in signing the band, we had to take a step back, look at ourselves, and ask, 'How is this band going to have longevity?' We came to the conclusion, yes, musicianship obviously has to be there but overall we have to be friends and be able to live with each other on a cramped bus for weeks at a time." "That will kill a band in a second ? no matter how good the players are ? if you're not able to solidify those kinds of bonds," adds Gordon.
For Depswa ? who have already shared stages with the likes of Nickelback, Down, Disturbed, Sevendust, Stone Sour, Rob Zombie, Danzig, Chimaria, 40 Below Summer, Kottonmouth Kings, etc. ? the best possible affirmation of their efforts came a year ago when they played a sold-out New Year's Eve show before 2,500 fans in their old Modesto stomping grounds. "I walked out on stage and got chills," says Ryan. "The place was going wild and I had an ear-to-ear grin on my face."
In the fall of 2002, the band embarked on their first nationwide tour, playing in support of Illinois rockers Mudvayne and Ann Arbor's TapRoot. "On that tour," says Ryan, "every night we got out on stage we just looked at each other, as if to say, 'Wow! We're getting that chance to have a chance.' It's already been an amazing experience and nobody out there has even heard the record yet."
1. For people who may not have heard some music from you yet... what can someone who's never heard of you expect from your music?
Music without boundaries fueled with emotion and a lot of melody. We write music under a very broad spectrum from heavy-to-soft, aggressive-to-passive. We definitely don?t fit the mold of three chord bands. We try to write intelligently and try to utilize all our resources and influences.
2. ?Two Angels and a Dream? was released on June 3rd, 2003. Are you pleased with the response you have received so far?
We are definitely pleased with the response we?ve heard from people who have bought the album. It seems like everyone has a different favorite song. That means a lot to us. It shows us that we didn?t make the typical ?Radio? type album where the radio singles are the best songs on the album. We sincerely believe that our album is deeper than that and invite people to explore it.
3. Does the album title have a special meaning?
There are a couple metaphors for ?Two Angels and a Dream.? The first relates to balance in life ?Good can?t exist without the bad and both are needed for balance. Hence the two angels ?one above, one below.? They represent heaven and hell, good and evil, etc. In between is where you feel stable.
The other meaning is more of a direct meaning. It relates to our singer, Jeremy?s, personal life. If you didn?t already know he has twin daughters (the angels) and a passion to create music as a career (the dream). He wrote it as sort of a dedication to them and to show the compromises of following a dream.
I think it is brilliant how he was able to connect the two meanings in one song. It?s definitely enlightening when you read the lyrics.
4. Who would you like to work with that you haven't yet, whether it be HipHop, Rock, or any other form of music?
We are all huge Tool & A Perfect Circle fans. We?ve always said we?d love to either play or collaborate with either of those bands. Other than that, I could go on forever. We are fans of all musical styles and respect so many artists in different genres.
5. How was it to work with P.O.D. producer Howard Benson? Will he produce your next albums too?
Howard was great he definitely has his act together. He has the best people on his team (especially engineer Mike Plotnikoff), and he knows how to make a great album. We all learned so much from him and are very content with the album he produced. As for working with him in the future, we?ll have to see. He is definitely an awesome producer and great to work with.
6. How did you come to the conclusion to begin a career as a music artist?
I think that when we all got our first instruments, we felt the magic and knew that it was something we?d love to do for the rest of our lives. At least that?s how I felt when I got my first guitar and began to learn to play. We?ve all spent so much of our lives writing music, so doing anything else would be unimaginable.
7. What did you go through to get your music recognized?
Rehearsing for hours-upon-hours, playing gig-after-gig, and recording demo-after-demo. Luckily once we established ourselves and had a decent demo, our networking paid off and the labels took interest. It was a tough road, but it definitely has been worth every minute.
8. How do you separate yourselves from other artists?
I?d like to think that we sound pretty unique. I know I have a hard time telling people what we sound like. I think that because our musical influences are so broad, it really enabled us to explore our boundaries. We?re not a metal, rock, pop, thrash, grunge, alternative, or hardcore band?we?re just Depswa.
9. What are you planning to do in the [near] future?
Hopefully we?ll be able to continue touring and record our next album eventually.
10. What would you like to achieve with your music and career?
We want to write songs that will mean something to music fans and that will stand the test of time. I definitely feel that it is important to write music that in 20 years will still have an impact on people and won?t be labeled for the time period it was written. Look at the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, etc. Their music definitely stands the test of time and is still very meaningful.
11. What artists are you listening to at the minute?
This will sound weird, but we have all been listening to bands such as Bjork, Lamb of God, The Used, Eminem, AFI, System of a Down, etc.
12. What's the one music album you love that everyone else seems to hate?
I really like Hooray for Boobies by the Bloodhound Gang (mainly for comedic content), but the rest of the guys hate it. When we toured with Mudvayne in a van, I?d throw it in when I drove occasionally. What can I say?it?s funny!
13. If you ran the industry you work in, you would...
do my best to try to diversify the music that is popular right now. To me, it seems like there are a lot of bands that sound alike, and radio plays them all day long. I?d like to see more unique underground bands get the respect and recognition they deserve.
14. What celebrity/person would you want downloaded onto your hard drive and stored for all time?
Brittney Spears would be a bonus!
15. Do you have anything to say to the MusicRemedy.com?s visitors?
I?d just like to thank everyone that has supported us. We are forever indebted to you! Depswa is and always will be about the fans. Without you our music would be non-existent. For anyone that hasn?t heard our music, check it out at www.depswa.com. Hopefully it will be something new and you?ll enjoy it as much as we enjoy playing it. Thanks! Sincerely, Dan